Friday, August 19, 2011

The coolest thing I have ever seen...

The tree of life carved in salt.  More correctly, carved into the wall of a salt mine, complete with a real boy climing on it.

This is in the Catedral de Sal (Cathedral of salt), Zipaquira, Colombia.  Zipaquira is a salt mine with a Cathedral about 1km below the surface of the mine.  I had the opportunity to visit when I was in South America last month.  My tour guides were a wonderful family (this is their son Andreas) that I met through work there.  I will write more about my (mis)adventures in South America another time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A dark, cold, rainy night...

Here in New England, we have been enjoying a very hot, humid summer.  The thing that always surprises me about New England summers is that just when the heat peaks, all of a sudden you have this one day where it starts to rain.  Rather than just clearing out the humidity, there is a little hint of a chill, letting you know that fall is just around the corner.  Today is that day.

I must admit, I am not ready for fall.  The seasons are short here, except for winter of course, and I am just not ready for it to be winter again.

The upside is, the change in weather motivated me to start a new project.  I realized that although my original goal was sock-related, I have not done many socks lately.  So I chose a yarn from the stash and a pattern from one of my new sock books (I recently bought three!), and I cast on Cookie A's Asymmetric Cables from "Sock Knitting Master Class".  It is going a little slow, mainly because my left hand keeps cramping up.  I am having more and more trouble with this as time goes on. 

I started crafting really young, and used to spend hours and hours crocheting with really tiny thread.  I always figured the time would come where I would no longer be able to use my hands the way I would like, and I fear that time is coming.

I am trying out one of my skeins of "A Verb for Keeping Warm" Superwash Sock, and it is not quite what I expected.  First, although it is supposed to be merino, it does not have that silky, merino feel.  It actually feels much more like leicester wool (though not BFL.  More like the rough, boiled wool you think of with sweaters from the 60's), but scratchier than superwash.  Also, the color is bleeding all over my hands as I knit.  I am hoping they soften up with washing, but worry the color will bleed enough that I will lose a shade or two.  Which is too bad really, because the color of this skein is a gorgeous variegation of plums, reds, and purples.  It also does not have very much elasticity.  My ribbing is stretched out just from the knitting and does not really snap back.  I think the lack of memory in the yarn is also slowing up my knitting a bit as I have a hard time inserting the needle into the purl stitches, and that does not usually happen to me.  Besides that, my week of being sick during and after my South America trip really drained my energy, and I just have not had the will to knit much.

I hope to finish up sock one tonight, and maybe sock two in another day or two.  The pattern is easily memorized, so I am moving a bit faster than I did the first day.  At least I have my glorious chilly, rainy day to inspire me.  Hurrah for fall! (Even if it does mean winter is coming...)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's done, it's done!

I first learned how to crochet when I was almost five.  My mother was expecting my sister, and she would sit in the afternoons and crochet granny squares for an afghan.  I always wanted to be doing whatever she was doing, so I harrassed her continually until she gave me my own hook and some yarn and showed me how to do it.  When I became very proficient in the chain stitch, and started chaining my chains, I graduated to single crochet.  The first real project I remember clearly was making a custom blanket/cape for a stuffed dog when I was in the hospital with apecdicitis at the age of 6.  Before long, my mother taught me how to read patterns, mainly because she was tired of having to show me everything one by one, and I was off and running.

Shortly thereafter, I learned how to embroider.  The crewel phase was in full swing, and I still have a box full of framed stitchery, along with some very nice pillowcases complete with crocheted edgings.  There were a lot of crafts that came in and out during this time.  Plastic canvas, origami, sewing, and rag weaving just to name a few.  Over the years, I went throught papercraft, soapmaking, making my own lotion and cosmetics, candlemaking, decoupage, stained glass, and jewelry making.  And of course, there was flower arranging and cake decorating, frequently combined.  I worked in a floral shop for a while, and for a period of time I made swags (it was a 90s thing) for everyone I knew.  By request, of course. 

At the age of 8, I decided it was time to learn how to knit.  My mother did not knit, so I checked a book out of the library and taught myself.  I spent a good portion of my childhood knitting and crocheting along with many other kinds of crafting. I used to have what I called "starting moods" and "finishing moods."  I would become very passionate about a project, usually an afghan (I made a lot of those growing up), and I would work on it furiously for days or weeks.  Then my mood would change and I would need a new craft for a while.  I would get the itch for something new, or I would have an idea that I absolutely had to try, and the old project would be set aside, sometimes for months or even years at a time.  After a while the finishing mood would strike, and I would dig out a project and work until it was done.  I have one afghan that I call the five-year afghan.  I only worked on it when I was home sick from work or school, so it took me five years to finish :) (Aran crochet in panels, and to this day one of my favorite pieces even if it is made of acrylic yarn).

For along time, I was all about the crochet.  I did afgans, clothing, baby blanket edgings, baby sweaters and booties, lace, and sold a number of sculptural crochet pieces during my late high school and early college years.  A few years ago, however, I suddenly had an urge to return to knitting.  About a year later, I finally caught the sock bug (I will confess this is mainly because I fell in love with sock yarn and had to break down and make socks to justify buying it), and I have been all about the knitting ever since.  I don't know if it is because I am leaning towards smaller projects, or if I am more focused in my old age, but I tend to finish one project before moving onto the next one now, with a few rare exceptions.  I will admit, if a project is left siting, seaming is usually involved...

About a year ago, I stared my first big piece of lace--Jarod Flood's "Willoughby."  I got about one third of the way around the edging, also known as the really tedious part, and I had to put it down for a while.  Then a while turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and well, you get the idea.  A few weeks ago, I got hit with a burst of "finishing energy"--you know, that mad urge to wrap a project up.  And, if I am perfectly honest, this was also partially motivated by the fact that I really wanted my #6 lace needles for another project.  At any rate, I picked it up, and I worked on it a little, then a little more, and on a plane trip from Bogota to Caracas, I finally made some major progress.  Then from Caracas to Boston, via Houston, I finally finished it.  I am so very happy to have this done once and for all, and I truly love the piece.  Here it is in blocking.  Yeah, me!

Now, the down side is that I found all sorts of horrendous mistakes in the first few repeats of the border, and I am horrified I did not rip them back right when I started.  Normally, I would try to fix them even at this point, but there is no way in--you know what--I am going to take out the whole border.  So I will just remember to wear it mistake-side down.  But it will still always bug me...