Sunday, March 15, 2015

Nostalgia on the Ides of March

It's been a while since I have posted. A LONG while. I won't make excuses; it was just one of those things. I have been meaning to get back into blogging and I finally have some impetus.

I relived a goodly chunk of my youth today with a heaping side helping of local culture.

Today, the Eureka Theater held a festival titled  "Spock Day", a tribute to Leonard Nimoy who recently passed away.
OK, I am deeply aware that this post rats me out as a nerd. I am, but not the way most people think of nerds. I don't do cosplay. I don't go to Comicons. Even with regards to Star Trek, I am a fan, not a fanatic. I am deeply familiar with the original series as I watched it religiously in reruns with my brother on our local independent TV station. (M-F at 6 PM for YEARS). Bro and I knew all the episodes, had seen them multiple times, and got to the point where we could look at the opening 10-20 seconds and could tell which episode it was. That was a game for us: who could figure it out first. It was a large part of my youth. I even remember as one of my earliest memories of television (and I am dating myself here) seeing an episode of Star Trek NOT IN RERUNS--yes, on regular, network,  non-syndicated TV. It was "The Galileo Seven" and it scared the SHIT out of me. My mom banned me from watching it any more because I had nightmares of a big hairy monster pounding on the outside of the shuttle craft with a rock. I was completely freaked out by it. For years, I even referred to that as the "Hairy Monster Episode".

Beyond that, though, I watched only a little of the following spinoff series. Some NextGen (OK, anything to do with the Borg was pretty damned cool. They were great villainous aliens.), Some Voyager and a smidgen of Deep Space Nine (enough to be vaguely familiar with the plot line.) I didn't watch all of the episodes, didn't watch regularly and tapered off after a while. Same with the movies. I went to see the early movies, and gradually lost interest. It's not that the continuations were bad; I had just moved on. I don't sneer at these things: the True Trekkies, the cosplay, the Comicons. It's just not my thing. My obsessions (and I do have them) lie elsewhere.

However, when the Eureka Theater announced today's program, I was intrigued. I was supposed to go to the movies with one of my Besties--we were going to go see "Despicable Me". More on that later. I was leery of spending a goodly chunk of Sunday in a movie theater. The festival went from 3-9:30. Yikes. But I decided to go for it. The program included two Spock-centric episodes of TOS, "The Wrath of Khan" and the 2009 J.J. Abrams "Star Trek" reboot, which I had never seen. I avoided it because it might tamper with my childhood memories. I am still rather irked that the remastered TOS series has now got souped up special effects. I LIKE the crappy old effects because that's what was seen originally. It's like colorizing films. I am a firm believer in leaving things as they are in their original context. That's a large part of why I avoided the reboot--tampering with beloved childhood stories. I was pleasantly surprised.

The reboot actually incorporated the changes in the plot quite successfully. It was a believable story that allowed for the differences and made them plausible.(I refer to this as the Misery Syndrome which references Steven King's novel, but that is another story for another time.). All this AND I got the distinction of being able to see the newer version for the first time on a big screen almost 7 years after it was released which was pretty cool in and of itself. Add that two TOS episodes, also on the big screen which ROCKED. Lastly, seeing "The Wrath of Khan" once more really took me back. It is still a really great movie with all the best elements of Star Trek: winks of trivia for the fans and a stand-alone sci-fi action film that kicks ass even for non-fans.

I was allowed for a brief window to be a kid again. A teenager again. And it was so COOL. It evoked so many sweet, happy memories of time spent with friends. Not just time based on Star Trek, but time at the movies. I grew up in the SF Bay Area and I went to MANY movie marathons back in my day, some held at theaters that no longer exist. I'm talking 2, 3 or even more films at once. I got to see things in a context not often seen today in this age of streaming movies and dvd's. I frequented places like the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, which is still extant albeit in what seems to be a truncated form of itself (no more silent film Wednesdays?? What a waste of the fabulous Wurlitzer organ!), the Sash Mill Theater in Santa Cruz, the UC Theater in Berkeley (which I am TICKLED TO DEATH to read is supposed to be resurrected later this year!), the Alameda Theater in San Jose (which now shows Bollywood films--not a bad thing at all, but I miss the old repertoire.). I occasionally also went to the Castro Theater in SF (hard  since I didn't have a car and was unfamiliar at the time with SF public transportation outside of the BART system.) which still has the original format of older movies, silents, classics and indie films.

These places gave me the chance to see these films on the big screen and really have a total film experience. To see a huge picture of Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn on a large screen can be amazing. I got to see a revival of "Lawrence of Arabia" (my first viewing of it, no less)on widescreen with a restored print and great sound. (AMAZING soundtrack.) I saw the Lon Chaney, Sr. version of "Phantom of the Opera" at the Paramount Theater in Oakland in all it's original Art Deco movie palace glory as others might have seen that film many decades before. The Stanford theater did a screenings of the original "Nosferatu" with a gorgeous print from a German film archive that included the original colored film stock--yellow for daytime, pink for interiors and blue depicting nighttime scenes, and a wonderful nitrate print of Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes". I saw a screening of Buster Keaton's "The Cameraman" with a jazz orchestra playing the score (Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks--great jazz ensemble!)--a film which included the hilarious scene where Keaton loses his swimsuit in a public pool:

I could go on and on.  These are things you can't see easily anymore and that's unfortunate. What is encouraging for me personally are the two local theaters that are trying to restore this format in some incarnation. The Eureka Theater is one and the other is the Arcata Theater Lounge, an old single screen theater that reinvented itself a few years back to be half theater and half pub. They serve food there and have a full bar. They show old movies, have live music or comedy shows, screen local films and have theme nights like there fabulous Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza night which they put on almost every Wednesday. (It occasionally gets co-opted for live shows.) I saw a screening of  "The Wizard of Oz" at ATL as the locals call it, and it was wonderful! Did you know that the Scarecrow's makeup is so detailed that his face looks like it is made of burlap? I never did until I saw that film on the big screen, even though I had seen it more times than I can count. I am a regular viewer at the recurring showings of "The Big Lebowski" where the drink special is a White Russian.(the double White Russians come in pints. Yes, really.) I saw "Jaws" there while having their movie dinner special of fish and chips with a Lost Coast Brewing Great White ale. Fun stuff.

The Eureka Theater is working towards the same type of thing. The folks there are in the process of restoring the theater. They have a ways to go, but they have made great strides. To that end, the have festivals like today's. What's more, it's not just sit for hours with a popcorn and a coke. They have a bar and serve specialty cocktails ( or Spock-tails, as today's were called) whipped up to match the theme of the movie. I saw "Blazing Saddles" there just a couple of weeks ago. It was great.

I realize that this kind of format represents a financial risk. These are still businesses and enough people have to attend to make it economically feasible to sustain the format. At ATL people ARE attending. Wednesday Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza night is usually pretty packed. When my husband and I go, we get our pub dinner (hot dogs or burgers or specialty salads) and a couple of drinks and spend an evening with a roomful of like-minded people all getting off on a live version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the movies tend towards the piss-poor. The worse the movie, the better the evening for the sheer snark of it all, IMO.).

 ATL has been going with this format for a few years now and I am thrilled to see the Eureka Theater heading in the same direction. They have added their spin on it with the beer wine and cocktails and they had a gal there tonight from a place called Royal Bavarian Brezen -Pretzels who was selling KILLER homemade pretzels and pastries. This kind of additions brings a unique spin to the theater experience. Even bigger, this calender of events means there are even more chances for other folks and YOUNGER folks to see these films on the big screen. The two gals who sat behind my bestie and I tonight had never seen "The Wrath of Khan" before. Their first viewing was on the big screen and from their reactions and comments, they LOVED it. These people are getting a chance to view films in a way that I did when I was younger and I am glad for them. I loved these outings as a kid and now others can share this and make their own memories. Add to this, it's not an evening of same old, same old. I am pleased beyond measure that I get to relive my youth like I did today and revel in my nostalgia while making new memories. Life is sweet!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Woodlands" : a Knitting Adventure

For those of you who follow my blog (all five of you), finally I post. It has been well over a year since my last blog post, so it is high time. I have not been idle in the last year. The biggest news is that I finally got a pattern published. Laura, the owner of Northcoast Knittery--aka, My Second Home (I really should be paying rent.)--tapped the really quite tremendous talent here in Humboldt County, and has put together a pattern book. This is not some low-key xeroxed and stapled deal, but a beautiful, glossy book chock full of great patterns. It's not just my homegrown pride saying this. I literally would knit every pattern in this book (and likely will, at this point). Really, IMHO, it's THAT GOOD. And the kicker? I get to be a part of this illustrious group.

The book is called "Woodlands", And it features eleven knitting patterns. My own design is a seamless creation called "Arden". Arden is described as a garment that falls somewhere in the middle of being a cardigan a shrug and a bolero. That may sound a bit daft, but it really is true. This sweater really was designed to meet my needs, since the original I made purely for myself.

The design inspiration for Arden was born in the '90's and of necessity. In one of my many yarn trawls, I poked through a shop in Calistoga, California that is now no longer there. At the time, it was chock full of yarns, some of which were unusual. This visit took place in the pre-internet days when yarn was not all that readily available outside of a LYS, apart from a handful of catalogs. There wasn't even eBay at that point. In any case, I spent some time poking through bins and ended up buying two big mohair muffs of yarn by Patons called "Knit n Save". The muffs were a full 450 grams of yarn: enough for a whole garment. They were both ombred--one in blues to greens and the other in reds to hot pinks. There was a sweater pattern on the ball band, and I knit it up in the blue/green yarn. It was pretty typical of the early 1990's--oversized and fuzzy. I did a decent job knitting it, but frankly, I hated it. It was baggy, shapeless and unflattering. I had intended to knit up both balls, but decided I wasn't going to waste my time on another sweater of a pattern I hated. I also wanted to preserve the ombred color run, rather that knit separate pieces and therefore break up the colors.

 So there I was, pre-internet, pre-Ravelry, pre-eBay. I had pattern books, but none had a sweater pattern that met my needs. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so if I wanted something specific, I had to create it myself. I decided to make a cardigan/shrug thingie, but really I was flying blind. It was my first foray into circular knitting as well. I decided that a cuff-to-cuff approach was my best bet. I picked a gauge I liked and started knitting. It really was weird--a series of increases and decreases, and finally knitting back and forth for the opening because I was determined not to cut the yarn. I had, not very long previous, knitted a Sandy Black design in mohair called "Triangles" and I had learned a technique for that to make a knitted welt that I really loved the effect of.

It entailed knitting several rows and then picking up the stitches in the back and knitting them with the live stitches, creating a knitted tube built into the fabric. I had a bunch of black mohair and decided to trim the sweater with welts knitted in black. Since I had a very limited amount of yarn I was pretty constrained and I can tell you I had NONE of the Patons mohair left by the end. I added a decorative patch of dark red at each cuff flanked by welts, but that was leftover Ironstone mohair from the Triangles sweater. I finished my sweater off with two black snaps in the front, creating a crossover that was invisible. Of course, while making this I wrote nothing down. I just knit. I was very proud of that sweater. I still am. The construction was not like anything I had seen. Even today, there is nothing really like it on Ravelry.

 I had always meant to reverse engineer it and write up a pattern, but never seemed to get around to it. So, when the call came from Laura in 2011 to put together a book, the first thing that came to mind was that sweater design. Even if the design was not accepted, I would, in the end, have a written pattern of my sweater, which was a goal in and of itself. With the various constraints in mind, I picked a yarn in the shop that I liked the look and color of and that would mimic the more outdated mohair. It took a lot of time and I procrastinated quite a bit in remaking the sweater, mostly because of stage fright. Could I really duplicate the sweater? Was I really good enough as a knitter to make something other people would like and would knit? I persevered, though and finally it all came together, with ample help from the designer group. I gave the sweater the working title of "The Green Thing" and that pretty much stuck until the book came out. I was so gratified when my design was chosen--my emotions falling somewhere between being proud and abashed. Still, this was no dream; the book project was real and this June it came to fruition and "Woodlands" was published. Just yesterday, my design was finally put up on Ravelry. My name in print--both in hard copy and online. It was a major milestone for me both as a knitter and personally. The process has changed the way I think in so many ways--about my knitting, about my abilities and about myself. A new book is now in the works and for that I have submitted three designs. We will see if they get chosen, but I still feel like a bright future of taking ideas out of my head and into really reality awaits me!

Monday, September 24, 2012


I am putting the "bleh" in "blog"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

UFO Update

Omigosh, two posts in one day? Can this be? Well, this is really a quickie, so I am not counting it as a real post. This is mostly an update to keep myself on track with my promise to finish things this year.

My current UFO count on Ravelry stands at 12, which is one less than the end of the year. I have actually started and finished a couple things, but let's look at "2012 FO's, The Story So Far..."

1) Gold Magician scarf. This was a start AND finish, since I made it in a workshop in early February
2)A bit of fluff-- a super quickie scarf made with one skein of Berroco Lacey that I got in L.A. in January. Another start and finish
3)Altered Alva--a shawl made with one ball of Kidsilk Haze Stripe. Started and finished.

Hey, I am sensing a pattern here...

But wait!

4) plaid scarf-- a crocheted palid made from one ball of Kureyon Sock. Started in 2010. WOOT!
5) The Green Thing--my design submission for the NCK book project.

so by mid-March I have finished two old things and started and completed 3 other things. OK track record, but I have also brought a cardigan, two shawlettes and a bag into close range. Things are getting done...yippee!

Lace Challenged

I have noticed a pattern in my response to knitting lace charts. Whenever I start a lace knitting project, there is always a period where I can do nothing right. This pattern is despite the fact that I am not new to lace. In fact, I have knitted quite a few lace projects over the years, some of which have been fairly complicated.

I am not sure why this occurs, but the result is that I tend to be nervous as a kitten whenever I start knitting lace. By the end, I find lace projects some of the most satisfying knits, but that satisfaction often comes after a great deal of aggravation.

In my recent push to peel off the topmost layer of my stash (in the form of finishing UFO's), I have wrestled with a lovely little shawlette called "Billie Holiday" by a designer who goes by Susanna IC.
I am a BIG fan of Susanna IC's designs, as they tend to be fluid and elegant, and lean towards that practical crescent shape that so many designers do these days. A crescent shaped shawl can double easily as a stylish scarf, while you are outdoors, wearing a coat. Inside, it can drape over your shoulders, adding warmth, but not too much.

But I stray off topic.

I bought a BH kit off a fellow Raveler, who was destashing. I loved the dark indigo colorway, with just a hint of fading here and there, just like newer blue jeans starting to really break in. Ever the impulse buyer, me, I snapped it up. This was a project I was into, so I didn't have the yarn long before I rewound the skein and gathered what I needed to start. And, start I did, casting on 341 stitches. First thing let me say is it is a GOOD idea to put in markers ever 50 stitches to keep your count straight. Furthermore, count twice. Count three or four times even. Five counts won't hurt either. Nothing like getting to the end of a 341 stitch lace row and find yourself off a stitch. At this point, it means you have to rip out, because fudging will make the edge uneven. So rip and recast on. Goody.

Next, put markers between each motif. This helps IMMENSELY. Then count the stitches between each motif. Hey, count again! It couldn't hurt. Then get cocky and knit a couple of rows, realize on row 5 you have dropped a stitch, try and fix it, fail, get a tangled mess at that point, rip it all out and start over. Again. See where I'm going with this?

This has been a hell project, but really, I am not sure why. The chart is clear and I could find no mistakes. The lace pattern follows a fairly logical progression. Add some beadwork in, for extra fun. I will say the yarn, Miss Babs Moo & Ewe, while a lovely color, is a slippy pain in the ass to work with. This, of course, does mean it will likely drape very nicely as a finished shawl, which is a very good thing. Still, one must reach the top of the mountain before planting the flag, so plan on muttering foul language under your breath while stitches leap from your needles like lemmings from a cliff top from time to time.

So back to my progression: after a purl row, put in a lifeline. And don't use thread, use YARN. A nice constrasty acrylic with do--one with some grab. This, I found, is what you do with that afghan yarn you get from well meaning friends who say "My grandma died and she has all this yarn and I want it to go to a good home. You knit. Would you like it?" This last question opens up a whole other blog post topic I will get to another day. Cheap afghan yarn. It does have it's uses. Like lifelines. Or yarn bombing. And how can one say "no" to much-loved Grandma's crappy Red Heart or Caron, without insulting the grieving friend...

Ahem. Lifelines. So I have one on row 8 of a 28 row chart and I thank it. It has stayed in place, like a net under a tightrope walker. I am now on row 27, almost off the lace chart. In fact, the last row is a purl row and row 27 had no yarn-overs, so I am essentially done. I even made mistakes that I was able to fix. It was cocky to not add another lifeline, and I thought about doing so, but I kept saying "one more motif row" and my stitch count would balance and I kept on going. I reached my stride. I dropped a yarn over here or there, but was able to fix it. I did have to make myself quit knitting some nights when I realized I was getting tired and was about to start seriously messing up if I pushed on for just one more row, which really would have take too long anyway at 341 stitches of a complicated chart at 11 PM on a work night...So I took things in bite sized pieces and now I have broken the back of the chart. I am about to begin the short row shaping, which is in stockinette. Once I have sussed that rhythm, this will likely become a lunchtime project until I get to the beaded top row.

I chalk my lace knitiot savant tendencies, my propensity to biff lace charts at a project start and coordinating my hands and brain to being like an old car that needs to be warmed up a bit before driving it. It's just one of those things and all part of the process. I have other lace projects to start-- yes, more lace! In fact I want to start this in couple of weeks for a KAL. Bring out the straight jacket...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ravelry is Forever? Or Maybe Not...

I noticed one of my Ravelry friends was missing this morning. It's not that I regularly check on these things. I am not much of a forum poster or thread follower; in the almost 4 years I have been a Raveler, I have made posts to the forums 35 times.

Still, this knitter was busy. She was a fairisle MACHINE, cranking out numerous complicated fairisles a year, with some fancy cabled sweaters for added spice. She wasn't a good knitter, she was a GREAT knitter. I was a big fan of her work. Then she had a sudden and quite unexpected medical issue and she could no longer knit. I can't imagine that. It would be awful.

She bought herself a circular sock machine, and started using that. She condensed and archived a lot of her fairisle projects on her Rav page, and started downsizing her stash. Yikes. Still, when she posted, she sounded positive, and she had her previous projects as a body of work. It sounded like a hopeful new chapter.

I hadn't been by her page in months, so I randomly thought I would cruise by her page this morning to see what she was doing. Gone. Nothing. There is what looks to be a new Raveler with her username. Her forum posts (and she had lots) are all deleted. She has been erased from Ravelry. Given her circumstances, I can understand, I think (assuming she erased herself). It might have been hard being an Olympic level knitter and then not be able to continue with the craft she obviously loved. Still, she removed what I thought was an impressive legacy of knitwork. I can't imagine how much psychological pain she might be in that would prompt her to remove her projects, which were impressive and well worth the bragging rights. What scares me for her, is maybe she wasn't recovering. Or was getting worse.

I never really knew her or even met her, but her online voice was fun. I enjoyed periodically seeing what she was up to. Now she has been neatly excised, although there are holes left in the forum threads where people use her username like they were addressing her in her now deleted posts, or refer to her. That username is now a stranger's name. I find myself made sad and a little disturbed by her disappearance. I hope she is OK. I send this thought to the Universe: I wish her well, and hope things work out for my unseen online friend.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Getting Things Done

Jiada is about to be blocked.

The body is, anyway. Of the 7 knitted pieces that make up the pattern, 4 are knit up. The remaining 3 are the sleeves and collar; the sleeves are on my needles even as I type this, but I have to cop to feeling some stockinette aversion last night as I knit a few rows. Some people truly enjoy this kind of knitting, rows and rows of plain stockinette. These people find it meditative and soothing. Me, I need more engagement. It's the knitting version or road hypnosis for me, my brain becoming detached and drowsy. It bores me. Sad but true.

Then again, maybe it is just this project; I don't know. Still, I am committed to finishing, and I want to block the body and sew it together before I finish the sleeves to make sure they don't end up too damned long, as so many drop shouldered sweater projects I knit up do. I like my cuffs to hit just below the wrists. Any longer and the sleeves need to be tight enough to push up, which is not the case with this pattern.

Like so many of my UFO's this project has become a monkey on my back. I shuffle through my stash boxes and the bag with the yarn and half-done knitted pieces surfaces again and again, like some floating dead body. OK, that analogy was a little too Norman Bates, but it speaks to the point: some craft projects you are committed to, once you start, but the process is sometimes really really NOT fun, for some reason. Jiada is one of these for me.

Still, I have surmounted my knitter's block--such is the power of 18 hours of driving to and from Phoenix with me not behind the wheel: a right front and both sleeves knit to the elbow. (I am a slow knitter, I admit it.) In the interests of proper fit, I am planning to take advantage of a free Saturday to block the body now, also good since I don't have the blocking boards or floor space to block the whole sweater at once.

There is another reason to finish this: I have been thinking about steeks. As I wrote in my last post, I took a steeking class at TNNA and the wheels are turning. I have three projects that I am planning to steek, now that I know how. I have one fairisle, Peony, that required sewing machine steeks. I can now forego these, add in twisted stitches before I join the shoulders and put in crochet hook steeks.

Another project is a cropped Noro sweater I knit several years ago. I like the yarn and the color, but the sweater is cropped. On me, not good. I have long thought to take off the sleeves, use the yarn to make it longer and convert it into a vest. Now I know how.

Lastly, is the infamous Zarah, that has haunted me for years--I have old posts on it, adding in bust darts, carefully checking gauge and trying to make it fit I was at a point where the bodice would need to redone to remove bulk at the shoulder to keep the sleeves from looking saggy. Now I can add steeks, instead. I plan to get all three items out in the near future and bring them back from the Sargasso Sea of unfinished fiber business. Wish me luck!