Pink Monkey Knits

Using my opposable thumbs to knit up a storm!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Presenting the Fabulous Shawly! 

shawl3

Shawly Aka Artfibers Wrap
Pattern: Adaptation of this one except with the increases in the center, not on the ends. This changed the shape of the shawl - more on that later.
Yarns: Rowan Calmer, color Oatmeal I believe (thanks Lolly!); Plymouth Encore, black; Artfibers Harlequin, Color #10 (pink and dark grey); Artfibers Cellini, Color #9 (black and grey); Silver slubby silk (?) gifted from my aunt, a remnant from her weaving days; Fantasy Yarns Cashmere blend Aran (the stuff that you can get at A.C. Moore), black.
Needle: Size 11 Denise
Time to complete: Forever and a day

shawl

While this garter stitch shawl was simple and fun in its varied striping, it didn't keep my attention very well and I let it languish over the past few months. I was also somewhat let down because my method of increasing (doing a matched pair of YO's in the center) actually made the shawl into more of a diamond shape than a triangle. For next time, I'll know that there must also be increases on the edges. This shape makes it a bit harder to wrap around myself than I would like but works fine with a brooch of some sort (or a binder clip like I used when I wore it to work). The extra part at the top wraps around my neck like a collar and looks cool.

shawl2

Shawly made her debut on a beautiful day here in Washington, DC where the temperatures reached to 62 degrees! Cobra and I decided to take advantage of the bizarre yet welcome warmth by going for a nice, long bike ride. We parked behind the Lincoln Memorial, took our bkes out of the truck bed, and pedaled across the Memorial bridge toward the Mt. Vernon Trail.

This paved trail starts right across the Potomac from DC in Arlington and runs for almost 20 miles down to Mt. Vernon, George Washington's home/farm. It's a great route for an amateur like me since it's relatively flat and affords views of much beautiful scenary.

We biked for just a short time before we reached Gravelly Point, adjacent to National Airport (I refuse to acknowledge the Reagan part of its name). Apparantly, it's really popular to stop there and watch the planes taking off over your head. I found the crowd gathered there to be kind of strange, yet the most Wayne's World-esque moment of my whole life.

planespotters


As we continued to ride, I saw a sign for Alexandria and saw that we weren't too far from Old Town. From that point on, th goal was singular: keep pedaling until I reach Knit Happens. That's a fair reward for all of that exertion, right?

I'm proud to say we perserved and made it all the way to the yarn shop, woo! We hung there for a bit and checked out some other Old Town Attractions.

IMG_2042

Here's Cobra with his awesome cruiser in front of the Torpedo Factory, a former weapons manufactering center that's now dedicated to the arts. We didn't have time to go inside but I definitely want to go back to check out the current Chain of Purls Exhibit, which is of knitted and crocheted art items.

Eventually, we turned back and headed towards the city. The sun had started to set, so unfortunately it was colder and a nasty wind had picked up that we had to ride right into, making the return trip much more arduous.

It was worth it, though, because I had some magnificent views:

capitol

See the Capitol off in the distance there?

pretty sky


Although I was certainly tired and a bit sore when we got home, I was so proud of myself for riding the 12-16 miles (!). I hope I can continue that level of activity throughout the year for my health and because we had a really wonderful time (throwing those bonus yarn store trips in there as incentive don't hurt, either).

Here's hoping for more fun-filled weekend days!

cute

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wowza 

Damn, y'all, it's been a while! I'm happy to report that in the first almost three weeks of the year, I've been very successful in meeting my aspirations. I've been taking weekly yoga classes, hanging out with friends at home and around town, started a ten week Spanish class, and have been trying to cook more for myself and eat out less. I even took a chunk of time to just sit on my couch and enjoy words of the current book I'm reading, Paula by Isabel Allende. And, I have been working in snatches of knitting time but definitely not as much as before.

It's made me feel a bit like my brain has been broken up into little bits of dust that have been scattered to and fro.

Although, that's a bit dramatic and I definitely don't want to say that all of these activities haven't been good, but I really have felt less focused and just so gosh darn BUSY.

Most of all, I just really started to miss having long stretches of knitting time at home, on the couch, just relaxing. I missed blogging, too and all you awesome bloggers out there. I've found that with my increase in extracurricular extras, I've been, ahem, sneaking in a bit more reading time at work.

So, I'm going to continue to work more towards that equilibrium or thrive on the craziness. With time, I'm certain I'll find the pace that's right for me.

Of course, there were highlights in there that I must divulge (many with no photos, you'll just have to take my word for it). I had the great fortune of meeting up with the lovely Chelsea for an afternoon of sipping, chatting and sock knitting. I had met her briefly at MD Sheep and Wool but at this tete a tete, I was so pleased to see that she's a really put together, thoughtful person who carries herself with grace. She's in a transitional time in her life right now but I'm confident that she's going to get through it just fine.

I had to break off our chat to run home and get ready for Cobra's work party (they don't do it until after the holidays because, as a retail store, it's just too damn busy). I was expecting an elegant evening, as I was told we would be doing a dinner cruise of Baltimore's Inner Harbor and that it would be "semi-formal." Uh, let's just say I was a little let down by the whole thing. Really, it was like a bad wedding: a bunch of dressed up people you don't know taking advantage of the free drinks and embarrassing themselves on the dance floor to pathetically out of date music. My vegetarian meal was so bad that we went for pizza afterwards! Thankfully, being on the boat and taking in the Baltimore cityscape was fun and Cobra's coworkers are a lively crew - all motorcycle geeks who've traveled, are into music, etc. They saved what was otherwise a pretty lame night.

I also spent an afternoon with my buddy Susanne in which she kindly let me wind up all of my yarn with her new ballwinder and swift. Then, we wound some balls of off two Hugenormous cones she got at the Springwater sale last year for $2 and $3 a piece, and let me take some home.

susanne

Do you think she has enough to spare?

My stash has also grown a bit, although I haven't really bought any yarn in the new year. I successfully executed a trade with the very talented Laura and was really stunned by the beautiful sock-themed package she sent me:

sock package

Lilac soap handmade by one of her friends, Trekking XXL yarn, and size 3 circular, and two skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight. 100% alpaca, so divine!! All for a book. I'm still taken aback by her generosity and want to say, "Laura, skanks right back to ya! Hope to see you at the Springwater Sale!"

While walking around a huge chunk of the city one day, Cobra and I stopped in a little thrift store. I, of course, made a beeline to the sweaters and had a total score: this Gap sweater in awesome variegated, thick and thin yarn for only $4!

thrift sweater

I joyfully took it home and ripped it to pieces, then down to its essential yarn. I'm hoping to make something Teva-y or a vest out of it.

thrift yarn

My mom also bought me some yarn to make into my first Giving project of 2006. More on that later.

Speaking of projects, I didn't tell you I started a new one. In early December I had no choice but to buy some gorgeous Adrienne Vittadini Nadia yarn in the Black and White colorway. Its supple softness wouldn't stop calling to me, so I cast on for the Hot Lava Cardigan with it.

hot lava 1

Woops, I'm actually quite a bit farther than this. I've, uh, finished the shrug-type sleeves and I'm not knitting the body. My only hope is that it gets cold enough for me to able to wear this when I finish (but just for, like, a day and then it can go back to being 60 degrees).

I've also rounded the heal on the second Basic Cable sock and I'm heading into the home stretch.

Finally, I've also finished a UFO that was my albatross for quite a few months. Look for pics of it next time. Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 09, 2006

2006 Aspirations 

We all know resolutions are often not realistic to live up and get broken by the third week in January. When looking towards my knitting for the coming year, I really want a place to just put down some of the ideas/obsessions I've had floating around in my head for a while. This is also an opportunity for me to see where I've started with projects, what I've been able to complete and what needs to be improved. So, I looked over at Julia's 2005 Aspirations and saw some wisdom when this very talented, experienced knitter and designer looked to put some limits on her knitting yet made the commitment to develop her skills. Many of my hopes for the coming year echo her sentiments.

Techniques

I've got the basics down pretty well, I can do sweaters and socks, so this year I've like to see my projects expand on my knitting skillset and also to find the methods that work best for me. I'd like to continue to learn larger scale techniques like cabling or lace knitting but really, I feel like the smaller details, like short rows and learning different cast-ons and bind-offs will really make the difference in my finished products. Increasing my vocabulary within the specific technique is also a goal so I can find out, for instance, if I like cabling better with or without a cable needle. I've done this with two projects recently where, after using dpns for a year, I gave the two circulars a try as well as a half assed attempt at the magic loop (so far, I'm way like two circs the best). Overall, I don't want to feel like I'm ever totally done with one method, because there's probably more there.

The area where I most need to devote energy is with my finishing. I can do it but I feel like it always ends up looking kinda crappy. With my copy of the Big Book of Knitting in hand, I hope to excel!

Giving

This one is cribbed directly from Julia. 2005 was focused very much on myself as the kntting recipient (although I did just finish one big ass pair of gift socks); I don't think I did one charitable project. As I look over my stash and see that I have many odd balls hanging around, I'd see a perfect opportunity to warm others with my handiwork. Especially in the beginning part of this year, I would like to make some items for online projects like Tricoteuses Sans Frontieres and local programs like Food and Friends, Safe Shores and the Red Scarf Project.

In addition to charitable knitting, I'd also like to make more small projects for friends and family. 2005 was a particularly roller-coasters like for Famille Pink Monkey with the high of my brother's wedding and the lows of my dad's cancer treatment and the continued decline of my grandmother's mental capacity. The wedding gives me a new family member to knit for and the others, well, they give me the will to comfort others with my stitches as best as possible. I'll make it official and say that I'd like to have at least one giving project on the needles at all times.

Restoring Motivation

It's good to have a hobby but I've found that my desire to knit often trumps my desire to do other activities, both those that I like (i.e. going out in the city, seeing friends) and those that I don't (cleaning of any sort). This, combined with an increase in TV watching, has made me feel sluggish and lazy. I hope this year I will be motivated to and forced to keep the knitting in its place and catch up with some of my other hobbies, like reading, that have gone by the wayside. Hopefully, restarting my yoga practice and my upcoming Spanish class (starts Thursday!) will help in this area.

Stash

My stash isn't very large and I'd like to keep it that way. Honestly, I find the desire to just buy yarn for buying sake to be overconsumerist. Plus, I do not have the funds to just drop bills at yarn stores all the time. This year, I will aspire to keep my stash within reasonable bounds and not have more yarn that I could knit for a year in it. I will utilize two main yarn buying events: the Springwater Superbowl Sale and MD Sheep and Wool. Of course, I will allow myself to splurge every once in a while, as one of my others goals is to use new fibers, but keep it within reason.

Most of all, knit and have fun!

If these aspirations are too constraining, I'll just say fuck it, it's just knitting! It's my hobby, it doesn't need to be taken so damn seriously.

I was going to include a projects list below outlining finished knits I need to fix, how I want to knit my stash yarns and proejcts and fibers I want to utilize in the upcoming year. I started it and realized it would be really long and boring, so another aspiration will be to create my own list offline (otherwise I won't have any blog fodder for the rest of the year!) and let you know some of my interests.

  • Karabella yarns and patterns. I would like to experiement more with these yarns, particularly the Auroras, that so many bloggers categorize as essentially perfect. One of the bulkys may be good for a Leaf Lace Pullover. Many of the Karabella patterns are also great, including this one (which I'm not at all sure I could wear since I have, you know, an actutal body and the largest size is a laughable 38") and this one.
  • Sustainable and/or organic fibers such as organic cottons, Soy silk and soy silk blends, bamboo, hemp and banana fiber.
  • SOCKS! I'm very anxious to experiment with different sock yarns and designs - they are the perfect, minature creative outlet!
  • I think I mentioned previously that I have a little design in my head that would involve the ripped out yarn from my first attempt at Clapotis, some raglan sleeves and a little intarsia. A copy of the Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns will probably be useful in making this idea a reality. While I'd like to work on the design this winter, it may require the buying of addition yarn and thus may have to be shelved until I have the funds.
What are you planning for 06 knitting?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

You know what they say about men with big feet - big socks 

The holidays have really kept me so busy that my two consecutive 3 1/2 weekends just flew by. I'm feeling a great sense of relief to get back into my routine in both my personal and work life. Of course, work will probably stay busy for a while because, during the holiday season when people pull out their credit cards to buy gifts, they often also pull out their checkbooks to make (tax-deductible) donations to non-profits. Of course, we are grateful for all of the donations we receive but it takes time away from my other tasks that I need to accomplish. Ahh, the fundraising life, it is a crazy one.

On to the knitting! Finally, I can show off one of the my last FO's from 2005: Cobra's Retro Rib socks! In their fully glory:

Cobra's Retro Rib Socks

Pattern: Retro Rib Socks from Fall 04 Interweave Knits
Yarn: Opal Batik in Reds
Needles: Size 3 Crystral Palace Bamboo DPNs

I had so much fun with this pattern! It really kept my interest and creates an deceptively complicated textured pattern to boot. Despite their largeness, using the slightly larger needles and taking off the stitch pattern from the foot made them relatively quick, even though they actually took about a month and a half to complete.

It was a bit of a challenge trying to take a photograph that gave a sense of their actual scale and Cobra's huge feet. Here's a decent one, his foot with a common, household one foot ruler.

sock and ruler


Really though, I thought that the relative size was the more interesting part, so here's one of the socks on my arm.

sock sleeve

If I had just made up a body for the thing, I could have had a whole sweater! Thankfully, Cobra has been more than grateful for them, telling his friends and family that I made them just for him and that they are "awesome." In At Knit's End, the Harlot talks about how she uses handmade socks essentially as bribes - and that's a feasible thing to do, because when people pull them onto their feet, they feel the personalization and the infusion of love with which they were made. Cobra now feels that wooly love but may not know how it will make him putty in my hands.

It's getting late, so I don't think I'll be able to spell out my knitting resolutions for 2006 tonight (Aaawww darn) because I need to do a little information gathering. I do, however, want to take a look back at knitting in 2005 with this Top 5 list I found over at Zarah's.

1. New (to Me) Technique: I've learned a lot this year about knitting math and modifying patterns. It's a fun mental challenge, like an applicable word problem that I actually want to solve. I hope these skills can transfer over to a bit of simple design in the new year.

2. Favorite FO: It makes it in just under the wire since it finished it on January 1 05, but I'd have to say that my Grasshopper Sweater is my favorite garment that I've made so far. It's versatile, easy and comfortable to wear. It's got some little dirty spots on it but has also held up well this year. As an accessory whore, I do have to say that I love the quirkyness of my Psychedelic Seaweed Scarf and Raspberry Mittens and Hat.

3. Favorite KAL:
Definitely Sockapaltwoza! Who doesn't love custom made socks coming in the mail?

4. Favorite Shop: Unfortunately, I haven't visited Springwater Fiber Arts all year, but it still holds a special place in my heart. I've spent a lot of time at Stitch DC this year, and have enjoyed their friendly staff and decent selection.

5. Favorite Tool: Row Counter. So simple, yet makes a significant impact on the outcome of your knits. Next year, I hope this will be a ballwinder and swift.

Those resolutions, they will be forthcoming. Happy 2006, all!