Tuesday, December 18, 2012


My mom had a milestone birthday this year, so I wanted to make her an extra-nice present. She mentioned that she would like a shawl or drapey scarf, and after looking over a bunch of Ravelry links I sent her, she picked out a few favorite patterns, including Horai. Since she especially liked the smokey gray color in the pattern pictures, I decided to make it using Knit Picks Aloft in a similar color.

I'll admit that knitting this was a bit of an ordeal. Using mohair for the first time made me a little nervous, but that turned out to be the least of my problems. Although the pattern wasn't difficult, it was hard to see the stitches as I was working, so more than once I was knitting along happily only to discover that a dozen rows back, I had accidentally picked up too many stitches when making a "flower" stitch. Aloft is pretty forgiving of frogging, I found, so it's probably a good yarn for a first mohair project.

The main difficulties I had, though, were two problems I've had with my knitting since the beginning: my insanely tight tension, and my tendency to make extremely poor needle choices. This shawl really needed to be worked loosely, not only to get the nice airy, lacy effect, but also because the motif involved a lot of working multiple stitches at a time. It would have been far less physically challenging if I could control my gauge better. And that problem was compounded by my buying silly needles and then stubbornly continuing on with them. Obviously I should have bought at least one size larger than what the pattern called for (I didn't) and they should have been long enough that I could hold them firmly while working through the fiddly bits of this pattern (they weren't - they were 16" fixed circulars, which gave me about two inches of needle to actually hold on to).

And, for some reason, my Horai turned out wider and shorter than the pattern indicated, even though I thought I was following it exactly.

Still, I'm not unhappy with how the shawl turned out. The pattern is beautiful and it really works nicely in the mohair, and I was glad to give it to my mom as a birthday present. I do wish, though, that I had been a little less stupid about its construction, because I could have made it a lot easier on myself.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


When we were planning our trip to Japan, I was a little daunted by the amount of time we'd spend travelling. Obviously, flying all the way from the east coast of North America takes many, many hours (half a day, in fact). Then, once I added in getting from our apartment to the airport, from our local airport to Toronto, our layover there before getting on the plane to Japan, the trip from Narita into Tokyo, doing all that in reverse coming home, plus several hours on the shinkansen traveling around and back to Tokyo... I was exhausted before we left. Clearly, I needed a good travel project.

A good travel project, for me, is something simple enough to put down or pick up again at any point, but not so simple that it bores me or that I'd feel embarrassed explaining what I'm working on if someone asked. That kind of project, I think, calls for really nice yarn to keep me interested and produce something exciting despite the easy construction. My cowl that I made in September, as I mentioned, was perfect in that sense.

For our Japan trip, I decided to make a Baktus scarf, using some Manos del Uruguay yarn that I bought on our trip to New York in February. The pattern couldn't be simpler, and the yarn was crying out to be used, after I considered and then abandoned several other projects for it.

I was pretty sure I might end up finishing the scarf before the end of our trip, since after all, garter stitch and 300 yards of yarn doesn't last too long, even if I was planning to do a lot of sleeping and looking out of windows while we were travelling. Really, I only got about 10 inches of the scarf done on the whole trip, and most of that was on the shinkansen. I just didn't find myself in a knitting mood very much, which was fine. It was nice to take a break from everything.

I did finish up the scarf pretty quickly once we came home, though. Although I was worried that it wasn't really long enough, it magically turned into just the length I wanted after blocking. I really love blocking.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas for kitties

Somewhere in our apartment, there's a Bermuda Triangle filled with the toys that our cat loves most, because she plays with furry things and catnip-y things so enthusiastically that they vanish. Sometimes they reappear (the donut has disappeared and returned twice now) but we usually have to supplement with crumpled-up balls of paper. Juniper thinks these make pretty great toys, but we feel a little weird about literally tossing trash around the apartment. So, rather than buying her another handful of mice to lose, I made her some Christmas toys.

I used the same balls of Sugar'n Cream Christmas colors that I bought several years ago to crochet tree ornaments. This year, our collection of "real" ornaments has grown enough that I didn't feel like making any more, but crocheting something Christmas-y has become a sort of mini-tradition for me. So, why not give the cat something festive?

The pattern is The Ideal Crochet Sphere, which uses math that I don't want to think about (but will happily benefit from) to make a more exact sphere than the traditional method of crocheting a ball. As with the donut cat toy, I made the balls more enticing by tying off a few pinches of catnip inside a piece of pantyhose and stuffing that inside. Juniper emphatically approves - one has already gone missing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two weeks in Japan

It's hard to believe that we've already been back from Japan for two and a half weeks and I haven't gotten around to posting any of my pictures yet. Since I took thousands of photos and don't want to flood my blog with them, I'll just put up a few of my favorites, and link to my Flickr account for anyone who's interested in looking at the rest of them.

Rainbow Bridge & Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge, seen from Odaiba in Tokyo

We spent about a week in Tokyo, split over five days when we first got to Japan and then our final two days before leaving. It's hard to sum up our time there: we saw and did a little of everything, from shopping in Shinjuku, to looking at artifacts in the Tokyo National Museum, to visiting the boardwalk in Odaiba, to walking around little neighborhoods that felt like they were hundreds of miles from the city. I was impressed by how easy it was to get around - I built a lot more travel time into our itinerary than we needed, but that gave us extra time to see and do more things.

Kids on a field trip looking at the Great Buddha at Kamakura

We also wanted to see more of Japan than just Tokyo. Like many tourists, we made a day trip from Tokyo to Kamakura. Despite it being a very tourist-y thing to do, we loved visiting Kamakura, and it was one of our favorite days that we spent in Japan.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Whale shark and friends in the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

We spent the second week in Osaka and Kyoto. I had been wanting to visit Osaka ever since I found out that they have a great aquarium, and great food. Neither of these things disappointed. The rain all day on Saturday did disappoint, especially since I ended up getting a cold after spending the day with soaking wet feet, but fortunately that was the only truly bad weather we had.

Nara deer

From Osaka, we made a day trip to Nara. Like Kamakura, it was a great day of visiting temples and shrines, and I liked seeing the deer there and feeding them crackers.

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto

The Kyoto part of our trip was, in a way, the inspiration for the whole thing. I really wanted to see their famous maple leaves in the fall, so for a couple of years, we've been saying, "Let's go to Kyoto in November." It was a dream but I wasn't sure it would ever happen, so I'm so happy that we really did make it there. The maple leaves were nearly at their peak when we visited, and it was really beautiful.

Maple leaves at Kodaiji in Kyoto

It was a really great trip - we managed to see and do everything we hoped to do, from the big stuff like seeing landmarks and historic sites, to weird little things on my bucket list like visiting a cat cafe, shopping in a Japanese craft store, and eating okonomiyaki in Osaka and green tea ice cream in Kamakura. If you'd like to see the rest of my photos, here's my collection on Flickr.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The last day on Ur

This evening, Glitch will close down forever. I mentioned the game earlier this spring as a nice, mind-soothing pasttime, especially when one is trying to avoid annoying real-world sources of stress. Glitch was a good place to get away from the real world in general, since it operated on its own quirky, imaginative principles. It was a place where you petted trees, milked butterflies, donated to shrines, and hopped around Mario-style collecting coins.

I'll be honest: it was not my favorite game. There was a large social element to it, which I didn't really participate in, because I'm usually too shy to actively play with other people (even though I love hanging out "in" MMO worlds). There was also a struggle from the beginning to define what Glitch was, what was fun about it, what you were "supposed to do" when you logged in. The point was that it was a different kind of game, and you were supposed to do whatever you wanted, but while some people really loved that about Glitch, for other people it just didn't click. I was somewhere in the middle: I liked being able to just do whatever, but I felt like there wasn't really enough "whatever" to sustain me.

Still, I did love traveling through the world of Ur, seeing new places and collecting coins. And I liked working on my house, expanding it and building new furniture and taking care of my little collection of trees and animals. And I enjoyed the artistic vision of the game. There were a few really beautiful spots and it's a shame that they won't remain accessible online for other people to enjoy.

Since the announcement a few weeks ago - it makes me feel very guilty to admit this - the game has actually been a lot more fun for me. It's given me goals where before everything was open-ended, which didn't really motivate me. Now there's a reason to see places I haven't seen yet, work on puzzles I haven't solved, and make recipes I haven't made before, because soon I won't be able to. I also have a habit in every game I play of hoarding all the good potions and items and so on for the right moment. Not surprisingly, this usually results in me running out of storage space and never enjoying most of the cool buffs and things. Now, finally, I get to use all my stuff! It's really fun to play like the world is ending. And it doesn't hurt that the developers gave us all free subscriptions and in-game money.

Tonight I'll log on to see what, if anything, happens at the end of Glitch. It's sad to witness the end of something that was loved so much, and I will miss bouncing around in the treetops or the clouds or under the ocean. But I'm glad I got to play.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tiny frog

It's been a while! I didn't have much to say because my main knitting project has been a present for someone, and then I was on vacation for two weeks in Japan. There will be more posts about both of those things later, but first, I did have one project post-sock that I can share:

Tiny frog! I made him using the Tiny Frog Kit from Mochimochi Land. The kit was a present to me for my birthday last year, and I was starting to feel a little guilty that more than a year had gone past and I hadn't made a frog yet. I had been intimidated by the idea of using DPNs to knit something both tiny and three-dimensional, but I guess I was emboldened coming off my sock success because this was the only thing I wanted to work on once the socks were done. He was extremely fiddly to make, but very rewarding, because now I have a tiny frog. I think making the other two (the kit has enough supplies for three) will go a little easier.

Other than the tiny frog and the above-mentioned gift, I don't have much yarny stuff to talk about. I did bring a knitting project to Japan, but worked on it even less than I expected to. It was nice to take a vacation from everything about my regular life, including knitting. Much as I enjoy it, it is easy to get into a rut.

I have another kit, also a present (this time from last Christmas) that's appealing to me right now, a sashiko sampler from Purl Soho. Although I've been interested in trying sashiko, and embroidery in general, for a while, my thinking for most of this year has been "Why start something new when I could just knit more things?" Now I'm more inclined to think "Why keep knitting things when I could also try something new?" Maybe it has something to do with having been in Japan, not only taking a break from my regular schedule for a while, but drooling over all the wonderful craft kits you can buy there.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two socks!

My socks are done! I'm very happy with them, although they are a little long for me. I really didn't know how to judge the way a half-knitted sock would fit me while they were in progress, but now that I have a completed pair, I have a better idea of what to do next time. And yes, there will be a next time. I'm not sure yet whether I'll become a Sock Knitter, but I already am thinking that a pair of holiday socks would be a nice project to work on soon.

I'm also thinking I might give DPNs a try, because with my supertight knitting, it was hurting my hands to get each side of stitches worked back onto the needle with magic loop. I really like magic loop otherwise, but unless I can change my tension, it is not a fun experience fiddling with such tiny stitches.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I have a sock!

As I mentioned before, I'm doing GnomeAcres' Socktober KAL, because it is the perfect opportunity for me to learn to make socks, and once I know how to make socks I will have a reason to buy more and more lovely yarn from Amanda. I'm using Wendy Johnson's gusset heel vanilla pattern from Socks from the Toe Up. Yesterday, finally, I bound off my first sock! I am going very slowly, but right on schedule to finish before October 31.

I'm thinking the second sock will go a lot faster. I had to restart this sock three or four times due to my inability to read the instructions correctly, and then I redid the heel a couple of times because I kept second-guessing my measurements. Turns out every time I worried that the sock would be too small, I should have stuck with my initial instincts, because it could stand to be a bit snugger. But it fits pretty well, and for my very first sock ever, I'm quite happy with it.

There is cat interference in the above photo because she had just woken up from a nap, which means that everything needs to be all about her until she goes back to sleep.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


We're going to Japan next month (!), and as soon as we booked the trip I decided I was going on a yarn diet, so that I could save my money to buy yarn, among other things, while we're there.

But then there was that Naruto yarn from GnomeAcres that I needed to have immediately, because who knew how much of it she would make and how often it would be available. And then there was a present I needed to start working on, and I had to buy some yarn for that. And now my local yarn store is having its pre-inventory sale, and what was I supposed to do, just not go?

I have been staring at their shelves of madelinetosh every time I've gone in the store since early this summer. Really, it was for my own well-being, to end the torment of wanting to have the yarn but knowing I shouldn't really spend the money. (Full disclosure, I used a gift card that still had some money on it, so really it was about time to buy this yarn.)

So, like the very few, very brief food diets I've attempted in my life, it seems that deciding I'm "on a diet" does nothing other than trigger this desperate urge to gobble up everything I'm not supposed to have before I remember that I'm not supposed to have it.

But now, really, I'm not getting anything until we're back from Japan.

Unless there's another sale somewhere. Or I decide I need some Christmas-y GnomeAcres mini-skeins.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Like finishing all over again

Having finally witnessed the glory of blocking when I finished my Old Town scarf this summer, I decided to go back and block my first FO, my Old Shale scarf. At the time, blocking sounded really scary and complicated, and I decided I was happy enough with how my scarf looked un-blocked. I was sure that if I did try to block it, I would somehow ruin its appearance or texture. Better not to risk it.

Now I know better, so I blocked it, and then I was so happy with it I had to wear it right away even though the weather just started to warm up again.

To make things even more exciting, I had always been mildly bothered by the very poor-quality picture of the scarf that I had on my Ravelry project page. So with it in its freshly-blocked, pretty state, I did another photo shoot. I went from this:

Ugh :(

To this:

Much better :)
I was never unhappy with this scarf, especially as my first completed knitting project, and now that I've given it a makeover I like it even more. But it is interesting to realize that while I still feel like just as much of a beginner most of the time, I have learned a few things since then. Like, it's really hard to see a) what you're doing and b) the pattern you created on dark yarn. And that blocking is not scary at all, but wonderful and magical. And that it is, in fact, possible to fix mistakes in lace (I restarted this scarf after working on it for weeks because I messed up and thought all was lost).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Two quick projects

My boyfriend has complained about cold hands at the office. Luckily for him, making warm things is my hobby! I showed him a few patterns on Ravelry and he picked out Sarah Chilson's Manly Mitts pattern. This was an easy and fast project, nearly instant gratification. And yes, both mitts are the same size, but the angle of the photo makes them look different.

As part of my ongoing stash-busting quest, I was driven to find some way to use up the remaining almost-full skein of this Bernat yarn that I had left over from making my mom a scarf for Christmas in 2008. I wanted to give her something else, since I picked the color for her, and she suggested a coordinating hat or ear warmer. Sarah Arnold's Divine Hat was really quick to crochet, and I think it will look okay with the Isar Scarf I made years ago. But, the pattern did seem to work up a little tight and short, so I'm waiting for my mom to try it on before finishing it.

And now it's time to cast on my first pair of socks! I'm using GnomeAcres' Naruto, as I mentioned before. I loved it in the skein and I love it even more after winding it into a ball. I'm really hoping my socks turn out okay!

Friday, September 28, 2012

If you give a cat a donut...

...Make sure you stuff some catnip inside because that's what they're really after.

I made this toy for my cat using Melissa Trenado's mini donuts cat toy pattern. It was inevitable, really. And she seems to like it:

And I, of course, like watching her gnaw a tiny donut while rolling around in glee.

I'll be making this pattern again, because after two weeks of fun, the donut is in a very sad state. Fortunately, it only took an hour or less to make. I used odds and ends of yarn, so the frosting and sprinkles are acrylic and the bottom part is cotton. I would definitely recommend using cotton for the whole thing, because the acrylic is very fuzzy and splitty. It has not held up nearly as well as the cotton to my cat's affections, plus I want to minimize the bits of fuzz she could potentially ingest. To keep the catnip in it from leaking out, I cut a couple squares of old pantyhose, put a pinch of Cosmic Catnip in each one, and tied them off, then put them into the donut with the stuffing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Traveling cowl

I needed a project that I could take with me while I traveled to and around Texas, so after finishing up my iPad cozy (and taking a little break), I started the Chickadee Cowl. I thought it would be a nice way to use the Malabrigo Superfine Merino that I picked up earlier this year in San Francisco - the subtle color changes in the yarn would work well with the linen stitch, and the yarn is so soft that I definitely wanted to make something to wear around my neck. I cast on 167 stitches on US 6 needles to get the size the pattern called for with my DK weight yarn.

As it turns out, this is the perfect traveling project. It's one ball of yarn, one piece, and the finished object will be small. Circular needles are easy to fold up and pack. The stitch is super easy, so I could listen to my boarding section being called at the airport and pay attention to my relatives when I visited with them and put it down at any point. And, the pattern and the yarn are so pretty and interesting that it was a good conversation starter with both my family and the people sitting next to me on my flights.

I also liked the idea that I had gone all the way to California to get the yarn, and now it was accompanying me on a trip to Texas. I almost want to save it to work on during future trips.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Here's another excuse for my long lack of updates, but this one only covers one week: I was in Texas in early September, visiting relatives in Austin and New Braunfels. The last time I was in Austin was too long ago for me to remember, so it was nice to see someplace "new" to me. I only had a few full days there so I'm looking forward to going back and seeing more of the city.

I am also looking forward to another visit so that I can eat more BREAKFAST TACOS. All I really knew about them were that they existed, in Austin, in apparently copious amounts. Now I know that they are one of the best breakfast foods you can eat.

Also while we were in Austin, it was my donut day, so this happened:

I did not eat all of them. But, 50% of them were consumed by a single person, who shall remain unidentified.

In between the days in Austin, we went down to New Braunfels, where my grandmother used to live and where that side of the family still gets together to drink beer, play poker and go tubing.

It was a nice trip, long overdue. I ate more meat each day than I usually eat in a month, saw at least six lizards, and was yielded to in a crosswalk by a legit cowboy driving his pickup truck. And the 90+ degree temperatures made me appreciate the feeling of fall that greeted me when I got back home.

More Austin and New Braunfels photos are in my Flickr sets.

PS. While I was making this post, I realized that there was no good reason to be using such tiny pictures all through my blog, so I went through and resized them. All.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another i-cozy

I would like to think that the urge to knit cozies for inanimate objects is a compulsion that most, maybe all, yarn-hobby-people feel and that some are better than others at stifling. I don't have any desire to make cozies for my tissue boxes or tea pots (not that I have tea pots) but for some reason, my i-devices all seem to need little socks to wear. And why not - they are always appreciative and can wear their garments no matter the season. My first knitting project, after graduating from scarves, was my iPod cozy, and it was definitely worth it no matter how questionable the idea of an iPod cozy may be to sane people. It taught me to use magic loop and Judy's magic cast on, and since I hope to tackle socks someday soon, I think it was probably good practice.

It also prepared me to successfully tackle my first winging-it, patternless knitting project: an iPad cozy, of course. Really, it's just a bigger version of the iPod cozy, but I'm pretty proud of it, mostly because it's awesome:

And it's awesome because it's Avengers! From the bottom up, it's Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Loki, Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. The movie was the highlight of my early summer, so when I heard from a Knit 1 Geek 2 podcast that GnomeAcres was selling an Avengers mini-skein collection, I knew that I had no choice.

I bought it before I had any idea what to do with it, which is unusual for me - I like to at least pretend I know why I'm getting any yarn that I buy - but then I realized my iPad was looking pretty naked and as soon as the Ravellenics were over, I started on the cozy.

Not only am I pleased with my iPad's cute little sock, but I'm so happy to have discovered GnomeAcres. Amanda is great and her yarn is beautiful, to my eyes and to my nerdy brain. I already bought some more, a skein of Naruto that is destined for my first pair of socks. How convenient that Amanda has a Socktober KAL planned!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back, with a kitty cat

Apologies for the long silence. I have several excuses, none of which, even combined, are good reasons for not updating for five whole weeks. But they do provide me with a few interesting things to post about, so for this entry I will start with the first and most exciting excuse: kitty!

We adopted her the day after my last post, and for the next two or three weeks I was much too busy coaxing her out from under the bed, cuddling her, and photographing every cute thing she did to think about blogging.

She is still being unbelievably cute, playful, and occasionally a pain in the butt, like most cats, but the novelty has worn off enough that staring at her doesn't monopolize my time anymore. Already, it's hard to remember that six weeks ago we hadn't even met her yet.

She is enthusiastically interested in my yarn-related hobbies, which is another reason I haven't posted lately - things were a little slow on that front for a bit. Once I figured out her napping schedule, I was able to get in some knitting time, so I do have an update or two on that for my next post.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ravellenic Games: complete!

All done! I bound off on August 6, after eleven days of knitting. Before I started this project, if you had told me I would be able to finish a shawl in eleven days, I would have been stunned. After I started this project, if you had told me it would take eleven days to finish it, I would have been disappointed.

Since I knit slowly, from what I can tell, I thought that completing a shawl in sixteen days would have been do-able but challenging. But this went much quicker than I was expecting - so quickly that I got over-confident, or maybe I was paying more attention to exciting swimming races than to the pattern, because by the time I got into the second repeat of Section A I was making mistakes all over the place. For the most part, since I had plenty of time, I just undid all the rows rather than dropping down or trying some other method to patch things up. But then while re-knitting, I'd make a new mistake. Ugh.

So, about half of my total days were spent fixing my nonsense, and readjusting my pace to have a chance of finishing the shawl correctly without giving up on it in exasperation. And now it's all done and I have a shawl!

I'm waiting for cooler weather to find out if I'm actually a shawl-wearer. It was fun to knit, and I can see why people churn out shawls, but I need to make sure I'll have something to do with them before I get into that habit. In the meantime, my iPad needs a cozy, and I have Avengers mini-skeins from GnomeAcres to make it with.