Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gimmiepig Bingo

For those times when someone seeks to take advantage of the fact you make awesome things out of yarn as a hobby.

I made this for the Selfish Knitters & Crocheters group over on ravelry. Feel free to share.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fell off the Sheep

Well that didn't take long.


Yarn and its siren call. I cannot resist. Sigh.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yarn Diet

I am making a vow: no new yarn purchases until:
  • I have finished more projects
  • Used up more yarn
  • Used up all the acrylic I have lying around from forever ago
  • The yarn will once again fit into the designated bins and not in bags and boxes around my bedroom and closet.

I got a very full box from WEBS today that I had ordered at the end of last week, which had culminated in Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. That will be my LAST yarn purchase for a while. I'm going cold sheep.

I've unsubscribed from all yarn store newsletters. I will not go to WEBS, Knitpicks, Yarnia, etc. I will not purchase more yarn from my LYS.

  • I will continue going to my LYS for open stitch time as I get a tremendous amount of crocheting done during those hours.
  • I will shop my (very long) ravelry queue to remind myself of all the wonderful projects that I already have yarn stashed away for.
  • I will use up the miles of acrylic yarn I had bought on sale, cheap, before I discovered how much I loved luxury fibers. I'm too cheap to just give it away so it must be used.
  • I will take breaks from crocheting, because I've already had one RSI flare-up this month.

I'm making this public in the hopes it will keep my honest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


It's a bittersweet moment for me. I'm currently frogging my first ever garment I ever crocheted. It was the Baby-Doll Top from Mary Jane Hall's Crochet That Fits and I made it long before I figured out silly things like yarn weight and correct garment construction and seaming. So I made a pattern that called for fingering weight yarn with DK weight cotton yarn. Fast forward a year and some change later... and it's hanging funny. As in, one side's shoulder strap is shorter than the other, and so the entire bodice is lop-sided, and the cotton has stretched so it's kind of big on me.

So, frogged.

That's the bitter part.

The sweet part is that this shirt was also my first ever project I ever made with recycled yarn -- and that yarn was from my first ever recycled thrift store sweater, to boot. So lots of firsts wrapped up into this orange sparkly not-quite-right top. I feel like it's karmic balance that the shirt made with recycled yarn is being recycled yet again into something (though I'm not quite sure what, yet).

It's fiber samsara. I love it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Feel Vindicated

My last post was full of crocheter indignation about craftism in the fiber world.

Well... In your FACE, snobby knitters. We outspend you and outnumber you by a lot.

Listen up, yarn companies. We hookers matter!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hooker Frustration

I'm a crocheter. I am not a knitter. Knitting makes me want to scream and throw things. I love yarn. I love making things out of yarn. But I'm getting really really tired of feeling like the afterthought red-headed stepchild of the fiber world. Hey, guess what? I have money to spend on yarn and patterns, just like knitters! I have skill and talent and can make things that are pretty, useful, and not just granny squares. So why do I always feel like a second-class citizen in yarn stores?

I know they don't mean it. And my LYS is so crochet-friendly I could live there forever. But despite all the hooks they carry, the carefulness to call it "Open Craft Night" instead of "Open Knit Night", the willingness of the owners to hold crochet classes.... I'm still the only consistent crocheter there. I'm surrounded by knitters. The regulars know me and admire my work. But newcomers will sometimes express disbelief in what I'm making, and how I'm making it.

I don't want to start a knit vs. crochet debate and if one is better than the other, but I have frustration and I need to vent it.

I'm a crocheter and I'm damn proud of it. If you can knit it, I can hook it. So why the hell is it so hard for me to feel accepted? Because, honestly, it's lonely being a crocheter in a sea of knitters. I've never run into the blatant craftism that other crocheters sometimes do -- thankfully, or I may have started screaming at the snobby knitter -- but I still sense that crochet is less accepted, less mainstream, less visible. When people think "crochet", they have visions of granny squares dancing through their head (not that I'm knocking the granny square; I've made gorgeous afghans out of them). So the fact that people are astounded that I'm making sweaters, socks, dresses, skirts, etc. makes me want to beat my head against a wall, sometimes.

I've been thinking of ways to make crochet more prominent in my area. Start a crochet-centric meetup? Get a group together and descend upon a LYS en masse? A Wear Crochet to Work Day? Camp out in front of the hyperbolic crochet coral reef and hold a hook-in? Wear a "Proud to be a Hooker" button?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: Textual Healing

Title: Textual Healing
Author: Eric Smith
Publisher: Self-published via AuthorHouse
Publication Date: November 2010
Pages: 280

Note: Free review copy received from the author.

The first thing I thought when I read the book description was, "This is going to be hilarious!" And, thankfully, it was. I had entered a giveaway for the book on Goodreads, and the author reached out to me and offered me a review copy. He was nice, and he had a rabbit. Of course I said yes. (For the record, I am a sucker for rabbits - my own two have learned this and do their best to be as adorable as possible so they could one day get away with murder - or at least flooding the kitchen after chewing through the fridge water hose... but that is another story.)

Textual Healing has a plot straight out of a screwball romantic comedy, only I don't think even Hollywood could have come up with some of the supporting characters here, which includes a haiku-spouting ninja flower shop owner, a lesbian romance writer who runs a writers support group, and a rich and famous movie-making best friend. Honestly, Eric Smith had me at "haiku-speaking flower-shop-owning ninja."

The book begins with Andrew Connor, a once-famous author who is suffering from one-hit-wonderdom, not having a very good day. His long-time girlfriend just walked out on him because he hasn't written anything for three years. And instead of being allowed to mope, his employee calls to remind him he had to come open up his money pit of a used bookstore. Not to mention his best-selling book is collecting dust in the clearance section (way way WAY discounted). But then, enters a girl (there's always a girl, isn't there?), Hannah, who doesn't run away screaming from the weirdness or dead-endness (yes, I'm being very eloquent tonight) that is his life.

Oh, and there's an apartment-destroying sugar glider, purchased solely as a ploy to impress said girl.

Textual Healing is laugh-out-loud funny, and a fast read to boot. BUT, (disclaimer: I am a pedant) the book really needed a good edit to fix some grammar and word choice issues, tighten up the language, and some tough love cutting of pop-culture and hipster references.

That said, go out and find a copy of the book and read it. It really is worth a read. I hope Eric writes another one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Quick Update

Expect a slew of book reviews from me in the next few weeks. I've received a number of review copies of books that I will be reading and posting reviews of. If you're here for the crochet, I apologize - but only slightly, as the two main foci of this blog are books and yarn. As I read faster than I crochet, books will win out for sheer number of posts.

However, I have been diligently working on new projects. There is a sock design in the works that I have to jigger with some, and I have some musings about yarn in general that will all find blog space in the future.

Wishing you all good words and yarn.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?

Title: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir
Author: Marie Simas
Publisher: Self-published via CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 2010
Pages: 161

Note: Free review copy received from the author via Goodreads Giveaways program.

The quality of self-published books varies across the board from truly horrendous to truly spectacular. Simas' book falls somewhere in the middle but definitely leans towards the spectacular end of the spectrum.

Ignore the title - I know, you want to react to it. Just ignore it. As horrible as it is, it did its job as it made me give the book a second look. However, it is incredibly misleading. This is the memoir of a girl, who just happens to be Catholic, growing up in a household with a controlling and abusive father. Very little is mentioned about religion; instead, Simas focuses on the abuse she was forced to endure and witness while growing up, and how her experiences shaped and affected her adulthood. Much of the oppressiveness of her household which she probably ascribes to religion is more accurately cultural norms and expectations.

Simas' parents were immigrants from Portugal. Her father was a teacher in the school district. Her mother was a homemaker who suffered from brain cancer. Simas candidly talks about how her father would beat her if she got in trouble at school or got bad marks, would come home to rape her mother, and ruled the household through intimidation and tight control of power. The short, episodic nature of the narrative mirrors Simas' own memories of her childhood and life. While she focuses on negative experiences, she does so unflinchingly and defiantly with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor. Even her own bad behavior is honestly portrayed, particular the period in her life where she tries and asserts her own power over the guys she dates.

I gathered that writing this book was a cathartic experience for Simas, and that the process helped her move past the abuse. I imagine so, anyway, as the last few pages were much more hopeful and positive than the rest of the book. I truly admire Simas. I don't know if I could have survived in her family situation and emerged even half-way functioning.

I loved my mother, but I couldn't forgive her weakness.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road

A few weeks ago, I was frantically trying to watch a few of the movies on my Netflix Instant queue before they expired on the first of the month. One that I watched was 84 Charing Cross Road, a 1987 film starring Anne Bancroft as Helene Hanff, a wise-cracking New York writer with a love affair with classic English literature. Fed up with the lack of such books in America, she writes to Marks & Co, a London antiques bookshop, starting a decades-long friendship with book dealer Frank Doel (masterfully portrayed by Anthony Hopkins). I was charmed, mesmerized, and instantly smitten with the movie. It reminded me very much of Love Letters, a play by A.R. Gurney which consists entirely of two people sitting on stage reading letters back and forth.

After I finished the movie, I immediately searched online to see if it was based on a book (what does that say about Hollywood that a movie I found smart, funny, and witty had to be based on a book?) and it was! A book of letters! Actual letters, in fact, and not fictional, made-up ones. Of course, I immediately bought it, because I was sure I was going to love it. I was so sure, in fact, that I didn't just buy 84, Charing Cross Road, but the Helene Hanff Omnibus which collects all five of Hanff's memoir-esque books into one fat, delicious volume.

The book fortuitously arrived just as I was finishing The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate so I was able to immediately dive right in. I skipped over Underfoot in Show Business, the author's memoir of trying to make it as a playwright in 1940's New York, and started in on 84.

I loved it.

The book is short. The first edition only clocked in at 95 pages, but boy howdy, what a 95 pages. Obviously, not every letter is included and often months or even a year or more passes between letters. But despite those omissions, the letters between Hanff and Doel (interspersed with letters to/from others at Marks & Co. and Doel's wife Nora) are everything I expected. Hanff's writing is rich, alive, spontaneous, and open - I could almost hear her shouting in my head. Doel's words are more reserved, filled with British reserve but no less warm.

84, Charing Cross Road is Hanff's loving tribute and memorial to her remarkable two-decade friendship to a man an ocean away, a man who she never met, over a shared love of books.

I do wish that there were more letters - just so that I could have visited longer with Helene, and Frank, and the others. Thankfully, as soon as I finished 84, Charing Cross Road, I was able to immediately start on The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Hanff's diary of her trip to London after the publication of 84.

"I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lacy Bunny Socks

These socks were made with a light fingering weight wool/bamboo blend. I would probably recommend a fingering weight - they were a little snug.

I wear women's US size 6 shoe, and these socks were designed for my feet. You may find that you will need to go up or down a hook size, depending on the width of the foot. Or, alternatively, you may continue increasing the toe until you reach the desired width - the lace pattern is a multiple of 4.

NOTE: I went through the pattern and tried to catch any errors, but inevitably one or two slip through. Any comments or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

  • Approximately 400 yds fingering weight yarn (smaller sizes will require less, larger sizes will require more). I used JL Yarn's Bamboo Zania
  • 3.5 mm/E crochet hook

Special Stitches:
Linked Double Crochet (ldc): dc, insert hook through horizontal loop of dc and yo and pull through loop (two loops on hook), insert hook into next st and yo and pull through (three loops on hook), yo and pull through two loops, yo and pull through last two loops; ldc completed.

Make 2.

Rnd 1: Ch 10, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next 7 ch, 3 sc in next ch. Do not turn; continue working on opposite side of chain. Sc in next 7 ch across, 2 sc in next ch. Do not join.
Rnd 2: sc in first sc, and in each sc around to end, 3 sc in end st, sc around to end, 3 sc in end st. Do not join.
Repeat rnd 2 5 more times. (44 sc around)

Rnd 1: sc, (ch 3, skip 2 st, sc) 7 times, skip 1 st, ch 1, sc 21 times, ch 1, join with sl st to first sc.
Rnd 2: Ch 4 (counts as dc and ch1), dc in same st as sl st, [skip ch-3 space, (dc, ch 1, dc) in sc] 7 times, skip ch-1 space, dc in next st, ldc in next 20 st, skip ch-1 space, join with sl st to 3rd chain of starting ch-3.
Rnd 3: sc in 4th ch of ch-3 space, (ch 3, sc) 7 times, skip 1 st, ch 1, sc 20 times, ch 1, join with sl st to first sc.
Repeat rnds 2 and 3 until sock, stretched, reaches turn of ankle. End with rnd 2.

Rnd 1: Base ch/sc 22, skip pattern stitches and join with sl st to first ldc. Turn.
Rnd 2: sc in 4th ch of ch-3 space, (ch 3, sc) 7 times, skip 1 st, ch 1, sc 20 times, ch 1, join with sl st to first sc.
Rnd 3: Ch 4 (counts as dc and ch1), dc in same st as sl st, [skip ch-3 space, (dc, ch 1, dc) in sc] 7 times, skip ch-1 space, dc in next st, ldc in next 20 st, skip ch-1 space, join with sl st to 3rd chain of starting ch-3.
Repeat rnds 2 and 3 until leg is desired length. End with rnd 3.

Rnd 1: Ch 3, ldc around, join with sl st to 3rd chain of starting ch-3.
Rnd 2: Repeat rnd 1.
Rnd 3: Ch 3, *2 fpdc, 1 bpdc*, repeat from * to * around, join with sl st to 3rd chain of starting ch-3.
Rnds 4 and 5: Repeat rnd 3.
Fasten off.

Turn sock inside out and hold with toe pointing towards you. Join yarn to first dc in the right-hand corner of the heel opening.
Rnd 1: Sc in same st as join, sc to last two st before corner, sc3tog, sc across foundation chain to last two st, sc3tog.
Next rnds: Sc across to last two st before corner, sc3tog in rounds until there are ten stitches left around.
Last rnd: Sew the opening together with 5 sl st.
Bind off, weave in ends.

See the bunnies?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review: The Stepsister Scheme

I have always had a fascination with fairy tales: the whimsy of magic, the ability of commonborn to rise above their station, the idea of a happily ever after. Walt Disney tapped into a deep-rooted love of the fairy tale with his movies. But as I grew older my imagination stretch, I found that I like fairy tale revisionings (also know as "cracked fairy tales") even more than the original stories. I devoured Bill Willingham's Fables graphic novel series, fell in love with The Book of Lost Things' macabre fairy tale twists, and will happily read fairy tale retellings for hours on end.

So I was delighted when I stumbled across a book by Jim C. Hines called The Stepsister Scheme, the first book in a fantasy series which examines what happens after the "happily ever after."

Danielle, aka Cinderella, has settled into life at the palace and is pregnant. But then her stepsister attacks, only to be foiled by Danielle's surly maid, Talia. Danielle discovers that her mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice, has a habit of collecting fairy tale princesses -- whose lives did not end up as happy as the tales would have it. Talia is the Sleeping Beauty whose awakening was a lot darker and sinister than publicly known. And beneath the castle, Danielle meets Snow whose seven dwarves exacted a much higher price than anyone could imagine.

And when Danielle's husband Armand is missing, the three princesses go off to Fairytown to rescue him.

Hines has ingeniously re-envisioned the fairy tales, creating three-dimensional characters from two-dimensional stories. As I alluded to before, these are not the fairy tale princesses we know from bedtime stories or Disney movies. There princesses are not passive pawns in their own stories, but kick-ass heroes in their own right. They don't wait around for Prince Charming to save the day -- they go off to rescue Prince Charming!

The first book was fun, engaging, and totally original. The others in the series were in the same vein but more deeply explored the three princesses, Queen Bea, and the world they live in. I came for the cracked fairy tales and the Charlie's Angels-esque plot. I stayed for the characters.

Stay tuned for a new sock pattern up tomorrow!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Books of 2010

Every year, I challenge myself to read at least 50 books and I keep track of what I read and my impressions over at Goodreads. In 2009, I had read 122 books -- so it is with some feeling of failure that I clocked in the end of 2010 with only 74 books. Still a high number, but I felt I could have done better.

Below are some of the best books that I read last year, in no particular order.

The Magician's Elephan by Kate DiCamillo
DiCamillo is known for her children's books, many of which contain a fable-esque quality. The Magician's Elephant is a very sweet story of an orphan boy, an elephant, and how wishes do come true.
"Magic is always impossible.... It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it's magic."

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
William is a farmer's son in Malawi, a poor African nation. During the midst of a famine, his family could no longer pay his tuition and he was forced to leave school. Using old textbooks available at the library, scavenged materials, and ingenuity, he builds a windmill to power his family's home, and gains international fame. The truly remarkable thing: he was only fourteen. This is an extremely inspiring story of perseverance, tenacity, overcoming adversity, and the power of learning.
"I try, and I made it!"

Soulless by Gail Carriger
This is the first book of Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, a fun steampunk romp featuring Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster who happens to lack a soul. One night at a party, she stumbles onto a plot involving vampires, a werewolf lord, and a secret society. See my review of the entire delightful series here.
"Cats were not, in her experience, an animal with much soul. Prosaic, practical little creatures as a general rule. It would suit her very well to be thought catlike."

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
by Helen Simonson

Major Earnest Pettigrew is a widower in a small town in England. Mrs. Ali is the widowed Pakistani shopkeeper in town. Together, the two defy societal conventions, fishmongering busybodies, and cultural differences to find deep friendship and even love. Utterly charming and delightful.
"The world is full of small ignorances. We must all do our best to ignore them and thereby keep them small, don't you think?"

The Actor and the Housewife
by Shannon Hale

A fairy tale without magic, and a love story without romance. A frumpy middle-aged Utah housewife stumbles into bestfriendship with a Hollywood heartthrob. They are from two different worlds, are complete opposites, but yet fit together perfectly. See my full review here.
"He would never abandon her, never leave a gaping hole, and even if he died someday, he was preserved like a lab specimen from all the alcohol he imbibed, so he wouldn't look or act much different."

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I have a weakness for epistolary novels. I love them, adore them, and devour them. There is a true talent in telling a complete story in only letters. Guernsey takes place after World War Two, and tells the story of Juliet Ashton and the friendship she forges with the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey through letters. She learns of the Nazi occupation of their island, and the formation of their Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (read the book to find out the origin of the name). Completely engrossing.
"We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us."

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This book follows three women in the Civil Rights era South: two black maids, and one white woman. The three band together on a very dangerous project: to give black maids of the town a voice to tell their stories. The book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
"All my life I'd been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine's thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe."

Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
Smith and Lourie are Canadian environmentalists who used themselves as guinea pigs, testing to see how much the use of normal, household products can raise their urine and blood levels of dangerous chemicals of concern. The authors also gave a thorough history of each chemical, and the potential dangers of exposure - particularly to the very young, and what we can do to reduce our exposure. This is a book I think everybody should read because knowledge is the most important thing in keeping ourselves and our children safe.
"Far from being the rock or island in the Simon and Garfunkel song, it turns out that the best metaphor to describe the human body is 'sponge.'"

Happy 2011!

Happy New Year, everybody! It has been an interesting, roller coaster year for me but it has ended well enough. I rediscovered my passion for crocheting; found two awesome roommates who share my love for yarn, books, and other dorky things; acquired another adorable rabbit; watched my goddaughter be born; and adopted a cat who in no time at all made his way into my heart.

Things I learned in 2010:
  • No matter what toys you buy cats, they will always prefer empty water bottles, balls of paper, grains of rice, dust bunnies, and paper bags.
  • Don't be afraid to frog. It's all part of the process.
  • Cast iron cookware is better than non-stick. That stuff is AMAZING.
  • While it is not possible to have too much yarn, it is possible to have too little money.
  • Homeownership kind of sucks (this isn't a new lesson, but something that is reiterated to me every so often).
  • Crying is okay. It's means you're alive.
  • I should never have more than five projects going at a time, or five books. More is the way to madness.
  • When designing socks, I should write down what I'm doing while I'm doing it so I remember for the second sock.
  • I should update this more often.
  • I truly have the best friends in the world.
Here's to a great 2011!