Friday, October 29, 2010

Project 333: Good Nick

When faced with a limited wardrobe it is essential to keep what you have in good nick.  That is, make repairs and alterations when needed, but also, perform maintenance on your most heavily used items.  Most fixes are cheap and take little time. (Remind me to tell you the story some other time wherein I say to a complete stranger "I need a screw, quick!)

But, yes, my Phoebe Dansko clogs.  While peering down at my feet yesterday I realized that I was looking like an urchin. There is a reason the saying "down-at-the-heels" means to look sad, worn, and even impoverished. In the case of my clogs, it was the toes, not the heels that needed immediate attention.  Since these shoes are a major pillar in my Project 333 experiment it is important to me that they continue to look good (especially since they are nearly indestructible).

Before - Urchin toes

After - Moneysworth Best Shoe Polish.  Yes, indeed.

A quick application of shoe polish can make just about any shoe look almost new.  Leather dries out as it ages, and polish adds oil and colorant back into the leather to cover the scuffs and scrapes.  This not only helps your shoes look better, but can actually prolong the life of your shoes as well.  The oil in shoe polish can help repel water and salt stains, and since I have been known to wear my clogs out in several inches of snow (by-the-way clogs offer no traction) this is important to the longevity of my shoes.

I used to be on very friendly terms with my neighborhood cobblers in New York, Albuquerque, and Cambridge.  Cobblers are wonderful people - they can resole shoes, change heels, replace stitching, and even fix leather jackets and luggage.  Their shops will have a treasure trove of items you never knew existed and shoe polish for almost any color leather imaginable.  Shoe whiteners, shoe laces, shoe horns and trees, shoe bags, caps for your toes and heels.  It can be a wonderful experience.   In a throw-away culture such as ours, perhaps it is no surprise that almost all cobblers I have used are foreign-born: Mexican, Armenian, Hungarian, and Indian.  My cobbler (Armenian) in Cambridge had the following written on his business cards:

I will heel you, save your soles, and dye for you.

I should mention his shop was covered wall-to-wall with religious icons.  He took his work seriously.

I haven't sought out a cobbler since I moved to the mid-West, mostly because I am no longer wearing high heels since leaving the art world behind. But I do have a pair of dansko sandals that need some TLC, and I have been told the general proximity for a good cobbler.  

With some extra care my sandals may just be around for next summer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some thoughts on Project 333

I have now been part of Project 333 for almost a full month, and I am really enjoying the simplicity of it.  And I am functioning using LESS than 33 items.  But perhaps that isn't suprising...

I never had tons of clothes, although my parents may argue otherwise.  In college, some of my friends had closets stuffed full.  And I do mean FULL.

Until 10th grade I was a public school kid - rode the bus everyday (it happened to be the short bus in elementary school, which actually says more about the topography of where I grew up, rather than my mental abilities), and was relentlessly bullied by several kids in my grade.  With glasses, braces, a terrible Princess Diana haircut, and the onset of puberty, it was probably inevitable.  By the time I started to 'grow up' in ninth grade, I was also starting to reject the images these kids projected. Benetton, Guess, and Espirit were to be reviled.  I started wearing black. My sister and I would shop at Thrift Stores.  We wore polyester, lace, men's suit trousers and blazers.  We often bought Rit Dye to change the color of our second hand clothes.  My image was being formed in polar opposite of the people who picked on me, as if to say, 'Yes, I am different, and now you can see just how different I am.'  Most importantly, I ceased caring what they thought and went my own way.

And then 10th grade came around and I ended up in private school.  As private schools go, it wasn't bad.  There were wealthy kids there, but also a lot of my classmates were getting financial aid, and many of my classmates were first generation Americans.  But the kicker, the real kicker, was there was a uniform. Not just any uniform, but a plaid skirt (Campbell) and a white turtleneck.  (To this day I can't wear turtlenecks.) And suddenly the clothes I did have in my tiny closet were irrelevant, because I could not wear them to school.  I had two Campbell plaid skirts, a grey skirt (boy the grey skirt got a ton of wear!) navy pants, a navy crewneck sweater, two white turtlenecks, and a white button-down shirt. Shoes were usually Chinese slippers, since they were black, reasonably fashionable, and not penny loafers.

And so I could spend five days a week in clothes I had little to no control over, and really only had to make sure they were clean... ish.  For three years my wardrobe consisted of the same trousers, skirts and boring sweater - and because I was done growing, they may have been the exact SAME trousers, skirts, and sweater.

So, honestly, 33 items? Kinda feels like luxury when thinking about those private school days. And I have not, nor while I ever own a pair of navy trousers ever again.

In the end my high school alma mater got the last laugh.   When I went to college and joined the Lacrosse team the skirt uniform was Campbell plaid. No kidding.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fiber Expo 2010

From left to right: BFL Top from Yarn Hollow, colorway Sleepy Hollow.  Iona Worsted Weight, 80% Superwash Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon from MacKintosh Yarns, colorway Maude. Annie Goatley Goat Milk Lotion, Rosemary & Perppermint 8 oz.  BFL from Fiberstory, colorway Spruce.  BFL Twist from Color Bug Yarns, colorway Koi.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ann Arbor Fiber Expo

My return from Rhinebeck inevitably created a pschological slump.  There is nothing like spending a few days with friends, in an area that you love, with a chance to see your parents, AND throw in fiber in great quantities to make the next few days feel ho-hum.

Luckily the following Saturday (this past Saturday) I drove down to Ann Arbor for the Fiber Expo with a fiber friend.  And what an incredible little fair the Expo is becoming.  I believe this is the fourth year the expo has been put on, and this was my third time going, so I feel like I can speak to its changes.  Year by year the Fiber Expo has been getting bigger and better.  It is the perfect size really.  A few barns, enough vendors to spend a few hours, but not overwhelming in any way.  My only complaint? I was rammed by moms with strollers several times.  Double wide or double long strollers really should be banned - they are a menace!

I bought several hanks of roving, one ball of hand dyed worsted weight yarn, and some hand lotion made from Goat's Milk.

One of the calmer sections

My ban on buying sock yarn continues, so I didn't buy the yarn that most caught my eye and continues to create little moments of longing.

Happy Fuzzy Yarn - fingering weight
I can't begin to describe how incredibly saturated the color is in Happy Fuzzy Yarn.  They had a very limited palate range for the worsted weights, which is the ONLY reason I didn't come home something from their booth.  My b'day friend ponied up and bought a skein of sock yarn - one of those magenta & green skeins you can see on the right.  I am still whimpering.

Photos of what I bought to come!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Signing: Chris de Longpre and Timeless Knits for Kids (Size 4-14)

I am having an incredibly fibery weekend - and I am loving every second of it. This morning I went to the Ann Arbor Fiber Expo (more on that in my next post) and experienced the joy of fiber festivals all over again.

I got home with just enough time to drop off my packages, bolt down some lunch, and head out again for my LYS, Woven Art.  Chris de Longpre of Knitting at KNoon was there doing a book signing and had a trunk show too!

Chris de Longpre and me with the trunk show.
Her designs are simple and classic, with little details that really make a sweater - a little girl's sweater with a String of Pearl's cast off edging - a boy's vest with garter bumps from a slip stitch pattern.  Timeless Knits for Kids (Sizes 4-14) is a fantastic book for that difficult age range in kids.  It isn't hard to find patterns for little ones, but anything smaller than adult can be a real challenge!  Plus, Chris's patterns wisely call for easy care fibers - Plymouth Encore, Kraemer yarns, and Cascade 220 superwash.  Dirty? Just throw into the washer AND dryer with jeans, turtlenecks, and socks.

Timeless Knits for Kids size 4-14
I know I need to make several vests for my ever increasing herd of nephews - and easy care yarns (I am thinking Plymouth Encore - such a nice light grey!) will take the terror out of the gifts for my sisters-in-law.

The photos in the book are beautiful - I think I even recognize some of the locations in Michigan - and Chris took them all! (Except for her author photo, that is.)  All the models are her grandchildren, and you can tell that this book was made with joy and love.

I can't wait to knit some projects out of this book - but I can take my time - with so many sizes to choose from, I can use this book for a decade for each child!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Autumn around the Little Yellow House

Gingko Leaves

Sugar Maple and Oak Leaves
Foliage at Lake Lansing

Milkweed Pod, Lake Lansing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rhinebeck Photos

I drove east with a small contingent of Michigan knitters.  It was wonderful.  I got to see my parents (briefly) and I soaked up the goodness of coming home.  It is lovely going to places where you don't have to consult a map constantly.  I miss the familiarity of Fairfield and Westchester counties.

Crowds at Rhinebeck

Mums at the fairgrounds

View of the Catskills from the fairgounds
Rhinebeck haul - sport weight wool from Bartlett Yarns,
a yarn bowl from Jennie the Potter,
handspun/handyed by Stonesthrow Farm,
Darling Basket by Ellen Hotis and
Handwoven placemats and dishtowels
by two separate weavers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Charity Challenge Complete

Saturday was the last day to drop off knitted charity goods at Woven Art.  I finished a few more hats that are headed to the Black Child and Family Institute just in time for the cold weather.  Each hat was made out of yarn that was in my stash for well over four years.

A Very Warm Hat by EZ - outside
A Very Warm Hat - inside
Orange Hurricane hat
Grey Hurricane
Raspberry Hatto
Embossed Chevron Hat
I am so glad I could knit so many hats to keep kids warm this winter.  I am hoping that I can knit one hat a month for a full year.  This will let me knit other projects, knit for charity, and decrease my stash - an ongoing project in itself.

Last year at this time I made a commitment to knit from my stash for the entire year, adding yarn only under the most special of circumstances.  Next week is Rhinebeck and I am not holding back. I won't be out of control, but I fully intend to enjoy myself. And maybe THIS year I can get a pot pie!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

State Fair Cowl

Since returning from the retreat I have been laid up on the couch with a head cold.  With cold medication in my system I could only really knit in garter stitch.  So I dug out some handspun I bought at the New Mexico State Fair five or six years ago and started knitting.  On my second day on the couch, I have a finished cowl.

State Fair Cowl
And you can just make out Zeby on the inside of my front door.

Yarn: Handspun yarn in natural colors, and dyed yellow from the New Mexico State Fair, in 2004 or 2005.
Needles: size US 10.5
Notes: cast on about 40 stitches, knit every row, throwing in random stripes of yellow.  Knit for 22 inches, graft into a tube. Fold in half, and ta DA! Cowl.

This is not a soft yarn. It is a wooly wool, a natural wool.  And I love it. I love wearing it against the skin of my neck.  It still has a faint lanolin smell, and I love that too.
Time to make some more tea. And have a snuggle with my dog while I am wearing my new cowl.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Woven Art: Retreat at Macatawa Lake

I am just back from working the weekend at the Woven Art Retreat in Holland, Michigan.  Aside from presently being sick, I am riding high on the energy and passion that is exuded by 24 other passionate knitters.

I had such a wonderful time getting to know my knitting community better.  Friday night Sarah Peasley taught a workshop on gauge. I know, I know, GAUGE. But it is the basis on EVERYTHING that we do.  Gauge is critical, and too many knitters turn a blind eye to their best chance to making a project successful.

I got to hand out the goodie bags Friday night, and it did indeed feel like an Oprah moment.  For one, the bags are stinkin' cute!  But they were stuffed with wonderful things.  A copy of EZ's Knitters Almanac, a set of straight Kollage square needles, a ball of Kollage Fantastic yarn (yum!), a ball of Punta Merisoft, a wonderful felted notions bag from Frabjous Fibers, and a sample of Soak wool wash.

Saturday morning Sarah led a workshop on double knitting, a technique that I really have wanted to pick up.  I learned a super simple way (once you get the rhythm down) to do a tubular cast on, and then I knit a little phone cozy in the round with only two double pointed needles!  There was a bad moment when I bound the double knitting closed, but with a dropped stitch and some dexterity, I was able to fix my own mistake.

Retreat House at Macatawa Lake, Holland, Michigan
The rest of Saturday was nearly a blur for me. I know that at one point I led a teaching session on Elizabeth Zimmermann's mitered mittens, and got to show the afterthought thumb that involves cutting a stitch in your knitting. (I could hear the gasps and whimpers all around me as I snipped that stitch!)  I missed both of Jill Bigelow-Suttell's workshops on converting from flat to round, and on knitting shapes.

After that the day kinda blurred on by as I was in the kitchen, answering questions, and teaching magic loop.  Dinner was on the other side of the lake, and I had a lovely Pasta Primavera that way heavy on the vegetables and light on the pasta.  It was perfect.  Especially with a glass of white wine.

Sarah Peasley and Erica Owens, Saturday
Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful.  The lake was like glass, and I enjoyed my breakfast on the three season porch.

Breakfast in Retreat House
I was really wishing I had brought my yoga mat with me so I could have done some sun salutations on the dock that morning.  Ah well, next year!

Nancy led the last workshop of the retreat on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ganomey hat.  Knitters were working on any of the projects from the previous sessions, and last minute questions were flying right up until the moment people were leaving. I think I was even asked some questions in the parking lot!

Mist rising on Lake Macatawa
It was a fantastic weekend.  Truly lovely.  As Nancy and I drove back to East Lansing (and left the sun behind - what is it with mid-Michigan, anyway - I feel like I would see more sun in the Pacific Northwest!)  we began to brainstorm about next year's retreat.  

Suffice it to say it will be even better than this year's retreat.  I can hardly wait!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bramble Stitch Scarf

Bramble Stitch Scarf

Many years ago I wrote up a little scarf pattern that is still available over at Nepenthe's Misadventures.  This scarf was a Christmas present for my sister.

I still get hundreds of hits a week for that pattern, but because I can't update all the links that head my way, and because Blog-city will be disappearing in 2011, I have a handy-dandy link to the new pdf!

download now