Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kiri Shawl in Noro Taiyo

A rainbow for Kim to wrap herself in.
Pattern: Kiri Shawl
Designer: Polly Outhwaite
Yarn: Noro Taiyo, color 5/Rainbow, 2 skeins (200 m per skein), Knitche, Downers Grove, IL
Needles: size 10 Bryspun 24" circular, size 10.5 Addi Turbo 40" circular
Size after blocking: 24" long x 64" wide
My fastest shawl ever. I started this late last week and blocked it yesterday. The colors are amazing. If only Noro could combine its color sense with a warm, cozy silk/wool blend fiber. Still, after soaking with some Eucalan liquid soap, this is fairly snuggly, and perhaps the recipient runs warmer than me and will be happy not to have too much wool content (15% wool against 40% cotton, 15% nylon, and 15% silk) in her shawl.
A bit more subdued in person than in the photos, which bring out a neon quality that is not present in real life. Every time that I think that I find a section that I love most, I notice another great juxtaposition of colors. I'm torn between the coral pink at the beginning, center border against a grass green and a purple section at the bottom against a section with yellows, browns, and pinks.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If only, or Halloween Knitting

If only I had more time or could knit faster. I love that these patterns are the flipside of yesterday's domesticity (plus some other seasonal suggestions):
  1. Hello Yarn's Skull Gansey.
  2. Jackyll and Hyde, knit here by Hello Yarn, but here for the original pattern on Knitty. Exceedingly strange. (This weekend we went to see The Nightmare before Christmas at the local, vintage movie theater in 3-D. Fantastically odd, and Danny Elfman does the singing for Jack. Take only children who you have sufficiently developed into a sense of the absurd.)
  3. Carve a white pumpkin. You can find them in my area at the Farm on 63rd St. in Darien. Plus strange grey-green pumpkins, a flat washed-out orange pumpkin from New Zealand, and lots of little pumpkins, gourds, onions for winter, all sorts of squash, beets, and honey. Prices are great and you feel lile you've had a tiny taste of Martha Stewart mixed with the Midwest.
  4. And this. Very scary and very clever at the same time. If you dress your dog up like this for Halloween, please send me a picture. Isn't the image seared into your brain now? I'm imagining Parker with three heads, all of which want to graze on my napkin or pretend not to be making eye contact when given an order, all at the same time. No, too scary.

In actual knitting, I'm trying to push through the last few rows of the Rainbow Shawl so that I can block and send it off; finishing a winter hat for my teacher's son, so that when I send off the sweater for the new baby, I can also send something for each of the boys (at this point, we all need to say "poo poo," turn your head to the left and pretend to flick something off your shoulder - this is what my Jewish grandmother would do to keep away bad spirits, and in most Jewish traditions, you don't even think about giving something for the baby until after he or she is born - and this baby sweater does not go into the mail until baby is safely delivered, so I don't want to take any chances here by mentioning it); and trying to resist all the great deals at Little Knits for Noro and Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nesting

Windy, cold, grey in Chicago. I have become like Ma on Little House on the Prairie: must spend every waking moment preparing for winter. Or, a modern-day version. First up, dyeing a pink linen skirt for the trip to India.

Skirt soaking in the kitchen sink, with reflections of the trees outside:

Kept it super simple: RIT dye from Hobby Lobby. I chose scarlet because I love red, have a favorite pair of wide-legged pants from Antrhopologie in a beet red that I've been wearing lately, and because I'm under the impression that bright, saturated colors are one of the redeeming elements of India. Here, we have my high-tech mixing apparatus of a chopstick and a recycled can from someone's Progresso soup lunch. As you can see, $2.29 for the dye, which I'm hoping will give me an almost new skirt instead of going out and buying something.
Dye stock mixed. One package to 8 oz. of water. Package directions suggest mixing the reds and blacks at a 2:1 ratio, but again, easy, quick, and a bit lazy here. As you'll see, the skirt came out plenty dark.
My favorite pot, I mean part (full disclosure, that was a typo and not a joke): the dye pot simmering, little clouds of heat and moisture rising from the surface, something of one shape or color transmogrifying into something completely new. I should have been an alchemist, but that never came up in the figure-out-your-job questionnaires that I've taken. (Though I believe that my neighbor's daughter scored high as potential chicken farmer on hers.) At this point, it's the somewhat controllable mystery that begins to appeal to me. I selected a dye color, a fiber, followed directions, but have no definite idea of what will come out at the end.

The finished product. Needs to be modeled for a better view, but in the meantime, I'm pretty happy with it. After letting the dye bath cool with the skirt in it, I rinsed it several times by hand with some dish washing liquid, then ran it through the washing machine twice to remove any leftover dye. The skirt feels a bit stiff now, and I'll wash it again and this time throw it into the dryer to finish. Linen likes to be agitated as it dries, or it comes out somewhat like a plank of wood.
For the lazy woman's approach, not so bad. Next time, I'd add a smidgen of brown or chestnut to give the color a bit more depth. Hmm. Maybe I'll overdye it?

Other projects at hand: almost done with the Rainbow Shawl and finally have an address to send it to.
And a friend came over for lunch today and we made Pear Preserves from Edna Lewis' The Taste of Country Cooking, a wonderfully simple book with good, solid Southern American food. We last had these preserves when my friend stayed with us while pregnant and we ate many peanut butter sandwiches with pear preserves. After not seeing the recipe for years, I came across it yesterday as I was trying to find a destination for the last few green tomatoes. The preserves have gone through a first simmer and now sit overnight, to be finished tomorrow. Must make biscuits to go with them!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Project Runway?

Does anyone know where to find the complete episodes of Project Runway, Season Four on-line or on DVD? I've found short clips on Hulu and Bravo, but not full shows.

And why does Google have to tell you the winner when you search for information? I did not want to know that!!

And Stylista? Bad version of The Devil Wears Prada. Could the women who work at Elle magazine be as snooty and cold as they seem in the show, or are they just playing the part of NYC fashionistas?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Knitting a Rainbow

I'm looking to knit a rainbow. A friend from my yoga therapy program is having surgery today for bladder cancer, and as quick as I can, I want to knit up a shawl that will be warm, soft, and a rainbow of color for her.

An asraya is an object of meditation. It should be positive, and by focusing consistently on that object or visualization or idea, one may begin to take on the qualities of the asraya. Just the way that, if you spend time with a pessimistic person, you may begin to find yourself being all doom and gloom. Or if you take a hike in the woods in the fall and see the leaves changing and the colors of the trees and feel the crisp air, you will begin to feel that sense of time passing, beauty being immediate but ephemeral, how good it feels to take a deep breath of the air outside. In Sutra III.24, Patanjlai notes that samyama -- or the stage in meditation where your consistent and complete focus creates a link between the object of meditation and the meditator -- on the physical strength of an elephant can give one that strength. Not literally, but in the sense that if you consider the elephant's strength, his great weight, his ability to uproot a tree with his trunk, and so on, you may begin to feel, in yourself, a strength of your own.
A rainbow as yantra, or image to meditate on, is about joy, hope, the way in which something beautiful and full of color comes out of darkness and gloom and rain, and it is a sign of prosperity (our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow), and dare I say, abundance (a very overworked word in the yoga lexicon), and I want to send all of that to Kim. The yarn is Noro Taiyo in color 5. (Okay, that's just freaky. I just went to the link page and color 5 is called...Rainbow. I had no idea.) The pattern probably will be the Shetland Triangle Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark or something that I, a not-so-fast knitter (I admit it, I am carrying around the memory of those little girls from Tennessee watching me knit slooooowly, at least to them), can possibly work up by Monday and get it in the mail to Canada.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rolled Brim Hat

Pattern: Rolled Brim Hat
Source: Last-Minute Knitted Gifts
Designer: Kim Hamlin
Yarn: Cascade Pastaza, scarlet and charcoal grey (I used 2 skeins for a woman's hat and a child's hat and had some left over)
Needles: Size 8 16" circular Addi Turbo, size 8 metal doublepoints
Gauge before blocking: 16 st and 22 rows to 4 inches in stockinette stitch
The photo does not do justice to this yarn. It is 50% llama, 50% wool, and a perfect combination of squishy softness and proud wooliness. It works up fast but, at the same time, has an integrity as it moves through your fingers and into a piece of fabric. Not itchy, but comfortingly warm, even in a Tennessee rainstorm. You feel like an explorer as you hike through the woods with the rain coming down harder and harder, but this magical hat is still keeping your head dry and comfortable.
For the woman's size, I cast on 72 stitches. For the child's size, 64 stitches. My first version was the adult, and I was willy-nilly with the stripes. The second time around, I followed the order of stripes in the Turn a Square Hat by Jared Flood - 3 rows of the main color alternating with two rows of the contrast color. Not sure which I prefer. The adult's has a certain insouciance (yes, now I am getting carried away) while the child's has a Ralph Lauren-J.Crew kind of feel. (By the way, Turn a Square is a great great hat. I made two while on my yoga trip and sent them both off to my older daughter before taking a picture - but they fit and looked good on everyone who tried them on in Tennessee, and they knit up super fast.)
I'm on a small project kick. Very soothing when everything else (almost) in life is in a state of invention. After listening to Kelly Petkun talk about the many advantages to knitting hats and mittens in the fall on the 66th episode of the KnitPicks podcast, I started working my way through my stash. Along the way, I've speeded up as a knitter (though, while in Tennessee, we had a concert given by a local family who are very back-to-the-land and all the little girls kept stealing glances at me as I knit my shawl, thinking "my gosh, that woman knits sooo slowly" - and this isn't just paranoia, because I asked the 16-year-old sitting beside me, and she admitted that she can knit much faster with her left hand than I could with my right). And I have the satisfaction of seeing Something Finished when so many other things are not. (Still no shipments of patience? Maybe you're clean out of it too? Where is the Patience Store when you need it?)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Patience

This is how I feel:
This is how I would like to feel:
Please check under beds, in overhead compartments, and at the dusty bottoms of handbags and backpacks for any available Patience. Place in a secure container and ship to me, please, ASAP.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Views

A view from the porch, where I sat almost every morning, drinking a cup of tea and listening to the rooster on the next farm over crowing. Again. And again. And again. You know how in movies the rooster crows only once, and everyone on the farm wakes up? In real life, roosters start crowing at about 5 am and continue until the full light of day. I guess it's rough being the only rooster in the hen house. I also listened to the tree frogs, who make a "shhh" sound followed by a "k-chunk" sound, and listened to the wind in the trees. This is the place that I most wish I could import to my house.

An altar in the yoga building. The room is the third space in as you enter. First, you come into an airy outer room with a long bench for sitting and a table with a hot water urn, tea cups, and tea, and sometimes, thank you, chocolate bars. Nearby, the very popular bathrooms. Next, a small rectangular room for storage of the yoga props: mats, blankets, eye bags, and a table where we signed in every morning. Next, the room above. Not quite this dark in real life, but a good transitional space between outside and the inside that is the beautiful yoga room. Lots of wonderful things to look at on this table as well as a view of nature beyond. Ahh.

Canadian Thanksgiving.

We have four Canadians in the module and much time is spent by our teacher teasing them for their Canadian ways. What does a Canadian do when she bumps into the door? Say "I'm sorry" to the door. Honestly. It's very sweet and quite the antidote to our American tendencies toward rushing and grabbing. For Canadian Thanksgiving, which was early in the week, the staff set the tables end to end so that we could all sit together. Attention to detail is so beautiful at this retreat center that they not only decorated the tables - they decorated them with maple leaves collected from the woods. We did a Canadian-inspired mantra and nyasa, or hand gesture, before the meal, designed by two of the students. Bring your hands to the side of your head and make the Moose Nyasa (moosey antlers), chant Ay-ah, bring your hands to your heart and chant "so sorry" as you bow. Hilarious to see an entire group of adults doing this. Laughter is very important during a 2-week module on meditation.

A chair on the porch with crocheted blankets to wrap yourself in on a chilly morning.

Almost everything in the place has been purchased at a huge yard sale held every fall. Nothing in the bedrooms or bathrooms or kitchen matches, but it all blends together in this beautiful reminder that what is used has history and color.

My favorite sight: a small meditation cabin in a field of trees turning color in the fall.
Small enough for one person. Surrounded by nature.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back

I'm back. More tomorrow.
And 60-goot-van in my last post, and no one told me?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

a postcard from yoga camp

Dear family:

Well, here I am at yoga camp. Or at least that what it felt like as our large van, full of very giggly students, bumped down the rutted, dusty road, catching against low-hanging tree limbs or stopping, then backing up, so the 60-goot-van could squeeze through the narrow, angled curve in the road. And at the end, also like camp: a staff of calm, efficient people to take us to our rooms, orient us a bit, and then ring the bell for us to gather for dinner.

Here's what I've been doing since I arrived:

Eating. A lot. We start with breakfast after the early morning practice, then have tea or fruit during the break, then lunch, then more tea and a snack in the late afternoon, then dinner. Yesterday, there were bids of $500 for the chocolate-butterscotch-oatmeal chip cookies served after lunch. Today, I heard at least three people say "what happened to all the guacomole?" Everything is organic and lots comes from the land around here. We've had stewed apples, fresh apples, and other apply things because the owner's son has an apple orchard.

Yesterday began the beginning of the Grand Experiment of No Note Taking during class. As someone who learns by writing things down (in art history tests, I could mentally "flip" the pages in my notebook looking for a date or artist), this has been rough. How will I remember everything that my teacher is saying??? Then I noticed that the woman beside me is taping the lectures with a tiny tape recorder. I asked her about it during the break and she was a bit defensive, but my goal was only to know that somewhere, there will be a transcript. And truth be told, I'm managing (I think!) to take most of it in.

Learning to chant the Gayatri mantra, a prayer/meditation to the sun. Not really just to the literal sun, but to light/restoration/renewal/power, but in a good sense, not a Presidential debate duking it out sense. Each day, my teacher adds on another little fillip. We're up to doing a sun salutation and chanting the 3 lines that we've learned at each position; doing a pranayama technique; doing some nyasam, or gestures, while chanting another chant as well as the Gayatri; sitting down to chant the Gayatri 12 times quietly to ourselves; standing up to chant a chant apologizing for any mistakes made in our chanting; thanking the four directions; and then resting/sitting/taking a quiet walk through the woods. People love or hate this process. Some people get very warm (it's a sun chant, so you do a lot of visualizing the sun in different parts of the body) and some get cranky and some get tired and some feel great. Very msyterious. Today I felt VERY VERY warm during the repetition 12 times, but wasn't sure if it was a hot flash from nervousness or the sun heating me up.

And the beauty of this place is incredible. I'm hoping that my camera arrives sometime this week so that I can take pictures. Around every corner, in every room, there is something beautiful to absorb. Not only nature - because we're far enough from the city that you can see the Milky Way at night, but the care and attention to detail in each handcrafted building or garden or stonework. There is a tiny cabin built of weathered wood, with a stained glass window on one side and windows on tow others, and it's just big enough for one person to be seated inside, to meditate or just to enjoy some quiet.

Our schedule is packed, and last night I went to sleep like a pioneer - it got dark and I turned in for the night. Even still, I'm pretty tired right now, and it's off the salt mines again (they ring a big bell to let us know to get up at 615 am or to come in for meals or head back to the gorgeous yoga building for afternoon class) for chant practice, which is phenomenal because we have in our group one of the best teachers of Vedic chant in the country, and she is taking us, line by line, syllable by syllable, through several chants.

The only thing that I could use right now is a good, hot cup of coffee. Think I'll wander down and see if I can dig one up.

Write soon - I miss you guys!

Yours, from yoga camp,

Janet