Pink Monkey Knits

Using my opposable thumbs to knit up a storm!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Two Great Times with Some Great Knitters 

On Saturday, I headed over to the Capitol Hill location of Stitch DC for a Design Your Own Shrug Workshop with Teva Durham (I arrived exactly on time!). Upon wallking into the teaching area, Teva immediately introduced herself to me and I was instantly struck by her laid-back, friendly nature. There were only eight of us there for the class, including the lovely Sarah, so we knew we were in for a very personalized learning experience.

The workshop was basically broken up into two sections. First, Teva introduced us to some basic shrug shapes and constructions, then gave us some examples of the various styles and forms this type of garment can take. She then provided us with some creative inspiration by showing us some photos of different shrug styles that she'd found on the interweb and displays of her own designs, including two prototypes that she had created recently. After seeing all of these ideas, inspiration was supposed to strike us like a bolt of lightning! Well, we were supposed to at least pick out our basic shape and design elements.

The next portion was taking the steps to execute our design. For those, like me, who didn't bring any yarn for making our design, we got to browse around the shop and find a good candidate; I eventually chose Karabella Aurora 8 in a leafy green color. I was anxious to try out this yarn since I'd heard such wonderful reviews of it, and I was completely satisfied with it's springiness, softness and stitch definition. After choosing yarns, we all got to work on our swatches.

Items from Teva Durham Workshop

On the left are my sketches for my design, on the right are some of Teva's ideas that she handed out to us, and above is my swatch.

After we figured out our gauge, Teva came around to give us some our magic knitting math. This was certainly the most impressive part, because when she came to me she looked at what I had drawn and just started writing down the instructions for it off the top of her head! Well, for the back. Then we got to my fronts and I realized I basically designed the most difficult sweater EVER. She couldn't figure it out offhand and told me to work on it with my swatch, and if she kept playing around with it, I'm sure she could figure out how to combine a leace design with decreases. Me, not so much, so I'm going back to the drawing board.

The interesting thing that I noticed about Teva is that it was really obvious that she has a very particular aesthetic that she likes in garments. This is fairly obvious from her innovative designs, but it really shown through as she was showing us the pictures of different shrug styles and straight called some out as ill-fitting or unattractive. As we all started working on our designs, of course the conversation turned to various subjects as it tends to when knitters convene. Teva did not hesistate to jump in on these conversations and told us that she doesn't particularly like variegated yarns, that she prefers to knit to NPR and books on tape, and that she can't stay up all night to finish designs anymore with her small daughter. She really had no pretention at all and, as kntting tends to do, it allowed us to sit together and learn a bit about each other - once again, it creates instant community!

As for my actual design, I don't have enough yarn to make it in full right now, so I may hold off on finishing up the design until the fall.

As if this wasn't enough excitement for the week, Cobra and I also got to hang out with the lovely Lauren and her hubby Kris on Monday night! Kris showed off his amazing cooking skills by grilling delicious veggies for us that were seasoned with fresh herbs from their garden. I also got to drool a bit over Lauren's amazing stash. Sweetheart that she is, she sent me home with a ball of Rowan Calmer. Plus, she makes great brownies!

Lauren with Dishes

Lauren is a happy homemaker.


Male Bonding

Male bonding took place, despite Cobra's attempt to hide behind the bamboo.

Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of our DDR Tournament (or as we called it, DUI DDR), but just know that it was INTENSE. I did, however, get some shots of their lovely animal friends.


Bella Pups

Bella Puppy really liked to stare at me straight on. I must have been magnetic to this sweet girl.

Rusty Cat

Rusty Cat is very, erm, quirky. He rested his head on the edge of this bowl for, like, 15 minutes. It looked like he was going to dunk his head in at an second. Who knows, maybe it's just really, really comfortable.

Lauren and Kris, thank you so much for the yarn, the dinner and the great company! I can't wait to do it again!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Let's Look at Some Knitting, Shall We? 

Even though I've been gallivanting about plenty lately, I've also been able to fit in plenty of knitting time. Yes, I've been very productive indeed. Come on, I'll show ya.

Koigu Autumn Sock

At first, I was referring to these socks as That 70's sock because the mustard yellow, navy blue and bright pinky-orange reminded me of the polyester shirts I often find at thrift stores. As I got past the ribbing and saw the colors in all of their glory, however, it reminded me of autumn leaves piled on top of each other in a beautiful New England forest. Well, really, it was my romantic mental vision of what that would probably look like since I've only been to a New England forest once and it was last summer. The point is that these are now my Autumn Socks not only because of its reminiscent colors but because it will give me a reason to look forward to the colder weather (for probably the first time in my life, I'm wishing for a shorter summer because I'm absolutely wilting from this crazy heat in my non A/C apartment).
I was originally going to continue the ribbing over the whole top of the foot but when I saw how fabulous the variegation and texture looked in stockinette, I knew that I had to make that the focus. To ensure better fit across the width, I wanted to put in some extra give. In the end, I continued the two center ribs and they like to point to my big toe when I wear the socks. It's an unexpected effect but I like it! Of course, the yarn is Koigu, so it feels like pure love on your foot.


Sparkly Scarf

Mmmm, sparkly. I finished this drop stitch scarf and it will be shipped off to Mommy Dearest sometime soon. She's picky about these things though, so I hope she likes it and ACTUALLY wears it. She gets overheated all of the time and the scarf is actually fairly heavy, so it will be seen how much use it gets.

Upon finishing this scarf, I immediately started a secret project. I can't show it but I'll just tell you that it's a fun pattern made in the most glorious bit of fiber I've ever had the good luck of handling.

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This is a Clapotis, reclining gracefully on Cobra's bike. Well, one of Cobra's bikes. You can see that I got through many of the dropped stitch rows and was headed on down the decreases.

Yes, this is all past tense.

This is a picture of a Clapotis that was.

See, when I tried it on, it had a nice width but was way too short. It barely could wrap the whole way around my neck. And so, it had to go.

The ripping was so sad and but me into a very ambiguous state, because I only have this one hank of yarn. I could make a thinner Clap-Trap but then it would be more scarf-like, whereas I really like the stole quality of the original. I'm pondering the yarn's next move, and it make be into this cardigan. But I can't go there yet because...

Tangled Tess

I feel like this is my summer of tangled yarn. This isn't even that bad, I have made some progress, as opposed to that Melody Yarn that's still sitting in a heap in my project basket. I will have to give up so many hours of my life to get that untangled, and sometimes I ponder if those are the stories I want to be telling my grandkids about.

I should have another project started this week because Yay! I'm going to a design your own shrug workshop with Teva Durham today at Stitch DC! Me! Teva! Personal instruction!! I'm absolutely thrilled!! I'll be sure to give you the full scoop soon, now I must run and get ready!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

One Year Blogiversary 

Readers, yesturday was my one year blogiversary! It's truly hard to believe that I've been utilzing this media for this long. I feel that being a part of the blogging community has been truly positive for me as it has helped me to expand my knitting skills, learn new techniques, think about the meaning of the craft of knitting and introduced me to new projects. I have also formed some relationships with other great knitters, which has truly enriched my life.

In addition to thanking those of you who have stuck with me and who continue to read my little words (THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!), I would like to add that, on occasion, I stop to ponder the amazing nature of this community. I don't mean this just in the sense of people being extremely generous and supportive individuals, which many others have written on at length. When I think about the great life accomplishments of those whose blogs I read, I'm often dumbfounded. I manage to keep up with (mostly) women who work in all kinds of professions including designing websites, practicing law and medicine, engaging in scholarly research, archiving historical materials, taking photographs, DJing on the radio, writing novels and even owning yarn stores! Some have partners and some have children. Of course, we all have our good days and bad days, and some are more willing to share all those aspects than others. Not as a dis to our talented knitting brethren, but I have to say that all of these women, to me, are truly successful in their life endeavors. It's heartening to know that women are out in the world, contributing so positively to it but still love to fondle a deliciously soft ball of yarn. So thanks to all of you out there, whether you know I read you or not, for inspring me in my craft and in my life.

To mark this occasion, I have updated my 100 things about me list. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised to discover that just as much has stayed the same as has changed. You can still check it out, though!

Next time: actual knitting content!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Gladden the Beloved Companions 

Gladden the Beloved Companions

It will be hard to express the beauty, the emotion, and the absolute simcha (joy) that was Jonathan and Dena's wedding in words, and I hope that some of the images will make up for my inadequacies as far as that goes. I'm only going to use the images that were on my camera here but I'll would like to direct you here to see some great shots of moments I was unable to photograph, particularly of the ceremony (and some decent ones of me in my lovely dress). As I mentioned last time, my brother has adopted a more religious lifestyle and the wedding was no exception. The funny part was that this was the first Orthodox wedding that most people in my family had even been to! In that sense, I found it best to think of the wedding as a cultural experience and to go with the mood of the moment. In that spirit, I will try to explain as many portions of the ceremony that I can as they were explained to me but I would add the disclaimer that I am not intimately familiar with many of the concepts and I may oversimplify them or get them altogether wrong. Please feel free to ask me to clarify any points that may not make sense. Either way, I hope you learn a little bit and that these pictures make you smile!

Following what's more of a custom than a rule, Jon and Dena did not see each other for a week before the wedding. This set the tone for the wedding day, as the excitement of seeing each other adds to overall emotion of the event. About an hour before the actual ceremony, there are two simultaneous receptions for both the groom and the bride.

According to tradition, the bride is really supposed to be queen on her wedding day. This is clear during the bride's reception, where she sits on a literal throne with her mother and future mother-in-law at her sides. She greets wedding guests and takes prayer requests from others as she is supposed to have a sort of "direct line to God" on this day. It was all very regal!

At the same time, the groom's reception, called a Tische, is happening. Now, these days, we're used to gentlemen having bachelor parties the night, the week, or even the month before the wedding. But religious Jews, they're hardcore. They have what's basically a bachelor party an hour before the wedding! Granted, there weren't any strippers or lap dances because those are big no no's, but there was a bit of drinking, noshing, singing and general merrymaking.

About half an hour before the actual ceremony, the ketubah, or wedding contract is brought out.

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That's Dena's parents on the left, bro in the middle, and our parents on the right. You can see the ketubah in front of my dad. At this point, the ketubah was explained and then signed by the bro and two witnesses (who had to be men).







Then, to show the unbreakability of the contract, among other things, the two mamas broke a plate!

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At this point, there started to be much singing and merry-making in the groom's area while the mamas went back down to join the bride. When the time was right, Jon's friends, accompanied by members of the wedding band, started singing and dancing him down towards the bride's reception. It was a very exciting moment, very raucous, like a singing hurricane swooping down with Jonathan in the eye of it. Eventually, he got down to where Dena was sitting and laid eyes on her for the first time time in a week. As the first song ended, Jonathan knelt down right in front of her and started leading the singing of another beautiful song about returning. He was looking right into her eyes and was just grinning hugely. After he finished singing, he leaned over to his bride and whispered something to her, at which point she started crying. Of course, the rest of us had been crying the whole time.

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Thanks for taking this oh so flattering shot of me, Cobra, thanks soooo much.

This portion is called the bedeken and its ultimate purpose is for the groom to lower the veil over the bride's face. The origin of this tradition comes from the Bibilical story of Jacob, who worked for seven years to marry Rachel but was tricked and accidentally married Leah. That's Dena's sister standing in from of me in this picture, so it's clear she wasn't switched with Dena.

After this high point of emotion, everyone was escorted outside to the chupah, or wedding canopy for the actual ceremony. After all of the guests were seated, the procession started. There weren't any bridesmaids or groomsmen, so the procession was basically made of the four chupah bearers and family members (including me!). Jonathan came out first with our parents and had a few moments of his own under the chupah where his special white jacket, called a kittel, was placed onto him by one of his friends. He wears this jacket on his wedding day, on the high holidays and when he is buried. Again, I suggest you go here to look at the pictures if you want to see how this went down.

Finally, Dena came out escorted by her parents. After coming under the chupah, she circled Jonathan seven times. This also originated from a biblical story where the walls of Jericho were circled seven times before they fell. In this vein, the bride circles the groom in order to break down any of his "walls" and allow them to fully unite as a couple.

There were three main parts of the ceremony. In the first, Jonathan made a declaration to Dena and placed a ring on her pointer finger. With this simple action, they were actually married! Next, the rabbi read the ketubah (it's in aramaic, so I may have spaced on, you know, what he was saying). The final portion is the sheva brachot, or seven blessings. Seven friends and family (all men) were brought up to say one of each these blessings. Throughout the whole week after the wedding, these blessings are repeated at festive meals. Finally, a glass was placed near Jonathan's foot and BOOM! He stamped down and broke it! A cry of Mazel tov filled the whole crowd. This is probably the part of Jewish weddings that people are most generally familiar with; it is done to symbolize that even during the most joyous occasion, it should be remembered the Jerusalem is still not fully rebuilt.

Once again, the singing and dancing picked up the this point. The chupah bearers carried the canopy over the new couple as they grabbed hands and started to re-enter the building. Now, this hand holding is very significant and ties into the next portion of the wedding. See, Jonathan and Dena uphold a practice called shomer negia, which basically means not touching people of the opposite sex. So, before this point, they had NEVER touched.

Not even holding hands.

Not even a peck on the cheek. Nothing.

So it was very beautiful to see them get caught up in the moment and actually touch hands. The next part of the ceremony was designed to allow them to bask in their newly-married abilities to touch. See, they were being led off to a separate room for their seclusion. In the olden days, this was when the marriage was actually consummated. All I know is that the two of them went in there and ate some kosher sushi, I didn't ask for any further details.

While they were off being secluded, it was time for the most fun part: the party! We all went into the reception hall to eat, schmooze and listen to the reggae/ska inspired Jewish music being played by the awesome band. Finally, after about 40 minutes, the couple was reintroduced to the room and, man, that's when it started turning into a rockstar party!
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Part of the wedding is for the guests to "gladden the beloved companions" by performing schtick for them. Basically, they are supposed to dance and act silly in order to entertain the bride and groom.

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In case you can't tell, this guy was JUGGLING FLAMING TORCHES for his schtick. Have you ever seen that at a wedding? I sure as hell haven't but I would certainly like to again! Seeing as that basically couldn't be topped, the dancing ended shortly after with the guests returning to their seats, exhausted and hungry.

At this point, we resumed normal wedding style activities as we ate and schmoozed some more. And then, the poignant part came: the speeches. Dena's parents went first, and her father became especially emotional. I'm sure it was a particularly bittersweet moment since Jonathan and Dena would be leaving in two days to go live in Israel. Of course, my parents spoke, one of Jonathan's friends said some words, and finally, Jon himself went up. It was so strange, because that brand new wedding ring on his finger was so obvious and it was so weird to see him wearing it. As he was speaking, his whole appearance seemed different, and his voice didn't sound as usual. I felt as if I had truly witnessed a rebirth there that day. And as beautiful as the whole event had been, it was also sad because it really is a new phase for his life. He doesn't just belong to our family anymore. At its hear, though, I'm really so glad that he has a real life partner in Israel with him who can really be his daily support, because we can't do that for him. I look forward to seeing how they form their lives together and I hope it's positive.

At this point, cake was served and people slowly started trickling out. I realized that the wedding had been totally devoid of all of the conventions of American weddings: no vows, no "you may now kiss the bride," no throwing the bouquet, no driving off in a fancy car, no feeding each other cake, no open bar. Thinking about it later, I realized that this stuff is, well, just that, stuff that in some ways detracts from the task at hand: to celebrate with the bride and groom. I didn't miss any of that stuff; I liked the celebration much better. Indeed, multiple people approached me to tell me it was one of the most beautiful events they'd even been to (my dad even said so in his speech). Even though probably a quarter of the people there at most were religious, we all went along with what was happening. It was the best way to go into it, because it allowed us all to be touched a little by the absolute joy of that day.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Knitting People are Totally the Best 

In chron0logical order:

1.
lauren_happy

Lauren is so cute. We finally got to meet up again a week or two ago (where has the time gone) and had a lovely lunch and stroll around the local establishments of Dupont Circle. We discussed our mutual love of bubble tea, were enchanted by the variety, texture and hues of beads available at Beadazzled, and checked out some knitting patterns at Olsson's Books. While at the bookstore, I convinced her to buy a great beach read that was on sale; it doesn't take too much convincing to get that bibliophile to purchase a book! We also spent a good amount of time discussing blogging in a semi-philosophical way; the pros and cons, increasing readership and making friends. It was suprisingly nice to have a confidante with whom to discuss the complexities of this medium. To quote Cari, who put it so eloquently, she's less like a knitblogger I'm friendly with and more like a friend who happens to blog. As if all of this wasn't good enough, I then got to escort her on her first Metrobus ride! The ride would have been so pleasant if not for some punk kids (and not punk like rock, punk like they need to be learned some manners) throwing pebbles in our general direction. Soon friends, I promise you that she and I will have a Dance Dance Revolution Showdown and all of this nice chit chat will go out the window.

2.
I was absolutely thrilled to open my mailbox today and find a fabulous package from my fave Southern lady, Ms. Anne Marie!


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From left to right, you see a lovely skein of pinky Paton's Divine (mmm, which I love, remember the lovely scarf I made Cobra's mom from it?), some Green Apple Extra gum, a dericious chocolate bar (the package is a little wrinkly due to my utter lack of willpower), and some great knitting lady silhouette notecards. Clearly, this is a collection of my favorite things in the world. AM, merci beaucoup for totally making my rainy, stormy day!!

3. In the interest of full disclosure, my mom is not a full fledged knitter. She can whip out a mean garter stitch and actually has a great knitting instinct; if she challenged herself to expand her skills, she could at least make some simple projects if not more. Unfortunately, she doesn't do much challenging of herself these days. But that doesn't mean that she's any less of a sport when it comes to buying her youngest child some yarn, muhahahah!!!

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The good part about this stash addition is that it occured immediately after I ate my favorite meal ever, the Chickpea Chili Burrito at Mad Mex. Ahh, best day ever. The unfortunate part is that the end result of these yarns will be gifts and so they don't really count as actual stash additions. The upper yarns are being combined to make a scarf for the little mama to match her new gold satiny suit (which my aunt refered to as her Elvis impersonator suit). The fuzzy Pixie yarn on the bottom will be used to make some bunnies for friends' bebes.

4. I have to give props to myself for having good taste, but immediately follow it with a flagellation because I AM WEAK! SO WEAK!!


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Knit Happens was having a sale and I hadn't bought yarn in so long and these were 40% off...The rationalizations go on and on. And this wasn't even the end of it! I bought some other yarn that I can't show because the receipient of the intended project is a blog reader. Let's just say that it's 85% wool, 15% mohair, hand dyed and was also on sale, which is a rarity for this high-end brand. Time to move beyond the guilt and embrace the excitement of knitting with these fine products. Only five more therapy sessions and I'll be able to get to that point.

Speaking of needing therapy, I spent a lot of time with my family last week as we gathered together to celebrate my big brother's wedding. I'm going to do a big ass wedding post later this week, but I wanted to put out a bit of our history so that you lovely readers can understand the context. My parents are both Jewish and my bro and I were raised within the Reform Jewish context. For this of you unfamiliar with the differentions, this is one of the more liberal branches of the religion and is about adapting to the modern world while allowing members to choose their own adventure as far as keeping kosher, observing shabbat and participating in rituals. We always had a Jewish identity but our religion was fairly compartmentalized into "that thing we do when we go to the synagogue." Big bro went away to college in the mid 90's and engaged in a lifestyle that, sadly, is not too uncommon on many college campuses. He joined a fraternity, spent more time drinking and partying than focusing on his studies and did the whole hooking up routine. A few years into it, he starts dating this girl who is involved in the Hillel chapter on campus. They become more engaged with the religious life on campus and took separate trips to Israel.

To shorten this already long story, the bro started studying at a religious seminary in Israel four years ago, embraced a thoroughly religious (or Orthodox) lifestyle three years ago, and became an Israeli citizens two years ago. This transformation in him has been an ongoing dealing process for us as a family, but when we see how he has really come into his own within this framework. He's been happy and has built a great community for himself but, you know, he's been far away. Well, a year ago he met a lovely young woman who, coincidentally, also had roots in Pittsburgh. She was actually dating one of his friends, but they mutually decided to break it off. At their last date, the friend told her that he wanted to set her up with big bro. His parting words to her were "Invite me to the wedding." Six months later, they were engaged. She's such a smart, put together person and I'm great he'll have a constant in his life there to build his family with. There's a lot more history, a lore more religious aspects and a lot more emotions that go into this story, and maybe I'll fill you in on them someday. Before that happens, though, I'll just tell the story of a beautiful day when a lovely, committed, passionate couple got married. Look for it next time.