Friday, December 31, 2010

Past, Present, and Future

For three months this blog has gone untouched.  I had all but removed myself from the knitting community altogether for a while, but the other day I decided that it might be time to return.  I may not knit much anymore, but I miss the blog and the enjoyment I used to get from it.

I haven't been documenting my projects on Ravelry, either.  Hats, scarves, legwarmers, socks... they've come and gone without notice.  I actually felt a bit liberated that way - no pressure to record, to document, to display anything I was doing.  It became my own personal pastime, but now I think I'm ready to return.  I'm just going to cut my losses and start from where I am right now.

From the past we have some lace:

Yes, that's right, I'm still working on my Autumn Arbor Stole.  It's almost done, though.  Just a couple more repeats of the pattern and I can call it quits.

It'll block out beautifully, I can tell.  It's interesting to see where my tension has changed as I've knit on this piece.  I know my tension has changed because after months of not working on it, the colors started to pool differently.  I wonder how it'll look once it's finished.

I also finally got around to blocking my Aeolian Shawl.

I do believe it blocked out amazingly and knit in cashmere it is the most decadent thing I have ever made.  The yarn, Handmaiden Cashmere 2-ply (or something like that), was a gift from Joan and I can't thank her enough.

The tonal variations in the yarn are subtle, but beautiful.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with this shawl.  It seems a shame to keep it folded up in my closet.

Presently I am working on a scarf all for me.  For my birthday my mother sent me some of Brooklyn Tweed's greatly coveted Shelter yarn in the Button Jar colorway along with the pattern for Dryad.  A more perfect pair couldn't have been made.

The stitch definition this yarn offers is spectacular and I can't wait to see how it blooms once I wash the scarf.  I'm giddy with excitement knowing that this scarf is all for me.

Sometimes we just have to be selfish.

It appears I'll have a selfish future as well, with projects planned to use up more yarn given as gifts.

For my birthday, Sister No. 4 presented me with a pattern kit from A Verb for Keeping Warm's club.  Beautiful yarn in my favorite colors along with an exclusive Stephen West pattern.  Really, my life couldn't get any better.

Just look at that beautiful yarn!  I can't wait to get this project on my needles.

And last, but definitely not least, I have an armful of Malabrigo from Sister No. 2 with which I intend to make the most perfect sweater ever.

The trouble is, it appears that the pattern for "the most perfect sweater ever" doesn't exist and I fear I will have to attempt to make it on my own.  I'd be planning that all right now, but my stitch dictionaries and such are back in Pittsburgh and I'm here in Minnesota for winter break.

But just thinking of the possibilities amuses me to no end.

and with that I bid you all adieu until next time, which I hope will be sooner than three months from now.

Warm wishes and a Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


When I was auditioning for grad schools last Spring, sometimes I would have strange nightmares about how they would go or what the results would be.

One dream that occurred more than once showed me being called into the admissions office of a school and being told that I had been accepted, under one condition...

...I had to give up knitting.  NooooooOOOO!!!  Of course, I didn't want to throw a tantrum and run out of the office, so I sucked it up and accepted their offer, enduring two years of knitting-less life to concentrate on the clarinet.

Now, thankfully this dream didn't happen.  However, the result seems to be the same.  I was admitted to grad school and upon arrival it appears that all of a sudden I have given up knitting - not intentionally, not officially, not happily, but somewhere along the line my knitting has stopped dead in its tracks.  What am I to do when I come home to see this sitting by my couch,

knowing that day after day, week after week, it continues to be ignored?  Do you see all those wonderful things in there?

That's a hat that I have nearly finished!  It has a lining and everything and all that is left to do is attach the tassel and close up the top.  I reached that point over 5 weeks ago and still it remains unfinished.

I threw that fingerless glove in the basket because its mate is done and this one needs only 6 rows of ribbing on the thumb and the ends woven in.  And I'll let you in on a secret - on the first one, I just knotted the ends and called it a day.  Really.  I did.  And I don't even feel guilty, except that they're coming undone.  No matter, I knit these two a year apart and they're entirely different sizes anyway, so it's not like someone's going to wear them.

That's a Windschief Cowl finished almost 6 weeks ago, yet I still haven't woven in the two ends...

A wonderful pair of mittens to match my winter coat.  Look, I even started embroidering my name on one of them!  They still need thumbs and linings, but I was so close!

And this next one is the biggest shame.

My Aeolian Shawl.  I finished knitting it in July and still it sits unblocked.  The softest cashmere I've ever felt, sitting crumpled at the bottom of a basket.  It's not right, I tell you.  Can you imagine how beautiful it'll be when it's blocked?  I pick it up from time to time and am ALWAYS surprised by how soft it is.  Unbelievably soft!!!  I neeeeeed to block it, if only for that amazing transformation experience that only lace blocking can bring.  Maybe I'll save it for one of those metaphorical rainy days.

You know what else there is?

The yarn for a long-desired Staccato sweater of my very own.  I had to go to at least 5 different yarn shops in 3 different states just to collect all the colors.  I think I started buying the yarn for this over a year ago and I haven't even swatched for it yet!

Why oh why did I have to give up knitting to go to grad school?

So here's the confession:  I have time to knit.  I do!  I spend my entire day on campus and often I find myself with a 3+ hour break with nothing to do (except practice).  I could be knitting during that time, but I don't bring my knitting to school with me.  For some reason I'm still uncomfortable knitting in public and so it remains home, abandoned, waiting for me to have a day off or a weekend free to settle down and complete some of those projects.  And there are more in that basket that I didn't even mention.

It's a sad state that my knitting is in, but I have hope that when the cooler weather begins to settle in I will feel compelled to finish that hat and those mittens, weave in the ends of the cowl, and settle in for a warm, relaxing evening of knitting with a cup of tea and a nice audiobook.

On a somewhat unrelated note: I got an iPhone recently because I dropped my old phone in the toilet and don't have internet at home, so this seemed to fix both problems.  I was hoping I would be able to blog with it and took the above pictures on my phone thinking I would be able to blog much more easily, but it appears I can't post them onto the blog from my phone.  Anyway, posts might continue to be sporadic for a while.  That's just the way life is sometimes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Found My LYS

One day, I will not need to physically type my blog posts.  When this day comes, you will all be graced with the eloquence and depth of the dozens of posts I have written in my head mere seconds after the thoughts occur to me.

This day will come shortly after the day we will all be able to take picture with a mere blink of the eyes and then it would be only a matter of mental concentration to implant them into my wonderful, thoughtful, inspiring blog posts (blog posts which, if you remember, don't have to be typed).

That day, unfortunately, is not today.  I say unfortunately because for many of the posts I have written in my head, the time has passed for them to be relevant.  It is unfortunate also because this post will now be devoid of pictures.

I am popping in only shortly to let you all know that I am still alive and my move to Pittsburgh was relatively uneventful.  Uneventful in the sense that the event of my hot water turning on didn't happen for a week.  Uneventful in the sense that the event of my knitting didn't happen.  Uneventful in the sense that the event of my having internet in my apartment has yet to happen.

Luckily events are now happening.  I have hot water, I am knitting (though have nothing to show you because I haven't taken any pictures), and although I still don't have internet at home, I can use it on campus when I'm here (I'm posting between practice sessions).

...and today, the biggest event of all happened.  After class, instead of dutifully marching to a practice room to practice my heart out, I climbed into my car and went for a bit of a ride.  A bit of a ride turned into quite the expedition after several wrong turns (thanks, Googlemaps...) and several episodes of construction causing me to end up nowhere near where I wanted to be.  (Here's a secret about Pittsburgh: there are three rivers.  If you accidentally cross a bridge, crossing another one does not, as you might think, ensure that you will be on the correct side of the river again.  Just thought I'd warn you.)

Once I found my way, I was able to hunt down my as-yet-unknown destination and finally, after driving a good three miles down the road of my googlemaps location, I had arrived.

I had arrived at my new LYS.  (that was spoken rather dramatically).

I wish I had pictures.  I really do.  I walked in and gasped (and I don't gasp easily).  An entire wall of cascade 220!  The most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen.  And what's that behind me?  Shelf after shelf of Malabrigo?  I swooned.  And next to the Malabrigo?  Manos.  On the other side of the shelves?  Dream in Color and Madelinetosh!  They had Noro like you wouldn't believe, incredible lace yarns.  Need Jamieson's for colorwork?  They have it.  Sock yarns, bulky yarns, washable yarns, books...  I nearly fainted.  Every turn I made brought my toward more and more wide-eyed happenings.  And when I thought it couldn't get better, I made it to the back.  In the back, next to the books, past the shelves and shelves of every yarn I ever dreamed I might find, was spinning fiber.  Spinning fiber!!!  I barely even spin anymore, but I nearly collapsed at that point.  This place has it all.

Here are some texts I sent to my sister while I was there:

"Holy crap, I just found the BEST yarn shop!"

"Oh my god, this store has EVERYTHING!"

"It's unbelievable!  A whole wall of Cascade 220.  It's a rainbow!"

"I feel like I just played hookie from school..."

I take it back, I did not find my new LYS.  I have found my new home.

If you need me, you know where to find me.  (And they're open until 9pm!!!)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sunrises, Shawls, and Squirrels (and Such...)

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments on my Bali posts.  I hope I didn't bore you all to sleep with my endless ramblings about my trip with picture after picture after picture of scenes that I'm sure meant more to me than they did to you.  It was important to me to be able to document that trip, so thank you for humoring me for the past couple of weeks.

I returned home from my cabin a little less than a week ago and I, of course, can't help but show you all some pictures of the sunrises which I had the pleasure of watching every morning.

Honestly, nothing is more peaceful to me than sitting alone in the morning watching a sunrise.  I could do it all day long (if only... but then maybe it wouldn't be as special).

Every morning I would sneak out of my cabin before anyone else was awake to watch the sun come up behind the trees and listen to the birds begin their morning.

In fact, I would set up my own little stakeout on the deck with everything I needed for my morning.

Just me and the outside world.  A stack of bird books within arm's reach, a pair of binoculars, my camera, and a towel to dry off in case I chose to go for an early morning dip.

I really do miss that place when I'm not there.

Though you may have noticed that I didn't have any knitting with me in the mornings, I did find time during the evenings to work on my Aeolian shawl a little more and wouldn'tchaknowit, I finished!

It still (obviously) needs to be blocked, but I'm going to wait until I get to Pittsburgh to do that.

It seems like it would be a good project to christen my new apartment with.

Speaking of my new apartment... I'm moving on Wednesday.  And yes, I am overcome by a wave of stress every time I think of this.  Moving to an apartment in itself shouldn't be a stressful event, but the composite effect of several events occurring at the same time is quite overwhelming.
  • First of all, did you know I've never lived in an apartment before?  For undergrad I was required to live in the dorms for all four years, so I have never experienced the wonders of paying rent.
  • I am moving to a new city on the other side of the country - a city in which I know absolutely nobody
  • Top it off with a large amount of stress about preparing for grad school
  • Then add the cherry of the fact that I have an audition a week after I arrive and my clarinet has gone untouched for the past few months.  And let me tell you, I may mentally know how to play, but the physicality is gone.  Sadly, this is not one of those times when the "riding a bike" analogy can be used.  The muscle memory in my fingers is fine, but the muscle development in my embouchure is gone, and that can only be fixed with careful practice.
I don't think a day goes by in which I don't think to myself, "What the f#$! am I thinking?!"  Ah stress, how I missed thee.  (Now please go away).

Also, my landlord seems to think that I owe him rent beginning from July 15, which is something he never stated until today, I have not yet signed a lease, I wasn't even in the country (let alone this half of the globe) on July 15, and my early correspondences with him state that I was looking for an apartment beginning on August 1st.  I kind of wish everything weren't happening all at once, you know?

Anyway, I'm done complaining for the day.  Look what was in our yard a couple of days ago?

It's a baby squirrel!!!!  And also adorable.  It fell out of its nest in the maple tree in our front yard and cried and cried and cried until we picked it up.

It was such a precious little thing, its eyes not yet open and its body nearly naked sans its cute little whiskers and a bit of peach fuzz on its head.  Those cute little ears and tiny claws were so endearing, I didn't want to return it to its family, but we all know that mother knows best and it was back to the tree for this little fellow.  What a cute little guy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bali: The Final Days

Friday, July 16, 2010:

This was our last day in the program and in the morning we were all madly rehearsing trying to remember all the parts of the pieces we were going to be performing that evening.  After lunch we all made offerings to decorate the Pondok for our performance and then took a break for the afternoon to rest up.

Making offerings
to decorate the ceiling
It was fun to hang out with everybody before the show and the show itself was fun, too!  There was actually a pretty decent turnout of an audience considering that we were all foreign visitors who had only been studying these tradition arts for three weeks, but I was touched that so many people came to hear and watch us perform.  It started raining halfway through our performance, so the audience had to crowd onto the platform with us, but hey, that's Bali, right?

After the performance we all hung out for a while before calling it a night.  What a fun time!

Saturday, July 17, 2010:

This was my last day in Bali.  The afternoon was spent as a group reflecting on our experiences in the program and we did a final prayer service to close up the institute.  It was definitely a bittersweet time for us all and I'm so glad I had the experience.  When our time together ended at 5pm, my driver came up to me and said, "So I'm driving you to the airport at 10pm tonight, right?"  I thought I wasn't leaving until tomorrow!!!  I had to run home and pack in a mad rush and then had time to briefly stop in at the karaoke bar where everyone was hanging out to say a quick goodbye and run off to the airport to begin my 30 hour trip.  It was such a bizarre feeling as I was planning on an addition 24 hours to prepare myself to leave, but maybe it was better this way.  It was much more surreal, that's for sure.

And with that my tale has come to a closing, I hope you all enjoyed the pictures and thanks so much for reading!  Hopefully I'll have an update in the next day or two with some actual knitting content.  Have a great day!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bali: Days 17-18

Wednesday, July 14, 2010:

On Wednesday morning instead of attending gamelan rehearsal as we would usually do, we all went to a Balinese wedding at the sanggar instead.

It was very interesting to be present at such a ceremony.

At one point I felt as if I was at some sort of entertainment event as snacks and soda were passed out for all to enjoy.  It was raining in the morning, so we were all crowded under the bale roofs.

Check out that hair!

I was on the west bale and had a good view of the East bale where the tooth filing ceremony took place.  The front six teeth on the top are filed down to represent the six vices, though most people can only remember anger and greed.  Tooth filing ceremonies do not have to be performed as part of a wedding, but in this case the bride (a Chinese-Canadian) chose to do so.

Most of the time I didn't know what was going on during the wedding, but it was enjoyable all the same.

Thursday, July 15, 2010:

Believe it or not, Thursday was actually a pretty typical day.  It was our last day of rehearsals before our final performance and it was also my last day of mask carving.  What do you think?

There was an accident involving the chisel and the forehead of my mask

Here are a couple masks that my teacher had made:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bali: Days 15-16

Monday, July 11, 2010:

On Monday afternoon I began what was going to be a series of afternoons studying mask-making with a master mask maker in Mas.  (Wow, what an alliteration!)  It was incredible to see him make the mask blanks with a chunk of wood and a hatchet.

He was able to see what the final mask would look like even before he began working on it and he offered us all ample assistance as we awkwardly chiseled and hacked away at our shapeless forms.

The humble beginnings of my mask
He would advise us as to where to do more work, he would draw lines to show us the countours of the face, and more than once would take the masks and work on them himself.

Stabilizing the mask with his feet
He was a very patient and tolerant man, very quiet, and very good at what he does.  I was surprised that he allowed us to come into his home, make a mess, misuse his tools, and then repeat it all again the next day.

My mask at the end of the day
I am very thankful for his kindness and I'm anxious to see what my finished mask will look like!

Tuesday, July 12, 2010:

Tuesday was another fieldtrip for the summer program.  We traveled to the village of Tunjuk a little over an hour northwest of Pengosekan where I was staying.  One of our teachers lives in the village and we went to listen to his gamelan perform (again, a variety of gamelan that none of us had heard before.  It was, in fact, a mix of several different kinds to create something completely new).

One of the pieces they performed for us included three singers.  One of our program directors was one of the singers and she has such a quiet voice, but when she started singing, everything else went away and I was entirely consumed by her voice and entranced the entire time.  I have never heard a voice so beautiful and almost otherworldy.  Watching her it was as if she too was not aware of her surroundings and she stared off in the distance, as if her song was coming from a far off place.  She had a very nice quote in her singing, as well, "Kindness, one act of kindness, is the seen of a Banyon tree."  and we've all seen how big and mighty a Banyon tree can get, right?

We went on a walk through the rice paddies of Tunjuk that afternoon to see our teacher's land.

It was so beautiful to be walking through a landscape of terraced rice fields in all shades of green while forests of palm trees lined the horizon.

We eventually ventured down a path leading into one such forest and it led us to a temple in the middle of the vegetation - a hidden gem tucked in among the trees.

The temple

We stopped at the temple and prayed before continuing on to the final portion of our Tunjuk trip.

We walked back to our teacher's land in the middle of nowhere where a bale (bah-lay - essentially a roofed platform) sat while a pair of rindik/tingklik players entertained us with their music.

While some sat to listen to the mis and improvize dance along with the little girls, others went to gamble and play cards on the other side of the bale.  Fresh coconuts with straws were passed around and we all drank its sweet water while enjoying the spectacle of a cock fight (no animals were actually injured).


I couldn't keep myself from thinking that this must be exactly what a gypsy camp must have been like.  A group of people getting together and having fun with food, music, dance, games, and a fight or two.  Soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Pengosekan for the evening.  What a fun day!

Obama!  Carved by Ida Bagus Oka, the master mask maker