December 2012


I’m back from the whirlwind Christmas trip up to my parents’ house. We drove up very early on Christmas Eve morning and came back yesterday, and it was a busy trip. It was raining like mad on the drive up, but we made pretty good time. There was a truck stop breakfast (yay horribly greasy food) and good music.

Ron so nicely drove the whole way so I was able to cast on a pair of Hunca Munca socks for the baby nephew. This is probably my favorite baby sock pattern. It’s quick, it’s cute, it’s easy, and they seem to totally stay on the tiny feet. I used the leftover yarn from his sweater, so he could be matching and cute. I finished one sock on the drive up (I didn’t knit the whole time–it was dark when we started, so I had to wait about an hour and a half to cast on and I took a little nap too).

When we got to my parents’ house (after we showered and stuff at the hotel), I decided that I really wanted to make cookies. I hadn’t done any Christmas baking this whole year. So I made Spritz Cookies with my grandmother’s vintage cookie press. (That isn’t my grandmother’s actual cookie press because I didn’t think to take a picture, but ours is exactly like that. Sorry siblings, I call dibs on it since I’m the only one who’ll use it.)

We watched a horrible Doctor Who movie starring Peter Cushing and I spent a little time knitting on the second baby sock. We had Chinese food for dinner (it’s sort of a tradition around my house), and then, tragedy struck.

Sad sock with a broken needle

My parents, Ron, one of my brothers, Ron, and I decided to go for a drink at this karaoke lounge a few blocks away from my parents’ house. I packed my knitting bag in the car, and somehow the sock fell out and was shut in the door. It was dragged behind the car, down the rain-soaked street all the way to the bar. The sock was all muddy and one of my needles broke. Tragedy. Lesson learned: Don’t drag your knitting behind your car.

Honestly, a washing will probably fix the sock and it’ll be fine. I’m ordering new needles, so that will be fine. It’s just such a sad waste. I was so sad I couldn’t look at them to finish on Christmas. But I have to suck it up and finish them though, because tiny feet grow quickly.

The next morning was Christmas. I was quite pleased with my gifts. I think all of us were. I got quite spoiled with knitting-related stuff. And all of my Christmas knitting got done! My sister-in-law loved the sweater for my nephew, and I finished the secret project.

Borough Mittens

It’s a pair of Borough Mittens from Knitty for my friend Jara. (Seriously, go read his blog. He doesn’t update much, but when he does, it’s pretty awesome. And he posts his songs.) He lives in New York, so he has use for mittens. Now that he has them on his hot little hands, I get to post about them. I really like the pattern. It’s really clever and I love the element of the buttons to keep the mittens closed or open. It’s a lovely detail.

I made them out of Twist Yarns Fluff, a worsted weight superwash. If you live near Manhattan Beach, I can’t emphasize enough how great Twist: Yarns of Intrigue is. Cathy, the owner, is really nice and personable; it’s a totally welcoming shop; and in addition to a great selection of commercial and indie yarns, she dyes her own stuff and it’s gorgeous.

I spent most of Christmas night with a tiny baby on my lap. My nephew is getting so big. At six weeks, he’s actually smiling and starting to do more than lie there staring at you. He’s absolutely adorable. It’s the cure for all sadness. And, you know, eating the really freaking delicious dinner my mom made. And I watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special (which I’ll review in a later post).

And yesterday we drove back home. I spent most of the drive working on my Wispy Cardi, which is actually starting to look like a sweater!

Wispy Cardi

I’m so close to done with it. I’m (finally) getting to see The Hobbit tonight, so I plan to get a lot more work done on it tonight. This is one thing that will definitely be done by Stitches West, so I won’t have to be a sad knitter with no handknits to wear.

I hope you all had holidays as good as mine were. Let me know what awesome stuff you did. Did you give knitted gifts? Did you get knitted gifts? Did you get knitting tools? Or other crafty tools? Or totally geeky stuff? Talk about it in the comments!

Presents are wrapped, travel is arranged, and everything Christmassy is done. Except for the secret project. This photo is my bar knitting last night. Note that I am not knitting on the secret project. It’s like I’m trying to sabotage myself. I still maintain that I will finish the secret project in time to give it to its recipient. It’s just that the place I am in the pattern is really fiddly. It is not appropriate bar knitting. Miles of 1×1 rib, which is what I had to do on the Wispy Cardi, is appropriate bar knitting. I took it to watch the always awesome Whatever Band last night and got a fair amount of knitting done.

Until I got too tipsy to knit.

That doesn’t happen often, but boy did it happen last night. I had my fair share of Christmas cheer. Luckily I had the wherewithal to not try to knit in that state. (Okay, really what happened is that Ron told me to put my knitting away. I had forgotten my tape measure and was trying to see if could figure out what I had that was three inches long, so I could measure my knitting. I may have made some inappropriate jokes. When I make those kinds of jokes, it’s a good sign that I am quite sloshed. Ron convinced me to put away my knitting. He’s a good partner, because friends don’t let friends drink and knit. I have him to thank for the fact that I didn’t have to pull out tons of knitting today.)

Ron and I are driving up to my parents’ house for Christmas tomorrow. I will likely not be blogging until after the holiday. I wish you all a wonderful next couple of days, whatever you are celebrating or not celebrating. Peace and joy to all.

Thursday night Ron and I went up to see a Groundlings improv show with our friends John and Deb. Before the show, we went to eat at Phillipe’s, which has the best French Dip sandwiches ever. And also baked apples, which are amazing. I don’t get to go there much anymore, because the drive isn’t that long, but it’s a little long for a sandwich.

The show was really, really funny. I totally recommend seeing it if you’re in the Los Angeles area. (It’s not family friendly though, so leave the kidlets at home.) This particular show, Cooking with Gas, was all improv with no sketches (other shows on other nights at The Groundlings also have a sketch component). The whole cast was really talented and there were only a few moments where the scenes they were doing didn’t work for whatever reason. Mostly, it was really clever and funny. I’m always impressed when actors commit to what they are doing, and these guys were totally there. In fact, the one scene that really didn’t work for me, it was because the actors were trying to kind of backpedal out of earlier choices they had made, instead of committing. But mostly, it didn’t matter how ridiculous a bit was going to make them look, they went for it wholeheartedly.

I think the thing that impressed me most is that the actors really listened to what was going on in scene and mostly could respond organically. This is where I have a lot of trouble with improv. Even though I know better, I find myself trying to be funny. Or I reject my first instinct as too boring or too ordinary or too obvious (and really, I’m a pretty darn boring person if you want to know the truth) and try to come up with something more interesting and I get paralyzed. I’ve never taken an improv class, because when I have to do improv I feel just nauseated with worry. The idea of experiencing that week after week doesn’t sound appealing. Of course, I felt the same way about my scene study class and I think that turned out mostly okay. My fear of it probably means that taking an improv class is exactly what I should be doing. And if I felt less icky about the acting world right now, I probably would.

But acting in general is in a weird place for me right now. Or am I in a weird place in it? I don’t know. I feel like I’m in some kind of limbo.

I find myself really wanting to do another show, since it’s been a while. But nothing that the theatres around here are doing is right for me right now. It’s either a show I don’t have any desire to be in at all, a show with no role that I’m interested in playing, or a show with a role I would love to play but that I know the director won’t consider me for because–well you know, all that “type” stuff. I’m running into trouble because I’m not marketable or easily typed. I get totally different answers from people about the kinds of roles I can play, so that it’s gotten to the point that I don’t know what to try for anymore.

It’s confusing to get told in the same day that I’m too young to play a character in her thirties and too old to play a character in her twenties. This was by two different people. And I recognize that those are individual opinions. The point is that I can never know how a director is going to see me. Unlike some other actors, I can’t say “Oh, I’m a _______” and know what kinds of roles to submit myself for.

I know that as an actress, I’m not supposed to worry about these things. I’m just supposed to go to an audition and do my best work. But auditioning takes time and energy and preparation and I don’t like to spin my wheels and just audition for stuff to be auditioning. I don’t want to audition for a show where there is literally no chance that I will be cast. My time is valuable and I don’t want to waste it. And I’m not saying that an audition where I don’t get cast is a waste of my time. But an audition where I’m not even considered is a waste of my time, if that makes sense.

I’m not feel particularly sad or heartbroken about this. This is just where I am right now. I probably won’t feel this way forever. There are some projects coming up places later in 2013 that I feel like I want to do and might have a chance to do, so I’m prepping for those auditions. I’m just debating what I should do to feed my acting desire in the meantime.

So I took a page from the Yarn Harlot and Tuesday was for spinning.

Okay, no, Tuesday was for cursing. I just got my drop spindle. And despite the foul language I used Tuesday, it’s a very nice spindle. But wow, spinning on a drop spindle is much, much, much harder for me than wheel spinning. I am having so much trouble doing that much stuff with my hands. At least with wheel spinning my feet do some of the work. I destroyed a lot of fiber for very little yarn. And of course it’s all uneven.

I’m going to try weighting the spindle more; I think it’s a little light for me at the moment. It doesn’t stay spinning long and tends to backspin, which, according to my research, points to there not being enough weight on it for the thickness of yarn I am spinning. I’ll stick a couple of washers on it and see if that helps. Spinners out there, am I on the right track with this?

I’m also looking at maybe using it as a supported spindle instead of a drop spindle. It looks a little more intuitive to me. We’ll see. I have to experiment more. Even though right now my instinct is to chuck the whole thing because really? Why is it so difficult?

I also spent Tuesday picking out and re-seaming my sleeves on the Wispy Cardi, again. I’m still not 100% happy with it, but short of re-knitting the whole thing, there’s not much I can do because part of the issue is in my selvedges.

I didn’t write on Tuesday because between the spinning and the seaming, any blog entry I wrote would have looked like this: “*#$***! AJSKLD;JF;KALJSD;GKLJA[NVBJKNAKD;Jsdkl;nf;alklomnab[.” That’s how frustrated I was.

Last night, things were considerably happier, because I had knitting group. I got quite a bit of work done on my Frost Flowers. By quite a bit of work, I mean one whole row! Since my rows are like a million stitches long, that’s actually an accomplishment for three hours of social knitting. I’m actually not making horrible progress on this. I’m beginning to be mildly afraid that I will run out of yarn. No, screw it. I’m not even going to entertain that thought. I’ll burn that bridge when I get there. Plus I have a Plan B so it will be fine. (Famous last words!)

Something kind of cool also happened at knitting. It’s a huge complement to my knitting and I really needed that after feeling like such a talentless, non-spinning, non-finishing idiot on Tuesday night. I’m not going to say specifics right now, in case it doesn’t pan out. And if it doesn’t, it’s not a huge deal, I just don’t want to tell you all to watch for something that isn’t going to happen. But I’ll say eventually, I promise. Just know that it’s cool for me.

When I got home, I started picking up stitches for the neckband of my Wispy Cardi! And just in time, too. Ron and I are going up to see a Groundlings show with our friends John and Deb tonight. Since I’m not driving, it’s lots of car knitting time for me. And, since this is 1×1 rib at this point, I can do it in the dark. I was totally out of mindless knitting that didn’t require beads or lace, so I’m glad I finally got past the sleeves that just wouldn’t be knit. I really just want this thing done so I can wear it. It’s so soft and warm. And we’ve actually had some legitimately cold weather lately (not just California cold), so I could really use it.

I’ve worked on three projects tonight, two knitting related and one Christmas related. One of them is making me frustrated and sad, but two of them are making me so very happy. I guess that balances out. I guess that more than balances out.

Ugh.

When I got home today, I finally bit the bullet and seamed up the sleeves on my Wispy Cardi. I really, really want to get past this step so I can move on and get a sweater. But I’m not terribly happy with the seaming. This is the second time I’ve done it. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’m taking a class in finishing techniques at Stitches West, which I’m hoping will help my finishing skills. I’m okay doing mattress stitch on straight seams. Where I have trouble is when I have increases and decreases so the edges are angled. I don’t know if I’m just not going into the stitches the right way.

I’m debating ripping it out and redoing it again. Or maybe ripping out the whole thing and re-knitting them in the round so I don’t have to deal with seaming at all. I can’t decide if I can live with the job I did or not. I want to love this sweater, because the Malabrigo is so nice and soft and it will feel amazing to wear. I don’t want to be ashamed of it.

So pretty.

After I put that aside in indecisive disgust, we decorated the tree. I’m so happy with it. It’s really, really, really beautiful. Ron found the little houses at a hardware store, so we have a little Christmas village underneath, which makes me even happier. They’re really, really cute. You can see little people inside them, having tea and baking cookies. And with that, it finally feels like Christmas.

Celestarium Shawl

Also so pretty.

Tonight (even though I should be working on the secret project, since the tree is undeniable proof that Christmas is indeed in a week) all I want to do is sit, look at my tree, and work on my Celestarium. This pattern makes me so happy. It’s beautiful. And the Madelinetosh merino light I’m knitting it in knits up like butter. I love the random placement of the beads (which isn’t really random, since it’s making constellations). The lack of repetition means I don’t get bored. And the fact that I’m starting to recognize the constellations formed, because it truly feeds my inner geek. I’m loving this shawl more than I can say.

I swear, I’ll be good and work on the secret project tomorrow. Tonight I want stars.

Lovely baby sweater knit of sock yarn with blue buttons

I finished the baby sweater! I did a grosgrain ribbon and backing buttons to stabilize the buttons on the fabric:

Backing Buttons and Grosgrain Ribbon

An i-cord tie for the inside:

Hand-knit baby wrap sweater

And sewed on the buttons:

Closeup of buttons

The buttons are the letter D because my nephew’s first and middle name both start with a D, so I figured it would be appropriate. I’m so pleased with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s probably one of the better things I have ever knit (that wasn’t a shawl). I’m never as happy with my sweaters because I’m not super pleased with my finishing and handsewing techniques. But I’m taking a couple of classes at Stitches West that might help with that, so I’m hoping I only get better.

Last night, when Ron and I went to see my friends’ band (these are different friends in a different band than the one we saw Friday night) I worked on my Frost Flowers shawl. The band played three sets, each about fifty minutes long. I worked on the shawl for probably half of the second set and all of the third set (we were eating prior to that, so I wasn’t knitting). I got exactly one round done. One round. In an hour and a half. Because each round is about a million stitches long. This is going to take forever. It better be gorgeous when it’s done, because knitting it is eating my soul. I’m kind of tired of that and the secret project right now.

I’m going to work on my Celestarium while I wait for it to get dark. Because tonight we are finally getting our Christmas tree and decorating it! Tune in tomorrow for indisputable proof that Christmas is just around the corner!

I could not write on Thursday. By Thursday night, I had not seen the sun for four days, I had been working at least nine hours every day, and I knew the only thing that would let me get through Friday was if I spent Thursday night curled up on the couch, drinking wine, knitting, and watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So I did.

And Friday, in light of what happened, it didn’t seem okay to write about knitting and wine and how lovely it is to finally see the sun. So I didn’t. I was too heartbroken to pretend that nothing was wrong. I came home and hugged my love and we spent a quiet evening seeing our friend’s folk band play at a coffee shop. I got a fair amount of knitting done on the secret project for the person who reads this blog and I wove in the ends of the baby kimono.

Red baby sweater!

That’s right, it’s done, except for the ribbon button backing and the buttons. So there’s no way it won’t be done for Christmas. I’m quite happy with it. I’m always surprised when I’m knitting a garment and I finally seam it up into it’s real shape and it’s so small! This sweater felt huge when I was knitting it and I kept thinking, “That’s okay, he’s a baby. Babies only get bigger and they never get smaller.” But now that it’s done I’m thinking he really won’t have to wait terribly long to wear it. I’m fairly pleased with how it turned out, but next time I think I will do the sleeves in the round. I hate sewing seams and I know that I hate seaming, so I don’t know why I persist in knitting sleeves flat when I could knit them in the round and eliminate that seaming part.

Today, after guild meeting, I went to Concepts in Yarn & Needlepoint, because they were selling some of their cashmere for 50% off. I had never been to this store before. It was a moderately frustrating experience. The store has a lot of inventory, when is great. But it is poorly organized and a lot of stuff did not have prices on it. They do have a price sheet book hanging up by the needles, but I really shouldn’t have to go look up the price every time I find a yarn I think I like.

I did get some of this though:

Pink and Green Cashmere yarn!

Isn’t it pretty? This is the first 100% cashmere yarn I have ever bought for myself. And let me tell you, there is a reason cashmere is the holy grail for knitters. It is so wonderfully soft. I’m going to make it into something lovely, let me tell you.

I also picked up some fingering weight wool (no pictures because it’s really not that exciting) to do Latvian mittens with. I have lately become OBSESSED with colorwork mittens, particularly Latvian ones with the braids and the motifs. I’m 99% certain that I am ordering that book and am going to drive myself either into fits of ecstasy or the depths of craziness knitting them. I’m not sure what I will do with them after I knit them. There is really no need for stranded colorwork wool mittens where I live.

I will admit that lately I’m colder more often than I have been in past years. Either my blood has thinned and I have become weak about the weather or the issues I have keeping my iron levels up have finally caught up with me. Maybe I do need some mittens.

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