Have You Seen This Bag?

A quick post, just for knitters.

Early this year, my friend Trisha designed a beautiful, intricate bag and the pattern was published by Sanguine Gryphon. Knitting the sample was….a trial. I remember being astounded by how Trisha was powering through knitting with a pretty major injury, and how stressful that time was. This is not a bag that you whip up in an evening over a few episodes of Buffy.

Look:

Isn’t it beautiful?  I think so.  Apparently, someone else thought so, too…because while the bag was on display at Rhinebeck, it disappeared.  I like to think that fiber-folk are good people, so it makes me sad to know that someone would steal a design sample from a Sheep & Wool festival.  Trisha has (wisely) activated the knitters barking chain.  If you happen to know anything about where the bag has landed, would you please email Trisha? If you have it, would you please do the right thing and send it back to Sanguine Gryphon?

Hexiwhat?

For a few months, I’d been seeing mutterings on my Twitter feed about a Beekeeper’s Quilt.  People seemed really into it, but I never bothered reading further because I don’t really quilt.  Time passed, and I started seeing people going on about hexipuffs.  That made even less sense, but I was busy, so I let that go, too.  It wasn’t until I saw probably half a dozen tweets over half a day–some that mentioned both the Beekeeper’s Quilt and hexipuffs in the same breath–that I decided to google it.  (Does anyone else still trip out over the fact that google is a verb?)

That was my first mistake.  I should have known that if everyone was talking about it ad everyone was making it, starting to ask questions meant I was walking on a slippery slope.  I didn’t think about that, though, and was instantly enchanted by the idea.   Its really very simple: you knit approximately eleven million 3″ hexagons in the round, and then you stuff them with polyfill.  Once you’ve knit all eleven million, you tie them together into a warm, squishy, puffy quilt.

I didn’t really see any way I wasn’t going to start one, but I figured if I sat quietly on my hands for awhile (or worked on the test knit I’m supposed to be making) I would forget about it, or get distracted by something more interesting.

That was my second mistake, because there is possibly nothing in the world more delightful and interesting than hexipuffs.

My third mistake was tweeting about how resistance was probably futile because when I woke up the next morning, a friend had sent me the pattern as a gift and it was waiting in my Ravelry account.  I pretended to be virtuous and waited until that evening to give this hexipuff business a try.  I knit half the hexigon and decided it was close enough to gauge, then knit the rest.  For a minute or two, I contemplated not stuffing it, but part of the appeal of the blanket was its fluff factor.  I dug the polyfill out of the closet (What?  You don’t have a random bag of polyfill sitting around your closet?), stuffed the hexipuff and bound it off.  All told, it took maybe a half hour.

I held it up, squeezed it a little bit, examined it from a few different angles, smooshed it some more, and totally began to understand the noise that Stephanie made in her vlog about the project.  Squishing hexipuffs makes it really, really easy to want to make that sound.

And then I reached for the closest ball of sock yarn and cast on another.  I knew I was in real trouble when, at the end of the night, I had four hexipuffs and a little pouch to store the project in.

I think I’m up to about a dozen now, and its really, really hard to want to knit anything else.  I mean, what’s not to like.  You get to revisit the stash of partial skeins of sock yarn and play with all sorts of different colors.  A half hour, and you have a finished project, and when its cast off?  You get to squoosh it.  And here’s the thing about hexipuffs, the thing that possibly makes them the most dangerous: they get exponentially cuter the more there are.

Can you stand it?

Five Really Good Reasons to Go Running

(Alternately titled: Why I think treadmills are lame.)

Trail Running

Hobbit House

Trail Running

Trail Running

Trail Running

A Parade of Dresses That I Can’t Wear.

I’ve been shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding for three weeks now.  I have purchased five (5) dresses and somehow still don’t have anything to wear.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I have a perfectly appropriate dress in my closet, but I’ve worn it to three of the past four weddings I’ve been to and was all over the excuse to buy a new dress.)

It seems like it should be an easy thing, buying a dress.  My criteria were simple: I needed a dress that was appropriate for an afternoon-into-evening wedding, that was formal enough to go with a date in a tux but is still less formal than the bridesmaids dresses, and that was preferably not black.  First, I ordered this dress:

It fit and is adorable, but in person, its totally not formal enough to wear to a wedding when your date has on a tux.  Then, I ordered this dress:

Also beautiful, and formal enough, but it didn’t fit.  And that became the story of dress shopping.  Apparently there is not a single dress on the planet that fits me.  I’m short, so anything that isn’t just the right length hits at a strange place.  I’m pear shaped, which means that the sheath dresses like this–the third dress I bought–also won’t work.

(Side note: Why–WHY–can’t dress models just stand up straight?  There is no possible way to understand how a dress will look in any reasonable situation when the models are standing like that!)

I always thought that empire waist dresses were a safe bet, but it turns out those are dodgy as well.   On top of everything else, I’m short waisted.  That, as I have learned, means that the top of the dress hits at an odd and unflattering place, which is a shame because I really, really loved this dress:

I have one last dress on order, and if it doesn’t work, I quit.  I don’t care anymore about having a new dress, and have become way too aware of everything I don’t like about my figure.  Its entirely possible that the reason I took up knitting is because its the only way I can have clothes that actually fit.

In Which Jess Experiments With “Barefoot” Running

I think the technical term for my current physical condition is, “jacked up.”  That’s the short story.  Feel free to move along.

Here’s the long story: About a year ago, much like just about everyone else in D.C., I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers.  I figured I like toe socks, I like being barefoot, and it would be nice to have a pair of shoes to work in that were mostly like not wearing shoes at all.  They actually worked really well for massage–I knew exactly where my feet were and what they were doing, and wound up paying a lot more attention to my posture.  At the time, I was deep into the BeachBody Insanity DVDs my brother had loaned me, so I wasn’t really thinking of running in them.

I wasn’t–and I’m still not–entirely sure that the notion of barefoot running jives with me.  I can buy into the idea that its probably biomechanically superior to running in traditional sneakers, but I can’t quite get past the idea of what that sort of pounding with no shock absorption must do to joints.

Over the past year, the Vibrams were pretty well road-tested.  They tromped all over multiple cities.  They did plyometrics and resistance training.  They went for a few short walks in the woods (Sprints, for the record, are way too thin-soled to stand up to acorns) and explored Chichen Itza.  No matter how long I wore them or how much walking I did, I felt just fine.  In a lot of cases, my feet felt better than they would have in my usual go-to walking shoes because there hadn’t been anything to rub or cause blisters.

This is important, because its my grounds for believing that, when I bought a pair of Merrell barefoot shoes, maybe I could experiment with running in them.  The Merrells are pretty wonderful.  The insole feels the same as the Five Fingers (and, in fact, is a Vibram sole), and there’s plenty of room in the toe box to spread and wiggle your piggies.  As a bonus, since they look like normal, low profile tennis shoes, they are much less likely to wig out Mexican flea market vendors and my mom.

And so on Tuesday Monday (working on Sundays totally messes with my sense of time and I spend the entire week running a day ahead), knowing that I had spent hours and hours tromping around sidewalks and uneven turf with no ill effects, I decided that I was going to wear the barefoot shoes out for a quick run.

Let me add a few things here.  First, I had done my homework.  I’ve been reading about barefoot running for over a year.  I knew all about the midfoot strike and shorter stride and proper candence and blah blah blah.  Second, I really was only going for a short run.  We’re talking less than a mile and a half.  I tried staying in grass as much as I could because in my imagination, earth must be better for joints than harder surfaces.  When there wasn’t grass, I ran on the asphalt and not concrete because concrete just seems like the most unyielding substance there is.

So I’m running.  And I’m thinking that its kind of nice, and maybe there is something to this whole more natural gait thing after all.  And then, barely out of the parking lot, my left achilles starts hurting.   So I make some adjustments and keep going, and the right achilles starts hurting.  So I make a few more adjustments and decide that maybe I might be okay, except that I’m really missing my nice, cushy Asics and wow, do I overpronate.  I was surprised that my joints didn’t feel pounded, and that in a lot of ways the running seemed more easeful, but I can’t claim that it was every super comfortable.  Everyone I’d spoken with and everything I read talked about a breaking in period, so I let it go.  Circled back home, finally giving up and walking the last handfull of yards, and stretched.  A lot.  Headed out for an outcall (trying to squeeze things like running experiments into found time may be part of the reason why I am late to everything ever), came home, did some laundry…and realized that my calves were really rather unhappy.

By yesterday morning, every time I took a step, my calves quietly wept.  I realized halfway through the day that my hips weren’t feeling so great either, but I didn’t think it was so bad, and figured yoga class would take care of it.  Yoga class didn’t wind up happening on account of there was a crazy random earthquake, so there’s that.

This morning, I got out of bed and could barely stand up or straighten my legs.  My hips are a mess, and this afternoon my back and left hip flexor joined the party.  (The trouble with knowing anatomy is that at times like these, you can identify every little thing that’s hurting you and somehow, that makes it seem bigger and more annoying.)  There is pretty much no position for me to be in that isn’t somehow uncomfortable, and walking down stairs results in my eyes getting really big and my muttering unladylike things.  This is super fun given that my living room in sunken two steps below everything else in the house.

So.  I think I’m back to my original belief that barefoot running is fundamentally Not a Good Idea (and possibly also that running is for suckers, but I’ll probably get over that once I can move properly again).  If I can just get through tomorrow, I intend to address the issue with a highly scientific cocktail of wine and massage, but the odds of getting that far feel dubious………….

Appropo of nothing.

1. I am not even going to tell you how many pair of shoes I just shepherded out of the living room.  I may just be the worst housekeeper on the planet.  The yarn, at least, has stayed more or less in its proper place (which is to say, tucked into every nook and cranny but not tossed on every flat surface) for the better part of two weeks.  I think that’s pretty impressive.  It may be because…

2. I’ve been occupied with learning to knit intarsia (why did I think it would be hard?) and working almost exclusively on Stephen West’s mystery shawl.  I have no idea what’s going to happen when its finished.

I’m pretty smitten with knitting it, but the colors aren’t me.  I knew that going in, but was set on working with yarn from my stash and not using the pattern as an excuse to buy more.  (I think that’s also pretty impressive.)  I have two days to knit 8 really long rows before the last clue comes out, I don’t see that happening, but I’m going to give it a go.

3.  I’m 30 years old and just two weeks ago learned to touch my toes.  I am not kidding.  Never been able to do it until now.  A few tricks taught in a yoga class combined with something a friend said about it a few months ago finally clicked, and I am not unreasonably happy about my new party trick.

4. My favorite band is playing in my favorite city for my favorite holiday and I can’t work out any reasonable way to justify going.

5.  So far, the solution I’m most strongly considering is registering for the Marine Corp 10k, thus eliminating the possibility of traveling over Halloween weekend.  This is absurd for a few reasons, the biggest of which is that 10k is exactly twice as far as I’ve ever run, followed closely by the fact that I’ve been out running maybe three times in the past year, and also the fact that I don’t really even like running–I just do it because I’d rather be outside listening to music than exercising indoors.  Still, I’ve found myself opening and closing the website a lot over the past two weeks and thinking things like, “Its only six miles, and its not for two months…..”

Mexico: A Trip in Pictures

Balcony ViewBalcony View

WIP: Radian Yoke Cardigan

Shade Pavillion

Chichen Itza

Xcaret

Xcaret

Xcaret

Xcaret

(The full photo set, with descriptions, is on Flickr here.)

Lists give me the illusion of control.

Things are a little chaotic, but they always are and I’m not even going to try to play catch-up.  I have a toothache that goes to 11 (actually, its an 8) and a million things that I’m procrastinating about, so have a list.

1. Jason and I celebrate our 5 year anniversary on Friday.  We’re going to Cancun and staying here and I am really, really excited.

2. My brother and SIL are expecting another baby, and this time they were nice enough to make me a niece to knit darling, frilly things for.  I just finished her baby blanket and will bring it to the hospital when she arrives on Wednesday.  I want it to be a surprise for them, so I’m only sharing a tiny preview.

It is (in my completely biased opinion) wonderful and perfect, and, I think, the exact right balance between classic, elegant and functional.

3. I’ve knit lots of other things, and even taken pictures of a few.  (I kind of hate how Flickr has changed their system so that its so bloody hard to link to photos.   Why do sites insist on changing things that aren’t broken?  I’m looking at you, too, Gmail.)

There’s a laceweight alpaca shawl designed by my friend Trisha.

There’s also a sock designed by my friend Allison.  Its just the one, for now.  The second one is coming.  Eventually.  Probably.

4. I got an email today from Marie at Underground Crafter.  Among other things, she mentioned that she read about my Physical Wellness for Handcrafters classes in Yarn Market News.  I had no idea, so I was super grateful that she pointed it out!  I checked it out, and sure enough, the May issue has a blurb about how The Yarn Spot has been working with me to offer seated massage and self care classes, both geared towards knitters.  Hooray for nice surprises, and for feeling a tiny bit famous!

5. Kombucha brewing continues.  I’ve been through three or four batches now, and Sammy the SCOBY has grown from a thin, yeasty little guy to a Serious Business kombucha culture.

This is what he looked like when I started my first batch of tea.

And this is what he looks like now.

Actually, this is more like Sam IV, since its one if the babies that grew on top of Sammy as the fermentation process went on, but I still think its super cool to see how the SCOBYs are changing from batch to batch.  Each one has been a little less yeasty and a little more opaque.

Weird Science

I have been knitting exclusively on a secret test-knit shawl for Trisha, so no new knitting pictures to share, but I do have pictures of Science.

Remember this?  The wee little ort of kombucha culture in the top right?  It just looks like a dark, whispy blob.

 

I covered the dish with a towel and put it on top of the refrigerator and forgot about it for two weeks, and when I came back to it, it had turned into a proper SCOBY.

Meet Sam.

(please ignore the following: random water bottle, crumpled paper towel, ugliest green countertops ever in the world)

 

He’s still young, so he’s pretty thin and translucent, but if I can get him to work through a few batches of kombucha, he should grow up and get big and strong, and won’t look so flimsy.

For now, he’s living in a big jar or sweet tea, nomming away at the sugar and fermenting the tea.

(please ignore my messy counter)

 

When I first put him in, he sank to the bottom pretty quickly, but within a few days he had floated back to the top.  About a week into the process, I took a long-weekend trip to visit Christine (yay!).  Before I left, there was a thin film on top of the tea, and while I was gone, Sam must have been hard at work, because there is now a pretty impressive baby SCOBY growing on his back.

I’ll give the tea another 5-7 days to ferment, since I want Sam to eat as much of the sugar as he can so that the end result will be a nice, tart kombucha.  At this point, it looks pretty promising that it will turn out!

Turning Things Into Other Things

Thing the first:

A week or so ago, I turned this (4 oz of 80/20 BFL & Silk top from the Pulling at Strings fiber club)……….

 

Into this………

 

Its about 250 yards of sort of unevenly spun, reasonably balanced yarn that is soft and yummy and drapey, and I don’t actually love the way the colors plied together.  The fiber, though, was wonderful–I think BFL/Silk is a new favorite.

 

Thing the second:

Today, I spent some time playing mad scientist in the kitchen.  Over the next few weeks, this (two bags of Tazo’s Joy tea steeping in two cups of water with a bit of sugar, that will be mixed with a bottle of plain, raw Kombucha)……….

will (hopefully), grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as a Kombucha “mother”) so that I can brew the stuff on my own and stop spending nearly $4 a bottle at Whole Foods.  As I understand it, the little bits of culture living in the bottled Kombucha will feast on the sugar in the tea that I made, and when I uncover the bowl in two weeks, instead of the wee amoeba-looking thing that was in there when I covered it up (visible here towards the top right)

I’ll find a big pancake-looking culture that I can transplant into a jar of sweet tea.  They’ll ferment together for awhile, and in about a month, I should have a drinkable batch going.  I’ve made home-brewed Kombucha before, but I’ve never tried growing a fresh SCOBY from scratch.  Whether it works or not, I’m excited to see what happens!

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