Monthly Archives: November 2008

Taking out the Needles on Turkey Day

Naturally, the holidays are an excellent opportunity for crafting… as well as cooking, relaxing, and spending time with family.  However, the holidays are also a wonderful time to engage in crafting for other people which means a lot of the work I do over the next month may not show up here since I don’t want to give away any surprises!

The biggest news of the day is… I finished the entrelac scarf! I know, I can hardly believe it myself. That was done in record time, even for me. Something about those Adi Turbo needles and the Baby Alpaca yarn… it was like knitting with butter and I just couldn’t get enough. I finished it up in front of the fire last night, and was actually sad to have to stop. After a pesto lasagne dinner, I added the tastles while still seated at the table. At first, I was indecisive about what to do with the tastles, which colors to choose, etc. My mother had an excellent idea. I was wearing one of my other entrelac scarfs, the one with solid green and yellow tastles, and she referred to that look as “plunk plunk plunk,” much to the amusement of everyone else seated at the dinner table (by now we’ve all had a far amount of wine). Now, I do kind of like the “plunk plunk plunk” look but she suggested I mix up the colors on these tastles in order to bring it all together. She was right, I love the look. The random little red squares don’t stand out too much but I’m fond of them all the same- I know they’re there if nothing else! Anyway, here’s the scarf modeled on my darling sister Z:

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It really is as  soft as you would expect,a truly luxurious item. I made that pillow too a while ago, a rather appropriate combination of knitting and patchwork.

So I have a confession. I’m now addicted to entrelac. In fact, I have a pretty addictive personality in general, so I guess it’s a good thing that I channel that into crafting rather than more destructive endeavors. Anyway, entrelac is my latest obsession. So yesterday, knowing I was nearly finished with this scarf, I went to my absolute favorite yarn store, Wild and Woolly in Lexington Center. And I bought yarn for entrelac scarf NUMBER FOUR! That’s right, I can’t be stopped. There’s something about the back and forth, the devotion to each little square. Thetedium of it all somehow makes it even more gratifying. Now, my addictions may not be destructive, but they’re also not cheap so this time I opted for Cascade Eco wool and Cascade Superwash rather than baby alpaca, a lot more economical. I’m going for a blue, greeen, salmon palette:

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I’m excited. I’m prepared for hours and hours of entrelacing. Given that I have much gift-making to do, this one will likely not be finished any time soon, so I look forward to its companionship for many lovely months ahead. Who knows, I may never stop. Perhaps I’ll be known throughout the rest of my life as the girl with twenty different giant entrelac scarfs. I could live with that, quite happily.

One holiday project that I don’t have to keep under wraps is that 100% cashmere sweater that I’m making for my brother. He bought the yarn while I was working at Classic Elite Yarns this summer (and thus had a discount, that’s the only one a normal humna being can afford a sweater’s worth of this stuff). It’s their Luxury yarn Sinful. Of course, it’s heavenly (and yes, sinful) and no one deserves a cashmere sweater more than Gordon so I can’t wait to get started. So far, all I’ve done is spin the yarn, whic is no in a glorious heap in my bedroom:

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Mmmm, cashmere. Now, as I knit by the fire last night, finishing up my scarf, I was not alone. Gdon is still hard at work on his orange cashmere hat, and I think it deserves some recognition. Please keep in mind that this is only his third knitting project ever which is really quite remarkable given the beautifully consistent stiches… the boy is a natural.

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He’s on the decreasing and we just need to find some double-pointed needles so he can finish it up. My heart swells with pride.

Now, time to get back to some knitting, a bit of quilting too (I’m slowly finishing up the lucky penny quilt). But also a little cooking. I made a chocolate pecan pie yesterday and this afternoon I’m making dates rolled in pancetta with almonds in the middle. Nothing fancy, but cooking is not unlike knitting or quilting in the end. It’s all about taking a little time, putting a little heart and soul, a little elbow grease, into something that may or may not turn out exactly how you planned but which ultimately brings about a whole lot of joy.

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Alarming Productivity

Perhaps it’s the advancing Holiday season or excitement of Harvard-Yale this past weekend (though a football game seems like unlikely motivation for quilting) but I have been quite successful at completing my goal of finishing the quilt top… and then some. How silly of me to doubt the possibility. Come to think of it, Harvard-Yale might be to thank for at least some of my productivity. Thanks to what felt like sub-zero weather and the most painful wind chill I have ever experienced, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly stay for the entire game. After a couple hours of tailgating (read: drinking the most delicious hot chocolate on the planet) I may have spent the rest of the afternoon quilting… shameful but true. Don’t let this undermine my school spirit. I’m very proud of the Crimson victory! But I’m also proud I completed the front and back of my quilt and now have a week-long Thanksgiving break to stitch it all together. As I may have mentioned, thisis one of my favorite parts, there’s something so gratifying about the finishing touches. Imperfect curved seams aside, I’m really quite pleased with this one. It definitely captures what I was going for, but some of it’s also a little unexpected. That’s what I like about this kind of quilting. To (rather predictably) quote Forest Gump, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

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As I’ve mentioned, I believe that the back deserves some attention of its own. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do in mind, but this end result sort of snuck up on me.

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Forgive the less-than-ideal pictures. Dorm rooms aren’t known for their wide open spaces. The curved seams aren’t actually that off and the quilt top is not that lumpy, I swear! I couldn’t get a good enough angle to capture the entire quilt at once, and I had to lay the pieces out on my bumpy bed, hence he unevenness.

Of course, my mind is already swimming with new ideas, but my fabric stash is severely diminished (though this was the goal) so I might need to take a trip to the fabric store before embarking on my next quilting adventure. Not to mention Christmas gifts.

My entrelac scarf is really coming along as well, but I have to admit I was alarmed to discover it is only half the required length. There’s still a lot more to be done. Lollipop scarf is on hold until I can find more Classic Elite Lush (the closest yarn store is out of stock) but I haven’t forgotten about it. Basically, Thanksgiving break (which officially starts tomorrow at 1 pm) looms ahead as a week full of delicious food and delicious crafting.

As for fine dining, BK and I decided to celebrate our own Thanksgiving (since he will be with his family on the actual day) at Olives, a Todd English restaurant in Charlestown. It was lovely, of course, especially the maple glazed pumpkin side and chestnut ravioli… but out hearts still belong to EVOO (and of course BGood) above all else.

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Saratoga Springs and Sushi

Well, I have to admit, despite my skepticism, Saratoga Springs was wonderful. Who knew that New York contained such an intriguing suburban town? The city center is full of unique, boutiquey stores and restaurants. We had a tasty lunch at Circus Cafe (http://www.circuscafe.com/) and began the pub crawl around 2 o’clock. Now, this involved twelve bars in about six hours and a glass and a half wine is more than enough to get me tipsy. Which means that pub crawling involved a whole lot of sparkling water (not a bad deal since Saratoga Springs makes its own sparkling water) but I did try some delicious pumpkin beer at Saratoga City Tavern (http://www.saratogacitytavern.com/) and started drinking Amaretto Sours toward the end. Around 6 o’clock, my boyfriend sufficiently full of beer, I took a quick bar break to buy a gorgeous jacket by An Ren, a New York designer I’d never heard of before but who apparently makes unique and lovely clothing. My very understanding boyfriend (again, full of beer) agreed to go in on half since, well, it wasn’t exactly within my budget…

Anyway, the other great thing about Saratoga Springs is that it’s about 2 and a half hours away (two hours when you gun it 100 mph in a Range Rover) which means LOTS OF TIME TO KNIT! Therefore, I made pretty impressive progress on my entrelac scarf:

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I also made the sporadic decision to insert random red squares into the mix. I think it gives the otherwise straightforward pattern a little pizaz. In fact, it’s given me other interesting ideas of things to do with entrelac, but one step at a time.

Sunday night my family celebrated my younger brother and sister’s birthdays (they are born only one day apart). We ate Dabin, an amazing sushi place in Lexington, and rented out two of those shoeless, sliding-door rooms (I don’t know how else to describe them!) The food was fabulous but the best part was seeing my entire family after far too long. I come from a truly love-filled and lively family, it’s definitely good for the soul to spend as much time with them as possible. I gave my sister, Z (incidentally my best friend in the whole world) one of those giant stuffed squishables (http://squishable.com/). It was hard to choose so I opted for the leopard.

 My brother, Gordon (or more commonly Gdon) finally got the pair of fingerless gloves that I finished about a month ago. He’d picked up the yarn himself, Classic Elite’s waterlily. I must have restarted those gloves about 5 times before I felt like I was getting the right gauge. Even then, I was worried they might not fit, but they looked great!

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I know, he’s a stud. And was turning 18 but sorry ladies, has a girlfriend. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity say a little more about Gdon. He’s an all around awesome guy but this past summer, well, really stepped it up a notch when he asked to learn how to knit. You can imagine how more than willing I was to teach him. Turns out, he’s a natural and though the busy life of a senior in high school (headed to Princeton next fall) isn’t amenable to lots of knitting (then again, enither is the busy life of a senior in college but I have an addiction) he still squeezes it in every now and then. Right now he’s working on an orange cashmere hat and told me that he tries to do a row every night before bed. Hey, any amount of knitting is good knitting in my book.

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Here’s a picture of him learning over the summer. My pride and joy. Gdon is also easily one of my favorite person to give knitted gifts to. The boy appreciates good yarn and natural fibers of all varieties. He even splurged on 2 bags of Classic Elite cashmere this summer which I’ll be turning into a hoodie, hopefully sooner rather than later! He also couldn’t get over the softness of my baby alpaca entrelac scarf. I knew that was the sort of thing Gdon would truly appreciate.

Anyway, such a fun weekend wasn’t really condusive to Monday morning work so… I quilted. My darling bunny Shuffle was not too happy about this since quilting all day means that my room ends up covered in vulnerable fabric and therefore Shuff is stuck in his cage whereas morning is usually play time. Sorry buddy. Anyway, I made some wonderful progress on my lucky penny quilt number two:

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I’m pretty thrilled with how this is turning out, to be honest. I mean, it’s basically a free for all, but that’s the look I’m going for. And this baby won’t be lying perfectly flat any time soon but, again, that’s what I love about this type of carefree quilting. It’s fun and spontaneous and not all about the rules (sorry to all those hardcore quilters out there who would probably cringe at this rather whimsical construction technique). My goal is to get the top done by next Monday before I leave for Thanksgiving break. Though that sounds ambitious, I’m always pleasantly surprised by how much crafting I manage to squeeze in to every ounce of my free (not to mention not-free, hello knitting during lecture) time.

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1 Mitten, 3 Pennies… and more

Well I’ve managed to fit in a pretty impressive amount of crafting within the past week. First of all, I finally began entrelac scarf/shawl/blanket number three. Yes, they are time-consuming and tedious… but so worth it. Honestly, when I finished my first one I swore I’d never do it again (entrelac is very inefficient) but something keeps drawing me back. Actually, a part of me even likes entrelac now… not totally sure how that happened.  

You’d thinking, having spent months of my life working on the previous two scarves, that I’d remember how to the entrelac fairly quickly. Not so. It’s rather confusing, but once I got back into the groove, I was fine. I even managed to knit while ‘reading’ Chomsky for Linguistics class… Not necessarily the best combination but, believe me, it’s hard not to feel like reading Chomsky is a total waste of time unless you’re being productive in another way.

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It’s Baby Alpaca Grande by Plymouth Yarns which, I admit, I have more than a mild obsession with. Seriously, this has to be the yummiest, softest yarn on the planet.

I also made a mitten because, well, it occured to me that I don’t have a good pair of winter mittens and it’s getting a little bit colder every day. Now, I’m kind of a fan of the whole scrappy aesthetic so I decided to draw on my stash and available needles (rather limited since I’m at the dorm). I have to admit, having just bought enough baby alpaca to make a giant entrelac scarf served as extra motivation to be financially responsible. So, the only full set of double pointed needles I have is in a size 9, and the only appropriate yarn… not really that appropriate, chunky Cascade wool. But, determined to make even the slightest pretense of being economically responsible, I made do. The good news is, knitting chunky wool on size 9s is sort of like felting… the result is a pretty tight, thick fabric that will definitely keep my fingers warm.

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This took approximately… 3, 4 hours (?) so mitten number two should be here shortly!

As for the patchworking side of things, I managed to complete three more ‘lucky pennies’ for my quilt. I’d like to say that I am now a pro at curved seaming, that it got eachier with each penny. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and though I’d love to keep practicing… well I’m kind of anxious to get to progress. I really love the improvisational-style quilting. Though curved seaming is… a good experience, I need a little break.

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And believe it or not, I have managed one more crafty endeavor, one that is quite practical if I do say so myself. I’ve had this Marc Jacobs hoodie for quite a well, but find that I don’t really wear it all that much. There could be two reasons: 1. I’m a sweater girl 2. the buttons. See, I have this aversion to metalic accessories on clothing, and though the hoodie itself is superwarm and cozy, it has these ugly gold buttons.

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As fate would have it, I had the brilliant idea of replacing these with putting fabric-covered buttons (another mild obsession of mine) and, low and behold, discovered that I had exactly 7 fabric-covered buttons just waiting to be covered in fabric! Perfect. So I covered each in a different fabric (naturally) and made the switch.

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Much more me. Perhaps I’ll actually wear it now!

This weekend I’m off to Saratoga Springs, New York… not entirely sure why, something about bar-hopping for charity which my boyfriend is extremely enthused about. There are fabric and yarn stores in Saratoga, I’ve already checked.

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A Quilting-Filled Weekend

Somehow, within a couple of days, I have managed to write a draft of my upcoming thesis presentation while making respectable progress on my quilting and knitting endeavors. Having finished the borders on my first lucky penny quilt, I’m now trying out the more improvisational interpretation. Here’s what I have so far005:

Now, as I said, I’m no expert on curved seaming so I’m consideirng this a learning process. Ironically, the whole ‘improv’ curved seaming idea is even harder. These two ‘pennies’ took me a couple solid hours and far from perfect. But, like I said, hopefully my technique will improve by the time the quilt is completed.

I also took a couple hours to make a random little quilted bowl to keep my actual lucky pennies in. Yes, this is the sort of thing I do for fun on a Saturday afternoon. Every now and then, you just have to throw something together without getting caught up in the technicalities. So, it’s a lumpy, uneven little bowl, but I love it all the same.

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Thanks to a little trip to Newbury St. (which included some serious damage at Anthropologie where I found several irresistably adorable sweaters) and some time spent riding on the T, I’ve also made decent progress on the slow-going lollipop scarf. It nearly wraps around my neck now!006

Now, I do accomplish more than academia and crafting (sort of) and also made it to EVOO this weekend, a true restaurant gem in Somerville, MA. Now, I have to admit that L’Espalier, the culinary experience I was so sure wouldn’t disappoint…. it disappointed big time. Presumably due to the new location, what was once Boston’s finest restaurant has really lost its charm. The service was terrible (as in the waitress spilled a pricy bottle of red wine without even apologizing) and even the food was mediocre. EVOO, on the other hand, is an old reliable. The constantly changing menu features seasonal, local foods and is set at $35 prix fix, though is arguably worth a whole lote more. This time of year, the menu is loaded with pumpkin, squash and other delicious fall flavors. Definitely worth a visit.

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Getting Started

It all started with an afghan. I was eight, I believe, and it took about a year of sporadic knitting but I ended up with an enormous purple/blue/green mohair blanket that I cherish to this day. Since then, I have developed into a devoted quilter and knitter. I have a passion for color and a passion for patchwork patterns- which may explain why half the time my knitting ends up looking a suspicious amount like a quilt. For my senior art history thesis, I am writing about the 1971 Whitney Exhibition and art/studio quilt movement, splitting my time between academia (I’m a good student, I swear, despite hours spend patchworking and purling) and, well, the more creative side of life. Some recent projects:Colorful Fingerless Gloves

Super-warm fingerless gloves made from Brown Sheep. I just went crazy with the coloring.

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A crazy patchwork cardigan. I’ll admit it’s a little out there, but I love it. Made from a combination of Cascade and Rowan chunky wool, still awaiting buttons.

Spending pretty much all day reading and writing about quilts- from nineteenth century anonymous quilt makers to Nancy Crow and Michael James- has definitely given me a lot to think about. Turns out, I’m a little old fashioned and can’t imagine making a quilt that wasn’t intended to be used. At the same time, I have the deepest admiration for the work of so-called art/studio quilters (a term that I realize causes some contention) and their brilliantly unconventional designs. I’ve been trying to get in some experimentation, to find out exactly how I fit in relation to the ever-expanding quilting world, past and present.

My latest project is the “Lucky Penny Quilt,” which I started just a few weeks ago. Thanks to a disastrous computer crash that left me stressed and in need of a lot of soothing quilt making time (suddenly my sewing machine seemed like such superior technology compared to my IBM) it’s come along pretty quickly. It all started with the very simple idea of wanting to make something original which, it turns out, is not nearly as easy as it sounds, especially given the fact that I’ve been looking at quilts nonstop for the past few months. So I looked elsewhere for inspiration and settled on my obsessive lucky money habit. I owe it to my Dad, and therefore this quilt goes to him.

Basically, I have no shame when it comes to picking up lucky money- outside nice restaurants, in the middle of the crosswalk, even in front of homeless people (yes, I’ll admit that’s a real low point). And somehow the phrase just entered my head one day, “Lucky Penny Quilt.” At first I imagined a basic patchwork pattern with pennies somehow adhered to the surface. But any lucky penny fiend knows that finding just one is actually better than a whole slew of change scattered across the ground- then it just feels like someone dropped their wallet. I decided to work of the image of that one lucky coin sitting on the sidewalk- and even took some pictures of coins before picking them up which is the only thing more embarrassing than, well, picking them up. I went from there, and this is what I came up with:

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It took me a while to settle on how I was going to actually incorporate the penny. The thought of super glue on a quilt was too unpleasant, as was drilling a whole through a lucky penny (who knows what kind of karmic retribution that would bring). So it’s actually in the center of that circular motif, snuggled in between the batting and front, secured with some quilting stitches. Now I just have to finish up the boarders and hide it away until Christmas.

For the record, this was also my first time working with curved seams which was certainly a challenge (and don’t look too close, it didn’t work out perfectly)… still, I’d say it turned out acceptably and was great practice for next time.

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And yet, I’ve also been craving the more improvisational quilting style. I’m the first to admit that my technique is far from perfect and lends itself a little better to the wilder side of quilt making: october-15th-2008-231

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And I try not to neglect the back:

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I made this quilt a couple summers ago from whatever random scrap of leftover fabric I could get my hands on- including old pajama pants and t-shirts. I’ve been trying to imagine what a lucky penny quilt with a more freewheeling approach would look like and I certainly have some ideas for my next project… stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been knitting a multi-color scarf with lollipop-like tassels. Made from Classic Elite’s Lush, which is as delicious to knit with as it sounds. It’s not a quick knit, for sure- I’m always amazed by the diameter of your verge neck and how long a scarf needs to be to comfortably wrap around it!- but it’s pretty basic knit/purl so it goes by quickly. The lollipops are a really simple icord and I think I saw them in a Nicky Epstein book at some point. november-4th-pictures-015

However, as the colder weather approaches (I’m actually not complaining, there’s something very refreshing about this time of year) I’ve been wearing my giant entrelac scarves nonstop. I made them both last winter and they are without a doubt amongst my favorite knits:

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They’re essentially apattern from “Scarf Style” with my own crazy color concoctions and a couple extra feet in length. Quite simply, they’re like wearable blankets and even though they take… basically forever to make. I think I simply have to make another one- I’m thinking blue and orange if I can harness the self-discipline to stick to only two colors- to get me through another Boston winter.

As for the non-crafty side of my life, if there’s anything I love as much as settling in to an evening of quilting or knitting, it’s an evening of good food. I’m not joking. I even made a felted hedgehog and hamburger for my favorite Harvard Square eatery and won free food for a year

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Yes, I eat there pretty much every single day and truly maintain that B.Good has the most delicious burgers/sweet potato fries/veggies/shakes/you name it on the planet. But tonight I’m taking it up a notch and heading to L’Espalier at its new location with my Dad, boyfriend and their business colleague (a weird conglomeration, I know, don’t ask…) Something tells me this particular culinary experience won’t be a disappointment.

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