Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Blogger

Vicki, in charge of Stranded in Michiana Knitting Guild's newsletter for a couple of years, has finally started writing about her own knitting! Go check out her blog

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Books for Christmas

I received a little bit of money for Christmas, so naturally, the first thing I did with it is go to the yarn shop. Since I've been at my parents' for the holidays, I hit up Sheep's Clothing in nearby Valparaiso, IN. First off, the store has everything. Ever book, every needle, every yarn ever made, it is in this shop. Almost, anyway.
I found this book, Knit a Fantasy Story, which is just too cute for words. I had to have it. I think one of my friends in my knitting guild had the original edition, which was hard to find and rather expensive. Luckily, it's back in print. You can knit everything from a farm to a castle, to an enchanted forest, complete with trees with faces, gnomes and fairies. It uses itty bitty needles for the most part, and there's a lot of knitting that goes on, but it's too cute. Eventually I'm going to have to knit this all, especially if I spawn at some point. What child doesn't need a knitted play set? (Answer: any child that is not mine. Not from me, anyway.)
Also, I thought I'd browse Victorian Lace Today, since I had heard so much about it. Well, I was sold instantly. The photos alone make it all worthwhile. They are gorgeous, delicate lace shawls and scarves in beautiful Victorian homes and gardens all over England. The total number of patterns (when you think about all the combinations you can do with the lace and borders they give you) is astronomical. And most of the charts aren't obnoxiously large, a complaint I have with much lace. (It's not that I can't read charts, I'm just too lazy. Seriously, that's way too much to keep track of.)
With those books and a few skeins of Cascade 220 for future hat projects, I also managed to come in just under the day's budget, with enough left over for a cup of coffee.
As far as actual Christmas gifts go, I did get a nifty iPod dock, a dragon shaped water mister, the annual chocolate cherries, and a Best Buy gift card, among other things. Knitting wise, there was a cool circular needle holder (in pink) from my parents (although I did the actual buying part). It's really useful. How was I ever so disorganized? Also, I may switch entirely to circular needles. I know most knitters already have, but there's something sweet and rustic about the old classics. Sweet, rustic, and impractical.
And the owners of the LYS knew I wanted DomiKNITrix, so that, with a frying pan (I guess they think I should cook more), was my Christmas / thank you for filling in last minute gift from them. Even though I know my basics (and a little more), it was still entertaining to read through. I really should be less sloppy when it comes to my knitting and finishing. There are a couple of patterns I'm pretty sure I'll make (The Slink, a slinky(!) tank top, The City Coat, a bias knit coat), I'm desperately waiting for the last pattern in the book to come out. Somehow, the author managed to get the book published with a promise to post the pattern on her website. Of course that was the first thing I wanted to make, and it's not out yet. Need to knit this sweater! Need to!
In the meantime, just working on a kid's hat for the shop (of actual bear bear form), and a stash project - a garter stitch intarsia vest from the German book. And all those other UFO's that I should probably deal with at some point.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cat Lace

Merry Christmas or other holiday of your choice!
Finally, I can show you my mom's Christmas gift, an incredible lace scarf.
I found the pattern at the LYS, and it was too cute to pass up (I'll explain that in a second). Unfortunatley, it came as part of a kit and the wool it included was pretty but scratchy. My mom is insane about scratchiness (no seriously, she has applied the word to cashmere). So I talked them into selling me just the pattern and substituted some nice laceweight merino.
Now about the pattern. It's a Blackberry Ridge pattern, and they really do some amazing lace patterns. But this one has a little story to go with it. It's a week in the life of a knitter's cat.
From bottom to top, it goes like this:

First, there's a cat paw border at the bottom. Look! It's a little cat paw! (It has six toes though. I've always liked those six toed cats but I've never had one. I think it would be a selling point for me.)
Then on Monday, he looks out the windows through the blinds. On Tuesday, he plays in the garden.

On Wednesday, he looks at the birds in their birdhouses.

On Thursday, he falls in the pond. On Friday, he eats some thistles.

On Saturday, he tiptoes through the tulips. On Sunday (my favorite), he chases butterflies.

Both halves are identical, have some ribbing at the neck and are (in theory) grafted together. Grafting and I didn't get along so well, particularly with a ribbed pattern. But I was kind of finishing this last minute, and it is at the back of the neck, so I'm just pretending it didn't happen. There's a bit of a seam, but seriously. This thing is complicated enough.
The original pattern calls for one scarf of each day of the week. That would have been an awesome idea, and I even considered it, boxing each one with its little explanation. Then I realized that was so never going to happen. The sampler wound up being a lot more fun because of the changing lace patterns. I didn't get bored (except at the ribbing). I'm not sure that would have been the case if I'd tried a whole scarf out of each one anyhow. Well, maybe in the future.
I do really like the idea of lace having a story though. Maybe next time I'll try to write my own.

In summary:

Pattern: A Week in the Life of Knitter's Cat (Blackberry Ridge)
Yarn: Skacel Laceweight (100% merino) in white. It barely made a dent in the 1350 yard skein.
Needles: Size 2. Yeah, size 2.
Time: A few weeks, but required complete attention
Cost: The major cost here was time, but I'm still not putting exact amounts in case my mom reads this.

Bears Nonsense

This is my best friend Kelli. I don't really think the rest of this post needs explanation.

Even Worfy gets in on the fun.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's Good to be a Knitter

Sometimes, it pays to have everyone know you're a knitter. People start commissioning things. And when those things are quick and easy, everyone is happy.
A friend of mine wanted a nice, long scarf that he could wear with a dress coat. Originally he wanted tan with dark flecks. He would call it the cancer scarf. It sounded lovely. He even promised to care for a nice fiber properly (and how often do you really wash a scarf?).
I had in mind exactly the yarn I wanted, a beautiful tweedy alpaca blend. Unfortunately, it didn't come in tan. We opted for light grey with dark flecks. Still looks cancerous enough, right?
He asked for some texture, but nothing too busy, so I went with seed stitch. Yes, I made an entire scarf with seed stitch. For some reason, I don't mind seed stitch, but a couple of inches of ribbing would drive me insane. Yes, I know it's effectively the same thing. That's just the way I am.
Anyway, it's really long and I'm really happy with it. The yarn has lovely drape and the texture is just right. Worfy is clearly also thrilled.
In summary:
Yarn: Alpaca With a Twist's Highlander in "Sky Blue" (despite looking grey to me) - 2 skeins, $12.95 each
Needles: Size 10 (larger than recommended for the yarn, but it really works)
Pattern: Seed stitch for 6 feet.
Time: A few days as a travelling project
Total Cost: ~$26 plus tax

Nope, Not Yet

The Christmas knitting is (basically) done. The sweater is handed off to my mother to get a zipper in. She probably hasn't done it yet, but I'm going home this weekend and I'll twist her arm. But you've already seen the pictures of that anyway.

Her lace is done (basically), but she actually reads this. I know I put things like Mom don't read this from time to time, but I'm sure she reads them anyway and the secret is out. However. She still doesn't know exactly what she's getting. So the lace will get grafted and blocked tonight, and she's coming over tomorrow. Plenty of time. Yep.

In the meantime, please enjoy this gratituous picture of my cat:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Knit with Love

It is a knitter's cliche that hand-knit items are made with love. The exhaustive sweater for for my father, the delicate lace for my mom, the obnoxious hat with ears for my best friend, those are truly knit with love. Things like cost and time become immaterial in comparison with the need to pour your heart out in stitches. You consider every option: color, laundering options, style, fit, until finally, you know you've created something that says "Yep, I get you."
Other things are just knit with honest goodwill, like a simple cotton hat for a new baby. Sure, I wish everyone the best, but it's not exactly love. The child will wear it for a maybe a few months, maybe, and grow out of it. Hopefully, the parents will save it away, but I don't know. It filled up the time one evening when I was watching TV, and it made them happy for a little while.
Still others, upon thorough self-examination, are knit simply to try a beautiful new yarn or to make more room in the stash. The only love knit into them is the love of knitting itself. This could be anything, the angora sweater I made selfishly, the acrylic I desperately wanted out of my stash. Kept or given away, it didn't really matter. I just needed to knit and enable more knitting.
No, if I'm really honest, very few things are knit with true love, the kind of unswaying devotion that a move across the country or a bitter fight or even death cannot affect. What then, does this mean for the items knit with the piercing, aching memories of a former love? And how can so many thoughts and emotions be caught up in 150 meters of yarn?

I bought it here, I was with someone there. I could probably only afford one skein, was it enough? It didn't matter, it was on sale, and it had to be mine. Now every detail of the little lump of fiber haunts me. The soft grey conjures up memories of half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets. The fiber content, 100% cashmere, evokes different moments, different touches. It sat in my stash for so long, first because it was too precious, and then because it was too dear. It looked wrong, even next to the other cashmere I was hoarding, and I began to realize I could truly never do anything with it for myself, but I couldn't give it to just anyone.
There are many kinds of love. One may flare up quickly, and then burn out. Another, though created by the first, may be more subtle but much more enduring. This little grey cashmere scarf may be my last chance to express it. It is knit with love.
In summary:
Yarn: Il Cashmere (100% cashmere, worsted weight) in light grey, one skein, 18 euros
Needles: Size US 10
Pattern: Lattice lace (adapted from a Blackberry Ridge pattern), one repeat, garter stitch border. Both ends made separately and grafted together.
Time: Maybe a week as a travelling project
Cost: 18 euros, portions of my soul

Look, I have an accent

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What'>">What American accent do you have?
Quiz'>">Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Screw Wisconsin, I love Chicago, and yes, as a matter of fact, it is pop.

Sarah Explained

After I made that last post, I realized something. Everything you need to know about me has been summarized in this picture. Click to see the details.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Submarine Cozy?

No, that's a sweater for my dad for Christmas. I've been knitting this since October. October 22, in fact, because that's the day I left for Mexico. And I finished last night (while watching Serenity, a truly excellent conclusion to the TV show Firefly).(And I was watching Firefly and knitting way before the Yarn Harlot was.)
Since I'm reasonably sure my dad doesn't read this blog unless my mom tells him to, I don't feel too bad posting pictures yet. And my family, my dad in particular, has a bad habit of not being able to keep from giving gifts until the intended date, it won't exactly ruin the surprise.
It's probably not that much of a surprise anyway, considering I called my mom last week and had her measure him. I believe the specifics are still a secret, but I'm pretty sure he knows he's getting a sweater. Unless my mom just likes to measure his arms when she's on the phone, I don't know what goes on when I'm not there.
The reason I had her measure is that the sweater appears to have monkey arms. Somehow, despite being spot on for the rest of the pattern, something about my row gauge seriously screwed up in the arms. It's a full 4" longer than the pattern calls for. But my dad always complains that arms are too small and tight for him, and you can always cuff them. They match, so that's the important part as far as sleeves are concerned. The zipper is not yet in. That's going to be a job for my mom and her sewing machine. I don't have room to set mine up and I don't trust handstitching with a zipper my dad is going to use. I don't know if my dad will like the color, but 1) it's hard to screw up grey and 2) I know my mom will like the color on my dad, and that's what really matters around there.
I borrowed Jim to try it on. He's not quite as big as my dad, but he's a lot closer than I am and at least he has big shoulders. I looked at him and said "If you were my dad, would this fit you?" He instantly pulled out the stomach for an imaginary pot belly, saw that there was room to stretch and said it would.
Okay, now the knitting details for those of you who want to know. The pattern is the Cambridge Jacket from this year's Summer (for some reason) Interweave Knits in the XL size. It called for Cascade 220, which I adore, but my dad (as all boys do) needs the superwash version. It took 8 skeins. Think about that. That's 1760 yards, exactly one mile. One mile of this yarn has passed through my fingers. No wonder I've been knitting this thing forever.
In summary:
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash x 8 - $7.95 a skein
Needles: Size US 8 and 9
Pattern: Cambridge Jacket from Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
Cost: $63.60 plus tax (and the two skeins from the bag I haven't returned yet)
Time: 52 days of intermittent knitting
I might finish my mom's knitting pretty soon, but I know she reads this, so don't expect any posts till after Christmas. But 1) that's only 11 days away and 2) it will totally be worth it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

String Theory Explained

Everything you need to know about string theory.

Fancy Ball

There has been much knitting. My dad's sweater is now fully assembled. All that remains is to finish the collar, do the crochet edging on the bottom and the sleeves, and sew the zipper in (but I'll probably coerce my mom to do that anyway. The lace is around 70% done. And I managed to make a larger, simpler lace scarf out of cashmere, that remains to be grafted and blocked. These things will be blogged in due time. However.

I went to a fancy ball!
The boy's family has been going to this fancy ball at the Drake in Chicago for many a year. This year, he invited me (with two weeks notice). I panicked for a dress. I've
never even been to a real black tie event before. And this is at the Drake, and celebrities are rumored to attend (though I didn't see any). I couldn't really go to this thing in a random dress from the mall. (Or so I thought. Judging by the other dresses there, I probably could have, but still.)

I scoured the internet for a vintage dress, because I figured at least that would be cool. If someone asked me where it was from, I could casually say, "Oh, it's vintage," because then I would be smooth like that. Unfortunately, nothing in my size and price range appeared. I found every possible site, I sent out scores of emails (okay, maybe half a score), and still no luck. Finally, on etsy , I found a guy that made corsets to order. Since my dream dress was a red corset top and flowy skirt, I thought that sounded like a plan.

It was an insane plan, it turned out. It was difficult to take my own measurements, for one thing. There was a lot of stress about the shipping. First, he got my measurements. Then, he had to ship me the sample. Then, I had to ship it back so he could use it in the final measurements. All these were rushed. But the very rushed part was where he mailed it out on Thursday, and I was to get it Friday by noon. The ball was Friday evening. Not even night, it started at 6.

The packaged arrived before noon, but I was out. The packages are supposed to go to the office, but for some reason, it didn't. The slip said I'd be able to pick it up from the post office at 4:30. I screamed. Literally, I screamed. I think it scared the neighbors. I flew to the post office. There was a humongous line. I begged to ask to talk to the manager. I begged the manager to talk to the delivery person. She was still out delivering other packages, but at least I could hunt her down. I drove around a random neighborhood for a good half hour before I found her. Luckily, I got the package.

I picked the boy up, and gave his mom a lift as well. Turns out, I also happened to save their lives. They would have taken the train otherwise, and while we were driving a crazed gunman started taking hostages at the station they would have been at. I'm not just a pretty face after all.

I rushed to get ready, and we made it to the ball. His family was staying in the executive suite at the Drake, so we went there for cocktails first. He has a huge family, and they're all loud, charming, and completely insane. I felt right at home. His grandfather went around proud to be kissing all the pretty girls. He called me gorgeous, so I like him the best. He reminds me of my own grandfather a little.

The ballroom at the Drake was huge. There must have been 500 people there. There was a fantastic dinner, and his family even remembered to ask for a vegetarian meal for me. I'm not entirely sure what it was, but it was good, and I ate too much of it. Then there was a live band and dancing. Jim broke his ankle several weeks ago (Don't believe him when he says I hit him with a crowbar. I only tripped him and pushed him down.), so he had a cane all night. It was funny, but far more stylish than crutches, and people kept stealing it to dance with it.

We danced as much as we could, but the ankle slowed him down, and the corset and highly uncomfortable shoes slowed me down. But even his family kept pulling me out to dance too. It's a fun and crazy bunch. He says they liked me. But how could they resist? We were by far the best dressed couple there. Jim said we'll have to attend more gala events, and I heartily agree. I also intend to get my money's worth out of this corset.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Monsters of the Midway

Now, those of you who know me even the slightest, know that I am a huge football fan. In particular, I am a fan of a certain team from a certain midwestern town that starts with "c", ends with an "o", and the middle is "hicag".

I certainly wouldn't want to violate any licensing laws, but I just happend to make some blue and orange hats with little ears on them, perhaps resembling the ears of a certain animal. And these hats are badass.

I made them last weekend while bumming around. The blue one is for me, and served as a prototype. It's a little on the small side, but fits more or less. It can certainly be added to the Sunday gear. It has a medium sized ribbed band with the knit stitches knit through the back loop. Someone recommended this to me once and it really makes the stiches pop. The orange one is for my best friend as part of her Christmas gift. It's got a wider band with normal ribbing. I knew she'd be jealous of mine, so I had to make her one. She has expressed enthusiasm in hats with ears before.

Also, did you notice I've now learned to use the self-timer function on my camera? Pretty clever.

In summary:
Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% wool) One skein of each color made both hats and there's easily enough left over for another. - $8.95 a skein.
Needles: Size 7, 12" circular and dpn, in the collection
Pattern: Flying by the seat of my pants (ears based on the Russian Winter hat with ears from Stitch and Bitch Nation)
Time: About 4 hours a hat
Cost: $17.90 makes at least two hats for adult women

Obnoxiously Fuzzy Scarves

The stash has reached outrageous proportions. Someone asked me if I could fill a bathtub with it, as a measure of insanity. I could fill the tub with the amount of yarn I have hidden in the living room alone, let alone the main stash in my closet.

Now, I admit it. There were times in my life where I bought acrylic yarn. Maybe it was called for by a pattern, maybe it was on sale. But these things happen. And then these yarny bits hang around my apartment. They're not exactly begging to be knit, but they're also taking up valuable yarn space.

So, yes, these are garter stitch scarves on humongous needles made of acrylic yarn. I'm re-living my "just learned to knit" days. They're also fairly soft, machine washable, and fuzzy pastels, making them perfect for part of my sister's late-birthday/Christmas gift extravaganza.
The pink is an unidentified fuzzy acrylic mixed with Bernat Softee Bulky, leftover from a crochet project I did a while ago. The purple is two strands of another unidentified fuzzy acrylic mixed with two strands of Sinforia, which is a nice (but cheap yarn) that is 100% mercerized cotton, leftover from another crochet project. (It appears I have never blogged this project. It's a really cute little crochet shell from the Happy Hooker. I'll devote a post to things I've never blogged about later.) They were quick, fun, and saved my sanity when I was alternating between gigantic sweater and complicated lace. I make no apologies.

In summary:
Yarn: Unidentified acrylics, Bernat Softee Bulky (pink), Sinforia mercerized cotton (lavender, doubled)
Needles: Size 15. Yep.
Pattern: Big Ol' Garter Stitch
Time: Probably about 2 - 3 hours each. They are fairly long.
Cost: Since these are stash rescues/leftovers - nothing!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Obnoxiously Fuzzy Sweater

Look at that sweater. It doesn't do you any good. You know why? Because you have to touch it to experience it. It's handspun, handpainted, 100% angora. You could touch a cloud and it wouldn't be this soft.
I'd been craving this Malabrigo angora ever since I first saw it at Fringe, probably six months ago. I was good for a long time. Also, I couldn't think of what to do with it. It's absurdly expensive, but Fringe finally offered it at 15% off. Still, we're not going to talk about how much the whole sweater cost.
Luckily, after I foun the right price, I found the right project. Veronica had made an adorable sweater for her daughter based on the ballet T, but with sleeves and a pocket. Well, I didn't need a pocket, but the ballet T was the perfect design. You know I love that pattern. I've never come across anything that goes faster or uses less yarn. So that's what this sweater is. Thanks to the way the angora fluffs out, I didn't even have to double it, which saved a lot on the cost. And thanks to the size 15 needles, I had this whole sweater done in a weekend.
The body really just is the ballet T, but made longer by an extra skein. The stitches you would bind off for the sleeves are left live. Then once you finish the body, you go back, get those stitches and pick up an extra 5 or so stitches at the underarm and knit to length. This was all Veronica's idea, I totally can't claim credit for it, but I wish I could. The sweater is perfect. It's also extremely warm.
I was going to make myself wait to knit it until all the holiday knitting was done, but I went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving and I couldn't very well knit their respective gifts in front of them. So my secrets are safe, and I have a gorgeous sweater to wear for the holidays.

In summary:
Pattern: Ballet T w/ Veronica's sleeves
Needles: Size 15, 24"circular and set of 5 dpn
Yarn: Malabrigo angora, 9 skeins
Cost: We're not going to talk about that
Time: Two lazy evenings of TV, could have been one if I applied myself

Friday, November 17, 2006

20 Questions

1. Is it a reasonable goal to plan to finish my Ph.D. in physics, then devote the rest of my life to knitting?

2. At what point do you need to seriously examine and attempt to reduce your yarn stash?

3. Is it ever okay to get rid of yarn? Even Red Heart acrylic? What do you do with it?

4. When do you give up on a UFO?

5. When did this go from "hobby" to "obsession"?

6. Will I always be this fanatical about knitting?

7. What does my cat dream about?

8. How can I justify that really cute, $40 circular needle organizer at the LYS?

9. Will I ever realistically gauge how much time/money I will spend on a given project?

10. What is my deal with socks?

11. Is it okay to not want to fix my deal with socks?

12. Is it possible to completely finish a project without daydreaming about the next one?

13. Do the non-knitters know?

14. Is everyone a knitter at heart, they just haven't learned yet? Or are there fibers wound directly into a knitter's DNA?

15. What made me think a 26 color intarsia blanket was a great idea?

16. Will I eventually have every needle in every length? Or will I still find a way to buy more needles?

17. Is a switch to entirely circular needles inevitable?

18. Why am I always hungry?

19. Will I ever be one of those people who casually design their own complicated sweater patterns?

20. Should I be more of a perfectionist?

Bad Blogger, Bad!

It's not that I haven't been knitting. I really have, even on the scuba trip. It's just that I'm still knitting the same thing. It's true. That pretty grey thing I have in my hands on the boat? That's just one piece (left front) of the sweater I'm making for my dad (who is aparently the size of the entire state of Washington, judging by this sweater) for Christmas.
He's gotten hats and scarves for Christmas before (including the year I started knitting, in which he got some cleverly expanding hats that could just about fit the Lincoln memorial), but this year I decided he needed a sweater. The truth is, I just got cocky. A sweater, I scoffed. How long can that take? I made a sweater for someone my size in just five days. I didn't really take into account that my dad is a foot taller and more than a hundred pounds heavier than someone my size. It's three weeks later, and I've been knitting, and knitting, and knitting. I'm nearing the end of the first sleeve. I could have knit at least two small sweaters in this time, but I'm still only at about the halfway point on this monster. And did I mention I picked a pattern that requires a lot of finishing? So even once I'm done with the bulk of the knitting, I have to block it, assemble it, pick up stitches at the neck and make the collar, crochet the edging all around, and then sew in the zipper. Then it might be done. It's good thing I started this in October.
There's also a slight problem, in that I didn't really check my row gauge very clearly. And while this worked out just fine on the body, when I got to the right number of stitches for the sleeve, the length was too long by about 3". The pattern didn't call for a cuffed sleeve, but it has one now.
Since I'm reasonably sure my dad only reads my blog when my mom tells him there's something funny, I may post some WIP pictures at some point. Really, a lot of knitting has been done around here, it just doesn't look like it.
Mom don't read this. [The other thing that I'm working on is a fantastic lace scarf for my mom for Christmas. (Clearly, I love my parents dearly. And if they can't tell that by the amount of knitting I'm doing, I'll murder them in their sleep.) I can't wait to blog about it once it's done and the holidays are over. The scarf is suprisingly fun, and a huge relief from the vast expanses of stockinette stitch in the sweater sleeves. The trouble is, it's still a lace scarf, that is to say, lace weight yarn (gorgeous 100% merino, btw) on size 2 needles. It's like knitting with thread on toothpicks. I don't know how some people (Elizabeth, Jessica) turn out lace like it's garter stitch, I only know I am not one of them.]
All this ranting and raving brings me to my final rant/rave, which is this. I have a massive amount of knitting left before the holidays. I'm going home for Thanksgiving, so I'll have a nice amount of leisure time with the family during which I can knit. However, I cannot knit the two things I desperately need to be knitting! This means I have to come up with some kind of buffer project that is interesting enough to keep me entertained, but not interesting enough so as to distract me from the real knitting that needs to get done once I'm back in the fortresss of solitude. Hats, anyone?

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Brief Diversion

Ladies and gentlemen, we interupt our reguarly scheduled knitting program to bring you this exciting announcement: I went scuba diving!

The best part of the story is the part where I was learning to scuba dive, so I'll save that for last. But I did learn, got temporarily certified and left Puerto Vallarta for an island region called Marietas. Did I mention I'm at a physics conference? A group of nerds went, including one of the lecturers, who is also the advisor of several of the people I went with. Also, I met the girl pictured here, who has just invented this very interesting crochet pet carrier. She's got a patent and everything. I did knit a little on the way out, which is how we started talking, but I was not feeling particularly steady on the boat, so I didn't do much. Okay, mostly I tried to put my head down and not move at all. I did manage to lift my head up in time to see a giant sea turtle swimming by. But as soon as we stopped, I felt better and the islands were ridiculously beautiful.

So you know how you see those Jacques Cousteau films and they flip backwards out of the boat? Surely, you think, there must be a more modern, efficient way to do this. You're wrong. That's exactly what happens. You can barely walk with the huge scuba tank on your back, and you just sit on the edge of the boat and fall backwards. That may have been the scariest part. Well, that and the sinking to the bottom of the ocean part.

The other girl, who may have been even more scared than I was, and I were completely last on the sinking part. The dive master (although I prefer the name "dive dude," which is how I shall refer to him from now on) held on to us and made us sink. We clung for dear life to the rope on the way down. Eventually, you realize there are a lot of cool things to look at down there, and you start being more interested than scared. I swam over to dive dude #2 (who, incidentally, looked good in a wet suit, and that's really saying something), and dug my fingers into his hand. He led me around for a while, and I wouldn't have let go, except that the other girl let go of dive dude #1, and that guilted me into it. It was really beautiful down there, the water was the perfect temperature, and everything was completely calm. We saw all sorts of interesting rocks, coral, shiny tropical fish. It was like being in a fish tank. The other group of more experienced divers got to see an octupus and several blowfish, but I was pretty happy with just staying alive.
After the first dive and little snack break, we went out to a pristine sandy beach on a little island. We played around on the shore a little bit. The water comes in really fast. If you're sitting right on the water line, a big wave can knock you over. I rolled around in the sand like a little kid, and wandered around and looked at some cool crabs. One of the guys on the boat caught a little one.
Now, my dad is quite a fisherman. I've seen a lot of fish that he's caught. Most of them have teeth. Add to this that I was once bit by a fish in a small lake, the guy throwing bread to the fish just outside the boat did not make me happy. While I was swimming the surface over to the dive dude, they swished away. When I was in the water, they seemed to think I was just some big weird fish and seemed mildly interested in me. Especially the big, thin silver onces that kind of look like they had teeth. Did you know it's possible to scream under water? However, you're the only one that will hear you. Once we got under the fish, it got insanely beautiful once again. There were walls of rock covered in colorful plants and exotic fish. We saw a huge eel (I screamed once again) and a blowfish (but it was far enough away).

The starfish were about the size of my head. It was definitely fun, and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not sure I'll ever do more than beginner trips. We were down at about 50 - 60 feet, and 40 is all you can recover from if you don't go slowly. I'm not sure I need to do more than that. Especially since I needed to cling to the dive dude just to handle descent and ascent. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I might go on another beginner trip.

Now, back to the beginning. I had to be trained in the hotel pool to be able to go on the official trip. I waited for two of the people I was with to go through their training, and then it was my turn. There's a huge pavillion area right by the beach and pools are right next to it. As I was having my training, they were setting up for a wedding. Then they performed the wedding. I saw the ceremony from the pool in my scuba gear. The wedding reception started and lots of people were taking pictures. The crazy guy (Max) I was training with and I decided it would be great to get a picture of the wedding in the scuba gear. So we hopped out of the pool like frog men and got a picture with the reception in the background. We, and the guests, thought this was hysterical, so someone went and got the bride and groom. We got several pictures with the bride and groom, who were very good sports about this, and even the official wedding photographer came and got our picture. I love the thought of being in this nice young Mexican couple's wedding album for the rest of their lives. It's a good story all around. Pictures will come as soon as I get a copy of them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Knitting on the Beach

They don't have a drink named for it yet, but they should.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ha ha!

I'm in Mexico and you're not.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is Needle Felting for You?

A quick online quiz:

1. Would you enjoy stabbing something repeatedly with a sharp object?

If you answered yes, you might enjoy needle felting!

I just took Veronica's class at Fringe on how to needle felt a little pumpkin for fall. I'd never needle felted before, but it turns out it is exactly as described above. You start with roving (or even yarn, if you really want) and stab it with a special felting needle. The needle is special because it is extremely sharp and it has little barbs on it. This make it both painful when you stab yourself, and useful for grabbing the individual fibers and encouraging them to lock together. Veronica dyed all the pretty orange roving for us, and produced the rest out of a magic box.
So here is the absurdly adorable pumpkin I made on Tuesday. We formed the base with some paper towels, then built up the rest of the pumpkin with roving. The grooves were formed by stabbing in the lines particularly hard and repeatedly. Absorb the cuteness.

But it gets cuter.
Inside lives a little brown mouse.

And he has collected an autumn leaf,

a walnut shell (not the best picture, but I swear it's cute in real life),

and an acorn.

Here he is with all his loot in his little home.

As cute as he is, I think he's going to my mom as an autumn gift. I'm not really into decorations. For years, my Christmas tree has been a neon light in the shape of a Christmas tree. It's not that I don't like holidays, I love them in fact. But I create enough clutter in my daily life that I really don't need to add seasonal clutter to it as well. Anyway, she'll appreciate it (although I hope she appreciates it $55 worth). (Also, it's a really good thing I don't factor labor into these things. The woman has her own knitting sweat shop.)