Friday, August 29, 2008

St. Enda back completed!

Sorry for the sideways-ness, but it looked funny when I rotated it. I have achieved my goal of finishing the back of this sweater by the end of August. For some reason I'm very surprised by this!

Just to prove that it's not just another picture of the front, here are both pieces together:

I'm happy to be on track with this project. Now I only have to do the sleeves, which will undoubtedly be the most complicated and time-consuming part. The front and back are just big rectangles but the sleeves, of course, are narrower at the cuff and the top has to fit in the armhole.

To complicate matters further, these appear to be what is called saddle sleeves, which I've never made before. I thought this sweater was drop-shoulder and that's how I measured, but there will actually be a strip of fabric from the sleeve separating the front and back of the sweater. I think. I clearly need to figure this out soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ravelympics: Over

Ah, the sweet sweet taste of failure!

I did not finish my scarf by the time the Olympics were over, but I've made so much progress that I can't be disappointed. During the Ravelympics period I managed to go kayaking for the first time, went boating, planned and hosted a party, finally saw the Dark Knight, and read a couple of books. All in all, it was a very productive time.

My greatest accomplishment, however, was this:

It would be appropriate for my Ravelympics event - WIP Wrestling - except that it's not knitting, but as far as I'm concerned I won this one. I bought the pattern and fabric back in November of 2005, according to the receipt I found in the bag. I cut out the pieces of the pattern, and then got stuck trying to figure out how to lay them out.

I used Simplicity's It's So Easy pattern 4909 which is not, as the name proclaims, so easy. I'm sure it's a piece of cake if you are an experienced seamstress used to following poorly written instructions but if you have never made a bag before, it's completely bewildering. I cannot tell you how many people I went to for guidance on this, just on the layout. Confusingly, this pattern has you lay a piece on the fold, but then says "cut 2." I couldn't tell if you were actually supposed to cut 2 separate pieces, or just cut one (two pieces attached together at the fold), or cut 2folded pieces. So unclear! It turns out that you cut it on the fold, so it's two pieces attached together, and then cut them apart. How much sense does that make?

In addition to the difficult instructions, this is just not an appropriate project for a beginner. It requires outer fabric, lining, and interfacing, which must all match up, not a particularly easy task. Ironically, I really wanted to make a skirt but thought I should start with a bag as it doesn't have to fit me. I really, really should have just made a skirt.

As far as the instructions are concerned, this bag isn't actually done. It's supposed to look like this:

I was never happy with the stiff square-ness of the bag in the photo, and was happy to find that a few confusing steps from the end it looked pretty cute. So that's how it's staying!

Despite my setbacks on this project, I'm very happy with the result (which may replace my plastic iPod bag as my new knitting bag) so I'm planning to do more sewing. I'm on vacation at home all this week so it may happen quite soon!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August: Cold

The idea behind this month's BAM Challenge theme is that we must all be sick of the heat and want summer to be over. I happen to like summer and the heat, though this August has been unusually cold and rainy and distinctly unsummerlike. Not in the mood to read about cold weather, I went with the bone-chilling meaning of "cold" and read a horror book, 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.

This collection of short stories range from creepy to vaguely unsettling to merely odd. None of them, however, were the sort of story I wanted to read late at night in bed. The scariest story was the first one, "Best New Horror" in which an editor of an annual horror anthology tracks down the author of an outstanding submission (a terrifying story within a story) and his visit to the author's house was weird and scary and has stuck with me like the final scene from Blair Witch Project.

In "Pop Art," a great example of a surreal (but not scary) story, we meet Arthur, an inflatable boy who must be constantly vigilant as he is vulnerable to an array of dangers that could cost him his life.

The collection ends with the 50-page novella "Voluntary Committal" in which an autistic boy builds elaborate structures out of cardboard boxes in his basement, structures which are very different on the inside than the outside. Though I'm not usually a fan of longer short stories, this one was worth every word and I did stay up late reading in bed to finish it. It was a bit creepy, and it was late, but despite myself I couldn't put it down.

There was a hopeful aspect to many of these stories, as some ended on a more positive note than horror stories typically do. Joe Hill is not only creative and original, but his writing is solid and effective, not relying on gore or sheer terror for momentum. He far surpasses most of the horror I grew up on (with the exception of his father, Stephen King, whose style is so different I won't bother to compare them.) This isn't genre reading really, it is just great storytelling. Hill has also written a novel Heart-Shaped Box which I'm putting on my list to read.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Libraries are for...books??

Have you seen this article yet? To summarize, a library in Ontario has discontinued craft activities, including a knitting group for little girls, because they want to reshift their focus towards books and reading.

As a knitter, it is sad to hear that others who share my love of the craft aren't welcome in libraries of all places. As a librarian, is just so damn refreshing to be reminded that the reason libraries exist are for books and reading and literacy! (The Long Sault Library is apparently continuing its video game nights, however, due to the broad appeal. So discontinuing crafts programs isn't entirely for literature-based reasons.) I'm not at all opposed to providing internet access for the public, lending movies and video games, or holding non-book related programs. But I do like to think that people still come to the library for books too, and it's easy to forget that when you read all the popular library blogs and attend conferences and so little of the information is about books. I actually start thinking that librarianship is incredibly boring and how the hell did I get here?

But no, no. Libraries are not all about wikis and Second Life and playing video games in the library with homeless people instead of at home on your couch in your underwear like everyone else. They are also places to get books, a whole lot of really interesting books! For free! Books that you may have not even heard of until you found them at the library and now they are your favorite! Books that you wouldn't have wanted to pay for, but that you learned something interesting from! Books that you hated and were glad to give back!

While it is indeed unfortunate that this library in Ontario had to make cuts and get rid of any programs at all, I feel a certain sense of satisfaction that they have stood up for books and literacy. I wish that more libraries would focus their services similarly, as I refuse to believe that people no longer read books, or just download them to their Kindles. Books should be the primary focus of libraries; they are the reason why libraries exist in the first place. And honestly, there is no real reason why you need to go to a library to knit when you can just do it at home on your couch in your underwear.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ravelympics check-in

No, a multicolored snake did not shed its skin on my coffee table - that's my Lace Ribbon Scarf for the Ravelympics. I've got about 9 days to complete it and though it's progressing at a steady pace I wonder whether I will finish on time.

I look forward to seeing how it looks after blocking!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

FO: Big Bad Baby Blanket

Here's a project I finished over a month ago but couldn't show you until now:

It's for my friend's new baby who was just born at the end of July. Because I'm a slacker, I didn't send the package until I heard the news. Hopefully she has received it by now and isn't just learning about it by reading it here!

I used the pattern for the Big Bad Baby Blanket from Stitch n' Bitch. The original pattern is just four panels made through a pattern of knits and purls, though I broke it into smaller squares to give it a patchwork effect. The yarn is Bernat Cottontots which is my favorite yarn for baby knits because it's machine washable and dryable. I wish it came in more colors I liked though. If it looks familiar, it's because I used it - in the same color - for the Haiku baby sweater.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ready for Ravelympics!

It's been so long since I picked up my Lace Ribbon Scarf, I forgot how far I had gotten. It was a nice surprise to pull this out of my knitting bag and see that it no longer matched the last picture I had taken. (As an aside, by "knitting bag" I mean plastic bag from the Apple store, which is great for holding projects but not especially cute. I need to work on this.)

This is for the WIP Wrestling event of the Ravelympics, so my challenge is to finish the scarf by the end of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing. Of course with a scarf, "finish" can be a rather fluid term. It needs to be able to wrap around my neck but beyond that it's not unheard of to just stop when you're sick of knitting the damn thing. My plan is to use up the yarn, but if the scarf gets too long I won't because I find that I don't like scarves that hang down below my coat like some sort of bizarre front-of-body tail.

I took this picture last night so I can keep track where I started and mark my progress. Prepare to see more progress pictures in the weeks to come as I race to complete my goal!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Not wowed by Oscar Wao

In the last few years I've been able to stop reading books without finishing them, which is great psychological progress for me. I used to always think that I should finish any book I was reading, that if I stuck with it maybe it would get better or at I'd reap some reward for my determination. No more. Life is too short to read books I don't enjoy. Books like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

This book has won awards and has gotten fantastic reviews, but it wasn't enjoyable to read. I was interested in the title character, but the book didn't focus on him enough and so what I liked was outweighed by what I didn't. It contained long extensive footnotes that cluttered the narrative. Also, a hell of a lot of it was in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish, and felt left out of some of the conversations.

But that's the beauty of literature. There are so many different kinds of books out there that whatever your taste is, there is something for you. I've moved on and am now reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. This is a book for me, and I'm sure there are others who hated it. That's why talking about books is so much fun, and why book discussion groups can become so heated and tense. Our tastes are so personal and so important to us, we must defend them as though they're our friends. Maybe that's why I was always so hesitant to put down a book I didn't like - I didn't want to hurt its feelings.