Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Official Halloween Ballband!! :) After the ballband bug bit me, I immediately had to cast on a second one, and decided that Halloween was a good color inspiration....

.....and making his first appearance on this blog, the Official Halloween Minion!

This is Minicat (he's not really that mini, but that's a long story...). He's also known around here as "The Supervisor." The supervisor must, without fail, involve himself in absolutely anything being done around the house, and immediately insert himself in the middle of it to run things....whether that's the way you want them or not! His other job is to continuously torture the other minion, Mochi (the technocat), and make sure that he can never have a quiet moment! Min is actually very adorable.....in a very minion-y sort of way! What better reason to make him an official Halloween icon?

>^oo^< >^oo^<

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Still lookin' for my fall knitting mojo....

It seems that my "fall is here, it's time to get knitting!" energy has not quite hit yet. I've been working on a few projects....a little bit....but my poor Socktoberfest socks have fallen sadly behind the pack---not much progress on those poor babies.

I have, however, been outdoors a bit, enjoying the last few days without rain in Seattle. A couple of weeks ago drove up to Stevens pass to try to catch some fall colors. Here's some distant color on the side of a mountain---looked like a fall carpet.

Last weekend, took a drive to Kayak Point State Park in Skagit County. It was one of the last beautiful, sunny, crisp days! Is this a great sky, or what? And the water looked like glass.....

Checked out what the fishermen were catching on the pier, and hung out with the seagulls...

As for my knitting.....seems I've been having a little trouble concentrating on other projects the last couple of weeks, so decided to try something fun that I've been wanting to knit for a while....a Ballband dishcloth! Here's my first one...

Here's another view....sorry for the poor picture quality....

Okay, so now I've gone and gotten obsessed with Ballband dishcloths! If you haven't made one, they are really fun to knit. The pattern just sort of grabs on to ya....and it's fun to see the sort of 3-D effect emerge as you knit along!

Since Halloween is my favorite, pressure-free holiday, I've already started another one in black & orange! Hmmmmm.....seems like I'm feeling a little knitting energy coming on!.....baby steps!....Now, about those neglected socks,... scarves, shawls, slippers......:)

>^,,^< >^,,^<

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th Gremlins, anyone?

Happy Friday the 13th to all! Has anyone had an appearance of those Friday the 13th gremlins? If so, let me know what form they took!

So far, so good around here----but the day has only just begun! So far, it's another sunny day here in 'the convergence zone' (amazing, to say the least...). That's a good start, anyway!

Okay, so on to the important stuff (knitting, of course...):

Continuing to have fun with dishcloths, as I do at least every twice a month with the Monthly Dishcloth KAL. Here is the latest completed cloth---a tiny little kitty cloth.


Some sooooooo soft Frog Tree Alpaca, which has already been cast on. It is destined to become a lacey scarf, called Cape Cod Shells.

...and the latest addition to the overflowing sock yarn stash basket--some Sock Candy and Koigu..

Also recently purchased some gorgeous Colinette Parisienne mohair (sorry, no pics yet...) I'm going to venture into my first lace knitting with it, but haven't decided exactly what yet.

As for Socktoberfest,.....well, um....I'm making a little progress on those socks. Well, okay,.... I'm only just past the cuffs,.... but who's keeping track, anyway? It seems that every time I dig into the bag to work on the socks this week, I get the bug to work on a couple of those other, too-long neglected WIP's. And then, there's this little problem with spending too much time on the computer! It seems that I've spent more time reading about and looking at Socktoberfest stuff and other knitter's blogs than working on my own knitting. I just can't seem to get around to working on my own socks this week....

>^..^< >^..^<

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fall is here...

fall hydrangea
Originally uploaded by twominions.

It's finally beginning to really feel like fall here in the Great Pacific Northwest. It's already the middle of October, but the leaves are just beginning to turn color here. I'm enjoying the last of the huge and lovely Limelight hydrangeas as they turn color in my tiny garden. Today we are having what is probably one of our last warm, sunny days for a loooonnnnng time....sigh. I must say I do enjoy the cooler nights, though. Hooray for knittin' weather!

>^..^< >^,,^<

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Socktoberfest Sock History

In keeping with the Spirit of Socktoberfest, here are the answers to my sock knitting "history." (If you can call a few months a history...). That being the case, I feel a little silly answering questions about my history, but in the spirit of the festivities, here goes:

When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class? I started trying to make socks about a year ago, but actually completed a real, live pair only a couple of months ago. In the beginning, I tried to teach myself--totally confused. Took part of a class, didn't like the method used, didn't finish those. Tried to make a pair on DPN's, they were ugly, I frogged them before they had a chance to take an ugly little breath. Besides, those DPN's are too long and they poke me in the palms! Finally decided that since I was so comfortable with circulars, I would try the 2-circs method! Eureka! Finally a successful, completed pair! (no comments, please, about my obvious ADHD problems....)

What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time? My first pair were done made from some very bright, rainbow-colored Regia. Since they are only about two months old, they have held up fabulously, if I do say so myself!

What would you have done differently? I would have started decreasing for the toes just a few rows sooner---they are just the teeniest bit too long.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed? So far, I love the feel of Lorna's Laces and Koigu, though I haven't had a chance to finish a pair on the LL and Koigu I have stashed at the moment. Still trying to refine my skills a little before using my pretty stash!

Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method? I have never crocheted socks....though I was tempted after I seemed to have such a hard time learning to knit them! I am now able to do socks on DPN's (found some great 5" ones!), but I am still plugging away with 2 circulars, as I like that method.

Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?) Having not yet attempted a short-row heel, I would have to say that a flap heel is my very favorite :)

How many pairs have you made? I have completed one adult-sized pair, one baby-sized pair, and one tiny little mini-sock. I am now, finally, working on my second, regular-size pair!

I'm really hoping that this next pair will just flow off of my needles like water, fueled by the 10 gallons of HELL that I went through trying to finish those that came before them! I do love the process, though, and REALLY love the feel of those hand-knit socks!

>^,,^< >^,,^<

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

(mini) Portland yarn store review

While in Portland for the OFFF, I spent part of Sunday exploring a few of Portland's yarn stores. I know there are many yarn stores in the Portland area, but I only managed to get to four, along with Powell's City of Books. And when they say CITY of books, they ain't kiddin! That place is massive---takes up an entire, large city block in Portland. They have info desks everywhere, since the store covers many buildings and many floors. They even have a fold-out map/directory, as they have separate rooms for different categories of books. If you are a book-lover, or would just love to see such a huge specialty retail establishment, Powell's is FABULOUS! They carry used books stocked along side new copies of books, so lot's of good prices, too. If you visit Portland, I highly recommend a visit.

The first yarn store I visited was The Naked Sheep. This is a charming little store in a mixed residential/business neighborhood, with easy street parking. The store is bright and cheery, with lots of project ideas scattered about. There's a good mix of high-end and lower priced yarns, mostly natural fibers, displayed nicely. At the front of the store are some couches and chairs near the window, with several people working on and getting help with projects. The woman who helped me was very friendly and helpful. This store has a warm, friendly feel, and is bright and cheery with a fun atmosphere. I would definitely visit and purchase yarn there again!

Next, I visited Knit Purl, a boutique-style store in downtown Portland. Parking in this area is challenging. This store is very upscale, with a very expensive look it---modern decor, wood floors, accent track lighting, high ceilings. All of the yarns in this store are high-end, though the prices do not seem overly-inflated. A nice selection of fine sock yarns, wools, silk, mohair, natural fibers. They even have their own line of yarns, though these were no less costly than the other brands they carry. There are also couple of low chairs (and I mean looooow) around a coffee table in the center of the open floor---okay to sit and look at a few patterns, but not exactly comfy to sit and knit.

Though this store was esthetically beautiful and colorful, it had a definite chilly feeling to it---
which was not helped by the woman working, who I am assuming is the owner. While she would answer questions, I felt like I was "keeping her from something...". I did buy a couple of skeins of Noro while there, and while ringing up my sale, she took a phone call in the middle of my transaction and just walked away......um,.....hello?.....I'm still here..... After a minute she yelled to her husband downstairs who came up looking a little confused, and sort of took over where she left off, while she continued on her phone call. It's not that I mind someone taking a phone call, but she didn't even say a word to me as she walked away mid-sale! A little "would you please excuse me for a minute" would have been nice! Very rude, in my opinion!

I thought about cancelling my purchase, but the husband was nice and courteous, so I didn't want to make a fuss. Let's just say, if you want a "warm" yarn store experience, go someplace else. And note to store owner: don't be rude to customers, especially while they are buying yarn....Oh well, I got some nice Noro with no sales tax added, and enjoyed looking around, despite the kinda-crabby owner. While the yarns at this store are nice, the vibe is definitely NOT, and I would probably only go in again if I happened to be nearby or had a Jones for some high-end yarn-shopping.

Next on my mini-crawl was Yarn Garden----yarn store Nirvana!! This store is located in the historic Hawthorne district in a quaint, old building, where the store takes up all 4-5 store fronts of the entire building! Lots of streeet parking all around. This store is literally rooms and rooms full of yarns of all descriptions, along with a cute little cafe on one end connected to the store, with a separate entrance as well. My husband happily had tea and treats and read his book in comfort while I shopped, and shopped...This store even has an entirely separate room for pattern books, librarary-style, with tables in the middle. Lots of friendly help available, including some of the male-knitter persuasion! While color selections of each type or variety of yarn were not all huge, they certainly have many brands of each type of yarn covered.

Their newsletter/class list is a booklet the size of some community college catalogues! Looking at their yarn choices and class selections made me wish I lived closer so I could visit Yarn Garden more often! All I can say is WOW, great store---like visiting a botanical garden of yarns, great variety, with the aroma of a nice, warm latte and some scones thrown in! Definitely on my repeat visit list.

The final store I visited was the one I had the hardest time finding----even with a GPS unit! Perhaps that should have been an omen...? Mabel's Cafe and Knittery----a really crappy end to a great day of yarn store exploration. In all fairness to whomever the owner of this store might be....I must preface my comments by saying she was obviously not present on the day I visited, because I don't believe she would still be in business if the place always runs that way! I found this very disappointing, because I actually had heard comments from a couple of people that knew of this store and liked it!

Mabel's looks kinda cute from the outside, and when you walk in the first thing near the front door is the cafe/espresso counter on one side of the door, with a couch on the other side of the door. The store is very small and somewhat dark inside. The lack of light makes it almost impossible to see the actual color differences of the yarns without holding them up toward the open front door! As you browse around the few yarn shelves toward the back, the look of the store degenerates to pallette-type shelves with cafe and cleaning supplies in the back. The actual yarn store area is only one one side of the room, with the other side being occupied by some type of very messy-looking paperwork desk. Let's just say the retail space is not exactly used to a full extent with yarn....But despite this, I actually honed in on some very pretty Manos alpaca yarn that caught my interest. And this is where things REALLY went downhill.....

I didn't see anyone working in the retail area, so I very politely asked the girl behind the espresso counter if she worked in the yarn area as well as the cafe (because in some places, the barista is just the barista...). Our conversation then went on something like this:

Me: ....above posed question...

Girl: "Well of course I do, I'm here aren't I?"

Me: ....stunned silence...then, "Oh, I'm sorry. I really love this Manos Alpaca yarn, but I can't find a price. Do you know how much it is?

Girl: "Well, it just came in so I'm not really sure---it's probably the same as the other one."

Me: (thinking....WHAT other one?....)......I continue to wait while she punches in something on her computer screen behind the counter.....
I keep waiting thinking she's looking it up or something......
I continue to stand there looking at her from yarn shelf.....holding yarn in hand......still waiting....
....still waiting......salesgirl turns away to back of counter, back to me.....starts running water...
So much for good, old-fashioned customer service! I continued to stand there like an idiot for another minute or two, thinking she might actually answer my question........but NO! She continued to wipe the counters and COMPLETELY ignore me. I then put the price-still-unknown-yarn back in it's cubby and looked around for another 5 minutes or so.

Just then, a girl with a baby came in. The aforementioned salesgirl immediately lights up like a Christmas tree and exclaims to girl with baby, "Oh, hi!!! I haven't seen you in sooooo long! How have you been?....." AHA!----she does have powers of communication, but obviously only to be used with people she already knows!

The store employee and the girl w/baby continued with their friendly chat, while I slunk out the front door right past them, with never a word spoken to me or a look as I passed by them OUT of the store! Geeeeeeez! Rudeness has no bounds, I guess. As I left, I overheard the moron....um, I mean yarn store employee, say she was only working Sundays and Monday mornings now....which is probably the only reason the store is still open---she's not working most of the time!

I guess I just can't find enough adjectives to describe the lovely Mabel's and their stellar, friendly and knowledgable sales staff! Let's just say I see absolutely NO reason to ever set foot in that place again.....and I definetely wouldn't recommend it to anyone either.....unless of course, you enjoy being ignored and generally treated like crap by the store staff!....or you like to bring a flashlight to be able to see the yarns.....or you like shopping in a supply room....or you like to shop for yarn with no price info available......THEN, YES! I would say, definitely hoof it on in to Mabel's for some likely equally-bad espresso and abuse! Yippee! To put it very impolitely, this place really sucked! Note to store owner: You might want to reconsider those weekends off.....and consider buying some LIGHTS! Sheeesh......

And so, that concluded my mini yarn store tour of the Portland area. Overall, the experience would have been much better if I had just stopped before that last store.....but hey, that one just served to make the others all soooo much better by comparison! I still had lots of fun, bought some pretty, and sales-tax free yarns, and spent a fun day driving around Portland on a rare sunny weekend! I heard from a native Portland knitter after my return that there are so many more stores to see that I missed. I'll definitely have to check those out on the next trip!

>^..^< >^..^<