Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rome and Istanbul

We just returned from our 14 days trip to Rome and Istanbul. I always dreamed of going to Istanbul, and when I found out I had enough mileage saved for two to fly there I coudln't wait.
Rome was a 4 days stopover that added on the last minute while I was booking. I was so glad I did, it turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

Eating in Rome (or probably the whole Italy) is such a joy. It made me realize what living is about. I envy Italians. They seem to enjoy life, make great art, and love their food.

Each meal in Rome would last 2 hours or more (ok, maybe not the breakfast.) Several times we went into a restaurant and saw how much people were laughing, having a great time, while chowing down on amazing food, it all became contagious. Paul and I would chat so happily for a long time and kept ordering food. The way Italian servers never rushed people actually ended up making us stayed and enjoyed the food, and eventually ordered desserts, which is something we almost never do back home.

In Rome, it seemed like one would have to try really hard to get bad food. Even the obvious tourist restaurants like the one we went the first night near Plaza di Fiori had very decent food. We stumbled across a restaurant on our way walking to Vatican. I saw through the window a big gathering of an Italian family laughing and having a good time, I knew it couldn't be bad. I ordered pasta with clams in pesto sauce. Oh my, I still dream of that plate of pasta with enormous amount of clams. There was at least 30 or 40 clams and the pesto sauce was sooo good. I can eat that every day and not be sick of it. At a restaurant near Coliseum we walked into a restaurant that seemed to be a favorite hangout of locals for lunch, (long lines of locals and every table was taken, we're the only ones who did not speak Italian,) I had the best risotto, ever.

Eating in Rome is understanding what eating experience can be: loving your food, loving your company, and loving life.

Oh, and the sites. Walking around the ruins in Forum was an unforgettable experience. Lucky for us, it had finally stopped raining. I loved seeing cats crawling in and out of some broken columns laying on the ground.

The Basilca - for someone non-religious like I am found it not so much a place of feeling spiritual, but a showcase of power and wealth with all the amazing and grand sculptures. The Pieta was no doubt the best and most subdued piece in the Basilica.

The collection in Vatican was such as a treat. To see Raphael's school of Athen was a given, but to find other lesser known treasures added more depth to the tour. I loved the tapestries there. I was not a fan of European tapestry for the longest time until I began to see the good ones in person.

a small fresco by the window inside Vatican

Someone turn on the heater please, or at least give him some clothes.
Another fresco by a door in Vatican.

I was almost in tears seeing Sistine Chapel again. The first time I saw it was nearly 20 years ago. I bow down to Michaelagelo. Up on the celing it was a whole lively world. Seeing it renewed my complete belief in art once again. For a long time I've been questioning the relevance of art in today's world. Mostly, I question my own making of art, how inconsequential they are. The kind of doubt that many artist often have, especially those of us who don't make any living out of the art we make. But seeing the "Last Judgement" and the Ceiling in the chapel made me see how important art can be in human existence. The great works of art are just as important as great thoughts, or scientific discoveries. They open up your eyes and your mind to see the possibility you could not dream of before. Now I feel that even if I can never match one hundredth of Sistine Chapel's greatness, the quest of doing good art is relevant. The world is different because there are us who believe in the value of art, and of trying to do better art than what we have done.

On Michaelangelo's ceiling, the huge complexity of how every figures relate to each other and the structure of spatial relationship to the story telling (which involves the concept Time), and different parts of the ideas all came together in the most mind-blowing way when you look up. The figures seemed to be talking to each other and formed a lively world up there, and the sybils/prophets being completely different part from the bible stories yet by putting in the faux architectural painting to situate them, it unified the whole composition and telling story in a different way.

Then you look at the "Last Judgment" up in front of the altar you see Michaelangelo's development later in his life. The structure of space and monumentality gave way to an intense spiritual struggle and distortion. The immense power radiates from the Last Judgment was almost frightening, not only in the imagery but the way it was composed and painted.

I felt such a rush in the presence of an enormous giant and his talent and accomplishment. I was humbled by it, and feeling complete be able to witness it. It made me want to rush back home to get into my studio. Not that I am an figurative artist, nor do I work in representational works, nor do I posses the grand talent of Michaelangelo or other masters, but it gave me ambition, it made me want to be better of an artist.

Sistine Chapel

In the Vatican museum, I also saw two beautiful Morandi's paintings. It was always a treat to see a Morandi in person when I rarely saw one in the U.S. I did coupla quick studies of them in my sketch book as well.

Walking around Rome was like walking in a treasure box. I would find little (sometimes big) surprises all the time. Be it a balcony garden, or coming across a ruin site, or seeing a beautiful crystal chandelier inside a second story window.


We had 8 days in Istanbul. We made a big mistake of booking a hotel for 8 days in advance and they charged our credit card even before we got there. For 8 days we were sleep deprived. The biggest culprit was the bed. It was the most uncomfortable bed I'd ever slept on, and I'd slept on a lot of crappy beds/floors from camping trips and backpacking in Europe for 2 months. On the fifth morning I woke up screaming from the pain on my back/shoulder. I couldn't lift my arm for a day. Paul is still hurting badly with his back pain from the bed.

We stayed in the old town area Sultanahment. It's an area where the majority of tourists stay because it's all withing walking distance to Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Tokapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, and other major sites. It was amazing to be walking by Blue Mosque at least twice a day every day. The down side of staying at Sultanahmet though was that it's filled with mosques, old and not so old ones. I love the view and architecture of mosques, but they don't bring out the nicest part of me early in the morning with their call for prayer. Every morning at the crack of dawn each mosque would do their call of prayer through the loud speakers. The 5 mosques around us all did theirs at a slight different time. The calls seemed to be very different than the ones we heard in Morocco. Unlike the continuous calling in Morocco, in Turkey, each call would be a 15 senconds of calling, then 10 seconds of pause (so I'd begin drifting back to sleep), then started again, and that went on repeatedly for what felt like an eternity. It would take about 20 minutes for all 5 mosques to finish the calling. And it was still so dark outside. Being such a light sleeper, even though I did not get enough sleep, sometimes I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep because the noise of the street would start after the prayer.

The horrible bed, the calls for prayer, and a noisy hotel (noise from construction next door and traffic started each morning and lasted 'till 10 at night, and the walls were paper thin, the toilet also would not stop running half of the time which the hotel didn't fix after I made a request) really made sleeping a very difficult task.

The bad choice of hotel really dampened our experience a lot as we were walking zombies for 8 days. I felt like I would've fallen in love with the city a lot more if only I was well rested each night. If I were to do it again, I'd stay in the newer part of the city, it may lack in atmosphere, but I'd have a better chance of getting sleep and alert enough each day to enjoy the city.

Another downer on the trip was on our last day there. As we were walking down the street from the hotel in the morning, all of sudden I felt so dizzy as if the world was falling away from me. Paul came and grabbed me. Even though the dizziness went away very quickly, I was weak. I sat down at the park and drank some water, then puked. I'm not sure what happened. It scared me. I'm not sure if it had to do with total lack of sleep, or the cold I was catching, or dehydration, or more serious problem that's related to my ear feeling plugged up on and off for months (though for the ears, the ENT doctor said it was no big deal just eustachian tube deform and it will very likely to heal on its own after few months.) I never felt that way before, it was not light-headedness or the kind of dizzy after spinning around.

Blue Mosque at dawn

Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque were my long time dream of visiting and they did not disappoint at all. Blue Mosque surpassed my expectation both outside and inside. It is a work of sublime, a jaw-dropping beauty. In contrast to the impressive display of power and wealth in the Vatican Basilica, the trascending art of Blue Mosque carries more persuasive power of spirituality.

Inside Blue Mosque

Inside Hagia Sophia

On the fourth day in Istanbul, we took a ferry across to the Asia side and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, both the ferry ride the the tourist free streets. Originally we were gonna go up Bosphorous to Black Sea but we missed the ferry. The hotel told us it runs 3 times a day, but as it turned out it only runs once a day (maybe for winter) in the morning. So we just decided to hop on the shorter trip ferry and went across to Asia. We loved it so much that we went across twice in one day... Nah, the real story was Paul forgot his backpack in the restuarant and did not realize it until we're already on the ferry coming back. So we went back again. But gladly so. The fare was cheap only about $1 each way. We came back during sunset time, too bad it was overcast so we didn't get a glorious sunset, but the colors were still beautiful on the water.

A doorway in harem at Topaki

The Harem at the Topaki Palace has some amazing tile work. I love the design elements in Islamic/Ottoman art. And we saw some beautiful rugs at the Museum of Islamic and Turkish Art next to the Hippodrome. So beautiful that it made us not even want to look at any rugs sold in the Bazaar. It's a very nice museum, not large in collection on display, but amazingly beautiful stuff that I felt like I could take my time to look at each piece and not rushed.

Tile work in Harem at Topaki Palace

Grand Bazaar was unfortunately a let down. At first sight it was impressive with the number of stalls. But there was nothing but tourist souvenir stuff and fake designer handbags, and it's all the same thing stall after stall. If you've seen 5 stalls you've probably have seen the whole selection of the Bazaar. Once we ventured outide the Bazaar, we found streets shops where locals go. And there were tons of people everywhere. I found the yarn area that people on Ravelry had recommended. There were at least a dozen yarn stores there. Most of the yarns were acrylic and eyelash yarns which I was not interested at all. But after asking around for a while I finally found some Noku Bambu which is a blend of cashmere and bamboo. Very lovely yarn. I bought enough for 2 sweaters for about $40. I was very happy with the deal. The old guy at the store laughed when I bargained, it was 36 Liras for the first 12 skeins, and I said 30? He laughed and said something, the only word I undestood was "..... Turkish....." and immediately said, "OK." I think he was laughing at my bargaining skill that was obviously not Turkish enough. Then I went back for the second 12 skeins. He laughed again when I said the same thing. He showed me the scarf that he was working on, quiet neat, super bulky yarn in very very tight guage. Paul said he saw the guy knitting, it was almost like forcefully stabbing every stitch, cool.

Grand Bazaar

Albeit the sights are beautiful in Istanbul, the best part is the people. We've encountered so many nice people in Istanbul. One day we were lost in the pouring rain walking around the new part of the town, when we're looking at our map in the rain a lady came up and asked if we needed help. Another day an older guy gave up his seat on the tram for me. I was embarrassed thinking, "does this mean I look pregnant, maybe I should go on a diet." When we were at the restaurant in the Asian side, none of the servers spoke any English when I asked for vegetarian food, a custermer came over helped with translating. The best was in the Grand Bazaar, we had a great conversation with a rug dealer. We usually ran the other way when we saw a rug dealer. But while Paul was looking through a stack of pillow cases made from kilims (the cheapest stuff in the store), the shop owner and I chatted happily about natural dyeing. We were so into our conversation that he totally didn't push Paul for getting anything at all. He told me the best purple can be made of cochinal bugs (I always thought you can only get red from cochinal.) Then we talked about personal aesthetics, beauty of natural dyeing over chemical dyes, and how to treat and dye wool. I was really excited about the things he told me. After Paul bought his pillow case (probably the cheapest sale he had in a week.) The owner invited us in and gave us tea. The whole time we sat there chatting he never once tried to show us any rugs to sell. We talked for a long time about Orhan Pamuk's books, the life in Turkey, his trips to US, the cultures of US of Turkey. It was so delightful. In Grand Bazaar, ones' instinct was always to be on guard of anyone inviting you for tea or ask you to go inside a store, but it was such a treat to have a geniune encounter.

Overall, I fell in love with Rome more each day I was there. Although we regretted staying at the hotel, we enjoyed Istanbul. I think Istanbul is one of those cities where you may not love it at first sight because it's modernized, and the old town is becoming too much of a tourist trap, it lacks the exotic enchantment that Marrakech has. But if you stay there for longer than a tourist stay, I think you will love the city for its people and for the real side of it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chihuahua Crisis in California

I just saw this news online "California has a Chihuahua Crisis."
Chihuahuas make up 30 percent or more of the dog populations at many California shelters.
According to the article, Hollywood is to blame for the fad of getting a chihuahua.
Well, I think more than that, human's heartlessness is to blame.

I don't understand how can anyone get a dog and then abandon it. I know people are loosing their jobs their homes, and moving to a place where no pets are allowed. But, really, if you have to move to a place where no kids are allowed will you give up your children?

Too often I see people getting a pet as an their accessory or for their children. No, dogs and cats are not toys! They're living creatures that deserve good care and quality life.

I was once at a house where a father was screaming bloody murder when his daughter was bitten by the house owner's dog where they're guest at. I knew the dog, she is just like me or any other person. She did not like to be pushed, or yanked, or slapped. You bet I'll bite too if some kids do that to me. The dog is never actively aggressive towards people but she does not like to be touched too aggressively (perhaps she was abused at one time before she was taken in by the family.) To me she is always gentle because I'm gentle towards her. I can tell she really enjoyed every time I stopped and scratched her belly for a while. Last time I stayed at that house for a week, I'd pet her belly for at least 10 minutes a day. Because she has more of a "cranky old lady" personality she wasn't getting as much affection as her brother. So I gave her extra attention and talked to her and pet her. After two days, her eyes lit up whenever I walked into the room. She may be old and cranky to other people, but she was sweet to me every time I sat down next to her on the floor. She'd treat you just the way you'd treat her. And that's the way I am with people too. Teach your kids before you start blaming everyone else. This same father was also a guest at my house one time. I saw him kicking my dog away when my dog was begging at his feet for food. Albeit it was a gentle kick, it pissed me off tremendously. But since he was a relative so I just picked up Cody and walked to another room. A year later they got themselves a dog because the daughter really wanted one. Sadly, the dog was "causing problems" around the house, so now the dog is banished to the yard, not allowed in the house. It was so apparent to me from the start that they are not dog people yet they still went ahead and got a dog. Why?????

It saddens me to know that people are so casual about taking in and abandoning a dog. It's a life that you're responsible of when you take the dog in or leave behind.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Snow Day

This morning

I woke up to at least 20" of snow. It all happened in less than 12 hours, and it was still dumping.
"How the heck am I suppose to go to work?" I immediately checked the school website, "college closed today due to snow." I did a happy happy snow dance. One thing I really hate about my job is the commute in winter. Going over the hill (where I live is 6500 ft elevation and where I work is 4000 ft elevation) is no small task on snowy days. I remember one time coming home at night in a total white out condition. I could not even see more than 20 feet in front of me. My neck ached so badly by the time I got home from straining my neck and being so tense for the entire 2 hour drive. It's not gonna be fun tomorrow either since it's below freezing so the road will be icy, but at least it will stop snowing.

Paul carved out a hear on the snow on railing.

Paul and I went for a walk behind the house this afternoon. Boy was it a work out to break trails in 2 and half feet deep snow. For people who never walked in deep snow, just compare it to walking in deep sand. We walked up the hill a little and it was so quiet and peaceful. It really made us miss walking Cody. We used to break trails for him, but any new snow more than 8" was very hard for him and he would just turned around as soon as we got to the trail cause he couldn't move much in snow that deep.

There is nothing like going for a walk in fresh snow. I have been contemplating picking up cross-country skiing. Sometimes I'm just sick of going to ski resorts and seeing all the people on a beautiful day. Sure, I still love the adrenaline of snowboarding downhill as fast I can, and the last two years I did a some backcountry snowboarding. But I really savor those quiet walks in the woods. The walks just always felt so good for my soul.

Walk in the snow. Paul is excited about building more igloos this winter.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day and Night

Day and Night
yarn: Colinette Jitterbug (yellow), and ShibuiKnit Socks (blue.)
needles: US #1

The newest project is a pair socks. When I was knitting Bastille, an idea came to head of a Sun and a Moon socks. So I put aside Bastille and began working on the charts. After digging through my growing stash of yarn, I found the perfect colors sock yarns.

The only thing I wished I had done differently was shorten the heel by 6 rows or so.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Red and Everything

In Love with Red
yarn: Elann Limited Edition Tremolo
needles: US #2

I finished my first fairisle sweater. The motif design came from a quick scribble on paper and then some playing around on the excel.

The knitting didn't take me as long as I'd expected. The yarn was slightly splitty, but the resulting fabric was so worth it for being really soft against skin.

Initially I just wanted to try a fairisle style sweater with regular neckline. I then became more and more in love with the sweater and wanted it to look a bit more feminine to unifiy how busy of the colorwork had become. I ended up with an idea of a wider neckline with folded down ribbing and split at the side.

The only drama was the motif was centered with the division of two adjacent motifs in the middle when the sleeves joined the body. After about 2 inches of work I tried it on and was not pleased. Took some pictures with a motif as the center and preferred it much more. So two days of work ripped back. The body and sleeves are rejoined with the a motif centered correctly.

I can't say enough about how I love seamless construction. I'd use them whenever I can.
This sweater was knitted in round both body and sleeves with no shaping. The 4x4 ribbings were 1.5", then the motif began. Each motif was 21 sts, with body I did 14 repeats of that, and with each sleeve, it was 5 repeats of that. Then they joined and immediately begin the raglan decrease for about 3.75 inches (had to plan a little ahead of time of where motif was going to join and end at neckline.) The raglan decrease was made by placing a marker at each of the 4 points where sleeves joined the body, and decrease 1 st at either side of the marker every other round (8 sts decreased every decrease round.) Just make sure the st decrease is the one either before or after the st that's right next to the marker that way you get neater raglan lines (i.e do k2tog before marker, and ssk after marker if they're k stithces.) On the last row of motif (I think it was dec 4 sts within each motif repeat.) Then knitted one round in main color and made some decrease there. Then the 4x4 ribbing of neckline began, I split it at the side of front right raglan line, and CO extra 4 sts for overlap for button. After the split, the neck was worked back and forth instead of round with no further decrease. I think the ribbing was about 6.5-7 inches.

Some printmaking too...

Lately I also got into monotype after a colleague showed me printing from gelatin. I was too lazy to cook up the gelatin, so I used rubber block for block printing and print with that. I'm having a blast. It's a real nice break from painting. It feels so free (I take painting way more seriously sometimes that it drives myself crazy thatI'm never statisfy with my work.) I've been churning out all these monotypes and it brought back memories of college years in printmaking classes. Honestly, I never liked printamking because it's so restrictive in process and result. Being a painter, I much prefer being able to respond to what I have just put down on my canvas instead of a process that goes from point A to point B in a linear way and then you print and you finally see the result, and usually they're so disappointing. That process to me always felt so removed. Monotype, on the other hand, allows more editing and responsiveness.

So I used the motif I made for "In Love with Red" for some of the latest monotype.

I think I'm gonna do more of it this weekend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dash of Turmeric

I've been thinking about dying yarn. A while back I bought two skeins of Undyed Superwash Merino from Elann and they had been sitting there waiting to be bathed. I thought I can start with edibles rather than chemical dyes. This morning I went to Safeway and bought some pomegranates and some tumeric.

Undyed yarn

The pomegranates looked absolutely gorgeus, the seeds, the intense color juice. I cooked them with water and soaked a skein yarn into it, then added some white vinegar. It came out rather boring with the color was very light. I decided to be a bit adventurous and added a dash of tuemric. Immediately it soaked up the yellow and the yarn turned out to be a rather buttery yellow. I think even without the pomegranates, the yarn would've looked like that with little tumeric.

Pomegranate Soup

Kind of non-descript color

The one started with pomegrante then added in turmeric. It really took the yellow of tumeric.

The second skein was cooked with a lot more turmeric and some vinegar. And it came out with a very intense golden yellow.

the intense yellow with pure turmeric.

The part I liked the least was rinsing them. It took a long, long, long time to rinse the pure turmeric one until very little color run in the water.

Overall, it was fun. My skeins got tangled up a bit. But I was able to sort them out and wind up in cakes.


All wound up in cakes

This can be addictive. I'm thinking of getting more yarn and some dye for more colorfast dye job.

As far as knitting goes, I've begun working with my fairisle design using Elann Limited Edition Tremelo. I made the motif again with Excel. I got about 8" knitted in round. The yarn is a slightly splitty, but very soft to work with. The color combo is interesting to me. I picked the color simply based on the limited color selection the yarn has when it came on sale last month. Paul thinks the pattern with the colors is too busy, but I like it that way. I like the light red, to me it's a bit retro. And I like a little craziness sometimes.
Right now I'm still having a hard time picturing how it will look finished. Perhaps it may be a bit garrish, but heck why not? I can do garrish.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Moroccan Night

Yarn: Elann Sock It to Me 4 ply, 4 balls of Mineral Blue, 5 balls of Chestnut
Needles: #2

The Moroccan Night is finished. I decided to call it that because the inspiration for the motif was based on the plaster carvings that I was so mesmerized by when I was in Morocco.

an example of plaster carving I saw in Morocco

Lately, I've became obsessed with working with colors. I mean more than one color in each project. After the "Blue Lotus" I became addicted to making my own motifs. So I had in mind of a motif that reminds me of geometric design in Islamic Art. I love, love, love Islamic art and architecture. Looking at the intricacy and interwoven pattern I'd often feel a surge of emotion and a sense of sublime. I'm always haunted by the beauty in their designs. They are brilliant examples of how moving abstraction can be without going through imagery and tap directly into our emotions. It's not only the designs alone, it's the combination of that and the material, and the environment, and the space they occupied.

It took a few try to get the design right. To figure out the motif, I cut out little squares of paper and arranged them around on the table to work the positive/negative space and design. Using Excel made designing a lot easier than on graph papers. First swatch was done in blue and light gray. I wasn't as thrilled with the low contrast of the two colors, and the design obviously needed some more work too.

Blue and Gray that didn't work out.

I decided blue (it actually has some teal in it, more like robin's egg blue) and brown would make a good combination, soI went ahead and ordered the yarn from Elann.

Call me crazy, but I knew I wanted to do steek. Even though I'd done it before, but that was over a decade ago. It was my very first knitting project and with beginner's luck and beginner's ignorance, I wasn't even nervous and everything worked out well. This time around I secretly enjoyed the nervousness and the thrill of unknown.

Provisional cast on was used because I really wasn't sure about how I wanted the hem to look. Even though the knitting took a long time, but its progress was satisfying. All along I had this vision of a fitted set-in sleeves with brown shawl collar. But as I was getting closer to the armhole part I became more and more uncertain. Part of it was my little confidence in figuring out the set-in sleeves and how to decrease it with steek lines. One morning I woke up with the brilliant idea of doing the yoke in contrasting color. That solved my dilemma. Looking at the sweater, I am very pleased with that decision because I like the look, and most of all it was a lot easier to make. For once, I feel pretty smart.

The cardigan was made in the round, both the body and the sleeves. Then joined together. The decrease was done mostly on the solid color garter st yoke area, so not much brain work there. It was seamless knitting. The only sewing I did was the armpit area using kirscher's stitches.

  1. I knitted the body first, then the sleeves. Body began with provision CO and started the pattern immediately after first round. 14 repeats of pattern around. 6 for the front, 6 for the back, and one at each side for later armpit sts that will match sleeve armpit sts. The sleeves began with about 6" of garter sts in brown then changed to pattern. Also some shaping in the sleeves that a full repeat of pattern across after all increases were done. They are stopped at the same row of the pattern and put on waste yarn.
  2. Then joined the body and sleeves together with one pattern repeat on the side seams of sleeves and body on holder for later armpit join. Because exactly one pattern repeat on hold for each side of body and each sleeve, the knitting across was easy with pattern continuing around smoothly with no change to pattern.
  3. Continued evenly in pattern for about 5".
  4. On the last few rows of the last pattern I strategically put in decreases into each pattern repeat. Then put stitches on waste yarn.
  5. The scary part began: Machine sewing lines before steek, cutting steek.
  6. For the front and bottom hem: pick up sts along front and the bottom (provisional CO came in handy,) and back up the other front.
  7. Few rows of garter sts. The hems are done.
  8. Then the yoke part took me only two days.
  9. I picked up sts from waste yarn and worked back and forth, making 22 sts decrease every 8 rows (or something like that, I kinda improvised as I went.)
  10. It ended with about 4" of garter rows in brown.
  11. All that left was stitch together the armpits and sewn in the buttons, and weave in the ends.

The steeking was rather anticlimatic. Sewing the lines, and cutting all went smoothly. Not that I'm complaining or anything, but aftern all the anticipation, it was done before I knew it.

Body and Sleeves before joining

Coninnued 5" in pattern aftern joining body and sleeves

Looking at the steek lines

View of the back with machine sewn in lines to secure yarn before cutting

Cutting the steek

Blocking colorwork knitting is like playing magic. It can transform an awkward looking puckery sweater into a beautiful one.

I love the sweater. The part I'm most proud of is how cheap I was able to pull it off! I only used 4 balls of Elann Sock It To Me 4 ply in Mineral Blue, and 5 balls in Chestnut. That came out to be $20.70 Then the buttons were 6 for $1 at Joann's and I only used 3. I feel so smug about making a nice FO with tiny budget. The yarn was no cashmere or soft merino, but it is sturdy and does the job well. It is actually kinda sticky which I may not normally liked but for a stranded colorwork knitting, it's great. I'd made the Don Quixote mittens with it before. The great thing is I can wear it against skin without feeling scratchy since it's superwash. When I make another stranded work I'll definitely consider this yarn again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Elann Limited Edition Kashair
Fiber Content: 60% Wool/25% Cashmere/ 15% Acrylic
Care: HandWash, Dry Flat
Gauge: 20st/4" 4.0mm (US 6)
Yardage 175m (191 yards) per 50g ball
Price: $3.48

OK, if you hand me this yarn and let me guess its fiber content, I don't think "cashmere" would be my first guesses. And if you let me knit it up, I may actually guess it's part cotton. Though that is obviously a wrong answer, I could, however, tell that it's a mutt, a blend of different fibers. But I'm no expert in textile or fiber. My experience with cashmere is so limited. Hmmm... I wonder what would it be like to hug a cashmere sheep....

Then if you proceed to tell me that one of its content is cashmere, I would've guessed the cashmere sheep had accidentally fell into a hot spring and enjoyed a long, hot bath and became felted.

Just a thought, instead of making blend, can people just breed mutt sheep so their wool is already perfectly blended, like a mixed breed of merino and cashmere? But of course my favorite blend would be nearly impossible except in science fiction: merino sheep mix with silkworm.

This yarn string looks felted, and to me knitting with it was like knitting with cotton or cotton chenille. Soft cotton that is, not one of those stiff cotton ropes. The yarn is uneven in texture, which means not super fast knitting. It also means the resulting fabric has more of an organic look. It was definitely interesting to me. I'd never worked with anything like it before. Feeling the yarn (yes, I rub yarn against my neck for scratchy test... the good ones can make me purr...) well, I didn't purr with this skein, but I could tell its itchy factor is very low, could be non-existent.

This yarn also looks matte, but rather cozy looking.

Elann recommended #6 needles, so I automatically went down one size because I'm a very loose knitter. I was getting the recommended gauge of 20 st=4", but I found stitches to be way too loose and open, the knitted fabric was too ugly even for me. This was not doing any justice to the sheep so I ripped back the swatch and re-knitted with #4. The result was much better at 21 st x32 rows.

Before Blocking (CO 24 sts.)

I filled the sink with mostly cold water and a splash of warm water (it's still cold, just not icy cold) and left the swatch in the water for about 25 minutes. This time I actually remembered to take it out instead of letting it sit there for hours like I usually do.

When I fished it out from the water, the yarn looked even more felted. That was some drastic change in look. I had a mental cartoon image of the sheep having those curly hair that frizzes like crazy with even the slightest humidity in the air. The stitches evened out a lot. I didn't pin the edges 'cause Iwas curious to see how will the swatch dry.

Swatch drying

It's interesting that one may be able to achieve the look of felted object without the garment being stiff. At this point, I may be tempted to make some cozy looking socks with it. Or a hat, or a neck warmer. Because it's not one of those smooth, fast knitting yarn, I probably won't be too tempted to make a sweater out of it. But that's just my lazy side talking. I can see e a very fun looking cardigan with this yarn .... or maybe a robe.

The after blocking swatch is very soft, and the stitches bloomed and evened out. Now I feel like I can actually feel the cashmere in it. I may even purr a little. The curling edges flattened out, but it still need different stitches other than St st or hems to make edges lay completely flat.

It was a bit hard to count the stitches after blocking. It grew from 21 sts per 4" to 19 sts, and from 32 rows to 30-31 rows.

The color is not entirely solid. There is some very, very subtle tonal variation from the different fibers spun together. To me that is always more exciting as it gives the color a little more depth. The wool in it gives that typical slight, short halo of light hair on the surface. The blue skein I received is quite lovely. If I'm more imaginative, I may try to come up with a garment that can utilize its faded medium denim look of the knitted swatch. This swatch definitely pass the itchy test and is soft and cozy.

Note to this photo: comparing my swatch to the photo, my stitches looks a bit more even in person. The hightened contrast in the photo accentuated each stitch more. On my monitor, the color is bit darker than the actual swatch. My swatch really does look like faded denim.

after blocking

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Two weeks ago I'd finished the second sweater of "Always." The first one was very nice, BUT I was stupid enough to felt it by putting it into the dryer. I was so bummed that I determined to redeem myself by making another one. This time I made it slightly roomier and shortened the neck of the motif (Cody did not have long neck) and changed the light color on the motif from very light to slightly darker. I'm so glad I did the second one. I love it! It's nice and cuddly just like Cody.
The 14 repeats of motif around the yoke symbolized the 14 years that Cody lived. I purposedly made the motifs simple just him and my hearts.

On his 6 month anniversary (10/11) since he passed away
I wore the sweater and went for a walk to his look out rock with Paul.
We brought his collar with us.

Currently I'm working on a two-color stranded cardigan. It's my own pattern and I designed the motif. I had the plaster carvings I saw in Morocco in mind when I designed the motif. I'm using Elann Sock It to Me 4 ply, colors are Mineral Blue and Chestnut. The needles size is 2. The cardigan is being knitted in round. It has been at least a decade since I did steek. I'm a bit nervous just thinking about cutting the steek. We'll see.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Woke up to a rainbow outside my window this morning. Stormy Day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


This morning I saw the reflection of Chinese Laterns in a pot of water sitting in the sink. I love that orange against the saturated blue sky when colors get intensified in the water reflection.

I'm on a color work kick lately. Here are coupla little things I just finished. They were quick knits, diversion from the bigger projects.

The hat was done with Crystal Palace's Mini Mochi Yarn. The pattern was clever using 2 balls of the same color changing yarn to create a faux Fair Isle.

The mittens were my own design. One day while knitting an idea popped into my head of a pair of mittens with images from Cervate's book Don Quixote.

If I were to remake it, I make use #2 needles instead of #1, and less pattern around the motifs. That way the motifs will be bigger. Yarn was Elann Sock It to Me 4 ply I had in my stash.