Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Winner! And a Tutorial!

Firstly, Olga is the winner of this week's contest, "Name that Bust." The bust was Hemingway who modeled the recent Debbie Bliss baby hat (tee hee, Papa must have been cringing up above!). Second prize goes to Julia for playing along with a good guess or two in my very first blog contest. If you two send me your mailing addresses to kodachromeknits AT yahoo DOT com, I will send out the wee prizes to you soon. Thanks for playing! (EDIT: I received your email, Olga. Gracie!)

Secondly, Olga mentioned on her blog recently the needleroll case I had made, and I, with much embarrassment, realized that I never really did explain how I made it (despite saying I would). So for the many (not really!) who would like to know how I made it, here is as good as a tutorial as I can muster...
The needleroll is essential two placemats, one folded inside the other. So, you'll need two placemats, of appropriate size and weight (you don't want anything too flimsy). Two dishtowels will stand in for models, here:

Place one placemat/teatowel within the other, folding it where you deem appropriate for the holding of your needles and knitting tools. You need to decide how deep you want the two sets of pockets (outside and inside pockets) that the outer placemat (the striped towel) will create.

Leave, if possible, enough material on the bottom placemat (the checkered towel) to make a top flap so that it will fold down to cover the needles once they are inside (my original doesn't have this and I wish it did):

Once you've measured (using your needles and tools) where you want the placemat on top (the striped one) to be positioned, leave it in place but unfold it (the stripped one in the photo--fold the flap down now). Now you want to stitch up the two outer sides of both placemats, thereby joining the two placemats together along the edges, and then stitch along the bottom edges (but the striped "flap" is still hanging down so you're actually sewing across the striped one now, creating a seam through it. You'll fold this flap of the striped towel back up later, when it's time to make the outer, wider pockets. But for now, we're making the back slots for your longer needles and so that flap [for the outer pockets] doesn't come into play for a bit).

A 'reminder' photo of what the roll looks like in completion...

Now, I marked the exact center of the sewed-together placemats, and then sewed a straight seam down it (so that when I roll/fold it together, each side is equal in width and so nicely folds into itself). Be sure to sew this center seam (and the other seams to come) from the bottom seam just until you reach the top of the striped placemat. (You don't want to sew beyond the striped placemat because then you'll be creating seams on the upper part of the checkered placemat (the one placed in the back) and remember that this part of the back, checkered placemat is going to be the flap that folds down to cover and hold in the needles once you're done. So no seams are wanted up there!)

After the center seam is made, measure how wide you want each "slot" to be, using your knitting needles to do so. Then sew a seam up each marked slot, again, starting at the bottom seam and sewing just to the top of the folded up placemat (the striped teatowel in the 'tutorial' version). I believe I made 6 seams (=7 slots) on each side of the center line. Here's a close-up of the seams that I'm speaking of that hold the back needles in:

Once you've done this and have made long narrow slots for your longer needles, you now want to make the larger (wider but shorter) outer pockets. Fold up the flap of the stripped towel (the outer placemat's flap that has been hanging down this entire time) , and stitch the outer seams of it so that it now is also attached to the back placemat (so you essentially are stitching over the same seam that you first made when first attaching the two placemats together).

Now, using the back center seam as a guide, stitch up the same center seam, making sure to stop at the top of the folded flap. Now, decide how many outer pockets you want, and then stitch up along the same seams as the back slots. For instance, I have four wider pockets on the outside (two on each side of the center seam) and so once I made the center seam for the outer pockets, I simply sewed one more seam up the left side, and one more seam up the right side. *Be sure to sew these seams on top of the back seams of the slots so that you don't mess up the back pockets' slots.* I simply counted three (back slot) seams to the right, and then sewed up that one, and did the same for the left side. [*Remember, you need to be able to slide your longer needles all the way down these back slots so any seams that you sew on the outer pockets have to match the back seams so as not to interfere with the 'original' slots].

Here's a picture of the backside once done:

I then simply folded both outer sides into the middle, and then folded it down the middle.

To keep it closed, I simply wrap it with a ribbon.

Ok, now that I've tried to explain this construction, I have a new-found appreciation for technical writers and those who carefully and in great detail document the process of their creative projects. In this shabby tutorial, I found myself needing more photos to show what I meant but unfortuantely the photography happens at home, and the blogging happens at work (and never the two shall meet). So, here at work doing the writing portion of this tutorial, I found myself incredibly frustated b/c I realized I should have taken different photos showing different things. If anyone is confused by this tutorial (I sure am!), please let me know and I'll try to be more specific or clearer in my instructions as to what I did.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Contest Involving Busts

Wow... a bit creepy, isn't it? I mean, the sculpted face here, not the baby hat, of course.

No, not those kind of busts.... Where are your minds? I mean the statue-thingey.

This is a baby hat, that just needs sewing up the back, and a gentle washing and blocking, before being sent off to my girlfriend who just had a wee baby boy. The pattern is from a Debblie Bliss book and the yarn is some 50% wool, 50% acrylic blend from Switzerland. (I'll look up all the necessary details when I present the actual finished product in a couple of days.)

And the head on which it rests? The first commenter to leave the correct "name that bust" answer in today's comments will win a prize--a wee prize, but a prize, nonetheless.

(Here's the pattern for the hat, on a much more suitable model than mine, from the DB book itself. )

And here's the Bosie-type dog, who makes a rare appearance on the blog from time to time. This is pretty much his routine everyday when I head out to water the tiny vegetable, flower & herb garden in the morning. First, "Bosie" takes stock of the yard, scoping out any doves or squirrels hanging about which might need chasing (or more likely, which might need barking at, given that as he nears 12 years old, he's much more of a barker than a chaser).

After the squirrels and birds have been scared off, it's down to business, chewing on one of the many sticks blown down over the course of the evening. (We live in a very windy place, and have a huge oak tree above us which is slowly dying, it seems, and so it loses many branches--some huge (!), some tiny. "Bosie" however doesn't discriminate, and chews whatever he finds--wherever the sticks may fall, as it were...)

And then, of course, with so much work completed, it's time for one of his ninety-two naps which he'll take over the course of the day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Homework

Homework Assignment #4: Pick the tomatoes and find out what the heck happened to them. I assume that the splitting of the skins was caused by inconsistent watering (not enough water and then too much water). Is this correct? Does anyone know what went wrong here? I thought I had kept the water flow pretty steady this summer, but Guido and I were gone for a bit during those summer searing temperatures, and then just recently we had rain for forty days and forty nights.

Homework Assignment #3 (continued from previous post):

Added to the book meme [which Olga recently tagged me with] is Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. This is a book which also made me cry, and it's sure to be a book that I will read again and again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Homework Assignment #1: Finish all these WIPs *soon* so that I can get started, on 23 September, with Zimmermania!
WIPs include:
Toe-Up Knee High Socks (Lorna's Laces Shepherd)
Baby Hat from Debblie Bliss's Simple Knits (a 50% wool/50% acrylic yarn, unidentified)
Kiri Shawl (Elann's Peruvian Cashmere)
Kate the Cat and Bubby Bear (from Knitty) [not pictured]
Homework Assignment #2: Repot houseplants. The jades have stopped growing and have started to drop their succulent leaves. I assume this is because they have outgrown their pots. (Also, dust glass bottles and wipe off windowsills while I'm at it...)

Homework Assignment #3: complete the book meme that Olga tagged me with:

1. One book that changed your life: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë.

This was the first book that really made me go, “Wow. That’s what literature is and this is what literature (and authors) can do.” I was moved—blown away—by so many aspects of this novel: the intensity and power of love between two beings--“I am Heathcliff!”—but then the darkness that such a passion can lead to (i.e. digging up your lover’s grave; or, bashing your head against a tree over and over again); the complexity of adult relationships; the wildness of the heath; and most importantly, the fact that a young woman living in a rural, somewhat isolated, environment, surrounded by an ensemble of loving siblings (but no real money), can live such an imaginative, and important, life.

2. One book that you've read more than once: Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson.

Robinson is a Haida/Haisla author from Kitimaat, British Columbia who writes a compelling coming- of-age novel of a young First Nations woman in Canada. It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s mysterious, it’s familiar.

The book that I’ve read more times than any other: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

My first response is to write (sarcastically), How to Live/Survive on a Desert Island.

My real response is the Oxford English Dictionary (I'd learn every word in the language, including its history, and then write my own epic novel filled with such an expansive vocabulary. More importantly, let's remember that the OED comes with a tiny magnifying glass which I would use to get fires going and signal passing airplanes & ships!)

4. One book that made you laugh:

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (the opening, like no other book, had me laughing out loud right away).

Robert Sedlack’s The African Safari Papers also made me laugh in a similar way. There’s something so funny(and moving) about parental/familial dysfunction.

5. One book that made you cry:

Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen. I set down the novel at the end of it and sobbed.

Jose Saramago’s Blindness. (Not for the easily disturbed reader. An ugly, ugly dystopia: the horror of humanity, and of course, the beauty too.)

6. One book you wish had been written:

How George W. Bush Nearly Won the Presidency (Twice! *Gasp*) in America: Thank Goodness He Didn’t!

7. One book you wish had never been written:

Any of the numerous self-help (and self-righteous) books that someone very dear to me (who shall remain nameless) reads and then sends me preachy (not pithy), obnoxious, and obvious snippets of self-help “wisdom”.

8. One book you're currently reading: I’m in the midst of several—

Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex
David Mas Masumoto’s Harvest Son: Planting Roots in American Soil
Ellen Meloy’s The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
Michael Pollan’s A Botany of Desire (audible).

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth or On Beauty

10. People to tag:

Amanda Cathleen, and any one else who might want to do this meme--[Becky(Fluffa)]? Anna of My Fashionable Life? Julia of MindofWinter?]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Urge To Create

On the evening of 11 September, with my partner away for the night, I found myself suddenly calmed and quietened by the simple act of cutting up squares. You see, the day, already brimming with so much sadness, was made more sad for me by a passage from a book I was reading at breakfast; this book simply, but powerfully, made me so miss my father [3000 miles away] and the landscape I'll always call 'home'.

With the day passing, and me, alone, trying still to hold the cloud of melancholy and homesickness at bay, I found myself pulling out this thrift-suit quilt project* (after clicking on the link, you'll need to flip ahead a few pages before you get to it)* which I had begun months ago. As cutting progressed, and the simple act of placing the squares got underway, I felt my tension headache ease, and my sadness--if not dissipate--be something I now quietly understood and accepted. My mood, in fact, slowly turned into excitement as I realized I needed, in my next return home to my parents' place, to find a suitable old suit/coat/shirt of my dad's to incorporate into this blanket. And maybe, my mind raced, my partner could also find something of his father's--or his grandfathers'--that we could also incorporate into the quilt and it could then, each night, wrap and cover us in our fathers' and grandfathers' warmth.

I experienced that evening, as I have experienced many other times, the calm of creation, at work.

And still, people wonder why we do what we do? Why we are willing to make endless loops with string, why we are willing to cut out square after square, make stitch after stitch. If only they knew....

*The thriftstore suit-quilt idea comes from Martha Stewart's Good Things from Tag Sales and Flea Markets.

PS: A book meme to come next! [I've received my first-ever tag from Olga, and can't wait to share my favourite (and not-so-favourite) reads with you--]

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

The only words that have really made sense to me of the madness,
and of the pursuing, unfortunate nonsense
of all that has come since:


"The Dead of September 11"
by Toni Morrison

Some have God's words;
others have songs of comfort for the bereaved.
If I can pluck courage here, I would like to speak directly to the dead--the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent on the planet:
Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas...; born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles, wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes, feathers and cloths to cover their hair.
But I would not say a word until I could set aside all I know or believe
about nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails.
First I would freshen my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil---
wanton or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple compulsion to stand up before falling down.
I would purge my language of hypberbole; of its eagerness to analyze the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September 11,
I must not claim false intimacy or summon an overheated heart
glazed just in time for a camera.
I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say--no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become.
And I have nothing to give either--
except this gesture, this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot out of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit of eternity:
its gift of unhinged release tearing through the darkness of its knell.
Lastly, an excerpt from Morrison's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech which I reproduce here, aware of all the "plundering," "limiting" words that will surround this day...
"The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas."
--taken from The Legacy Project

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Destruction of Kiri

Remember this guy? The black cat from HELL who Guido and I are not supposed to be having to care for but because he was dumped off on us, and we cannot find a single soul who will take him, we are forced to having to care for him despite his constant assaults and attacks on us and our dog (and not to mention those worms he had...*ugh*). We'll he's really playing with fire now because I caught him in the act of chewing up my new project. Look at this:

"Ah, Mr. Kurtz, the horror...the horror..."

As you can see, I have begun Kiri. Or should I say, I *had* begun Kiri. I found Kiri lying in a heap with the cat stalking about nearby, swishing his tail. As I tried to fix it, I just kept making it worse, as you might be able to see in these photos.

Guido stars here as a hand model.

At last, I gave up, cursed the cat, and have rebegun the shawl (which meant painfully having to once again figure out that freakin' confusing "invisible cast-on" nonsense which seems so so so easy and yet I find so difficult to execute for some silly reason).