Sunday, January 26, 2014

Warm and Toasty Feet

Last night I finished my latest pair of socks. They are soft and warm, and give my feet the happy feeling.

The yarn is Poems Socks from Universal Yarn, 75% superwash wool, 25% nylon, color 958. Size 0 needles, 9.5 sts/inch. Nothing fancy, just a simple K2P2 rib.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have finished them for another week or two. But last week, I came down with a bit of a cold, and spent most of Thursday taking it easy — among other things (such as napping), sitting in my chair and watching some shows off the DVR and, of course, knitting.

One technique I've used on the last few pairs of socks I've made is to start off with the German Twisted Cast On, which is a bit more stretchy than the basic long-tail cast on that my mom taught me.

Tonight I will swatch for the sweater shown at the end of this post.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Maple Leaf Quilt — One Year Later

A little over a year ago, I conceived the idea to make a larger version of this small quilt.

From the start, I planned to have more than one size block — 3", 4-1/2" 6", and 9". I drafted an arrangement of blocks, and began making my Maple Leaf blocks.

But then I decided I wanted to do something different. I drafted several variations — vertical, horizontal, on-point. But I wasn't happy with any of them; they all looked too static.

At some point, I tried arranging them in groups of four, with the stems pointing toward the center, and added a 12" size.

Eventually, I arrived at this design.

I went through my stash and found as many rust, gold, orange, red, and brown prints as I could, and a few green ones — at first focusing on anything that looked "leafy" (leaves, pine cones, pine needles, trees, batiks), but then expanding to include anything in the color scheme.

I bought a few yards of one yellow fabric for all the yellow in the diagram. Anything that is rust in the diagram is one of the various prints. Along the way, I purchased several more prints to make it even scrappier.

I think I've finished making all the blocks, but I'm not 100 percent sure. As I've been making them, I've been putting them up on my design wall. Unfortunately, it's not quite big enough to fit them all on the right side.

In the process of arranging them on the design wall, I decided that leaving them in their groups of four was still not interesting enough, so I started breaking up the groupings, moving one or two up or down and switching them out with blocks in adjacent groupings. The only thing I didn't change was the diagonal orientation.

This afternoon, I started sewing pairs of blocks together. So I wouldn't lose track of what went where, I would take down one pair of blocks, sew them together, take down and sew together a second pair, press the first pair and put it back up, take down and sew third pair, press the second pair and put it back up, and so on. Even so, I managed to somehow get messed up. I had started to sew some of the paired units to other paired units, but then when I went to put up one I'd just sewn, the diagonal orientation didn't correspond.

At that point, I'd been sewing for a couple of hours, and I decided it might be best to call it good for the day.

Update, Feb. 17, 2014: The top is done. See it here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Yesterday, Tim and I went to the ninth annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (SFFSFF).

This has become an annual outing for us. The first time we went — probably in 2008 — we attended only the second part (a total of twenty films are shown, 10 at the 4:00 p.m. show and 10 more at 7:30) and were able to buy tickets at the door.

The next year, there were no tickets available at the door. We learned our lesson and since then have ordered our tickets in advance.

Not surprisingly, the 20 films are a mixed bag; some we like more than others, and a few just don't appeal to us at all.

This year was typical in that respect. Also, there was an assortment of animated and live-action, and a couple that combined the two.

Yesterday, the festival got off to a slow start for me. I didn't much care for the first four selections, for different reasons. One didn't have enough of a narrative thread for my taste though it did feature an appealingly quirky robot (Robota), one was too much of a downer without enough else to redeem it (The Beyond*), one had a narrative thread but was still a bit disjointed and the main character was this kind of bratty kid (Red Summer*), and one was just sort of okay (Louder, Please**). (Note: One asterisk means it links to a trailer; two asterisks means you can view the entire film.)

Four of the next six in the first session I liked quite well, beginning with Bless You**, about an omnipotent being suffering from a case of boredom, which was followed by Star-Crossed, an interplanetary romantic comedy. The other two were Mirage**, a speculation on how the Bermuda Triangle operates, and Voice Over**, the ending of which was unexpected and uncomplicatedly sweet. Perhaps not coincidentally, three of the four featured animation (Bless You and Mirage were completely animated, and Star-Crossed combined animation and live-action). The one thing they all had in common was a sense of humor.

I liked the films in the second set better, even the ones that were more serious. Though it did start off on a very light note with Spacetime Fabric Softener**, a bit of trippy, 60s-ish, psychedelic animation.

Next up was Honeymoon Suite*, a well-done film about the level of service a four-star hotel offers its most challenging clients of the shape-shifting variety. Apparently, the film was financed by an actual hotel in Beijing, the Opposite House, as an unusual promotional piece.

The next two were followed by The Decelerators** and Sleepworking*, more serious fare, but well done and engaging. The Decelerators was a meditation on our changing perception of the passage of time as we age, and I cared about the protagonist in Sleepworking, enough to be more than a little creeped out by the twist ending.

Night Giant* was loopy fun. Emit* mined some of the same ground as Benjamin Button, but more comprehensively.

Drain was the darkest film, a horrific commentary on the lengths that some people might go to in order to stave off mortality.

Shift* was possibly the most artistic, with its evocative costuming and ever-so-slightly jerky, stop-motion filming.

The Magic Salmon was disjointed and weird the way a dream is when you try to recount it upon waking. Mostly, though, it was just kind of stupid.

RPG OKC** was an animated rom-com set in a heavily pixelated video game world.

Out in the lobby, there were two display cases with costumes from several well-known movies and TV shows. You can read about that here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Reading and Riding (the Bus)

Until the last month or so, bus transportation was not a regular part of my life.

When I was in seventh grade, I was deemed old enough to start riding the bus by myself. As I recall, my mother gave me bus fare to get me the mile or so to our church in Berkeley, where I was enrolled in confirmation class. But then, we moved to Houston, to a suburb not well served by buses, and then to Ashland, Oregon, a small town where my transportation needs were largely met by walking or biking.

So I never really got in the habit of considering buses as a means of local transportation.

When I came to Seattle in 1988, I worked part-time over the summer at the Puget Sound Business Journal. For that, I did take a commuter bus from Lynnwood down to Pioneer Square. Since then, if I had occasion to go to downtown Seattle, I would often choose to take a bus, usually from the transit center near Northgate Mall.

From our house here in north Seattle, there are a couple of buses with stops within easy walking distance which run to downtown. One of these, the 5, changes to the 21 and continues south, dropping me off about a block from my office.

At about one hour, it maybe isn't the fastest way to get to work. If I drove to Northgate, took the 41, and then transferred to one of 3 or 4 buses heading south, it might shave off 10 or 15 minutes from the time I leave the house to the time I walk into the office.

But I have discovered that taking just one bus all the way gives me something I haven't had in a really long time: uninterrupted reading time where there is no other claim on my time — no chores that need doing, no other activities to attract my attention.

Last Monday, I decided I would try taking the 5 and see how I liked it. I was about halfway, maybe two-thirds, through a book called Dreaming in French. It had taken me 2 or 3 weeks to get that far, often reading just a few pages while eating breakfast or lunch.

I finished it while coming home Wednesday.

It was interesting to learn how a year studying abroad in Paris influenced the lives of the three women profiled — Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis — three women who are about as different as possible. I especially liked the chapters about Bouvier and Davis. Reading about  Jacqueline Bouvier, before and after she was a Kennedy, gave me a better sense of her as a complete person, not just the president's wife in a pink suit and a pillbox hat.

And Davis. I knew the name, and was vaguely aware that she had been in the news in the late ’60s. But I came away with new knowledge about the source of her activism and the details of her trial.

Also interesting about the book as a whole was how these three women were connected, through the threads of other people's lives who might encounter one or another of the three years apart.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Sweater (Size Very Small)

Yay me! I finished something today!

I started it last September, and finished knitting the pieces — oh, a month or two ago. I blocked the pieces in preparation for seaming them together, but then they sat for awhile.

In the meantime, I knit Dave's socks, a larger version of the same baby sweater,

one and one-quarter socks,

finished the front of one hand pillow, started the next,

bought the yarn for a full-size sweater,

and purchased fabric and notions to make a shirt for Tim.

What can I say— I get bored easily!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

An Accidental Discovery

Yesterday, I accidentally learned about a feature of my point-and-shoot digital camera.

It happened while Tim and I were taking a Stairway Walk through the Maple Leaf/Thornton Creek area of north Seattle. A signature feature of the walk is Thornton Creek itself, which has undergone daylighting over the last 15 years or so.

Much of the walk meandered through residential neighborhoods (not very interesting), but the walk led us by a pond with a beaver dam and through a small wetland oasis.

Beaver dam
Pond next to beaver dam. You can see steam rising from the water.
Mossy log

Our route, following the guidebook, also took us through the area by the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel. While I considered it pleasant to walk through, it is not without its critics.

Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel
In addition to the environmental aspect, there was some fun public art to look at.

Glass mosaic circles in the pavement
Floaty things
Anyway, back to my accidental discovery. At some point, in taking a picture, I hit a button on my camera which caused a display called "Exposure compensation" to pop up on my screen. It took me only a minute or two to figure out that it was controlled by pressing on the wheel control on the back of my camera next to this symbol.

Intrigued, I took a series of test photos this morning of this is the pile o’ yarn.

Its the intended destiny is to become this sweater, called “Better Than the Real Deal” from The Yarn Girls' Guide to Knits for All Seasons.

Here are the test photos. The only difference is in the shutter speed. I can see where this feature might be handy when taking a picture where the subject is against a window and the light outside is too bright.

The yarn is not as pink as it appears here. It's actually more of a brick-y red.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

“Coffee” Shirt for Tim

My husband really likes his coffee.

One of his favorite beverages is a double shot of espresso — no milk or sugar, thank you.

Any coffee-related gift is a sure bet. One of the earliest presents I gave to him was an oven mitt made with a coffee-themed fabric. For his birthday a couple months ago, I gave him this.

Over the holidays, I hit on the idea that he needs a coffee-themed shirt. He has a few casual, sort of Hawaiian-style shirts that he likes, and he has a silkscreened T-shirt featuring a coffee design that I gave him a few years ago. A coupon for fabric was burning a hole in my pocket and had to be redeemed by December 31, so we made a trip to Pacific Fabrics.

First we looked at the coffee-print fabrics in the quilting cottons, but they were all a little too "cute-sy" for a guy. Then we perused the batiks. I had pulled out a couple of bolts, when I spotted a batik with coffee cup motifs. Well, that was the obvious choice.

Tim went on his way, and I picked out a pattern, some buttons and thread.

The selection of patterns for men's shirts was pretty limited. Among three catalogs (McCall's, Simplicity, and Kwik Sew) there were just 6 that I considered, out of maybe 10 or 12 different patterns (if that many). I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it was a big change from the time I made a couple of men's shirts some 20 or so years ago.