Pink Monkey Knits

Using my opposable thumbs to knit up a storm!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ode to Black 

It's the last day not only of this Project Spectrum Neutral month, but the last day of the entire endeavor as well. Apart from knitting my brown Carla, I haven't been particularly active this month. While the thought of neutrals isn't totally exciting to me as a brights lover, PS is supposed to expand how we see these colors in our surroundings, so I thought about the neutrals in my life. I instantly thought of my wardrobe, which is strongly dominated by the darkest color of all...

For as long as I've known her, my mother loved to wear black and white together with a splash of red - perhaps with jewelry or shoes. I've inherited a bit of this sensibility except in my version, I've taken out the white since I constantly spill food on myself and don't want to get messy. I love to pair a bright color with black, the perfect canvass to show off any shade without looking too clown-like.

my black shoes

I love how adding black to other colors often gives an ensemble an edge: a nice black skirt or pant can make any bright tone seem sophisticated. My favorite way of using black, particularly a few years back when I was really into pink, is to wear tough, punky black clothes with soft feminine colors, which sends a message that "I may look sweet, but don't fuck with me because I'm really hard." Maybe that's why black is always such a wardrobe staple for women; we want people to know that we can be nice, but have teeth when we need to.

A few years ago, I think it was uncommon to see black treated equally with other colors in variegated yarns. It seems that now, as more people are dyeing and trying out their own combinations, more colorways including black are available. Some of my most precious knits and yarns use this combination to great effect, including my Basic Cable socks and this skein of Tess' Designer Yarns Superwash Worsted.

Black may be associated with death, gloom and doom in our culture, but I believe that it's a shade that not only has its own levels of hue, depth and beauty, but one that is a perfect friend for any other color. Viva noir!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Full of Surprises 

I think, and I certainly welcome your comments on this, that one of the keys to keeping any long term relationship fun is to maintain a sense of spontaneity. Often, this is how the most fun and best adventures result.

For Cobra's 30th birthday this past week, I decided to keep him on his toes and commemorate the significance of this event by throwing him a surprise party. This was actually a stressful endeavor, as I had to invite guests and keep them quiet, plan a menu and keep my live in boyfriend from overhearing incriminating conversations. I got up early (for me) on Saturday morning and spent the whole day cleaning, shopping and preparing. Seeing his reaction, and the fun he had made it all worth it.

This is Cobra with his badass brother, and special guests (in hand). With lots of grilled veggie dogs, mojitos and motorcycle talk, I put together a pretty rockin' party, if I do say so myself.

Another one of those relationships keys: gratitude. I bet that many women are like me and do lots of small or invisible gestures for our partners as a way to show our love and caring. Simple recognition of these acts is is so satisfying and perhaps one of the most gratifying parts of being with someone. Cobra saw how much work, planning and cleaning had gone into making the party happy, and he showered me with thanks, even into the next day. It made me feel like I got the best birthday gift in the world.

birthday treats

Speaking of gifts, here are some special ones Cobra received. On the left is a Muertos diorama I purchased for him at a Peruvian gallery in Pittsburgh. He is really interested in the Dia de los Muertos customs of Central America and the satirical skeleton imagery of that holiday, so I'm slowly helping him build up a collection of artifacts. On the right is a birthday card from his dad, who at one point was the only Arabic calligrapher in the US (and may still be). This was just a little something he quickly sketched out. Amazing.

As for the other gifts from me, I got him the National Geographic Back Roads Explorer 3D Software and some yarn for a future knitted gift:

luscious threadbear yarn

That acid green Cascade Fixation, purchased during my trip to Threadbear, is slated to be socks for the boy. That other luscious yarn is the gift I got from my dad during the same visit: a sweater's worth of Knit One Crochet Too Paint Box yarn in the Rose Quartz colorway. I hope my knitting can rise to the challenge of creating something fitting for this gorgeous, self-striping yarn.

The stress of preparing for the party left me with far less knitting time than I expected over the weekend, so the finishing I was hoping to happen, well, didn't.

carla pieces

I have since finished the knitting on all of Carla's pieces since I've taken this photo, so expect a finished sweater this week. I've also progressed on the sock that I restarted after taking out the falling leaves pattern.

alpaca sock

I am working these in what Barbara Abbey calls a Pique Rib in her Complete Book of Knitting. The pattern is worked thusly in the round on a multiple of 10 stitches:
Rows 1-3: P3, k1, p3, k3
Row 4: P all sts.

I had hoped to finish the first one over the weekend but instead, it looks like it's going to happen tonight. I'm going to hop to it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Olde Farmhouse 

the olde farmhouse

After a few (somewhat stressful) days in Pittsburgh, my family headed out to central Michigan. Although it wasn't the best circumstances, we made the best of it by making the trip into a little vacation. My parents booked us into this charming Bed and Breakfast, the Olde Farmhouse in Marshall, MI. Here, we were surrounded by barns and cornfields and were just a few miles up from the very cute, historical town. I don't know if it was from the change or pace or environment, but staying in this area really was relaxing, and best of all, I think my whole family enjoyed our whole time there.

Quick confession: no one in my family likes cats. It's one of the few commonalities that all of us in our little group share (the others being bad eyesight and a deep hatred of celery). But there were four outside cats at the Farmhouse and I admit, I was somewhat taken with this little guy (who may have been a gal). Aren't those eyes pretty? I did learn, however, that cats are really hard to get posed and photographed.

The respite there was so nice that my aunt proposed having annual family reunions there. I greatly supported that idea as it would give me the chance to continue to see some cousins I don't get together with very often and we can continue to hold yearly croquet tournaments in my grandmother's memorial (no, I didn't win).

When I learned how close we were to Lansing, I made a strong case for making a premiere yarn destination in the Midwest: Threadbear Fiber Arts. My dad had no idea what he was in for when he offered to bring me up there, ha! Frankly, neither did I.

threadbear

This is the view from the back left of the store looking forwards. Yeah, this is but a small fraction of their stock. Friends, when I walked in there, I really almost plotzed. My head was spinning. My knees were weak. My mouth was dry. I couldn't make see any organizational plan to the yarn and I tried to frantically remember every project I've ever wanted to knit and wanted yarn for. The process of thinking through what I might want took my TWO HOURS. At which point we went for a lunch break, and took a stroll around old town Lansing.

And then RETURNED TO THE STORE.

Which leads me to a great truth: my dad might be the best yarn shopping companion EVER. He brought his laptop into the store and worked diligently while I raced around, fondling and trying to figure out what would make me incomplete if I left the store without it. Then, my dad BOUGHT a sweater's worth of the chosen yarn! Yup, totally the best.

I'll have to show the yarn sometime when I can take pictures in the day, because it is too pretty to attempt to take a flash photo of.

[FYI: If you want to make a Carla like mine and have had trouble finding the discontinued Cotton Tape, call up Threadbear. They had quite a few shades in stock when I was there.]

Another heartwarming family knitting moment occurred when I presented my sister-in-law with the finished Headline News Cap.

Headline News Cap

Headline News Cabled Newsboy Cap from Stitch n Bitch Nation
Blue Sky Cotton, Colorway 603
Size 8 and 10 1/2 needles

I'm very satisfied with how this turned out and, as far as I could tell, so was my SIL! As a married women, she has chosen to cover her hair in public, so I thought that I could throw some handknit love into the tradition. The cotton yarn made for a nicely textured yet light finished product. Indeed, the SIL said it was so light that she didn't even feel it on her head. I followed the patterns instructions for lengthening the hat a bit so that it could accommodate all of her hair and the sizing ended up being perfect. To stiffen the brim, I rooted around in my parents' basement and found a plastic disposable plate. I cut two layers to size and voila, ended up with a brim that protruded just the right amount.

The best part is that it only took up one of the two skeins I bought, so I have enough left over to make one for myself.

Big plans for this weekend, hopefully including some finishing of projects! Enjoy yours.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fiber Art? 

I took most of the week off of work to hang with my fam - my bro and sis-in-law are in country, so we've been having copious amounts of family time in Pittsburgh. Yesturday, we went to the Carnegie Museum of Art and spent many hours not only looking through the interesting exhibit on the evolving relationships between humans and animals, but also wondering the permanent collections. It had been many years since I'd really been in that part of the museum, maybe since high school, and I enjoyed getting reacquainted with many of the masterpieces in the collection. This painting immediately caught my eye; it was titled "Coat" (sorry, I didn't note the artist) and the brushstrokes impersonated the look of a woven winter outgarment. There was even a line of buttons down the center of the canvas! Funny how to folks at the museum, a knitting piece would probably be considered "craft" but a painting of knitting would probably be seen as fine art!
Tomorrow, we're heading off to Michigan for the weekend. We're going to spend most of the weekend relaxing at a Bed and Breakfast in Marshall, MI, then on Sunday we'll unveil my grandmother's tombstone (more information on why the tombstone is unveiled after a period of time can be found here). Since we'll be very close to Battle Creek, home of Kellogg's and Post, I can even go to Cereal City USA and get my picture put onto a cereal box! Mostly, though, I'm hoping to enjoy some time with family, do some reading and knitting, and maybe take a dip in the pool.

Knitting-wise, I've had to do a few rip outs of the raglan shaping for the front of Carla, but she is now progressing steadily. I also ripped and restarted my alpaca socks in a fancy ribbing and they are looking very nice. The next step with them with be to estimate when to end the cuff and have enough yarn left to work an afterthough heel. I hope I don't guess incorrectly...
More when I'm back in DC!