Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Wall Sheep

My copy of Knit Real Shetland arrived!  I took advantage of the offer of free shipping from the UK and it only took about a week to appear on my doorstep.  The patterns are really strong - I can easily imagine knitting more than half of them, which I think is a pretty good ratio for any knitting book.  

My only criticism is with the colour choices of the samples in the book.  All the patterns are gorgeous but the colours...not so much, in my humble opinion.  

Am I being too cranky to imagine that this design might be even more stunning in a more harmonious colour scheme?  

Ach, everybody's a critic.

Fortunately I can easily imagine them in other colours and if there is one thing that Jamieson and Smith are good at, it is offering a lot of options in that department.  In fact, part of why I purchased this book was because I once, in a fit of enthusiasm, bought their entire colour sampler kit - one skein of each of the colours they sell.  It was very exciting when it arrived but then I was left wondering what exactly I would do with one skein of each colour of their yarn.  Problem solved!  This book has lots of great ideas that require no or only a small amount of supplementing.

The book also contains an interesting introductory essay by Kate Davies about the history of Jamieson and Smith and Shetland knitting in general.  

Shetland wool is unique and Shetland knitting reflects this.  I was recently speaking with a man from New Zealand who was telling me that the wool industry there was in trouble - people just aren't wearing real wool anymore.  As someone who spends a great deal of money on wool, I had a moment of disbelief that this could possibly be true, but I am sure it is.  I have heard similar stories about the Falkland Islands.  And here is Kate Davies again on how products are being marketed as made of wool when, in fact, they have little or no wool content.

In the grand scheme of things, this sounds like it is a very small issue.  But look a little closer.  If we lose traditional industries like the Shetland and Falkland wool industries, we lose a lot more than a handful of jobs and livelihoods on a couple of tiny, ocean-swept islands.  We lose entire cultures, and by that, I mean lose them forever.  So while I may have a small quibble about someone's taste in colour, the truth is that I gladly spent my money on this book, and I will spend more to buy yarn to make the patterns in it.  

It isn't Occupy Wall Street but it is a small gesture to keep this tiny world of ours just a little more interesting for just a little while longer.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

And that's why I love snow

The west coast of Newfoundland had its first snowfall earlier this week, but for once, New York is not so far behind.

After an early morning odyssey of four trains to get to a yoga class (usually one train and 20 minutes - thanks MTA!), I was a bit grumpy about the prospect of three trains to get back home.  Yet, when we emerged from underground to head into Queensboro Plaza on the N train, everyone in the car gasped simultaneously.  

What had started as rain in Manhattan had turned to snow.  It was one of those brief moments in the city when everyone is laughing and smiling and talking with strangers in delight about what is happening.

Imagine that!  One moment, everyone is glumly riding along, thinking their thoughts, planning their day, ignoring those around them....and then it snows.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bring Out Your Dead

In honour of Halloween, and despite of being the Ebenezer Scrooge of said holiday, I have been resurrecting dead projects.  These were my hungry ghosts - looming in the background, wanting to be finished but unable to fit into my schedule or my current interest.

This one got put aside because I made a mistake somewhere along the way.  I forgot how fun this pattern is but now that I am back in the groove, I am cooking along.  I highly recommend it as a beginner's lace pattern.  Here is a link to the free ravelry download.  It will end too soon!

This project dates from 2006, I believe.  Again, I made a mistake that required a bit of ripping back so I put it in a bag and hid it in a dark corner.  But dang it, that was a lot of colourwork to just abandon.  The actual knitting requires a fair amount of concentration so it is not for casual, pick-up work, thus it is still sitting by the couch.  The intention is there, however.

Perhaps my hungry ghosts are ready to be reborn into another realm.  I will let you know.

Meanwhile, please enjoy:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Felt Cervix Project

Artist Sonya Philip has a new project and she is looking for contributions.  The Felt Cervix Project "aims to highlight the importance of sexual and reproductive familiarity, education and empowerment."  The result will be a large-scale sculptural installation.  Sonya has a blog to keep you up to date on all things happening in the world of felt cervixes (is that the correct way to make cervix plural?).  And you can get the pattern off the website or download it via ravelry.

While I completely appreciate her goal for this project, I think it is just plain old fun to make a felt cervix.  And can you say "homeschool sex ed lesson"?  

Go on!  Make a felt cervix.  You know you wanna.

PS.  If you want to make your knit, then felted, cervix in the company of others, then head on down to Zucotti Park and Occupy Wall Street.  There will be a knit-in there this Sunday at noon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kittens and Flowers

This morning I thought I would write a post in response to two of Shawn's recent posts over at islandsweet.  She has been mourning the passing of autumn into winter in Newfoundland, even going as far as to suggest that all the colour is quickly leaving and that she will have to find her inspiration from her collection of sketchbooks rather than the natural world.  I wanted to assure Shawn that winter is full of colour albeit in a minimal palette, but the colour is there if you look.  For me, it is the season that is most inspirational.  

Alas, I also have a friend who was born and raised in Houston, TX, who believes that 90F/32C and 90% humidity is the best kind of weather.  This friend actually thinks that sweating makes you feel fresh and invigorated.  

Fresh and invigorating is a good Arctic wind and recent snowfall.  But we shall have to agree to disagree.  

Just look at the consequences when you take the other route:

Note Webster's jaws locking on Olive's head.  No, we don't need more of that in the world.

Peace, love and understanding (and glowing toenail polish) is what we need.

Also ikebana.  After a long (too long!) respite, ikebana is back!  Yep, it's gonna be all kittens and flowers from now on.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Vow (with apologies to the wool industry)

The Kitty Cat Sniffle Update is positive - both cats seem to be back to good health.  We shall not speak of how I administered a topical antibiotic to Olive orally by mistake and spent some tense hours believing that I had killed the cat we had just adopted.  Both of us lived to tell the tale, which is all that needs to be said.  There is no knowing if said action contributed to the fact that Olive has been much slower to feel comfortable and trust us, but really, what do you think?  At least they are snoozing on top of the bed instead of under it now.  This seems to be their daylight hours position.  Nighttime is spent racing up and down the stairs, wrestling with each other and knocking things off of shelves.  Good and proper kitten behavior.

For myself, I too race up and down stairs and knock things off of shelves regularly but I am a little light on the wrestling.  All for the best, no doubt.  

After cleaning out my fibre closet in the basement, which had spilled out of its boundaries in a rather alarming way, I finally got my spinning mojo back.  It had taken a little siesta not unlike the above kittens.  But it is back, and not a moment too soon because my clean-up revealed a shocking amount of raw fleece.  Where did it all come from?  Somebody needs to put girlfriend's paypal account on lockdown.

Consider it done.  I hereby vow that no fleece shall enter this house until the supply that exists here and now is well used up.  A public declaration!  Hold me to it, people.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

There is More

Accomplishment!  Not only did I purchase a $1.50 adapter for my camera charger, but I finished the socks knit from Zauerball yarn.  I started them in the spring, was sidetracked by, oh, 700 crocheted and knit squares, and finished them a couple of days ago.  They are the best fitting socks I have made to date.  They are nice and snug, which made me realize that I usually knit socks too loosely.  There is a good amount of yarn left over so I think my next sock project (they are the perfect subway knitting) will be a combination of leftovers to make a pair for Lucy, who complained that I "never" make her anything.  

I will add that to the list of how I "refused" to allow her and Finn to learn Japanese and how I "never" let her take up a musical instrument.

Webster thinks otherwise.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Simpleton and A Dullard

Once I mentioned at the dinner table that I suspected that someone who I had recently met thought of me as a simpleton.  Lucy said, "what's a simpleton?"  And Finn responded with, "Ummm...Lucy.....?"

Today I must confess to being a dullard.  My camera still isn't charged so I have no new photos to share and, frankly, no new nothing to share.  I am spending all my time getting the house in order, keeping Finn and Lucy on track with their activities so that they do not become simpletons, and administering antibiotics to kittens.  It is not exactly juicy blog fodder.

My apologies.

As an offering to you in the hopes that you won't give up on me (I will get that adapter so I can charge the camera battery!), here are a few blog posts from others that I have recently enjoyed:

First, from the ever-wonderful Kate Davies, a post about new book about Shetland knitting that she had a hand in making.  It is put out by Jamieson & Smith in Shetland.  At the moment, you get free shipping from the UK, so take advantage!

Second, from Joanne Mattera, a post about how artists can fundraise for projects with integrity and ingenuity.  It is chock-full of great ideas and sound advice.

Finally, if you already aren't a follower of Shawn over islandsweet, may I recommend you head over there and read about her experiences teaching dyeing and spinning in Jackson's Arm, Newfoundland.  The town, which is slowly dying, is trying to tap into the remarkable talents of its women to create a new economy.  Shawn is helping them develop some new skills as part of that process.  It is a fascinating project and Shawn tells it with beautiful photographs.

Have fun and I promise to return with more sparkling, witty posts soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Banner Day

It is my most wonderful daughter's birthday today, marking the day when we officially have two teenagers at home.  What can I say?  Lucy is great:  she is funny, smart, and a fast knitter, and she has one of the most generous natures of anyone I have ever met.   Happy birthday Lucy!

To celebrate, and to celebrate the arrival of our two new kittens, I want to turn your attention to this film festival happening this very weekend here in NYC.  

Yes, it is a film festival of cute cat videos!  You've spent hours watching them on youtube, now come see them at the Anthology Film Archives.  The program actually seems to go beyond Maru and his boxes into some interesting territory.  

I would post some cute cat photos of my own except that my *brand* *new* *Korean* camera's battery has run down and the charger has a European style plug on it so I need to get an adapter for North American use.  Also, the kitties have been mostly hiding in dark places and sneezing.  Unfortunately, they picked up head colds at the shelter so I spend most of my time with them trying to corner them and force antibiotics in their mouths with a syringe.  I am sure it is some kind of bonding ritual, but is it the good kind?

That's the kitty sniffle update...have a great weekend!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Everything I Know I Learned From Frog and Toad

At our Zen center yesterday, there was a dharma encounter (sometimes also called dharma combat) instead of the usual discourse.  It happens as part of the fall intensive training period, called ango.  In dharma encounter, the teacher sits up front and presents a topic.  Ango participants (one does not have to be a formal student to participate in ango) line up and, one by one, come forward and ask a question or make a comment in response to the topic.  It is like a public dokusan (or face-to-face interview with the teacher, which is normally held privately).  There is only a certain amount of space for people to line up, so when the teacher invites people up, there is usually a scramble as people race to get a space on the line and many are sent back to their seats.

My feelings about the whole thing have mostly been along the lines of "not me! no thanks!"  Or perhaps, "why must every single thing about Zen practice be such exquisite torture?"  In other words, I have been very content to sit on my zafu and watch the proceedings from a safe distance.  From my passive position, I have learned so much from dharma encounters, yet I have had a growing sense that sitting back and watching others was both ungenerous and failed to take advantage of all the teacher is offering me.  

So yesterday I took my place in the line - not without a bit of jostling, I might add.  Perhaps this explains why there are always so many more men participating....another reason to get my ass on line.

An illustration of my state of mind during dharma encounter.
My heart was pounding so hard that I seriously wondered if I would survive.  I feel sore in my heart today, just like when I overwork my hamstrings.  I pulled a heart muscle.

To be honest, I have almost no memory of what I said except to know that it barely made any sense in reference to the topic.  If it was dharma combat, then I was the dog that rolls over and exposes their belly in acquiescence.  I do not know why this kind of thing sends me off the deep end but it surely does.

Later, I was meeting with some others to plan for the next Zen Kids meeting next weekend.  We were looking at a Frog and Toad story about bravery.  At several points in the story, Frog and Toad are under attack (by a snake, a hawk, etc.) and they run away, but at the same time they are shouting, "I am not afraid!"  

From "Dragons and Giants" in Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel, 1972.

Sounds very familiar.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Irrational Exuberance

Since Dan moved out, there has been a lot of cat talk around here.  No, we don't go around meowing and purring (most of the time), but there was a growing realization that, with the primary allergy sufferer gone,  we could have the long-desired cat.  In many ways, it makes no sense whatsoever unless said cat learns to travel in a car to Newfoundland on a regular basis.  This isn't completely impossible but it is a little far fetched.

Yet once the furry topic was raised, there was no putting it down (so to speak).  We began to make rationalizations about how it would be possible.  Then we decided that "it wouldn't hurt" to go to the North Shore Animal League - the world's largest no-kill shelter, btw - and just have a little look around.

Please meet Olive.  She is about six months old and very sweet.  What you don't see in this picture is her brother, Webster, who was hiding under my bed.  In for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose.

Finn came up with Webster's name based on a story in the Mr. Mulliner series by P.G. Wodehouse.  In it, there is a cat named Webster who seems to exude a kind of moral uprightness that forces the slightly debauched P.G. Wodehouse character to give up his drinking and carousing.  Each time he would reach for the bottle, he would look over at Webster and see that "Webster thinks otherwise."  Finn managed to find a kitten that had that "Webster thinks otherwise" air about him.   Guess my party days are over.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Some Miscellaneous Scratch

It's fall!  The best season to be in New York, as anyone will tell you.

It feels great to be able to enjoy this season with no deadlines or massive projects to complete.  Instead, I have lots of small projects that I can now attend to and enjoy, including making that kimono and fixing up the house to feel new and refreshed.  I got out the Benjamin Moore colour card set (yes, a friend who knows my love of painting the living room gave me the complete set) and Lucy and I have been deep in discussion about what the next incarnation should be.  Occasionally we get side tracked by the names of the colours.  Lucy created a quiz game where she read off the names and I had to guess what the colour was - if you think "Stoney Iron" is a rust colour, then you would be wrong (it is a deep blue).

The one downer has been that, in my absence, we developed an infestation of pantry moths.  Considering that the kitchen had not really been used as a going concern for almost a year, I guess we were lucky it was nothing worse.  Still, it was slightly alarming to find a dozen little caterpillars on the ceiling in the morning.  As a public service, I offer you my three-pronged strategy for getting rid of the infestation: 1.  Kill every visible moth and caterpillar mercilessly.  2.  Clean out all the cupboards and throw away anything that isn't sealed in metal.  This was tough from both an environmental and economic perspective but again, I had to be merciless.  And there were some scary items at the back of some of the below-the-counter cupboards.  We shall not speak of the container of black rice from 2009.  3.  Scatter bay leaves liberally on the shelves.  Apparently your man the pantry moth hates the smell with a passion and will pack his bags immediately upon getting a good whiff of it.  I read that on the internets and I can't say that it is true for sure, but I do know that three days of this strategy seems to have eliminated the problem.  Go bay leaves!

If you too are lucky enough to be enjoying autumn in New York, may I make a suggestion for an evening out this week?  Consider attending the short-film festival "Made from Scratch", which is billed as a celebration of New Yorkers who "create products and companies from the raw materials of the city itself  and themselves.  My project, Spindle 7, was entered by the person who edited the video about it,  Susan Forste, and it is a finalist!  A screening and reception will be held on October 6th at 287 Spring Street beginning at 8pm.  Hope to see you there!