Prissy Kitty!

Look what the UPS truck brought!


And underneath that pretty paper in the little box, my enormously generous BackTack III buddy over at FinnyKnits managed to cram in an amazing number of black-white-green goodies.

Front and center is my Backtack stuffie, Prissy Kitty. She’s adorable and just full of personality. I’m quite enchanted by her glittery green eyes

And her little pearl-buttoned garter

And her M-shaped bling.

I absolutely love the toile fabric Finny chose for Prissy. So you can imagine my delight when I dug down in the box and came up with the wonderful needle roll she made for me.

See the same cool green button as Prissy’s eyes that she used as a fastener? See? And the lovely Crystal Palace needles she included?
And did I enthuse yet over the yummy teas and yarns also in the package?
I just can’t properly articulate how happy this package made me so I’ll just go with repetition.

Thank you thank you thank you, Finny!

Cue the trumpets

The Backtack III stuffie is done at last!

My favorite button of the five

Everything is boxed up and ready for a trip to the post office tomorrow. I'll post pictures of the entire stuffie once the package arrives. I hope Mary will forgive the slightly misshapen stuffie. I really reached the limits of my sewing skills on this one. Decorating the pieces was terrific fun but stitching it all together into some sort of a recognizable whole? Not as much of a happy experience.


Oh what a tangled web we...


Lace knitting is amazing. A series of cleverly placed holes and suddenly you have leaves! Or feathers or waves or even elaborate lilies of the valley.
I’ve always loved lace. My first-ever knitting project, after all, was the ubiquitous Knitty Branching Out scarf (albeit I used dk weight yarn). Since then though, I have been rather overwhelmed with the sheer number of available lace patterns. For someone who dawdles endlessly over decisions and second-guesses herself every five seconds, settling on just one pattern for that first lace-weight knitting attempt seemed an impossible task. So, aside from some stash enhancing with a few skeins of lace weight yarns, my lace knitting stood at a stand still. That is, until I saw the preview of the summer Interweave Knits.

Apparently my gut just got tired of listening to my brain ceaselessly debate itself. In short order, I bought the magazine, I bought some lace weight Misti alpaca in sea foam, I cast-on, and I knit.
And knit.

Now that I'm almost done with the second repeat of the first chart, the pattern has finally clicked in my head and the knitting no longer requires squinting at tiny boxes on a page. Working with the thin fiber and slippery metal needles has become easier as well. Though the interesting feathery details for which Icarus is named don’t appear until the end charts, I am rather enjoying the soothing rhythm of knitting the stockinette with a few yarn-overs thrown in. That enjoyment is a good thing since there are still four more repeats of the same chart to go. Here is a view of the progress so far.

Yup...stockinette and yarn-overs.


Magic shapes

I used to think of knitting as more magic than mechanistics. Before I started knitting, I held in awe the whirl of mysterious motions knitters performed to yield an intricately woven item of clothing. Even when I first started knitting, the mere creation of a stitch from three little motions was like a minor miracle. It hardly seemed possible that an entire sturdy fabric could be made from these little twists and loops. I would nervously follow pattern directions and watch with amazement as something actually resembling the expected product grew from the needles. It was only after I started generating yards of such fabric from those simple repetitions of motion that the process of knitting began to seem intuitive and obvious. Not magic after all but just some very clever interlacing of threads.
Now that I finished the heel of my first sock though, I think I’ve returned to regarding knitting as magic. I’m sure that as long as there have been first-time sock knitters and the turning of heels, there has been that moment of absolute amazement when a heel is created for the very first time. I certainly had such a moment. After much fretting as I followed the short-row directions that the stitch number was not symmetrical on the turns, then much skepticism as to what these stitches would do, I finished the section and saw that the knitting was now miraculously curved.
Really, it’s like magic!
I was so enthralled with the new shape that I kept on knitting. Some twenty odd rows later, Pomatomus had a completed heel!

Let’s all admire that shaping again, shall we?

I think I'm now officially addicted to socks knitting.



Parsley and Persimmon!

Remember Huey?
Well, he’s still here. In the flurry of packing and leaving for the airport, poor Huey never made it into I's suitcase. He was pretty down about being left behind so I made him some new friends. So despite my best intentions, I did end up with a mini-colony of hamsters.

But my self-control is not as pathetic as all that! My little hammie colony is only temporary. Huey will be going back with I when he visits again in July and Parsley will be flying across the Atlantic to a new home…so really only Persimmon is staying on in the position of perma-hamster.
In any case, here’s Parsley all ready for his trip, name tagged and with travel snacks at the ready. He promised me he’ll try and save some of the chocolate for his new friend.

What's that? Why on earth does Parsely have a flowerpot on his head, you ask?

Well, let’s just say that he’s here to fill a particular hamster and flowerpot shaped hole created by an unfortunate childhood incident (scroll down to the comments).
Persimmon insisted on a close-up too so here she is.

Now all together now: “awwwww….”


Booking Through Thursday: Recent Finishes

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

BookingThroughThursday writes, "We haven't done anything like this for a while, so here goes..."

  1. What are the last five books that you finished reading?

    Like I do with my knitting and crafting projects, I tend to flit from one book to another and am rarely faithful to one to the end. Consequently, I have a huge stack of books that are mid-read and only a few finished one so far this year. So, the last books I actually finished are Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading by Maureen Corrigan, Mother Tongue: English and How it got that way by Bill Bryson, Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, and Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto.

  2. How long did it take you to read them?
    Both the non-fiction books, Leave Me Alone and Mother Tongue, took me quite a while (weeks? months?) since I would often read a chapter and then allow days to pass before picking the book back up again. Dogsbody, one of my favorite books and one that I frequently re-read, was read this time over the course of one evening into the wee hours of the morning. I picked it up to revisit a scene, flipped to the beginning, and found myself sniffling over the ending at 4am. Goodbye Tsugumi is a short novel that I started reading to distract myself after saying goodbye to I at the airport (I admit I first pick it up because of the beautiful cover). It kept me occupied on the BART metro ride away from the airport and I finished it the next day.

  3. Did you enjoy reading these books? Why or why not?
    I really liked the perspective Maureen Corrigan provided on why we read and what she terms the “female extreme adventure novels.” Mother Tongue was entertainingly educational as all of Bill Bryson’s books are. Bryson just has an amazing way of injecting humor and excitement into the potentially driest of subjects. Since language evolution is anything but boring, you can imagine how much fun this book was. My feelings regarding Dogsbody don’t need further reiteration, I think, given my multiple re-readings of it. As for Goodbye Tsugumi, I’m still undecided as to how I feel about the book. Perhaps it is because of the translation, but I found the language of the book, particularly the dialogue, very stilted and awkward. It’s an odd mix of formal declarative statements mixed in with slang and conversational language. Often, I found the odd wording distracting. Occasionally the dialogue was just so unrealistic and embarrassingly clichéd that I had to skip on. And yet, the plot was interesting enough that I certainly wanted to get to the end to see happens. Hmm.


It’s the small things that count...

Isn’t it?

As in, my apartment may be a mess but at least my sewing threads are now organized! And in a wooden box in this month’s Project Spectrum color, no less.

It probably says a lot about my diet that ALL of my many sewing notion boxes were formerly chocolate truffle containers…


And introducing pin cushions 6 and 5.

I had great fun making the pom-pom on cushion 6 with the help of this handy tutorial.

Now, back to ear-stitching for BackTack III


Backtack III

A few sneaky peeks of the stuffie-in-progress:

M is for Mary

button, button

Side B ---->

Less than two weeks left now. Eep!

Booking Through Thursday (better late than never...)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
This week's questions were suggested by Cate.

Have you ever stumbled on a reading and found the author so charming you started reading their books? Or, have you ever met a formerly favorite author and stopped reading their works because of how they treated their fans?

I’ve never chanced by a reading or managed to meet any of my favorite authors. However, I have had a favored author disappear from my reading list after I read an open letter she wrote. I can’t say that the blame lies entirely on the contents of that open letter (an understandable and reasonable letter under the circumstances at that) but...well, let’s start this story from the beginning, shall we? During my first year in high school, I stumbled across the wonderful genre of fantasy fiction. Dragons, mages, faeries, alternate worlds, I just couldn’t get enough. One of the first fantasy book series I read was Mercedes Lackey’s Queen’s Own books. The series revolves around Talia, a farm girl suddenly chosen to be the council and protector of the Queen, and her ensuing struggles. The basic components of the plot are well worn but Ms. Lackey took those old cogs and built a marvelous world populated with believable and sympathetic characters. I devoured the books. When I went on to read her Last Herald Mage series about a mage struggling with his homosexuality in the face of societal prejudice, I realized that more than creating compelling writing, she also manages to lightly weave in messages of tolerance and basic human goodness in such a way as to make one want to be a better person. Her stories seemed like they came from someone who sincerely believed in them and hope that they would do more than be diversions on a page. They stayed with me long after I put down the books. By the time I had come across those two series, Ms. Lackey was already rocketing her way to the top ranks of popular fantasy writers. Book after book issued from her pen and I devoutly read each one. Her line of book series expanded from one to two to three, occasionally punctuated by a stand-alone book. Given how much I had loved her earlier writings, I should have been by all rights ecstatic about her rapid publication rate. However, the more books she wrote, the more depth seemed to disappear from them. The strong characters that had so enlivened previous works faded away to nothing more than one-dimensional archetypes. Even the dialogue and scenarios started to echo ones in earlier books. While she still wrote well, the moving spirit (for lack of a better description) behind the narratives was gone. The books just rang hollow. I still faithfully read on though, hoping that the next book would be different. The final straw, for me, came from that aforementioned open letter she wrote. The letter was written after a series of stressful and unfortunate incidents involving psychotic fans of her much earlier and more occult-related Diana Tregarde books. In addition to threatening letters that berated her for not writing more in the series, she was physically attacked at a science fiction convention. Upset and angry, she wrote an open letter to those crazed fans that believed the DT world she created in the books actually existed. In the course of the letter, she stated in plainly that the reason she no longer wrote DT books was that they did not sell. She went on to say that the lack of sales indicated that the majority of people did not want them and that she had no desire to write what people did not want (as it would not generate enough royalties). While I sympathized with her anger at those who attacked her, her sentiments about writing just about broke my heart. The approach towards writing implied by her letter perfectly explained the emptiness of her new books. It seemed that unlike what I sensed in the two first series I loved, there is no longer any point in her writing besides meeting deadlines to generate royalties. Writing, it appeared, was just a job. Perhaps it is naïve of me, but I would like to believe that people who are moved to write are moved more by a story they want to tell than the end monetary result. Along the same lines, while I realize that writers have to make a living like everyone else, I still hold dear the belief that if one has a story to tell (and is blessed with the ability to tell it well), whether or not there is a large number of people out there wanting to listen should not be the deciding factor in whether or not the story gets told. So, I was disappointed. I still feel that way every time I pass by bookstore shelves and see another one of her new publications that I will not be bothering to read. A bit sad too. There was something there besides technical aptitude.


Nothing makes a sock grow…

Like fulfilling my civic duty in upholding the fundamental democratic ideal of trial by a jury of one’s peers.
Yup. I was summoned for jury duty. In fact, not only was I summoned, I was actually chosen to serve on a jury. So, in between the time periods when I get to ponder exactly what constitutes a fact, Pomatomus has been able to grow a few inches and develop the beginnings of a heel flap.

Better yet, the close proximity of the courthouse to a lys and the generous hour and a half lunch period provided by the courts allowed for some Secret Pal yarn shopping as well. I won’t show them yet so as not to accidentally give anything away but know that the skeins are all varying shades of delicious red. It’s all I can do not to keep them all for myself. Especially the squooshy, soft-as-anything bulky alpaca…

Alright, I just couldn’t resist sharing a tiny peek…


Almost forgot...

For your always-sympathetic ear and wellspring of advice and steadfast confidence in my abilities, for suffering through the labor pains and midnight feedings and childhood tantrums and teenage snippiness, for all the sacrifices big and small you've ever made for me, Mom,
Happy Mother's Day!

Greens, greens, everywhere

Blanketing Golden Gate Park

Covering the hills of Marin

And born of the dye vats of Australia

All greens to celebrate this month of Project Spectrum.
Thank goodness it is Spring at last!



Gee, my 60th post. It’s funny, for something started on a whim, blogging has certainly firmly entrenched itself in my life. All last week when I was absent from the blogosphere, I kept finding myself composing in my head little narrative vignettes of bits of my day and taking loads of pictures of anything remotely interesting. To my surprise, I missed blogging. I’m not much of an exhibitionist in real life but somehow, it feels odd now not to share quirks and highlights of the day with the wider world out there and have it respond back by way of comments. I didn’t just miss rambling about me either, lest you think me excessively self-centered. No, more than writing my own posts, I missed finding out what the writers of my favorite blogs were up to. Had they finished knitting that sweater? Did they start work on a new stuffie? Really, it’s the wonderfully generous community of knitting and crafting bloggers that has made permanent my attachment to my little corner of the blogosphere. I don’t think I can ever tire of learning about and being inspired by everyone’s projects. That and the responses of those kind souls who actually take the time to read my verbiage always makes my day that much brighter and happier. Looking back on that sleepless night in February, I’m terribly glad that I gave in to my blogging impulse.
Speaking of embarking on blogging, my good friend Rachel has just joined the ranks of knitting bloggers. She’s my only friend who knits (and thus the one who has to put up with the most of my fiber-related yammerings) and as my former roommate, the one who first introduced me to the wonders of knitting. Today is her birthday so pop by her new blog and say hello. She has delightful pictures there too of alpacas from shearing day at an alpaca farm (a farm that, lucky girl, her fiancé’s mother owns.).
Happy Birthday, Rachel! I’m sewing away as fast as I can on your present.
As evident from the decreasing ratio of knitting-in-progress content to sewing content on this blog, sewing has taken over the upper echelons of my project list. I've been rather impatient with project progress lately and it's really just that much faster to make something when the fabric is already present, rather than requiring one to create it from threads! However, after seeing Jeanne's beautiful Hedera socks, I feel newly inspired in lacey sock knitting so look for pictures of progress on the long-neglected Pomatomus soon.
One more thing before I stop prattling away. I neglected to mention the inspiration and sources for my pincushions in the last post. The sheep pincushion is a pattern that I made up after seeing a similar one at Wee Wonderfuls in a picture that I now cannot seem to find. It's just made from two fabric squares sewn offset from one another. The directions and patterns for the flower cushions come from a terrific Whip Up tutorial . As for little round blue cushion with the flower, it is a variation of the bottle cap pincushion by Very Big Jen. I used the plastic center bit of a tape roll instead of a bottle cap (at last, validation for my pack-rat tendencies!). All of these were very simple, fast, and endlessly amusing to make so go forth and pincushion! You'll thank me later. I’ve already found the next type of cushion I want to make (addiction? Yes.). Now, I just need to find some walnuts and someone to eat them…


This could be addictive

I’m an absent-minded person. I pick things up as I need them and set them down again with no recollection of the location (or much else, really). As a consequence, I frequently misplace things. More often than not, I find my cell phone next to the sink and my reading in the closet and my glasses on an array of ever-changing surfaces throughout the apartment. However, except for the time eaten up by a search for that one missing item (though I prefer to think of it as a renewed exploration of my home and possessions), my tendency to temporarily lose things has never been much of a problem. That is, until I started sewing again. Sewing, unfortunately, involves the use of many small, pointy metal objects. After shaking out my bedding and crawling around on my floor for the umpteenth time to hunt for my sewing needle and a number of pins, I finally acknowledged the need for a designated place to set these little hazards. So, some fussing with batting, fiberfill, and two squares of fabric and I had myself a pincushion.

Not only is it just as plump and squeezable as it looks, it is actually handy too, as long as I keep it nearby while I sew. (I at least seem capable of absentmindedly placing things in one spot as long as there is a set home for them. Go figure.) Really, my new pincushion just about glows with practicality and squishy wonderfulness except one tiny fly in the soup:

why didn’t anyone warn me that one innocent little pincushion…

can leads to a whole clutch?

(Note the green for this month's Project Spectrum)
But I think that's enough for pin holding.

Well, just one more.




beyond books and yarn.


No knitting...

(as the BF is visiting for the week)

but more yarn!

The WEBS sale was just too good to resist...so, Filatura di Crosa 127 Print (color 21) and Cascade 220 (2354, 8885, 2563), scarves-in-waiting.

Secret Pal 8 Questionnaire

More about me than anyone will ever want to know.

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
The yarns that I have most enjoyed knitting with are those that are composed at least partly of wool. I do not like novelty yarns because the aesthetics and tend not to like 100% cotton yarns because of their lack of elasticity both during the knitting process and in the end product.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
Currently, in a sad little plastic bag. I have yet to get around to making myself a needle roll.

3. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I’ve only been knitting since October of 2005 but I think I am more intermediate than beginner.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
I have one on Amazon but let me know if you want to see it…it’s not publicly available.

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
Lavender, citrus, anything light and not overly cloying or artificial…or smell too much like food. It’s a little odd to get a sudden craving for cookies in the middle of a bath because of the vanilla-gingerbread-orange spice scented bath gel.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Oh yes… I love good chocolate, especially dark chocolate, which I’m eager to try out new brands of.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I dabble in lots of crafts…cross-stitching, needlepoint/crewel, embroidery, needle-felting, sewing (mostly small stuffies, though I am venturing into bags), jewelry-making… I also draw and do some book-binding. Oh, and I’ve also been gearing up to try my hand at quilting and at crochet (to make amigurumi). I don’t spin but I have been contemplating getting a drop-spindle after seeing some beautiful ones on other blogs. I’m not sure how good I would be at figuring out the directions for spinning from a book though and there doesn’t seem to be many resources in this area for spinners (let me know if I am completely wrong. I would love to take a spinning class).

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I have rather eclectic taste in music. I like alternative/rock (e.g. Garbage, Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killer), punk (e.g. Bad Religion), classical (e.g. Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart), female chanteuse, for lack of a better descriptor, (Aimee Mann, Tori Amos), folk (e.g. Alison Krauss)… In general, I like music that sounds like music…something melodic…nothing atonal, primal screams, etc. I usually find that I really like most of the music that Brenda Dayne plays on Cast-On. In terms of MP3 playing devices, like 80% of the population in my demographic, I have an iPod.

9. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
I don’t really have a favorite color but I really like vibrant greens, lilac to mauve shades of purples, deep/dark reds, citrus colors, and autumnal colors. I really don’t like pink, especially bright, girly pink.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I live alone. No pets due to the horribly stringent rules imposed by my apartment management. Otherwise, I would have at least two cats as I am a bit obsessed with them.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
I wear lots of scarves; the others not so much.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
I’ve enjoyed knitting all of the things I have made so far. I don’t think I have a particular favorite, though I did love making the baby items for my boyfriend’s niece. Instant gratification!

13. What are you knitting right now?
The IK Fiery Bolero, Pomatomus socks, some scarves, and a Veste Everest for Mom.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I prefer straight needles. My favorites straights are my wood Brittany needles. I like bamboo circular needles for projects too wide for straights.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
Nope. I have the trusty chair Poang chair-back. I actually don’t know how to use yarn winders and such…I find them rather intimidating and scary. Something about all that fiber whirling around…

17. How did you learn to knit?
I taught myself from a knitting book for children while stuck in bed with bouts of dizziness from the flu and going insane with boredom.

18. How old is your oldest UFO?
Five months. My backyard leaves scarf is still waiting for its other half.

19. What is your favorite holiday?
I think I like Christmas the best, though I dislike the commercial fake cheer that abounds during the season (such as the excessive blasting of Christmas music in all shops). Instead, I like the feelings of family togetherness around that Christmas tends to bring and the opportunity to spoil one’s loved ones with a special present or two.

20. Is there anything that you collect?
I buy a lot of books…fiction, non-fiction, craft-related (especially Japanese craft books)…basically anything I really enjoy reading. I also tend to accumulate lots of stuffed animals and little purpose-less decorative objects (like blown-glass chickens). I swear I unconsciously hand over money for them sometimes. It’s like a Pavlovian response…I see cute and out comes the wallet. The same seems to happen with ceramics, mostly Japanese, pretty paper, and little notebooks of no particular use.

21. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I’ve been wanting to at least handle the fleece artist/hand maiden yarns, especially the sock yarn and the silk cashmere, and the sock-that-rocks yarns. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be available around here. I’ve also been lusting after the Elderberry Zephyr yarn from Jaggerspun, some lace knitting books like A Gathering of Lace and Heirloom Knitting, and the lace patterns from the Heirloom Knitting site.

22. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
Entrelac, short-rows, and cabling without a cable needle, both of which I have been too lazy to just sit down and work through.

23. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I’m resisting the pull since it’s not really ever cold enough here for wool socks but in a moment of weakness, I did cast on Pomatomus. And the climate issue certainly isn’t stopping me from collecting skeins of pretty sock yarns. My feet are 8 inches around and 9.25 inches long.

24. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
E-mail me and I’ll tell you.


Backtacking away

Some unexpected inspiration...

et voilà!

the beginnings of a stuffie.


Introducing Huey

In honor of his much beloved and still often visited alma mater, Hamster College (endless fun, anagrams), I made a surprise Birthday stuffie for the BF.

Huey is made of felt (alas, the polyester stuff...I have yet to get my hands on yummy wool felt) and comes from this wonderful little Japanese craft book chock full of fun patterns (ISBN 4-8347-6348-X).

Huey was such a blast to make that it took a great deal of will power on my part to resist whipping up a whole colony of hammies. I would declare vistory over this compulsion except I just found myself thinking that I might need a Huey 2 to replace Huey 1 when he goes home with the BF.
Well, we'll just ignore my internal strife for now and move onto a less craft-related but more important subject:

Happy Birthday, I.!