06 October 2013

Berlin Fair Competition Results 2013

I like to enter the local fair, which is hosted by the Lions Club and a big fundraiser of theirs as well as a number of other community groups.  It is a good, community fair full of rides, food which is bad for you but tastes SO good, and competitions for and exhibits of everything from chickens and sheep to baking and photography.

Usually life conspires so that I don't get to the fair except to drop off my items and (except for one year when a friend did the pickups) pick up my items.  Last year I had planned to spend Sunday afternoon there, but a storm moved in and they closed early, so I got there just in time to pick up my items!  This year I determined to go on Saturday night after a music event I was committed to attend.

I made it!  I rode two rides (the really wild scary ones I won't take my nieces on when we go to the North Carolina State Fair in a couple of weeks), and because I had eaten at the music event I wasn't hungry even for my favorite fried potatoes (which I learned as Texas Taters but here are called Butterfly Potatoes), but I did run into a friend who was doing guard duty at one end of one of the display buildings and spent time catching up with her.  Another friend was working hard in one of the main fried dough booths, and I snapped a couple of pictures of her, but didn't have time to say "hi" until the end because the crowds were so thick around it.

Both of my friends are skilled and enter the competitions also.  Lisa, the frycook, received a second and third in photography.  Ann, the guard, received a third in the knitted shawl category and may have had some others on display; her mother, Betty, is very accomplished and had all kinds of ribbons for her items, including shawls, socks, and a hat.

Very insanely, I decided to enter nine items.  Insane because five were baking, and they have to be turned in on Thursday, and I didn't know if work would let me have the time I needed to bake, especially with rehearsals on for "LES MISÉRABLES" so I don't have evenings free!  Also insane because two of the needlework items were not started as of the weekend.
So I expected a couple of ribbons in needlework, and maybe one in baking.  I ended up with NINE, seven of which include money prizes!  This year I am going to remember to get there in time to collect the money - I missed last year because of the early shutdown, and the year before I forgot to get the money before picking up my items.  It's not much, but it pays for yarn!


One thing I found interesting is that although I made these cookies from the same recipe, one took third and one took second.  Ann said it was probably because the ones I entered in the "Natural Baking" category have the pretty designs of sliced almonds on top.

Drop Cookies
Natural Baking
They don't include the white chocolate chips that the drop cooky entry does.  The chips are in the original recipe, which I altered by using half chopped dried apricots and half cranberries.  I wasn't sure the chips count as "natural" so left them out of the others and decided to add the flaked almond topping to make them more interesting.   Because these are gluten-free, I wondered how they would compare to the "regular" cookies in these categories, made with wheat flour.  I think they did well enough.
I tested my Ricotta Pound Cake (a melding of a couple of recipes) on volunteers at the Wadsworth Atheneum for EnvisionFest, and when I dropped it off joked that a couple would be very upset if it did not get a ribbon.  I think they will be happy!

The Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip recipe was a flyby thought - I had eight entries, wondered if I would dare round it up to nine, which is a number I like.  And Serious Eats happened to have just posted it, and I figured that with the seasonal taste and chocolate, it might get some favourable reviews.  I did not use all the spices, just ginger and cloves, and I used a cup of mini-chips instead of two cups of regular sized.

I was a bit sad that my bar cookies recipe didn't do better.  It was based on a recipe from New Zealand, and maybe another jam in the middle would have been more popular - I can try again next year!  I thought they would be marked down on appearance because I rushed and tried to cut them warm, but they did OK in that category.  And the leftovers were happily received at rehearsal on Thursday, after I delivered my entries!
I will start out by saying that I cannot post one entry yet as it is a gift and I don't want the recipient to see it before unwrapping.  I was sad that one took only fourth, and wonder if I should have entered it under "Miscellaneous" instead of the category - nothing I can change about it now! 

The other three took blues (First Place) so I suppose I should be happy over all.  Since I usually make dresses in child sizes, this is intended for a girl named Judith, and I hope it fits - I think it may be a little small.  If so, it will go to a smaller girl and I'll enter a bigger dress next year!  I did several starts-and-stops on this trying to get something I liked.  The top is mostly my own invention and the skirt inspired by one on the Caron website.  I know several friends with little girls and try to spread the items around.  I have no idea why the top ruffle is up on one side in the display.  This makes three years in a row my crocheted dresses won first prize in the category.
I did not intend to enter the sweater this year.  It is from a Mary Maxim kit that I bought on a whim and the original delivery date was October 2nd or after, but it arrived the week before.  I started it on Monday and finished Wednesday - but no button in my box was right.  The closest one was too small to work well.  So on the way to deliver the entries to the fair, I stopped at Joann's and gave myself five minutes to find a button and get out of there.  After a quick debate I chose the one you saw, and when I turned in the sweater two of the ladies exclaimed over how perfect it was.  So I chose wisely!  I will give it to our Assistant Director for his daughter, a cute little blondie.  Although the kit comes in multiple sizes and contained enough yarn for all of them, the pattern was only for size 18-24 months so I couldn't wait - she'll be too big next year.
The last item I can show I started on Sunday and finished Thursday about two hours before the deadline for entries.  When I turned it in one of the ladies predicted it would win a blue ribbon, and she was correct.  Because I was crunched for time the crown is five rows shorter than the pattern directs but it fits my head, although a bit stretchy.  It's going to Mittens for Akkol to distribute at one of the orphanages this winter and I may make one on smaller needles for myself.  I didn't have the pattern yarn so used a ball of wool I had in the stash.  Because it is dark and hard to see on the in situ picture, I've included one that I took at home before delivering the entries, close enough for the pattern to be seen.
Of course, my needles and hooks are not still - there are more items to finish for the M4A fall campaign (socks, shawls, scarves) and holiday gifts to work on.  Even so, I am already planning ahead to next year's entries!

05 September 2013

Picking the Winners, Inimitably Randomly

As I posted the other day, my friend Jim asked me to draw the winners for a contest he was holding.  All you had to do was post a review of his book on Amazon, and link back to it in a comment to the intro post for the contest.
The cutoff was "midnight Sunday" which I read as the one between Sunday and Monday, and Jim meant as the one between Saturday and Sunday.  No great trauma, except that there was a list of persons who wanted to find out if they had won or not.  And I ended up spending much of Monday helping a friend with a massive baking exercise and got home too tired to look at the names.  Had I thought about it in advance, I would have printed the list onto slips of paper and had one of my friend's children (conveniently she has only two) pick each of the winners.
Failing that, this is the method I used:
    • There are ten persons who met the criteria for the drawing.
    • My favourite numbers between one and ten are three and nine.
    • I decided that the winners would be at positions three and nine on the list.
    • I decided that since the list could be different if done chronologically or alphabetically, I'd look at both versions and see if there were any overlaps.
    • Jim ran the lists for me, partly as a reminder that I needed to get the drawings done.
    • One of the positions had the same person on both lists, so I decided that position would get the leatherbound version = TanteLiz at number nine.
    • Since position number three had different persons, I thought that if one is already getting a book, I would designate the other as the winner of the cloth-covered edition.
    • Jim told me that neither of these reviewers is getting a book.
    • I flipped a coin (specifically, a ten-cent coin from New Zealand), and CJ wins.
In case someone wonders, heads=CJ and tails=Lloyd, based upon earlier-in-the-alphabet associating.  Since the New Zealand 10-Cent coin could be seen to have a head on both sides, the obverse (with Queen Elizabeth) was deemed "heads" and the reverse (with a mask) was deemed "tails".

I tried to take a picture of the coin after flipping, but my camera washed it out.

Why use that coin specifically?  It's in my coinpurse as a memento of a trip to New Zealand that Jim and I (and a busload of choiristers and family) were on a couple of years ago, so it seemed appropriate to use that one.

Why such a complicated process?  Well, because I'm me.  To me, this is a fun sort of randomization that is harder to challenge (in my mind) than picking a slip of paper out of a hat, because there are so many elements that add to the randomness.  What if there wasn't a name at the same position on both lists? Or if there was the same name in both places?  Or the same names exchanging places depending upon how the list sorted?   What if I didn't have two favourite numbers between one and ten?  And so forth.

Probably part of this is because I am a STEM person = Science Technology Engineering & Math.  My skills are being organized, logical, and so forth.  So what looks like a Rube Goldberg way to accomplish the simple selection of a winner from a list, makes perfect sense to me.

30 August 2013

Planning ahead [echo]

My friend Jim is a skilled bookbinder and document and book restoration expert.  He is also an author.  These two are combined in a contest he is running for persons who post reviews of one of his books, Communion of Dreams, on Amazon.com, and Jim asked me to draw the winners.

Jim also asked me to write up a brief description of how I will do it.  Unfortunately, I’ve been sick with strep throat this week, so other than work and sleeping I haven’t been able to accomplish much, even as much as thinking about how to perform the drawing.  Since Jim mentioned me in the latest reminderpost about the competition, I thought I would make a few suggestions about bribes give a general idea of how the drawing will occur.

Most likely, I will put all the names into a spreadsheet, sort alphabetically, and pick two numbers, one for the leather-bound copy and one for the cloth-bound copy.  I might do it based upon email addresses.  I might print out slips of paper, stir them in a hat, and pick from there.  Or have a friend pick from there.  Or a friend’s child.  Or two.  Or do what one of my grad school professors said he did to decide grades, and thrown them down the stairs – according to the professor, the ones that landed higher-up got better grades than those that fell further.  His logic was that the lighter the essay, the more succinct and on-point it was likely to be.

Whatever I decide, I’ll let everybody know the method used when I tell Jim who the winners are.

As for bribes, while I am likely to decline them (or forward cash and cash-equivalent to one of several charities I support), if you want to be creative:
I'm not entering the drawing because (1) I was an early reader of the story, so I'm biased (but if it's good enough that I have read it more than once, even knowing the ending, that says something), and (2) I'm already getting a leatherbound copy because I donated to the Kickstarter campaign for the prequel, St. Cybi's Well.  I don't need to collect a set - I'll let this one go to someone else.
Someone whose name I'll be drawing later this weekend.

21 August 2013

I won a book!

My local library has a summer reading program.  In the Adult division, you can get prizes if you read a certain number of books and write a review.  Normally, I read a LOT of books, but I was working on a play this summer and didn't have as much time as usual.  So I was well behind.  Then I managed to do some catching-up, and when I went tonight to see what prizes I had won, this is what I was given:

Actually, I got to choose them all.  The packages of wildflower seeds appeared to all be the same, but there was a choice of two bookmarks (the other has a stylized coffeecup with "Read" on one side and "Relax" on the other) and three shelves of books, most of them review copies.  I could choose my book.  As you may imagine, that was not easy.

First, I checked the two mysteries, but neither seemed very interesting.  One was from a series set in Maine, the other about a bartender in Milwaukee, and while my connections there made that appealing I wasn't as excited as other people might be that it includes drinks recipes.  I looked at most of the books on all three shelves.  A number of them are ones I either have, or have read, or both.  or they are in my "waiting" queue - usually a book being passed around my family and I'm waiting for my turn.

So I went with a book that I thought I'd be unlikely to take out of the library, a historical novel whose central character is a cook.  Uncorrected proof, so I'm spotting typos in the first two pages, but interesting enough, and I'm sure I can pass it to a friend once I'm done.  I won't be able to sell it to Half Price Books, although I intend to take a carton or two of books and magazine there on Friday.  Just another version of recycling - while they work out my price, I do a little shopping......

05 August 2013

Pop-Up Purchases

I went to a pop-up market this evening.  Now that the show has opened and we are not rehearsing every night, I can get out occasionally.  There are free jazz concerts in Bushnell Park (with perfect weather for it tonight), and since there are two sets I could opt to hear one, then go to the market.

These are essentially temporary flea markets, and while the Hartford Denim Company has a large enough indoor space to host one, this one was outside.  And unfortunately, a number of the merchants packed up before I could circle back and shop, due to lack of light, including one who does fun ornaments that have reflective eyes, or spots, depending upon the item.  I've purchased from him at a popup market in the past and thought about getting something this time, but he was gone by the time I circled back.  I did manage to purchase a few items, and chat a bit with some of the vendors as well.

First purchases were at the Vintanthromobile.  There were many tempting items but also a crowd, so I picked items I was sure would fit and I could integrate into my wardrobe:
I was very happy to find the shawl - I have wanted one of them for some time!  Yes, even with all the shawls I make (I had one with me tonight, in case it got cool), I covet ones I cannot make!  At right is a flirty skirt, yellow is not a colour of which I am fond, but with the orange flowers and trumpet styling, it's very cute.  The bag - well, of course I bought one.  This is like a basket with straps, and came in handy as I shopped more.

While I was paying, the owner saw the shawl I'd brought with me in case of chill (and never needed) and asked me about it, and whether I make things for sale.  No, I told her; for fun and gifts and the occasional commission, but I am afraid that if I set up a business, I'd promptly not have time to make enough items.

I love woven blankets like the one on the right:
I have purchased many over the years at various mercados in Texas, and this one is so soft I could not resist!  It's light enough to be a perfect summer blanket.  The vendor seems to specialize in vintage camping items, or maybe it was just the setup tonight.  The dress on the left is a vintage Hawai'ian dress, which I could tell by not just the fabric but the styling.  A key item is the sleeve:
That particular overlapping-petal style is typically Polynesian, and not found on similar garments that are made for mainland crowds.  Although I've always thought of these as something for older women, they are VERY comfortable to wear around the house, especially when it's warm.

There were food vendors, both the prepared kind (if you wanted to arrive hungry, or got hungry in the course of the evening) and farmstand:
Yes, I am part of a CSA, but some items we haven't gotten yet - or I ate what we did get, and the next delivery is on Thursday.  From one vendor came the potatoes (red and purple), onions, and one cucumber.  The bigger cucumber (which reminds me of the ones that grew in the little plot under our one window air conditioner, and so were constantly watered by the drip, when I lived in San Antonio as a child) and the cherry tomatoes (I seem to need more than my CSA is likely to give me because the tomato tarts I made for the green room at Sunday's show were very popular, especially the vegan one - I need to make at least two of those this week!) came from another vendor.  They are also the source of the bread.  Because of the heat I wasn't baking my own, but I didn't get any at the farmer's market on Sunday.  My starter is sulking from being banished to the back of the refrigerator and slow to slough off the hibernation.  So I was happy to buy a loaf, and can report it is very nice bread.

These went into the little inside pocket of my own bag, not with the others in the basket-bag:
The unmatched fused-glass earrings are more likely to be pins for me.  I love the one with the polka dots!  OK, I love polka dots.  Since I don't have pierced ears, I need to convert them to other uses, or to clips, and I just like the idea of using the one on the left as a lapel pin.

The other is a pendant from a glassblower who had many interesting items; I almost bought a spiderweblike suncatcher to hang in one of my office windows.  But that pendant attracted my eye because the inclusions look so much like lithops, which I like.

I browsed items from a third vendor, whose items come recommended, but all the rings I liked are too big for my fingers.  Ah, well, I was running out of cash.  I did get a bumper sticker from Hartford Prints! on the way to my car, but I won't put it on until daylight.  And I need to work up a cord to go with the pendant.

So glad to have had tonight off!

01 August 2013

Charity Knitting for July 2013

So much for my intention to write the blog more regularly!  I have two reasons:  One, I have been involved in a summer Shakespeare in the Park production of "The Winter's Tale" which has taken up almost all my time not working.  Nightly rehearsals on weeknights and all day Saturday, plus Sunday during hell tech week.  But it has been a lot of fun, the people are great to work with (and on some levels less crazy than theatre people often are) and we're into the second weekend of performance so it's fairly smooth.  Of course, weather does interesting things to the production, but unlike most "in the park" productions we have an indoor alternative and even rehearse a "rain transition" in case we have to change mid-show due to a change in weather.

I did make it known that I knit, and do so during rehearsals and performances (since I am the Stage Manager and therefore am backstage - or more accurately, since we have no backstage, back-of-audience) as a way of keeping focused.  It works well enough for me.  I do have to maintain plain work, for the most part, or anything my hands can autopilot.  So with two organizations sending out calls for items to be delivered in July, I was able to create the following items.  For Afghans for Afghans, three wool sweaters:
The pink one (which has appeared on the blog before) is Bernat Felting Roving in the easy-peasy Steppe Sweater pattern, about 26" around; the one at right is a multicoloured wool called "Icelandic" which I knit in a basic Icelandic-sweater-style pattern and came out about 31" around (and actually had been knit sometime in the past and was all-but-finished in the stash); and the one on the left (32" around) I made with yarn from my trip to Argentina a few years ago. 
The organizer of A4A, Ann, went to Buenos Aires a year later and I told her where I had gotten yarn.  At the time, I thought I would use this green for a sweater for them, and originally intended to use it as trim with a multi, but that yarn wasn't cooperative.  Then I had a hurtful experience when I sent these sweaters in 2011:
I ran out of yarn with the one at top left so sent it as a cap-sleeved vest (they accepted vests for that campaign) and I was told it was going to be thrown away because the volunteers didn't think it qualified!  I was also told the one at the top right had sleeves too short (I tried it on and they reached my wrist) so it would be thrown away also - and it was alpaca!  After that, I decided they were nasty ungrateful and unkind people and there was no reason to waste my knitting time with them.

That is when I joined the Mittens for Akkol knitters, who are warm and friendly and a very fine group.  I've been happy to knit for them for the last couple of years.

But the green yarn nagged at me, so when I heard about the girls sweater campaign this summer I thought I would overcome my bad feelings and send sweaters.  Besides, I had that pink one going and then found the other, which I think had been intended for a previous M4A campaign and not gotten done in time.  The three together just fit into a Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate box, which turned out to be cheaper to send than even surface mail!  So off they went.

And the Steppe Sweater pattern, being mostly plain knitting in the round until the armholes, is perfect for autopilot knitting during rehearsals.  Things got a little fiddly because I realized I didn't have enough for a whole sweater, so I added the multi - Patons Kroy Sock in Spring Fields, five strands held together.  I think it gives a nice, bright touch that some girl should enjoy:
I ended up knitting the sleeves from two ends of the green yarn after it became clear I didn't have enough to make both sleeves all green, so the green ended at the same place on the sleeve, and then finishing with the multi.
At the same time, when it was really hot or when I needed something small (the downside of knitting sweaters of a piece, which is great because finishing is minimal, is that they get big and HOT to carry around and knit) I made caps for PatPat's Hats, which gives hats to oncology hospitals and other places to distribute to children (and some adults) who have lost their hair to cancer treatments.  I forget how I found out about them but they are in Connecticut and hats are easy to make!
Earlier this summer they sent out a call for hats kids could wear at Camp Rising Sun, which is a free camp for children who have been diagnosed with cancer, which has been providing kids with camping experiences for thirty years.  These hats needed to be cotton or thin yarns, because it is summer, so I focused on those.  I had just gotten some frozen yoghurt pops and thought it would be fun to mail the hats in that box, so my goal was to make enough to fill the box:
Most are cotton, a few are not, such as these three of Bernat Baby Jacquards (and I still have some of that ball left, but I didn't want to make too many alike) and the two of an oddball of Fiesta yarn that I thought an older boy might like because of the colours:
Although it is easier for me to autopilot knitting, crocheting is faster and a nice change of pace, so two of the caps (one of the "pink lemonade" ones and one in Brown Sheep Cotton Fine) are crocheted:
I got seven hats out of six balls of Sugar 'n' Cream that I had in my stash waiting for a use.  I wanted them to be as different as possible from each other, even the ones where I used a similar pattern, and I think I came up with a nice variety:

I made three in ribbing patterns to stretch over different sizes of heads.  It makes a difference when a child has no hair, or a little hair, and different types of hair.  All striped, because plain hats are dull: 

These are my three favourites of the bunch.  Two are in a short-rows pattern from KnitPicks that I often use when making hats, and the third is just a plain hat with stripes.  It was the last hat I made, and I was integrating the yarns I had left.
So with all the charity knitting done, am I working on something for myself?  No, all the projects I have queued for me require concentration (at least to begin) and the next weekend of performances is beginning, so I am doing another Steppe Sweater for Mittens for Akkol (getting a jump on next spring!) until the weekend, when I will have time to set up a new project.  I did finish two shawls for myself earlier this summer, but they will have to wait for another post to be reported.

01 June 2013

Torso for Ta-Tas

A couple of months or so ago, a friend talked me into contributing to a community art project sponsored by a cool local indie shop.  The theme is to:

Come join in the "Celebration of Life" - ART is a healing tool, bringing awareness, comfort and hope to all those touched by battles fought and the ones still to come.

The idea is that you pay $10 and get a plastic torso, the kind that are used to display shirts and other top-body clothing.  Then you decorate it and return it to the shop and they will put it into the show.  I do not have art skills, but I figured that I could do something or other.  My friend, who is a photographer, planned to print out a bunch of her photos and decoupage them onto a torso.

Me, I do yarny things.  And I had seen something called the Tango Tunic which seemed perfect for this project, especially in a pink recycled cotton yarn I happened to have around.  I started it and posted when I had the collar done, and it grew fairly steadily.

But I couldn't just leave the torso plain white, or covered in one of my T-shirts.  I had a vision, which due to time I didn't fully accomplish, but I did the key elements.  First, I removed a breast:

This did involve buying a new tool, which is a hotknife.  I have decided that I really like having this in my arsenal, although melting plastic is really stinky.  Yes, I did ventilate the space well.

Then I did my own decoupage, for no other reason than to highlight the surgical site and to make the torso a bit more interesting looking than a solid colour would be.  I added colours, using torn tissue paper and Mod Podge(R), being randomish in placement although I had a design for the colour sequence.  I took photos as it progressed:


I could not leave the hole as a hole, of course.  I had planned to do a backing wall with the plastic I cut off, but it didn't fit when reversed and I didn't have time to reshape it.  When I picked up the torso I had purchased some earrings, and one disappeared before I got home.  So the other became the centerpiece of the filler, strung on silver thread:
I thought of doing more, as a mandala design, but I ran out of time.  I still might do a few rounds quickly before I deliver this.   It's due today, of course!

Here is the dressed torso.  I am adding a note that if someone buys the artwork, s/he can remove the tunic as it is fully wearable.  That is also why I decorated the torso, so if the tunic is being worn it's not just a boring hunk of white plastic.  It's still not very artistic, but it is OK, given my skill level.

These are a couple closeups of the tunic hem and collar:
I have seen a lot of the torsos that were delivered in the early days, by real artists.  So I know how mine does not compare.  But it's for a good cause and that is what really counts, right?
Added later:
When I went to deliver the torso, the organizer complimented it several times, and then realized what is in the cutout area.  She said "it's the earring!"  When I bought the pair and got home, one was missing.  I think I tried to call to see if it was there, but hadn't had time to get back to the shop.  I thought the other had gotten lost in my car.  Meanwhile, they found it at the shop and tried to figure out to whom it belonged, and the artist even checked with people he thought might have bought it.  Nothing!  So I may be getting the earring back as a pendant, unless he can make another to match.
Quite a few friends posted on my Facebook page that they think the piece is actually art.  I am very flattered by that.  It's not just the crocheted tunic, it really is the torso underneath.  I still wish I had time to do something more mandela-ish with that space, but she is what she is.
And yes, I did make sure she transported very safely:
The show opens this coming Thursday evening at MCC on Main.  I cannot be there but I will go the following week to a showing of the Swan Day CT documentary, and I look forward to seeing all the torsos on display!

29 May 2013

Those 10 Questions

In recognition of tonight's 250th episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio", I am providing my own answers to the Pivot Questionnaire* asked at the end of each show:
  1. What is your favorite word?    Serendipity
  2. What is your least favorite word?    Can't - whether used as an order, instruction, or defeatist statement.  It's a challenge, either for the person who says they can't do something (especially if they do not try), or the person who says that I (or someone else) can't.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?  Sunshine, sunlight.  And really clear, crisp night skies when it is so dark all you see are the stars.
  4. What turns you off?  Closed-mindedness and small-mindedness.
  5. What is your favorite curse word?   Oh!  I don't really curse.  I tend to use made-up things like "Jiminy Christmas!" and "Holy Moses" and "Poot" and stuff like that.  Or I do the Shakespearean Insult sort of thing, sometimes in non-English langauges.
  6. What sound or noise do you love?   Laughter, especially of children.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?   The screech-BANG! of a car accident.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?   Astronaut.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?   Oh, lots.  Pediatric oncology would be a really, really tough one.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?  Heaven is not a concept my religion has.  But I think I would like to hear "sorry, we made a mistake and are sending you back - you have more things to do." 

How would you answer these questions?

* Created by Bernard Pivot, based upon the Proust Questionnaire.

PS:  Today is the 60th Anniversary of the date on which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed to the top of the world and touched the sky.

25 May 2013

Progress Report on knitting and crocheting

Despite having a 60+ hour workweek (my timecard said 59, but we have to file it on Friday morning so I estimate eight hours on Fridays and adjust as needed - and this week, I need to do it) I managed to make some progress on the items I showed last week.

First, I had to un-do a lot of progress.  I took the shawl on a retreat last weekend.  And I realized I wasn't terribly happy with the result:
Oh, it was growing nicely and I liked the feel of the fabric, but I didn't like the contrast between the stockinette and garter spaces.  I thought it would look better with bigger stockinette.  So I ripped it back, to the shock of people around me, and started not quite over, but from the end of the first stockinette panel.  This is how it looks today:

It has about the same number of panels but is much bigger.  I do have some more yarn, that I will use for the applied I-cord border.  You can see the difference in these close-ups, before and after:
I do like the new version better.  As you can see, I've made some good progress on it this week, thanks to a lot of meetings that filled part of my days.  And with those hours, I didn't go out much in the evening, although I did knit on a chemo cap (just basic ribbing, hardly worth showing) for an organization called PatPat's Hats while I went to a movie and post-film discussion at the Wadsworth Atheneum on Thursday night.  A bit of a treat for me (almost-)after a LONG week of work.

In the evenings, I had time to make progress on the tunic, which required more focus than I could manage in the meetings, at least until I was well into the body:
Next stage will be the border, again requiring much focus, so I will work on it this afternoon.  I'm almost glad the rainy weather will keep me inside!  But I have to come up with something portable and simple to take with me to Manhattan tomorrow, where I will roam one or two museums and dine on Peking Duck with friends.  Maybe it will be a scarf for a veteran, I have some yarn in stash just for such purpose.  And I even know where it is!

16 May 2013

Whence all this pink in my knitting and crocheting bag?

I've never been really fond of pink, so was surprised to realize that I have three projects going on that all contain pink.  First, after getting all those sweaters knit and mailed, what do you think turned up as my "idiot" or when-I-don't-want-to-pay-attention knitting?
 Yup.  Another Steppe Sweater, this one about 26" around so approximately size 8.  I may send it to Afghans for Afghanistan, which is doing a campaign to get 500 wool sweaters for girls by sometime this summer.  The yarn is Bernat Felting (a discontinued yarn) so 100% wool roving.  Or I'll keep it for the Mittens for Akkol fall campaign, which is mostly socks but also other clothing items for the smaller children.

When I went to visit my grandmother last weekend, I wanted something easy that she (one of the people who taught me to knit) would appreciate.  I had been thinking for some time that this yarn - Gedifra Fashion Trend Fino Stripe, also discontinued - would make a nice baby blanket:
It's the 10-Stitch Blanket pattern worked on fifteen stitches and with a longer starting strip so it comes out as more of a rectangle.  That is only the second ball, so with each strip being about 3.5" wide this could end up fairly large, or have a matching sweater or something.  We'll see what happens by ball four, since of course the rows just get longer so the balls don't go as far the more I knit.

Then I made the collar of a tunic that will go over the torso I am decorating for a breast cancer awareness event.  I photographed it over a black T-shirt so the pattern is more visible:
It's going to be a whole tunic and luckily those are the only hearts involved.  I really had to pay attention to get them to work properly!

Before you worry about me knitting only for others, or only in pink, I'll show you this:
The color is slightly more blue than it appears in the photo, and it's a handdyed yarn (wool and maybe silk) I've had for a long time.  At the bottom is my first test piece, using US#13 needles.  I didn't like it - drapey enough, but the stitches were too big to make me happy.  So I switched to US#10, and after a couple false starts, it's moving along.  The original pattern is called the Flying Geese Shawl, but of course I am doing it my way.  I am alternating garter and stockinette in each "V", and I plan to do an applied I-cord border.  One of the false starts was trying to figure out an integrated I-cord and it looked too weird, so I am leaving it for after.  I do have a WIP with integrated I-cord borders, but couldn't remember how it worked so decided I'll just add it later.

Thanks to some long meetings, the shawl is growing nicely.  I have to focus on the tunic to get it done by the end of this month, because the decorated torsos are due by June 1st.  So that is my quiet at-home project, when I can focus on the pattern.  I'll post more pictures when these get bigger.

12 May 2013

I Splurged on Sunshine

The first weekend in May had glorious weather here.  It's always a treat when the good weather appears on the weekend, instead of teasing us miserably on Tuesday and Wednesday before fading into dreariness and damp by Friday.  So like a lot of people, I spent a lot of time outside, which did cut down a bit on my ability to knit, even though I had a deadline looming.

Friday night I had planned to go to a local coffeehouse to hear a jazz band and then home early.  Of course that didn't happen!  A couple days earlier an SOS went out for a driver to take one of our elder congregants to Friday night services.  I knew her and had driven her before and why not?  Someone else was available to drive her home.  So I picked her up and we went, then I figured I'd stay for the service which was the annual Teacher Appreciation celebration.

Instead of the jazz concert, I ended up at a pop-up flea market at the Hartford Denim Company.  It is close to my temple, and I figured that if it was not fun I could still get the back half of the jazz concert on the way home.  As soon as I walked in someone was calling my name - we'd been in a show together earlier this year, and she was one of the vendors.  So I ended up hanging out and shopping, taking home a few vintage clothing items; a stack of vintage SF magazines that I firmly told the vendor I was planning to read, not buying to resell; and a gift for one of my best friends that I cannot mention here because I haven't given it to her yet.

I'll confess that part of the reason I went was because I'd heard the Hartford Hot Several was out that night, and at an event last month they performed and at the end of the night their accordion player started to chat me up a bit.  But we misconnected (he asked if I was coming to the bar next door for the after-afterparty, but when I got there the music was techno and I knew I couldn't take a couple hours of that and still function as early as I needed to the next day) and I thought that if they came to the flea market I'd get to chat with him some more.  However, they hadn't arrived by the time I left (wearing week, too many 5:00am and 6:00am meeting - my "late day" began at 7:30am), although I saw a few members during the evening.  Oh, well!

Saturday was flat-out.  Yoga class (I have graduated back into all-levels) and then bible class, then I went to the ReCreate event in Elizabeth Park.  I found out later that this had been pulled together in three months, and couldn't believe it!  The event was full of speakers on various topics (although the one speaker I really wanted to hear was a no-show), a field full of vendor booths, yoga and zumba classes separated by some great band performances, an ongoing community art project, and so much more.  All under a brilliantly clear sky and healing sunshine!

Y'all know me - I went to see what it was about and told a friend who was vending that I would sit her booth to let her take a break, and of course ended up spending most of my time helping with the art project:
That's the artist on the left - we're adjusting some ties after she reloaded one of the hoop looms.

After helping my vendor friend and the artist pack up their stuff, I headed out with my friend the photographer and we ended up sitting in her car for an hour catching up and planning concert-going for the summer.  Regrettably, one I really wanted to do falls on a night of a show I am stage-managing this summer.  Why don't these organizations check with ME before confirming their schedules???!!!

Of course I didn't go home after that, except a quick change out of my Star Wars T-shirt (it was May the Fourth, after all, and I had to let my nerd flag fly!) into something more presentable so that I could attend a performance of As You Like It in which two friends were performing.  Still are, this weekend and next, and I highly recommend you see the show if you can.  They asked me backstage for the evening's cast party, which was mellow and fun but of course I didn't get home until something wee-o'clock.

No sleeping in on Sunday, except maybe by comparison.  I had a meeting to attend, then participated in the Walk Against Hunger with a team from my temple:

That's not all of us, some people were running late and arrived just before we stepped off.  I took a few pictures of the crowd as we walked:


It's hard to see in these pictures, but the crowd stretched halfway around Bushnell Park.  They had a couple of water-and-juice stations in the park, with COLD water for us to drink, and at about halfway a local marching band gave us energy:

I didn't get pictures of everything: The crowd gathering to walk, many in matching shirts such as we wore (you can see a lot of them in the random shots), the drummers sending us off, the dancing afterwards, and so forth.  You really have to be there to appreciate the energy of all the different groups who are there to support Foodshare and other organizations as we try to wipe out hunger in the greater Hartford area.  There were no ideologies here:  Christian (LOTS of flavours: Methodist, Lutheran, Quaker), Jew, Muslim, unaffiliated, and all ages from fairly wee ones to fairly older ones.  We all had one purpose, and we walked TOGETHER.

We all shared in the Popsicles and paletas waiting for us at the end of the walk:

I had to make another fast change after that into something pretty because there was a great two-congregation concert, and I was one of the greeters for the portion at my congregation.  It was a marvelous afternoon of music!

After that, I went home and worked on the Extra Boy Sweater I mention in my other post.  Luckily I didn't have to work on the weekend (although I did check email a couple of times), and Monday was a bank holiday in the UK so the team with which I work there was off, and I didn't have to work too early or late.  I was glad to have had as much time outside as I did, over the weekend.