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Preview: The Keyboard Biologist Knits

The Keyboard Biologist Knits

A thirty-something biologist, computer scientist and all around crafter living in Chicago's Ukranian Village talks about her fibery pursuits.

Last Build Date: Sat, 21 Sep 2013 22:27:50 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2013

Knitting Challenge

Sat, 21 Sep 2013 22:27:50 -0600

It's always fun to have your kid tell you she wants you to knit her something.  Sometimes, however, it's challenging when your kid is trying to channel early Madonna and has the color preferences of a 6 year old girl.  

I decided that I could make her a scarf.  Scarves can be colorful, scarves do not take that long and, generally, scarves can last more than one year, which is a plus in a kid who seems to need an updated wardrobe about every 15 minutes because she is suddenly taller.

So I took Ms. Z to the yarn store and told her she could pick something out for a scarf.  Initially, it started out that she could pick one color.  By the end of the trip, it became two colors because she couldn't decide between her favorites.  And because I am a sucker for a 6 year old with her own design ideas.

I'm beginning to understand why the Project Runway designers always struggle when they have to design for a client.

So, here is her yarn selection:

You might be thinking Oh, that is just a camera problem.  That yarn cannot possibly be that neon pink.  

Unfortunately, you would be wrong.  That yarn is absolutely that neon pink.  And she wants it paired with that very vibrant purple.  On the plus side, this is fabulous and beautiful superwash merino.  Like butter.

I actually like both of these colors,   That pink paired with some more subtle grey is a knockout.  And I do like a vibrant purple,  Together?  I remain unsure.

Ms. Z, however, knows that she wants both of them, and knows that she wants a scarf knit horizontally with zig zags.  It was this fact that she had such a clear design in her mind that convinced me to buy the yarn.  I want to support and encourage her to play with color and have an artistic vision.  

I am thinking of using Stephen West's Creekbed as a starting point as it gets at the general idea, but have not really figured out how to do the striping.  Fibonacci perhaps?  I have this notion of starting with narrow going to wider with one color while starting wider and going to narrower using the other.    Might have to map it out to get a better idea...

Busy Hands, New Socks

Sun, 15 Sep 2013 21:40:14 -0600

My current job finds me planted in front of my speaker phone or my computer for teleconferences and webinars.  I am easily distracted by my email, my iPad and other things, and to help me pay attention better when I am not sharing the experience with a real person, I have taken to keeping a project in my office that takes little brain activity so I can keep my hands busy and focus on what I am listening to.  This strategy does turn out to work well for me, as long as the project is not complicated.  Somehow keeping my hands out of trouble allows my brain to pay attention better to what I'm listening to.

Here's the first project I've finished:

Nothing magical -- just a pair of socks in some hard-wearing Regia (Ringel 5072) that I have always loved and have had buried in my sock yarn archive since the dawn of my sock knitting adventures..  This is my very standard toe up pattern with a short row heel and K2P2 ribbing.  The only difference between this and my standard socks is that I knit until the ball ran out, so these socks are longer (mid calf) and I had to shape the sock and ribbing to expand towards the top for my calf.   You can't tell easily from the photo, but these socks are actually identical -- or at least as identical as you can get with this yarn.  

The next project is a pair of fingerless mitts in BMFA Silkie since I am always freezing cold in my office.

Achieving the Correct Tension

Sun, 01 Sep 2013 22:13:51 -0600

It's funny to me how sometimes knitting terms overlap with a non-knitting concept in my life.  In the spring, I went to give blood, only to find that my blood pressure was much higher than it should have been.  Shortly after, I had my very own diagnosis of primary hypertension.  The arrival of my very own chronic condition was not really a surprise to me.  It runs in the family.  I had gestational hypertension when I was pregnant with Z, which is generally considered to be a harbinger of hypertension to come.  I even told people that it was probably just a matter of time.My rational self understood it, my emotional self did not.  My doctor told me not to worry, it was manageable.  The funny thing is, it wasn't the chronic condition in and of itself that bothered me.  It was the prescriptions he was writing for me and the realization that I was in my mid-40's and starting on a lifetime medication regimen, and multiple meds.I do not like taking medications.  Particularly not ones that might never go away.  I spent the first couple of months grudgingly taking my meds and just generally being in denial.  A child, however, is the most amazing thing.  I can look at this small person that I have made and see myself and my spouse and a whole collection of amazing things that she helps me remember seeing when I was small and everything was magical.  My child is 6 and she has so many wonderful things ahead of her.  And I want to see that story unfold and develop as long as I can.That probably sounds melodramatic. I don't mean it to, at least not in the sense that I think that I'm going to keel over dead from hypertension.  What I mean is that seeing her reminds me that I need to do what I can to be as healthy as I can, no matter how much I don't like some of the mechanisms that keep me healthy.  It also means that instead of grousing about my medications, I needed to look what I could do to limit the need for them.And for that, I had a very good example:  my dad.  Dad has dealt with the same condition for most of his adult life.  Two of the things that helped him were regular cardiovascular exercise and maintaining a good weight.  The better he did at these two things, the less medication he took. So I started to think that maybe if it worked for him, it would work for me.  Cardio exercise is easier said than done when one of your meds is a beta blocker.  These things are like rate limiters on your heart.  But I decided to get off my elliptical and away from my heart rate monitor and just head outside and go running.  I've tried to do this before, and always fell off the wagon.  But this time, I armed myself (or rather my iPhone) with the Zombies, Run! 5K App, gave myself permission to have more than my fair share of nice workout wear (I actually have a fun workout wear subscription!) and by the time I had my next appointment with my doc, I was running 3-4 times a week, felt a lot better and felt like I had one of the pieces that would help me manage my condition with lifestyle instead of drugs.My doc agreed and we dumped the beta blocker.Life got hugely better after that.  The day after I stopped taking the beta blocker, I was like someone had lifted a brick off my chest while I was running and I posted my first 5 mile run of the year.  About a week later, I did a 6 mile jog around Central Park when John and I visited NYC. I hit my first 100 miles and treated myself the new pair of running shoes (it is always about the shoes!) that I promised myself when I reached that milestone. And I was watching my weight tick down gradually.  More than that, I just felt happier (I've since learned that beta blockers can have neurological effects[...]

On the Case

Sun, 30 Jun 2013 22:22:30 -0600

Here then gone then back again.  There has, at least, been a bit more crafting since my last hiatus.  One of the most fun projects I have done is these:

I decided, after a trip to my mother's quilt store where they sold some lovely pre-put together pillow case kits that I was going to make a pillow case for Ms. Z, and all my nieces and nephews on whatever the next holiday occasion for gift giving was.  These are the first out the door, for my two oldest nieces who just turned 10 and 8.

Whenever I make something for kids, I always prepare for them to be uninterested. After all, just because I made it, and the making made me happy, doesn't make it exciting for them.  I go into it thinking that it's important to see that nice things can be made and that it's fun to be a maker of things, but knowing that the payoff could be decades away -- or that if they like it now, there could come a time when they didn't.  

So it was a pleasant surprise for these two pillow cases to be well received.  They knew what they were and I got a big hug from both after they held them up to show a room of other young women.  Each one came with a tag telling them that it was specially made for them and that if they liked them, next year I would take them shopping to pick out fabrics of their choice for their next pillow case.  I'm hoping they enjoy these cases, because I would love to take both of them (and their younger sister) fabric shopping.  

From the crafting side of the project the "kits" came from the Viking Sewing Center in Ann Arbor, MI -- (313) 761-3094.  I'd like to give them a shout out since they also gave me lots of tips.  That said, pillow cases are super super easy and fast (I made these two in about 3 hours, including the time to work through the pattern with a virus addled brain) and I think even a novice sewer could get nice results.  The pattern itself is called "Dream Catcher" by Sue Drew -- a quick googling didn't turn up any helpful links, but if you buy the "kit" from Viking they will happily give you a copy of the pattern alternatively this pattern is very similar.

The kits themselves were simple -- just the three fabrics cut to the size you need.  After sewing the first pillow case (the pink one) with the horizontal stripes, I'd encourage you, if you go with horizontal stripes, to true up the fabric or buy a wider piece so that you can, so that the stripes run straight instead of at an angle.  I would have done this with the piece I had, but it wasn't really wide enough for me to trim as much as I needed to, so I had to go with what it was.

I'd also recommend that you have a couple of quilters tools at hand: a rotary cutter and a quilters ruler that you can use to straighten up fabric edges.  This helped me a lot.

I'll be making more of these soon.  My small person has made it clear that she needs one and I have a pair for myself that will be both kitschy and fun.  If you're looking for a simple project to introduce you to your sewing machine, pillow cases a lot of fun and leave you with a very functional bedroom accessory or re-usable wrapping paper for another gift.

Compassion Cowl

Wed, 03 Apr 2013 20:08:09 -0600

Pattern:  Compassion Cowl
Yarn: Sundara Aran Silky Merino in Colorway "Compassion"
Needles: 5.0 mm Addi Turbos

Spring feels like the time for green.  It's still a bit chilly in Chicago, so this cowl with it's deep emerald green is rather perfect.  It's been off the needles for some time now (right before St. Patrick's Day) but life has interfered rather mightily with knitting and blogging in the past weeks.

This project is a nice blend of cables and lace.  And though I am always suspicious of things with cable and lace labelled as simple to knit and easy to memorize, this pattern did turn out to be just that.  It didn't take long to knit up at all.

Were I to do it again, I might take out a repeat of the pattern to make it a bit narrower as it's not as close to my neck as I might like it at the top.  

The yarn was lovely to knit with.  I love anything with a little silk and this yarn was no exception.  Definitely fiber and color therapy.  It blocked well and I think the stitch definition is quite good.  The yarn base is a single ply with variable thickness.    The silk makes the green luminous.   

This detail picture is not a good representation of the color (the first two pictures are much better in this respect) but it does show off the cable lace texture.  The lace isn't terribly pronounced, but does help to give the fabric some more give and airy-ness.

My only quibble is that this patter really takes just a little tiny bit more than one skein... so to complete it, you need two.  Which is not the worst thing in the world since it gives me extra for a pair of short mitts... but if you needed to be budget conscious, it would feel like a bit of a waste since the yarn is pretty pricey.    If you were interested in the patter, I would be removing one pattern repeat with let you do it with one skein.

I've had a few folks ask to see my favorite little girl.  So here I give you my Compassion Cowl and my Source of Hope.    

Saltwater Completed

Sat, 16 Mar 2013 14:27:22 -0600

My finished projects haven't been as regular as I would like, but after some dedicated effort on Saltwater and some blocking (for some reason, it is the blocking step that I, well, block on) I have something to share.

Yarn:  Sundara Silky Merino in "The Great Pacific"
Needles: 3.25 mm Addi Turbos

I found this scarf a little hard to style in a way that would provide a sense of it's size and structure.  I think the best way to wear it is backwards with the point in front and the ends wrapped around, but that didn't show much of the detail or sense  of size.

I hope this image is more helpful at describing the shape.  If you imagine two elongated bird wings in flight, I think you have a very good idea of what Saltwater's shape is.  This is definitely something I would put in the scarf category, as, in my hands, it isn't very deep, even at the deepest point.

I liked how the pattern designer created texture with the alternating bands of stockinette.   Easy knitting, but lovely result and it makes the whole scarf fully reversible.

This closeup is to help you see the color variation in the yarn better.  It presents lighter here than it really is (the other pictures are more true to color) but it does show that the yarn does have beautiful depth and variation.  It reads solid, but solid with a lot of depth, especially with the sheen of the silk. 

This pattern was easy to work through and well written -- it's definitely easy knitting and shouldn't present too much difficulty even to a novice knitter.  The only remotely challenging thing is casting on the extra stitches that are used to create the center piece of the scarf after the two end pieces are complete.  And it's hard for me to say enough nice things about the yarn.  I really love this yarn stock, which is 50% merino, 50% silk.  It's also pretty nice to work with. It is a bit splitty, but duller tipped needles (like my Addi Turbos) make that issue much less.

After completing the project, I had about 24 g of the 150 g skein left over, so the pattern was pretty yarn efficient.  When I'm spending a lot on yarn for a project, I appreciate when the designer uses a reasonable amount of it and doesn't leave me with too many left overs.  Clearly with all the oddments of fingering weight yarn I am accumulating, I need to make a scarf that can use up all my bits and bobs in a nice way.

Catkin Progress

Sun, 24 Feb 2013 21:52:22 -0600

I have a number of unfinished projects lurking on the corners of my desks and hidden in baskets around the house.  I thought I would share a few of them as part of the process of convincing myself to bring them to completion.  All of them are worthy and will be lovely, but I seem to have a habit of setting things down when the chart gets too hard to memorize easily.  

So here we have the lovely Catkin by Carina Spencer knit in Madeline Tosh Merino Light in the colors Fathom (blue) and Glazed Pecan.  I've always like yellows and blue together (perhaps this was influenced by growing up close to the University of Michigan), but I like it when the yellows and blues have a little more sophistication.  I spent some time selecting these two colorways.  The yellow is much gold and little brown.  The blue is reminiscent of royal blue or purple with a shot of the electric.

I tried to get a shot of this project that would highlight the lovely needle work in the pecan colored area, but it's just too big for that now.  That area surprised me.  I thought it would be unpleasant to knit because the pattern was big and hard to remember.  But it turned out to be simpler than I thought.  And this yarn is really lovely to knit with, too.  I love the subtle variations in the color that give the knitting extra depth.  What is it about me and single ply yarn?  I love the stuff.  So many of my projects lately are made of single ply.

I imagine Catkin as a Spring and Fall garment.  Light enough for when it's just a little chilly out, so I think I'll make sure I've finished up my winter only warmers before I get back to her.  She sits in one of my dad's hand turned bowls beside my desk, where I can see her clearly and won't forget her, keeping company with a couple of other lost fibery souls.

Saltwater Heart

Sat, 16 Feb 2013 11:47:18 -0600

While this project is not particularly photogenic (yet!) when laid out on the table, it almost can't avoid taking on the shape of a heart, given the way it is constructed.    Happy Belated Valentine's Day to all!  

This project is Saltwater by Heidi Kirrmaier and was the pattern provided along with the Fingering Silky Merino in colorway "The Great Pacific", both of which were a part of the Sundara Yarn Luxury Yarn club that I participated in last year.  The yarn is beautiful.  Although it looks solid, it has the subtle variation of a dark indigo.  When you knit it, it has depth without screaming "Hello!  I am a variegated yarn!" It is truly a treat to knit with.  I'm using my 3.25 mm nickel plated Addi Turbos (I didn't want pointy tipped needles for this yarn) and it slides along quickly and has nice stitch definition. Someday, I'd love to make a sweater out of this stuff!

The project itself is nice as well (and you can buy the pattern on Ravelry if it interests you).  It's super easy, but has alternating sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette so it is easy to knit while doing something else, but doesn't get crazy boring.  The construction is interesting, too, as you initially knit each half of the scarf separately and then bring them together -- though not with grafting.  The piece is also completely reversible - always a plus for me when it comes to a scarf.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but I am starting into the home stretch for this scarf.  I must say, I like projects where the stitch numbers decrease as you get towards the finish instead of increase.  It feels like running downhill!

Treats for Inspiration

Sat, 09 Feb 2013 10:29:45 -0600

Last year was such a low impact knitting year that it was hard for me to look at my existing stash and justify more yarn.  It was also becoming more and more clear to me that some yarns, even though I love them, don't play nice with my skin.  At the same time, I missed creating and crafting and knew I needed some inspiration.  So I decided that I would allow myself to have some treat yarn, under the condition that it was skin compatible (merinos, silk and good cashmere), truly special and inspirational, and also a small project where the yarn would actually be consumed and not just sit and linger in my stash.

Just about the time I made this decision, Sundara offered her luxury yarn subscription.  Smallish amounts of yarn and a pattern to go with it.   I'd used her fingering silky merino in another pattern and found that I could wear it against my skin without irritation, and since that yarn, it's aran cousin and a sport silky cashmere were the core offerings, I figured I couldn't go wrong.  Small projects, wonderful yarn bases and a dyer that makes some of the most beautiful and sophisticated colorways I've ever seen.   It's hard not to want this yarn in your hands!

Of course, I haven't been as fast on the draw as I would like to be.  There were three projects in the subscription and I'm just about mid-way through the first (Saltwater, which I am working in that beautiful blue yarn you see in the picture).   The other two yarns that came in the subscription are that beautiful deep "autumn leaves" red aran silky merino and the lovely "driftwood" sport silky cashmere that captures my memories of driftwood washed up on Lake Michigan in the summertime perfectly.    

The green yarn is her "Compassion" (also in aran silky merino) -- she released it at a time a few weeks ago when that message really resonated (and still resonates) with me.  The cowl project it goes with may be next since it is February in Chicago and that color will be the perfect complement to me and my hair and February is just one of those months where we all need a little more compassion, I think. At least in the places where it is cold and we have to spend more of our time indoors.

Last, but not least, that beautiful purple lace weight is "Aurora" in "Petunia" from Jill Draper. It's a wool silk blend and it's so soft that I'm optimistic that I'll be able to wear it in the lacy cowl its destined for.  

Even though I haven't knit with all of it yet, this yarn is keeping me company at my desk, sharing it's color and it's beautiful textures with me.  It's been therapeutic in many ways.  And it definitely helped convince me to keep my needles moving.

What yarn or tools inspire you to keep knitting?

Have a Heart

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 22:22:34 -0600

Perler Bead Heart by Ms. Z

I learned about Perler beads from my sister-in-law last weekend.  They are really wonderful, especially if you have a child that needs to work on her fine dexterity. It's crafty goodness that helps with motor skills.

Take one template with tiny pegs on it and one bucket of cylindrical plastic beads.  Give them both to a child and let them create.  Ms. Z just likes to mix all the colors.  When the child is done, cover the project with parchment and iron.  Voila!  You have my plastic heart (although Z would like to give this one to her school art teacher).

This is equally fun for the parent, since I love to play with color and pattern, and it seems to make my child happy when I sit and do it with her.  Finally a fun craft activity that we can do together that isn't messy and isn't hard to clean up.

Precious Little Things

Sat, 19 Jan 2013 12:53:51 -0600

Not much of my knitting is very photogenic at the moment, but I do have a few lovely little things to share.In November, Julie and I went to Vogue Knitting Live when it came to Chicago.  We didn't go to any classes. Instead we went looking through the vendor section to see what interesting things we might turn up.  One of those interesting things turned out to be handcrafted hexagonal needles.  I am always interested in "new" knitting needle technology and I'm a sucker for handmade things, especially when they come from my home state of Michigan. Indian Lake Artisans makes handcrafted hexagonal knitting needles (it's a lot easier to see that hexagon shaping on their website... these needles were just too tiny to get a good picture of that).  I took them for a spin and really enjoyed the feel and liked how the hexagon provided a bit of extra grip.    Even better, they will make them out of a variety of hardwoods, all sourced from Michigan.  I don't truly "need" any more knitting needles, but I do enjoy adding special sets into my collection when I find them.  I love black walnut and I placed an order with them for US 3 (3.25 mm) needles -- it's so hard to find hand crafted lace weight needles in small sizes!  They arrived this week (along with a handwritten explanation for why it had taken a little while for them to get to me) and they are beautiful.  They are smooth and the joins are almost undetectable when you run your fingers over them. The size of the needle is branded into one of the points, so I'll always be able to tell what size they are (they also can be sized with a conventional needle sizer).  The cable will have to be warmed and relaxed, but that is fine by me.  I have a lace weight cowl pattern all ready to test them out on.  So as soon as I finish up another project I'm working on these needle will get a work out.  I will probably invest in a US 4 and US 5 soon as well.The next set of acquisitions occurred after I realized all of my little stitch markers were sitting in ongoing projects (note to self: time to get knitting...). So I headed on over to Etsy and treated myself to a few new sets.  Etsy is one of my favorite places to find stitch markers since there are so many vendors and so many different markers to be found.The markers on the top left are from Exchanging Fire.  They are markers with "mood ring" inserts -- now I will always be able to tell what mood my knitting is in!The markers on the top right are from The Twice Sheared Sheep.  They are amethyst beads with a "moebius" ring that will fit needles up to a US 4 -- perfect for the fingering weight projects.  Amethyst is my birthstone (and I love me some purple anyway) and with my birthday coming up, I thought they would be a nice little treat.The bottom markers are from Strawberry Lane.  Ms. Z and I both love butterflies, so these were hard to resist (clearly I didn't!).  I may have to start a project with these soon, if only to prevent them from flying off to some place in my daughter's room....I consider pretty knitting tools, like nice workout wear, motivation to knit and create.  While the standard jump rings work well, I love the little treat I get that comes from knitting along and encountering a special marker or running my fingers over beautifully made needles.  What are your favorite knitting tool treats? [...]

Joe's Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf Revisited

Sat, 12 Jan 2013 13:24:43 -0600

Everything old is new again. Which is to say, even I, who hates to knit the same pattern twice, can find a reason to go back to a pattern when enough time has passed.This fall, Ms. Z started Kindergarten.  The transition from her wonderful pre-school to an equally wonderful Chicago public school has been a good one, but not always an easy one.  We consider ourselves amazingly lucky that Ms. Z has a teacher who is clearly (as another parent aptly put it) "part luminous being".  So, after an incident that required a great deal of parent-teacher coordination to work through, I wanted to do something that would reflect my appreciation:  something that was a gift of my time to say thank you for the gift of her time.  And I decided to knit her a scarf. Almost 10 years ago, I knit a lovely scarf for my mother, using Joe's Cross Stitch scarf pattern.  At the time, it felt like it took a long time to make for the payoff (mostly because of moving all those wrap stitches around) and so while I liked the result, it was only theoretically a fast knit. As I started to cast around, as it were, for something for Ms. Z's teacher, I remembered this scarf, but I couldn't find the pattern.  And when I started dredging through my old email and blog archives, I turned up a critical bit of information that made knitting the scarf faster: do the wraps on a bigger needle (a US 8, for instance) and only do two of them. Suddenly a slog became a lightning fast scarf with a beautiful pattern stitch. Joe's Koigu Cross Stitch ScarfYarn: Claudia Handpainted Yarns Fingering WeightColorways: Bearded Iris and Honey (1 skein each)Needles:  US 5 and US 8 (for wrap rows)Ms. Z's school colors are purple and gold (think Minnesota Vikings) so I wanted to reflect that in the scarf without being too over the top about it.  I had some extra yarn, so I did an extra half interval of the pattern so that the scarf would be symmetrical and begin and end with the same color. Since my gauge was probably a little tighter than what Joe described as optimal in his pattern, this extra interval also gave me a bit more width.  This scarf is a little shorter than the pattern describes as well, but it is also a bit denser, which, hopefully, makes it a little warmer against Chicago winter weather.  This is the pattern stitch after I blocked it.  I love merino superwash yarns, but even though I blocked this out and stretched the crosses out a bit more, it reverted back to what it wanted to do and created a denser fabric.  Ah well.   At least this means Ms. Z's teacher won't have to go through any special blocking rituals to maintain it.Of course, I finished the knitting on this scarf in late November and didn't manage to get it blocked until the end of December and then it took me until last weekend to fringe it.  Now it just needs a care label and a note of thanks before I wrap it up and slip it into Ms. Z's teacher's inbox. Whenever I knit something for someone I know on a more professional than personal level, I get a bit more nervous about sending the gift on.  Not because I worry about the quality of the gift (I believe it is beautiful and well made) but because I worry that the receiver would have preferred something else or that the making of something might be perceived as too personal.  So I'd love to hear from any teachers (or anyone one else in a field where you might get gifts from people you work with) amongst my readers on this subject.  What would you think about receiving a hand knit scarf?  Too personal or appropriate?[...]


Sun, 06 Jan 2013 21:20:07 -0600

Sometimes you spend a long time trying to find the right thing to do with one skein of yarn.  And then, finally, while wandering through Facebook, another friend shows you the answer.This skein was a random skein with no name that I purchased at Michigan Fiber Festival from the Fold.  Muted blues, greys, browns and purples.  Totally not my usual colors, but I loved it.  And even better, it was $14.  How could I leave t there?I think I bought it around the time Zosia was born... so it sat for at least 5 years or so.  The yarn with no name that I loved.And then Cara at January One posted on Facebook about her wonderful Willow cowls.  If anyone can find good ways to use Socks that Rock, it is Cara.  I had a Eureka! moment and pulled up Willow in Ravelry.  It really did seem perfect for the yarn.  I decided to follow Cara's suggestion (which is in her notes for the project) to start with fewer stitches (140 instead of 160 and decreasing down to 90 instead of 110 at the end.) to create a narrower, less slouchy cowl, which seemed a good call for both me and the yarn -- but otherwise, I didn't change anything in the pattern.Willow is a funny thing when you see it like this.    It looks much better on.  But at least you can see the colors.  Very winter water color!Willow shows herself to her best when she is worn.  I love the STR Medium weight for this scarf, it adds just the little bit of stiffness (without being stiff) that is needed to keep this cowl from being too loose and floppy.  The picot edges are a brilliant touch to hold the collar bone and neckline edges in place.Mine also has a little surprise that you can just see a hint of in the picture.  A little girly touch necessitated by running out of yarn a few stitches before the bind off.  I chose a soft pink yarn in a similar gauge and washability to complete the knitting, the bind off and to sew down the inner edge with.  A special little secret -- the last splash of pink at the horizon before the sun goes down over a winter landscape.After a day of wear, it's maintaining its structure and its warm without being cloying.  STR also seems to be one of those yarns that I can wear against my skin without having an itching fit, so that's a bonus, too!  But the best surprise was that it got a thumbs up from my 9 year old niece who seems to be developing a knitting habit.  It would be fun to make a couple of smaller ones if I could figure out the right starting stitch number. [...]


Wed, 02 Jan 2013 18:39:32 -0600

It's that time of the year when everyone is talking about resolutions.  I am not even going to go into my lousy track record with such things.  

But it is the beginning of the year, so I, like many others, have been thinking about new beginnings, starting afresh and taking on new challenges.  Rather than resolutions or goals, I've decided that I am going to have wishes.  Accomplishment of wishes still requires intent (I don't count winning the lottery as one of my true wishes for the 2013, though I wouldn't complain if it actually happened) so there is still some personal activation required.  However, since they are wishes, not resolutions, I think it's easier to let them go if they are hard to realize or if they are realized for a time and then wear out.  Making something a wish gives me easy permission to let it go if life changes and it doesn't fit.  Also, it's easy to accept when a wish doesn't come true.

So what am I wishing for to start this year?

I wish: 

  • To post more regularly on my blog.  Likely this means less crafting and more random stuff.  But it's always been the writing that mattered to me, more than the content.
  • To carve out a little more time for creative projects, and to find ways to include my daughter in them.
  • To find an exercise regimen I can stick with.  I really do love to exercise, but sometimes it gets lost in the time crunches all around me.  
  • To revel in my girly loves.  Through my daughter I have been rediscovering my inner love of girly things long since put away when I started my scientific training.  I don't work in a lab and more and noxious chemicals are not a part of my life.  And really, can you ever have too much nail polish?
I've found a couple of things that I'm hoping will help me with those last two items.  

I love getting new workout clothes... somehow, they always seem to help me get more motivated  to keep my body moving.  What could be more fun than a monthly subscription for new workout wear?  I just signed up for pv.body and built my profile and I'm looking forward to those shiny pink packages!

My other favorite thing right now:  my monthly Julep Maven box.  After regularly buying myself little treats at Sephora, I discovered that Julep has a much better (both in terms of fun and in terms of cost-effectiveness) monthly program.  Like pv.body, you go through a little profile quiz and it matches you up with one of 4 types.  Once a month, you get to see the neat goodies that they think you'll like.  If you like 'em, you can order.  If not, you can pick from the other types, send the box to someone else or just pass for the month.  Its super fun and very flexible.  And I really like Julep polishes and supplies because they avoid a lot of the nasty chemicals that are in many polishes, meaning that they are Ms. Z friendly.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Toys from the Past: Retro Spirograph Reboot!

Fri, 28 Dec 2012 14:12:03 -0600

I guess it's feast or famine around here at my blog these days, nothing for months and then three posts in three days.  But I found something so wonderful, at least for those of us of a particular era, when I was shopping last night that I can't not talk about it.  No, your eyes do not deceive you, it's a real live gen-u-ine Spirograph.  This (along with my Lite Brite) ranks as one of my all time favorite toys ever.  A year or so ago I started looking for one so that I could add one to Ms. Z's collection (when she was old enough to use one), only to find that they simply weren't made any more and that stalking eBay was going to be the only way I'd ever find one again.   I was more than a little heartbroken that it was going to be so hard to share one of my favorite toys ever with my daughter.So imagine my surprise when I took a trip to Learning Express in Ann Arbor (a most fabulous independent toy store that you should definitely visit if you are in the area) and found a real live Spirograph set.  I snagged one without a second thought.  And when I went up to the register mentioned that I was so excited to see them back and was getting one for myself.  Which is when I got the wonderful story that goes along with them.Apparently, the folks at Kahootz Toys, which is also based on Ann Arbor, MI, wanted to license the Spirograph product from Hasbro and manufacture this retired toy, which they also missed.  Hasbro didn't have a problem licensing, but the molds for many of the gears just didn't exist any more.  So Kahootz went to eBay and bought several vintage Spirographs and reverse engineered the pieces from these vintage kits and started manufacturing the sets.  Learning Express got their first batch (and probably the first batch of them that was delivered to anyone) of them on December 17, 2012.Aside from a lack of thumb tacks (this new kit uses a tacky putty to hold the wheels down) its just like what I remember as a kid.  The case is much improved (the old box was easy to break down) and the front panel serves as a work surface but the wheels are all what I remember and the manual includes all the wonderful old designs as well as much more information about how the Spirograph wheels work.  Those wheels are just about as much happiness as I can imagine from hard plastic gears! When I asked if it was selling well, I was told that they had sold 500 of them since they put them out, many to people like me who were past their peak toy using years...  I guess I am not the only one who loved this toy when I was small!Although it looks like this toy is available from pre-order on Amazon... if you want it right now, I'm pretty sure you could call Learning Express and order it since they take phone orders.  That would make my heart sing extra loud since buying local and from small unique businesses is one of the causes I really try to get behind and this is a toy revived by an Ann Arbor company and sold at a local Ann Arbor business (at least right now). [...]