Saturday, December 31, 2005

Knitting Along

Well, it's the last day of the year. Honestly, next to Halloween, New Year's is my least favorite holiday. It seems so...arbitrary. And I'm not a partier, so I'll be spending tonight like every other night -- sitting on the couch watching TIVO'd episodes of Law and Order and knitting. If I can stay awake.

However, I feel as though the New Year requires some sort of taking stock, or planning for next year, or the like. So I'll be thinking about that and posting something in the next day or two.

In the meantime, I want to put in a plug for Jennifer's new knitalong, What's Your Skein? What a totally cool concept -- everyone will be knitting things that require just one skein of yarn. There should be lots of great solutions for those leftover skeins on the blog, so join the fun!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Give the People What They Want

Here I am in the KepLaura. More lousy photography, but you get the idea.

The Dignity of Craft

Today I went to see this exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I have long had an interest in the Arts and Crafts movement, so I really didn't want to miss it. I am sorry to say that it is ending in a week, and that Cleveland is the exhibition's last venue. Since you probably won't be coming to Northeast Ohio in the next week, I'll tell you a little about it.

The Arts and Crafts movement was at its height around the turn of the twentieth century, and was largely a reaction to industrialization and the attendant alienation of the laborer. In particular, they opposed the division of labor, and believed that all steps of the creative process --from design to execution-- should be done by the same person. The proponents were greatly inspired by medieval craftspeople and their guilds.

Key figures in the movement included textile designer and writer William Morris, designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The movement sought to blur the line between fine artist and craftsperson, to bring fine design within the reach of the typical person, to counteract the effects of industrialization on the worker, and to celebrate crafts that reflected national identity. While the movement began as a primarily artistic one, some of the proponents (such as Morris) also embraced socialism as the political extension of their artistic ideals.

The exhibit was incredibly comprehensive, including works in various media and from just about every country in which the movement flourished. Among the highlights for me were a paint cabinet designed for Gustav Klimt, who was a key figure in the Austrian branch of the movement, known as the Vienna Secession; a little pamphlet of the monograms of the craftspeople of the Wiener Werkstatte; an entire dining room designed by Peter Behrens; and the title page of Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra designed by Henry van de Velde.

I wish I could share some pictures from the exhibition catalogue with you, but copyright law precludes me from doing so. Instead, I suggest you visit the websites of the Arts and Crafts Museum in Cheltenham, England and the exhibition on International Arts and Crafts presented by the Victoria and Albert Museum. On these sites, you can see many beautiful examples of works from this period and also find many other useful links.

To tie this to knitting, I recently heard Brenda Dayne's podcast entitled A Knitter's Manifesto. In it, she talks about how tired she is of reading about celebrities who knit, and how knitting is the new yoga. She wanted to make a statement about what the craft means to an actual knitter. The ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement summarize why knitting is important to me. William Morris said, Art is the expression of man's pleasure in labour. When I am knitting, I am practicing not just craft, but art. Furthermore, I believe that we express our humanity best through creativity and altruism. Knitting has given me an outlet for expressing my creativity, and therefore, my humanity. As a little reminder of all of this, I changed the background of my banner to a detail of a fabric design by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Also, the quote from Chaucer on the sidebar was featured on the title page of Gustav Stickley's periodical The Craftsman. If you're still with me, I hope this post sounds heartfelt rather than pretentious, and that you have been inspired too!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Long Post with Bad Photography

That giant sucking sound you're hearing is actually me, trying to catch my breath after J's birthday and the holiday. My sister Lisa left this morning, and although it looks as if a tornado has been through my house, things are getting back to normal. Oh wait...a disaster zone for a house...that is normal.

Anyway, I am proud to say that in the last week I have, in spite of holiday madness, finished a number of projects! I did finish that second Snowy Triangle Scarf, at about 6:30 AM on December 25, while the other adults slept and I tried to keep the kids away from the packages under the tree. Unfortunately, I have no pictures, but trust me, it was beautiful. It too was made of Trendsetter Dune, but in red. It is such a rich and pretty combination of gold, pink and red -- it made me think of the gorgeousness of this movie. One thing -- while it took only 2.5 balls of Dune to make the first scarf, I needed three plus a tiny bit of a fourth to finish the second. Aaarggh!

Mr. A came through for Christmas, and I got an iPod! Whoopee! It is nonstop time-sucking fun! So my second FO of the week was a little cozy for my baby, made of some leftover Rowan All-Seasons Cotton. (Maybe the giant sucking sound is my Ghetto Knitter cred slipping away.) It's just a silly little trifle and no one really needs another iPod cozy pattern, but I'll post how I made it on Affiknitty Patterns when I get a chance.

In really exciting knitting news, my sister absolutely gave me two of the best knitting related gifts. First, she said the magic words: "You can make me all the socks you want." I've been thinking how lucky Grumperina is, to have in her grandma such an enthusiastic recipient of handknitted goodies, particularly socks. And now, I have my own--yay!

The second gift was, she stated emphatically on the first day that she was here, that she wanted to knit during her visit. I had taught her last year, but after that first garter stitch scarf she put the needles down and hadn't picked them back up. But she was raring to go this visit! Woo-hoo! We did a lot of knitting--she actually finished an iPod cozy and not one but two pairs of fingerless gloves from Weekend Knitting. Pictured is the second pair. She made them a couple of inches longer than the pattern calls for, so she could do that cute scrunching thing around the wrists. I also made a pair, and we used Wool-Ease, so there was stash reduction to boot. I sent her off with the rest of the skeins she used and my copy of Stitch n' Bitch. I'm hoping that she will keep up with the knitting.

Finally, the KepLaura is done! I am so thrilled to have it off the needles before the new year. It looks like a tent in this picture, but actually it fits very nicely. Here are all the details:

Pattern: Emily's Kepler, heavily modified
Yarn: About 4 skeins of Cascade 220, color #9341
Needles: Addi Turbo circs, size 9
Gauge: About 4 sts per inch
Size: Small and a half (to fit a 35-inch bust)
Modifications: Many--converted it to a knit-in-the-round raglan; eliminated cable bands at sleeves and hemmed them instead; added cables at the decrease lines on the yoke.
Coulda, Woulda, Shouldas: Would have made armholes very slightly deeper and sleeves a tiny, tiny bit longer. But generally I am very happy with it.

Next Thursday, there will be blogs. I swear it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not Three Blogs, but Two Memes

Because of my crazed holiday knitting (see previous post), Three Blog Thursday is taking another break. Those posts actually take quite a bit of effort, as I usually spend some time finding good posts in the archives, etc. So instead today I will participate in two memes, having decided to tag myself.

Grumperina posted recently and proposed a meme on the topic "who knows about your blog?" I thought that was an interesting issue. For quite a while after I started writing this blog, I didn't want to tell anyone I knew about it. Mostly I didn't want to see the eye-rolling. As I became more involved in it and confident about it, I started to tell people. Now pretty much everyone in my family knows about it, but of the really important people in my life, only two of them actually read it -- Greg and my best friend Kara. I suppose it is possible that my sisters or parents are lurking, but I really doubt it.

I started writing Affiknitty partially to keep track of my projects, but I really hoped I would eventually have readers and commenters. That's because of the aforementioned Really Important People, Kara is the only one who knits and she hasn't risen (fallen?) to Obsessed Knitter Status. I could basically talk about knitting all day, but no one around my house can reciprocate! When I do start talking about the merits of different decreases, etc., most people's eyes start to glaze over. But you all understand and can join in the conversation. That is so much fun for me. Also, because they don't share my obsession, I'm really touched that G and Kara read this. It shows that they care about what I am interested in, or are at least prepared to make an effort! Mwaah, you two!

And then for the Seven Song Meme, which I saw on Jennifer's blog. Being the music addict that I am, it's hard for me to narrow it down to seven songs. These seven aren't necessarily the ones that I am listening to the most right now, but rather just seven pieces of music that, for me, always make me happy.

1. "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen. Don't be thrown by the goofy name of this band. They are pure genius. Ocean Rain (from which this song comes) is one of the great rock albums ever recorded.
2. "Can I Get a Witness" by Marvin Gaye. Marvin churches it up, resulting in a great R&B hit with a gospel groove.
3. "West End Blues" by Louis Armstrong. In the Ken Burns' Jazz series, it was described as three of the most perfect minutes of music ever recorded. Listen and you will agree. It will make you proud to be a human.
4. "Blue Monday" by New Order. Now that, my friends, is dance music.
5. "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy. So beautiful it makes me want to cry.
6. "Avalon", as recorded by Harry Connick, Jr. Blistering jazz piano. Cool.
7. "Debaser" by The Pixies. Firmly places Black Francis among the Pantheon of Rock Gods.

Can I do another seven? Here are seven that I am really into right this minute, but who knows for how long I will be.
1. "Mr. Brightside" -- The Killers
2. "Feel Good, Inc." -- Gorillaz
3. "Somewhere Only We Know" -- Keane
4. "Float On" -- Modest Mouse
5. "Fix You" -- Coldplay
6. "Fake" -- The Frames
7. "Sour Times" -- Portishead

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Stop the Insanity!

Because we all know that I am (1) susceptible to knitblogger peer pressure and (2) quite possibly certifiably insane, I decided on MONDAY to do a little Christmas gift knitting. Yep, she's lost it, folks.

But I do have one gift finished! Yay! Here are all the details:
Pattern: Snowy Triangle Scarf from Handknit Holidays
Designer: Iris Schreier
Yarn: Trendsetter Dune, color # 108 (41% mohair, 12% viscose, 6% metal, 30% acrylic, 11% processed cheese food -- just kidding, that last 11% is nylon). I used about 2.5 balls, or about 225 yds.
Needles: Size 11 Addi Turbos
Modifications: I followed the pattern, except that I knit five center triangles rather than eight. My scarf ended up being 8.5 inches wide and 60 inches long -- significantly bigger than the original, which is 4 by 48 inches. That's fine with me -- I wanted a longer and wider scarf.
Other thoughts: This usually isn't my kind of yarn, being mohair and sparkly. But it was perfect for this pattern and the scarf turned out to be very pretty. It was fairly expensive, putting my ghetto knitter status in serious peril. If you were thinking of using this yarn for a more complicated project, you should know that between the mohair and metal content, frogging it would be like unravelling a Brillo pad, but not as much fun. The pattern is cleverly constructed, is a quick knit, and lots of fun. I was afraid it would involve picking up stitches, but it's made in one piece. Now I want to check out Schreier's book. Anyone have an opinion on it?

I purchased the yarn at one of my LYS's -- the one I call (to myself) "Casa Del Eyelash," because it often seems that's all they have. I have received mediocre to poor service there, and generally only frequent the shop in "emergencies." But yesterday one of the owners was so super sweet to Sam while I was looking for what I needed that I actually got a little misty. So here's a little shout out to The Knitting Room in Woodmere, Ohio.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Extreme Closeup, and a Meme

I just couldn't stand it any longer. I bought this gorgeous handpainted sock yarn from Jessie at A Piece of Vermont and it was sitting there by my Knitting Corner, tempting me. After my first (unsuccessful) attempt at the Rib and Cable Socks from the Fall IK with Sock Landscape, I knew that Jessie's yarn would be perfect! I think I was right! It's super cuddly merino in what I would call a beautiful range of wintry blues with a little lavender, pink and white. So, so pretty.

Here's another shot of the Rib and Cables in progress, at the Happiest Place on Earth. No, not Disneyland, but my knitting corner. I have enjoyed seeing others' posts on the "Where Do You Knit?" meme, so I thought I'd play along. If I were being totally honest, I'd also have a picture of the driver's seat of my car. I do more than a little knitting at stop lights! Sad, sad. Some of the stash lives here, along with my embarrassingly huge collection of knitting books.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


About one week ago, Laura aka "Affiknitty" procured a DVD from her local Blockbuster, and boarded Oceanic Flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles. She hasn't been seen since. Thus, Three Blog Thursday is on hiatus.

Family members expressed dismay at her failure to appear for her daily routine. Fortunately however, it has been reported that she had her KepLaura in her possession.

In the meantime, we would like to urge you to visit Minty's new legwarmers KAL -- Cover Your Ankles -- and to check out this hilarious seasonal cartoon from Franklin.

Monday, December 12, 2005

That Holiday Feeling

There are days I feel I'm going slowly insane. And, then, there are days when the process doesn't seem to be taking long at all. I've had several of those days in a row. So I'm trying to get into the Holiday Spirit. Here's what I am doing:

1. I am listening to this CD. I just love La Krall. She does beautiful versions of my two favorite seasonal songs: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

2. I am drinking a yummy concoction of cranberry juice and Diet Canada Dry ginger ale. Must be Canada Dry--Vernors is too cloyingly sweet. Yuck.

3. Tomorrow my mom is coming up to help me put up my Christmas tree. Yay!

4. Sometime very soon, I am going to keep my own personal Holiday Tradition. Every year at Christmastime, I watch three movies, by myself: Going My Way, Holiday Inn, and The Bishop's Wife. I watched them as a single gal just out of college, living in my dumpy efficiency apartment in Rosslyn, Virginia. I watched them as a law student in Charlottesville. I watched them as a new mother. And I will watch them again this year, and they will undoubtedly again bring tears to my eyes -- we all know I'm a rank sentimentalist -- and a smile to my face.

5. I am knitting these little treats from Handknit Holidays. The "J" is for my nephew and godson Jack. I've got two sons, four nieces, and two nephews, so I've got a few more to go! Luckily, they are the knitting equivalent of popcorn--very quick to knit. I'd be done with all of them, if I could sit down for more than three consecutive minutes.

They're knit in Plymouth Encore and Wool-Ease, naturally. I did make one change to the pattern. After I knit my second one, I wondered why all the decreases leaned the same direction. So on the next one, I did matching right- and left-leaning decreases. See what happens when you read Grumperina regularly? You start thinking about these kinds of things.

A couple of asides: Deety has written a very good, very thoughtful review of Vogue Knitting's Stitchionary, Vol. 1. If you are interested in this book, you should definitely check it out! For the record, I would like to point out that in my previous post, I was casting no aspersions on crocheters, but rather only alluding to the fact that many knitters have nothing but disdain for them. You know it's true. Also, WittyKnits mentioned that perhaps we throwers need a t-shirt. Hmmm...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Throwers Unite!

Inspired by Olga's little project and Nancy's comment, I decided that all of us throwers need a little love. I mean, in some circles, being a thrower is nearly as bad as being a ... crocheter. Take a button if you throw, baby. They're in the sidebar.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

This and That

Thanks everyone for the nice comments about Chez Affiknitty. I am stupid in love with this house. I have told G on many an occasion that I plan to leave this house 95 years old and feet first. (Keep your fingers crossed for me.)

You must read Olga's latest post about ghetto knitters. It is priceless!

I finally broke down and joined the Handknit Holidays KAL. Today, getting into the Christmas spirit, I was suddenly overcome with the desire to make red and white pompoms, knitted toys, and little knitted tree ornaments. Pictures to follow.

And, now, for something completely different...

And, for something non-knitting related, I started another blog. Because, you know, I have so much free time. Anyway, it's called La Lectrice Eclectique (at least for now) and I'll be posting about each book that I read. I've been thinking about doing this for awhile. When I was in sixth grade, I told my teacher (shout out to Mrs. Pickard! LOL!) that I wanted to be a book reviewer when I grew up. So I guess that's kind of come to pass!

Kindred Souls

Is it Thursday already? Must be time for Three Blogs! Here are ones I always enjoy.

1. The Knitting Glaistig. The cool thing about the knitblogosphere is that you can "meet" people that you would instantly hit it off with in person, if you didn't live in, say, Cleveland, and the other person in, say, Colorado. That would be Glaistig! She knits the cutest stuff ever. She has been known to produce yarn p*rn on demand. And you have to admire a knitter whose goal is world domination. Plus, she understands the restorative power of expensive booze, cosmetics, and yarn -- preferably all in the same day.

2. Bulldog Knits. In addition to being my partner in crime, she is also a Knitting Soul Sister. We are frequently drawn to the same projects. She is careful about poultry, even knitted poultry, making sure that it is "cooked." She suffers from startitis, just like me. We were sorted into the same house! And she doesn't just knit, she's a Knitter. You know, the sort of person who would vacation at a working fiber farm.

3. Geeky Knitter. Deety is a Helpful Blogger. She provides wicked tutorials for the techno-idiots. She writes great knit-related reviews of books, magazines, etc. Here's a woman who can put together some rockin' Halloween costumes. Her husband is a total knitting enabler, in the very best way.

Check 'em out!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Baby, It's Cold Outside

For those of you suffering through 80-degree December days (that's you, Olga), here are some wintry pictures. We've got wagons-full of snow here in Cleveland! Needless to say, the charming center-hall colonial is Chez Affiknitty.

I've been blithely knitting away on my Jaywalkers with Sock Landscape. I must say they look pretty cool. But it only occurred to me to check the yardage requirements on the pattern after I knit about 5 inches worth of sock. I am not going to have enough to knit full-sized Jaywalkers. Jaywalkettes it is, I guess, which sounds more like a civic organization for ladies who lunch than a cool pair of socks.

I made some good progress on the KepLaura too. I've done the waist shaping and am increasing for the bust. I think it's downhill from here.

Today J and I went to the bookstore and I picked up a copy of Vogue Knitting's new magazine, Knit Simple. I was going to post a quick review, but my general reaction is bleh. I'd rather go knit.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The New IK Is Here! The New IK Is Here! paraphrase a line from a Steve Martin movie. I got mine today in the mail and literally snatched it from the hands of my mail carrier. Then I shouted "Woo-hoo!" before he could get off the porch. He must have thought, and he wouldn't be far off, that I had gone insane.

I am the sort that really looks forward to sitting down with my IK. So much so, that for me the online preview is a spoiler of nearly the page-596-of-Half-Blood-Prince variety. If that's the way you feel, stop reading now!

I haven't read the articles closely, just flipped through the patterns. But I was impressed. There were a few miscues, I thought -- bandeaux are never going to be a hit with me, even if they are loaded with cables, and I don't love the Hip Hop coat. But I really liked these sweaters and what a sweet pair of socks. And hats, so many hats! What timing!

So, what do you think?

So Much for Monogamy

I couldn't fight off the startitis any longer. I have been working on Kepler -- the sleeves are finished, and I have done the hateful job of picking up 156 stitches or so around the cable band. I began decreasing almost immediately for the waist shaping, per my plan. But the decreases were too frequent and it looked weird. It's just going to have to be a little longer than I had planned, in order to accomodate the shaping. (Sorry that there are no exciting pictures documenting all this. Lazy Laura.) Anyhow, the KepLaura has now reached the point where it is no longer portable. That's all the excuse that I needed to start something new.

I have had this yarn in my stash for a while and I've been dying to make it into socks. It's Knit Picks Sock Landscape in Spring Prairie. My skein has more variation in the green -- from yellow to almost olive. I started the Rib and Cable socks from the fall IK, but it was not the right pattern for this yarn. The cables were rendered invisible by the frequent color repeats. So I started again, this time using Grumperina's Jaywalker pattern. What a very cool pattern. This is much better, though there is some polling of the aforementioned yellow. The Rib and Cable pattern was fun too, though, so I'm looking forward to going back to that one. I got some gorgeous yarn from Jessie that I think will be perfect!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Three Blogs, International Edition

Enough of the frivolity! As promised last week, here are three blogs, not of U.S. extraction. All three are written in English.

From Finland, Mustaa villaa (Black wool). Terhi's latest post is titled "I think I died and went to yarn heaven." Well, when I found her blog, I thought, I think I died and went to knitblog heaven. So clean and beautiful. Terhi may be in a distinct minority -- knitters who like to do sleeves. She may have the cutest kid ever (well, except for my little guys) and she makes jokes about hygiene products. Plus lots of FO's for you Rowan fans. What more could you want? Well, you can also read her blog in Finnish, as it's bilingual.

From the Netherlands, Saartje Knits. First, you gotta love the Marimekko-type background. So cheerful and cute! Second, the photography is to die for. And if you like stranded color knitting, then Saartje is your kind of knitter. Here's a pair of gloves that she forgot about. If I had knit these, I would have them on my person at all times, in order to show them off. And this, my friends, is a Fair Isle Hat. You can't go wrong with another Elizabeth Zimmermann disciple.

From Portugal, Knitting through life. The big attraction here for me is that the blog is written in Portuguese and English. I can check my understanding against the translation, and as I didn't knit in high school, it's kind of fun to learn knitting words in Portuguese. But for others, one really cool thing is how detailed her posts are about her creative process. You can also read about her attempts to create her own ballwinder. And I am looking forward to seeing her Jaywalkers.

Enjoy everyone!