Monday, February 27, 2012

Finished Knit: Bottoms Up Top

Bottoms Up Top Bottom's Up Top

Pattern: Bottoms Up by Alice Bell (Ravelry link, it's free there)
Yarn: Lara in Burgundy

This is possibly one of the first projects I added to my Ravelry queue, back when I got an account in 2008. I first saw smelinda's version in Euroflax Sport Weight, and then the designer's version in a yummy emerald blue. Between the two I knew I had to make the pattern, and for a long time I was putting it off until I felt like splurging on some Euroflax. But the Elann had a bag sale, and I saw this burgundy yarn, and it just seemed like a great color for this project. I will have to find a new plan/excuse for someday splurging on Euroflax, but it will happen, I am determined!

I was very good about doing all the things you're supposed to for a big knitting project, since it's been in the queue so long I really wanted to get it right. I made 3 swatches to determine the best needle size, and even washed and dried them. And then while I was working on this project, I did math! After reviewing the other projects on Raverly it looked like the length was coming out smaller than most people wanted. I calculated that the size I was making would only be 11" long from the underarm, and that seemed too short for my liking as well. I wanted it to turn out just right so I tried to increase each section of ribbing in a way that was very similar to the original design. More details about this are in my description for the project on Ravelry.

I am very happy with how it turned out. It's a very neat design, simply in-the-round knitting for the most part, with a Kitchener stitch to finish off the sleeves at the top. One of the things I really like about the pattern is the way the sleeves look, and think that stitch helps give them a little rigidity. It's also a fun project with just enough variety of stitches to do okay knitting & watching TV, though pay attention towards the very top. I wasn't so much and had to frog a little bit twice.  

I do need to remind myself (yet again!) to go ahead and make a sweater for myself with full sleeves though. But I really just had to get this particular project out of my system!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nature: Lenten Roses & Signs of Spring


You know, I never took notice of these flowers until last spring. I've been assured by family members that they do grow in other places that I've lived. I wonder if like the traditional roses in Portland, Lenten Roses (also known as Hellebore) are planted with great frequency around town to help us maintain our claim to the title "Rose City" during the off season. These were in patch on the edge of the Rose Test Garden in Washington Park which included five or six lovely color variations. I'd have more pictures, but it was that very wet day I mentioned in my last post. Anyway, the garden is currently pretty empty of real roses, but it does make me smile to see thorny little bushes covered in moss. 

Spring is coming Witchhazel 

A couple of signs spring is coming soon on my way up to the park. Crocuses starting grow, and I think this mossy tree base is my favorite setting I've ever seen for their blooms. Witchhazel! What a weird looking plant. And a little chickadee was having luck finding grubs in that Hellebore patch. He didn't really mind my presence once I was crouch down and focused on picture taking. He had other things to do!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Portland Walks: Japanese Garden

Droplets Gutter in action

We had a wet President's Day in Portland. But it was also a free day at the Japanese Garden. When I'm actually savvy enough to be aware of these free days a little bit of rain is not going to stop me. Okay, so it was a lot of rain, I got pretty wet and a good number of the pictures I took were deleted because they were covered in water drops. But that's okay because the Japanese garden looks amazing in any and all weather. For example, even though "the tree" was leafless, it was still amazing to stand under because every single little branch was collecting a droplet of water. Hard to capture, but the picture above is one little piece of the tree.

More Salal or Gaultheria Shallon Pink  P1460880

There was actually a little bit of color (other than all the shades of green that moss can manage) in the garden. There were still red berries throughout the park, scattered bushes with pink flowers, and my new favorite - because I finally think I've intentified - the cascading Salal or Gaultheria Shallon. I've found it hard to resist taking pictures of this plant, without knowing what it was, since we moved here. It was neat to read that it's a native plant to the Pacific Northwest. And it has some interesting hangers on, Groundcones,  which I'd like to see in person someday.

Fence and Bench Stone Bridge Tea Garden

And then there's all the neat construction/design elements through all the park. So many different types of fence construction, like the one on the left, which has full reeds of bamboo alternating with planks, or the simple low fences tied at the intersections. And stone bridges. I think the rain scared away enough of the usual free day crowd that I could actually hear the transitions between wood bridges and stone walkways - just lovely. And all of these pictures help illustrate how especially mossy it seems right now, and how wet it was that day. 

I'm really looking forward to the expansion by Architect Kengo Kuma. Anything that expands this great garden seems like a good idea, and it is fantastic that they've selected Kuma, his work is a great fit. In the mean time I need to get back for many more visits as spring starts up!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Highly Recommended Music: Y La Bamba

Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba Y La Bamba

There's an NPR First Listen of Y La Bamba's new album Court the Storm, which will be released Feb. 28th. We've first listened to it twice already tonight and it was so nice to hear many of the songs we've heard them perform live around town. We've managed to see them at various venues three times so far, and I still think we need to see them several more times. Luz Elena Mendoza's voice is amazing, and I'm not entirely sure the power of that can be captured in a recording studio (though the albums are great!) To help with that I recommend watching their NPR Tiny Desk Concert and/or this really sweet performance in the aerial tram! They've been one of our favorite local bands we've seen since moved to Portland and I look forward to seeing them live again soon. 

Pictures above are from one of the EcoTrust Concerts last summer. Back when we had sunshine. It will come back someday, I'm sure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sewing: Mug Rug Swap

A month or so ago I found out about a craft swap from Craft Social via Marlo M. of I Make Cute Stuff. Although I've never done a craft swap before I promptly signed up for this one on Swap-Bot. I thought it would be great sewing practice and I figured it was about time I try out a craft swap! The requirements were to make a "mug rug" a sort of coaster large enough for a Mug and some treats on the side, at a minimum of 4"x6". Here's what I made:

Mug Rug I made

I used a sample upholstery fabric and some remnant fabric I collected somewhere along the way. I started by sizing the central square for one our mugs, which hopefully a pretty universal size, and worked out from there. I think it ended up being about 6"x10", roughly. I'm pretty happy with the results, though there's always room for improvement! I hope it's found a happy new home.

This swap certainly did motive me, and I sure will continue to do so, especially once I received my Mug Rug:

Mug Rug I received

Holy Cow! There are things going on here I would not have thought of doing with fabric in a million years. Chuck & I both spent some time last night inspecting it's clever construction. (I don't know if I've ever mentioned here, but he sews too, and is probably a little better at it than I am.) It reminds me just a little of the Robie House pattern (though I've been finding that true of anything with repetitive diamonds.) Plus I love the colors. This came from Carolina Moore of Expect Moore. She definitely has skills with fabric! Maybe some day I'll get there too. For now I'm seriously considering attempting following the tutorial for Yo-Yo bangles she posted. Very cute! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you're spending it with someone very very nice! Here's a bit of what ours looks like:

A Valentine  A Cake

The pixelated pop-up card from minico, via Craft was perfect for Chuck. (He was probably less thrilled about the confetti, but I like it, and he had fair warning!) I snapped up heart shaped cake pans as soon as I saw them at the store a few weeks ago. Loosly inspired by this William-Sonoma cake, but it had been too long since I'd made the Raspberry Blackout Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance, my favorite! And PromisQous wine makes me laugh, especially since the label is a definition of the word...I couldn't resist. Lest I take all the credit, Chuck did help out with the cake icing and is making dinner, and also got me some lovely treats.

Now off to have a lovely evening listening to Raphaal Sadiqq, Sharon Jones, April March and more lovely music to be determined! Happy Valentine's Day! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

PIFF: Unfinished Spaces

The Portland International Film Festival started this weekend and it goes through Feb. 25th. We started it off yesterday by seeing Unfinished Spaces, a documentary about the design, construction, abandonment and attempted restoration of the National Arts School in Cuba. I've been fascinated by this story since John Loomis, author of Revolution of Forms: Cuba's Forgotten Art Schools, came to give a lecture on them while I was a student at Ohio State.  I was so excited to see this movie was made and would be playing Portland! I am hoping they add more dates around the country soon.  It was fantastic to hear the architects involved talk about what must have been, and continues to be, an unimaginably exciting, heartbreaking, and tumultuous experience. Ricardo Porro in particular is such an entertaining character. If you get a chance to see this movie in a theater I highly recommend it!

Next up (unless I find a few more must see films this week, which is likely) is A Cat in Paris. An animated "love letter to classic noir films" with Paris as a "moody cityscape" and a "retro jazz" soundtrack, and of course, starring a cat? No way are we missing that one. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finished Knit: BFF Socks

BFF Socks

Pattern: BFF Socks from Knit. Sock. Love. by Cookie A.
Yarn: Elann Esprit in Coffee Bean

Pretty quickly after I started knitting I gave up trying to hide anything I might knit for Chuck as a gift. Generally knitting happens when we are hanging out getting into some TV or movie together, and it's pretty easy for him to see what I'm up to. But I hid these socks away for a couple of weeks after I finished them, determined to at least wrap them up for gift giving or something, even though I did actually let him try them on right after they were done. It's the thought that counts...and hopefully absence makes the heart grow fonder?

I tried them on myself as well, they are so comfortable, I may have to make a pair for myself too. Chuck got me the book for Christmas, I'm sure with the specific hopes that it would make me more likely to knit him some more socks. This seemed like the most guy friendly pair in the book, and I was please to see sizing options from XS-L that made it easy to adapt to the yarn I was using. I've found that knitting with vegan sock yarn always seems to turn out larger than the pattern, so I started with the XS, and it worked out nicely. I wasn't a stickler on the cable spacing, I figured that would be a bit tedious working on size 1 needles, and it wouldn't really bother me if they were occasionally longer or shorter. I think we're probably the only ones who will notice, and when I do, I kind of like it, it ads a little character.

Since these were for his birthday I suppose I'll spare Chuck the task of modeling this particular project. And I'll do my best not to steal them from his sock drawer...