November 2009 Archives



Happy Thanksgiving, US readers! I wanted to make a Thanksgiving post, but needed a little structure. So I stole the idea of doing an alphabet list from Lu over at Regular Rumination. Hope you all have a delicious day!

I'm thankful for (among other things):

Able-bodied-ness. I'm super thankful to be healthy and fit, with all five senses intact.

Board games, and the times of hilarity I spend playing them with my friends and family.

Cousins! I've got four of them, and they're all fantastic. Soon I'll have a wee cousin-once-removed, which will be the first member of the new generation in my family.

David. The best friend and partner I could imagine.

English. While I've never caught myself feeling patriotic toward the United States, I do feel a sense of patriotism about the English language and its literature.

Friends. I feel so thankful for my dear friends - the ones I've known since kindergarten, and the ones I've just met.

Gardens. Not having a yard, I'm thankful there are places like the Classical Chinese Garden and the myriad rose gardens where I can go for a bit of artistically-enhanced nature.

Harry Potter audiobooks. Jim Dale's narration has become so reassuring and familiar that it feels like an old friend. David and Iisten to them whenever we're in need of a little comfort, or a pick-me-up...or any time, really.

Internet. Sometimes I feel like the internet is taking over my life, but without it I wouldn't have met all of YOU, dear readers. Nor would I be able to sell my patterns anywhere NEAR as easily. So, hooray for the Internet!

Job. I feel very thankful to have secured another job recently, and one that fits my needs so happily.

Knitting, of course! I'm so lucky to have found an artistic outlet that suits me so well, and to actually be making a little bit of money at it.

Language. English has a special place in my heart, but I love the sounds and textures of so many languages: French, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, Japanese, Welsh...the list goes on. I'm thankful for so much fascinating diversity of communicative sound.


National (and State) Park Systems. I'm really thankful that magical places like Joshua Tree, Zion, Mt. Hood, Arches and Mesa Verde are being preserved, and I'm thankful for all my past and future opportunities to visit them in person.

Oregon Coast. One of my favorite places, which I always find nourishing and reinvigorating. I'm looking forward to spending New Year's there with my buddy Leah!

Parents who are loving and supportive, and with whom I enjoy spending time. I feel so thankful to be in that situation, and to live in the same city as my folks.

Questions. I'm thankful to live in a place and time where I'm allowed to ask and hear them.

Reading. It's hard even to articulate how much richer and more sacred life is to me as a result of my reading.

Solitude. I'm really thankful for all the wonderful people in my life, and I'm also thankful that I enjoy spending quiet time by myself, reading, thinking, writing, making things, and just hanging out.

Tea (usually herbal). Sitting down for a cup of tea is such a comforting and contemplative experience. I'm thankful I get to do it frequently.

University. I love(d) being in school, and I'm thankful that I got to have such a positive, debt-free college experience.

Virginia Woolf. Clarissa Dalloway, Lily Briscoe, Septimus Warren Smith, and the narrator of A Room of One's Own have made me a better person.

Wool. What a magical fiber: stays warm even when wet, anti-microbial, springy and bouncy, and felts together with a little moisture and friction.

eXit Strategies. I feel very thankful to have discovered that my enochlophobia can be combated by having an exit strategy from any crowd situation.

Yeast. I am not hugely into food, but I am VERY thankful for two edible items that depend on yeast: leavened bread, and wine. Hooray for yeast!

Zoos! I have a childlike delight in zoos, and a particular tenderness toward the Oregon Zoo.

On the cheap


Remember when I told you that I got a new job? I've been there two and a half weeks now, and it's working out really well! I couldn't be happier with the way things are going. There's one quirk, though: I only get paid once a month. This is nothing a little budgeting won't fix up nicely, but as I'm coming off unemployment at the moment, things are slightly tight. I don't have very expensive tastes: I could knit and read from my stash and to-be-read stack for almost a year without any new acquisitions, so in the normal run of things it's not a problem. But this Friday I really felt like doing something a little bit...unusual. A little festive. And I was brainstorming about fun, minorly celebratory things to do that are either free or cheap.

Here's what I came up with. In the course of thinking, I realized that there are certain little items, not expensive but just outside my everyday gambit, that give me that little-kid feeling of getting a special treat.

  • Drive or bus to a neighborhood I don't usually visit, and explore it on foot. If the weather isn't totally gray, sometimes I bring my camera and take photos.
  • Learn a new vintage hairstyle via a YouTube video, and try it out. I'm a little bit limited by not owning the three million hair products those ladies always seem to have, but it's amazing how far I can get with a few bobby pins, some styling gel, a 3/4" curling iron and a hair dryer.
  • Wear my new hairstyle out to happy hour. Not free, but only $4-5 for a cocktail at the schmancy bar down the street, which is decorated like a lush mid-century science lab. A pretty frugal way to feel like I'm living it up.


    (Image courtesy of Kevin at Beaker & Flask.)

  • Make myself hot chocolate. Normally I never drink it because it just seems like so much sugar. But once in a while it's a special treat. Alternatively, I sometimes make a pot of Yogi Tea's Mayan Cocoa Spice, and add some milk. I bet it would be especially good with STEAMED milk! But I don't have a steamer.
  • Rent multiple movies on a certain theme, and watch them while eating popcorn. I don't know why, but a themed "movie marathon" seems way more special-occasion to me than just renting a few random flicks like I usually do. Doing this activity in my pajamas is especially slumber-party-ish. Also, it helps if the theme is something totally ridiculous, like "beach party ghost stories" or "playboy spies."


    (Image courtesy of Jason Whiton at Spy Vibe.)

  • Paint my toenails. Larkin wrote a post the other day about nail polish, and she inspired me to raid my own cabinet. Apparently, I have four colors of polish left over from ages past. Right now, my toes are sparkly blue.
  • Walk over to the Classical Chinese Garden. David and I are members, which means that while it's not really free, the average per-visit price does decrease each time we go. Even if we decide to have a cup of tea in the teahouse there, it's a great value for $4 or so, and amazingly beautiful. We don't have a yard, so this is kind of like having a private, manicured and landscaped paradise that we very generously allow other people to visit as well. Also, Someone Else handles all the staffing and maintenance decisions for us.
  • When I'm grocery shopping, I usually try to stick to what's in season. Sometimes in the winter, though, when the cold and grey are really getting me down, I'll spring for something radically out-of-season, like raspberries or cherries, or sometimes asparagus. Then I'll take them home and slowly savor them, feeling oh-so-decadent.
  • treatberries.jpg

    (Image courtesy of Craig Allen, .craig on

Having put together my list, it doesn't seem burdensome at all to live frugally for a while. Do y'all have special mini-treats that you give yourselves when you're trying to stretch your pocketbooks?

Living vicariously


I was going through the Charles Victor Morine photos the other day, and I realized that there are a whole lot of non-knitting shots from our April trip to Oahu that I never went through, shared or even edited! Mid-November seems like an EXCELLENT time to re-live the delicious warm breezes and pretty sights, don't you think? (Well, excellent for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Y'all Aussies will just have to bear with me.)


On our first day there, we took a stroll down the Waikiki promenade, where we saw this young woman with her gorgeous parasol. (She was very sunburned, though, I'd recommend packing your parasol AND your sunblock.) Since we were staying on the other, quieter and less populous side of the island, we never went back, but it was fun to see the super-famous, crowded beach, the classy old colonial Moana Hotel, and the Waikiki Shell, where my young mom saw such luminaries as The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. We were struck by this lovely flower, which was almost the exact color of Mom's nails:


These red-crested cardinals are one of my grandmother's favorite birds. I have to agree that the males are quite striking. Tutu wasn't along, so I snapped some photos for her.


There are hibiscus everywhere:


Our digs (which were courtesy of my very generous uncle Vic) afforded spectacular sunset views. I feel kind of ridiculous taking photos like this: so idyllic!


When I visited Oahu as a little kid, I was OBSESSED with the banyon trees. They seemed so cool and otherworldly that I was sure they couldn't be natural - they seemed like works of sculpture that had been intentionally constructed.


On special occasions my Tutu used to take my mom out to fancy tea at the Wai'oli Tea Room, a gorgeous, old-fashioned spot up in the hills which was once an orphanage and "home for unwed mothers."


After our afternoon tea we took a walk in Honolulu's Chinatown, and made the acquaintance of a number of shop cats.


When I think "tropics" I think "sun and sea," but Hawaii has a spookier side, too. Some of my favorite shots from the trip come from our visit to Oahu Cemetery (Charles Victor Morine and Jessie Lambdin Morine are buried across the street).


We were there in the late afternoon, and the light was golden and perfect.


I love this gradient shot. It reminds me of the cover of Jose Saramago's novel Blindness.


And it's not just graveyards. When we went over the Pali Highway the rain was coming down sideways, and the mountains were swathed in clouds that looked like Japanese prints. My mom was disappointed that David and I didn't get the full view from the cliff, but I think the mist was gorgeous.


One of my favorite parts of the trip was revisiting the neighborhood in Kailua where my mom and her brothers grew up. Of course it's nearly unrecognizable now, but it was still great to see the schools she attended and the houses where she lived. Near Kailua Beach, we went to Buzz's Steakhouse, which has been there for an age and where my grandparents used to go to escape the kids on special occasions and business dinners. They have puffer fish light fixtures.


It was a fantastic trip. Even more exciting is that my uncle is generously giving David and I another week at his timeshare as a present for our Partnership Celebration! We'll be heading back in June...aloha!




Thanks for all your supportive comments about the Partnership Celebration, everyone! Reading them makes me excited to get cracking on my dress, and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. But for now, a little something different...


Meet the Plumeria Shawl, my second commission for the lovely Erin over at Eat Sleep Knit. It's my tribute to tropicalia in the gray and stormy Portland November: the central lace motif reminds me of the petals of the plumeria bloom, my grandmother's favorite flower and the ones most commonly strung together by the lei sellers on Oahu.


The yarn is whispery soft: luscious Malabrigo Lace in the Applewood colorway, which reminds me of pink flower-petals just beginning to brown at the end of summer, of the yellowing pages of old books and the browning lace of old-fashioned school dresses. The glass seed beads add a bit of glamor, and increase the drape of the finished shawl.


I know that I'm notoriously bad at estimating this, but I think that Plumeria is one of my more beginner-friendly patterns. The hardest thing about it is that the central lace motif does have patterning on both the right and wrong sides, but said patterning is pretty minimal, and easily memorized. The bead pattern, as you can see, is also a simple diagonal, with a new line of beads being added every other time you start a new repeat of the lace pattern. The beading only happens on the right side, so the wrong-side rows are still quite restful. It all strikes me as quite pleasingly logical, so I hope that others agree!


Plumeria just went out to the subscribers in Erin's Malabrigo Projects club, along with their portions of Malabrigo and their boxes of beads, and it's exclusive to the club for just a few more months. Come January, though, it and the Vine Bolero will be up for sale in the pattern store at Eat Sleep Knit, so anyone will be able to snag a copy.

Funny little dog not included.


A Big Project


There's something that's been taking up a lot of David and my energy lately, but I've hesitated to blog about it. I like to keep a little buffer between my personal life and the internet, and this feels like a sort of gray zone that I wasn't sure about entering. But then I realized how bizarre it was going to feel NOT to blog about it, given that there is a huge, intimidating fiber arts project involved about which I will want to post updates. How could I not share that on the Family Trunk Project blog?


So here's the deal: David and I are planning an event we're calling a Partnership Celebration. It has certain things in common with a wedding: it's our declaration of our intention to spend the rest of our lives together, and will be an opportunity to honor our dearest friends and family for all their support. It will involve food and music, poetry, ritual elements, and lots of storytelling. It's happening on our tenth anniversary of coupledom (March 13), which is pretty cool. There are other things about it that are different than a wedding: no government involvement, no religious element, no transformative symbolism where a third party joins us together.* It's going to be all about honoring and committing to the slow evolution of growing relationships, in the past, present and future. We're excited!

And of course, for any big event like this, there are the aesthetic questions: what are we going to wear? Which is where the sewing project comes in. We've decided to go with a vintage feel (no surprise there): specifically, our clothes will be 1930s-inspired. David's having a custom suit made, and I am making myself this dress:


I have wanted an excuse to make this ever since I first clapped eyes on it lo these many years ago, and here's my chance. My final version will be in the luscious oceanic silk you see above; it's some of the most beautiful fabric I've ever touched, and moves like liquid. Let's have another look, shall we?


Pretty gorgeous stuff. This is also, though, one of the most ambitious sewing projects I've ever attempted, and I want it to look great for our special occasion. So I'm being diligent and doing a full dry-run with a less expensive polyester lining material that more or less imitates the behavior of the silk:


Primarily, what I'll need to practice is edge-stitching (ALL of those diagonal seams are edge-stitched!), and working with such a light, slippery fabric on the bias. I'm about halfway done with the cutting-out on my test fabric, so I'll keep you updated about how it's going. I've got a little over four months, and I figure if I work on it a little bit each day that should be plenty of time. Wish me luck!

Oh, and for a sampling of gorgeous, PRO photographs of the both of us, check out the lovely Heather Espana's blog entry. We had a blast working with her - I think it's especially fun and relaxing to work with a professional when you're used to being the one in charge of the shoot!

*For those who might be concerned about our legal rights, we've hired a lawyer and are safeguarding them through non-marital channels.

Ms. Darcy


I usually have a guideline: I don't wear a new garment out until David and I have done the photoshoot and generated some bloggable images. I've never thought of this as a hard-and-fast rule; more as something that makes me feel better to have done. A sort of coming-of-age ritual for the garment, if you will. I never considered that I "need" to do things in that order...but apparently, I really do, since this jacket has been done for a solid MONTH and we only just got around to taking pictures the day before yesterday.


I was putting the finishing touches on this jacket (Kim Hargreaves's Darcy design, from the Dark House Collection) as I rushed out the door to drop all of my Family Trunk sweaters at Twisted for my two-week trunk show there. I wasn't really anticipating the degree to which removing all of those sweaters from my wardrobe for a fortnight would leave me with NOTHING TO WEAR, and suffice to say, my Darcy has been in heavy rotation ever since.


Long story short: I love, love, love this jacket. Love the pattern, love the design, love wearing it. Love the vaguely Edwardian shape, which is especially evident when paired with long skirts and while riding my retro Flying Pigeon. Love how the yarn (Manos del Uruguay) knitted up, with maximal heathering and minimal pooling. Love the seed stitch texture. Love the body and warmth of the finished fabric. Love the matte, dome-shaped black buttons that we ended up finding, and how they reflect the nubby-ness of the fabric itself. Love.


Regular readers will remember that I wrote a little appreciation of this pattern, and Kim Hargreaves's style in general, a few months back. I continued loving it, although I was adapting the pattern for a larger yarn, so as I progressed I deviated more and more from the written instructions. The sleeve caps, in particular, required a bit of tweaking, but nothing very extreme. I think the end product looks and feels wonderful in a slightly heavier yarn; I'm so cold-blooded that if I'm gonna make an equestrian-looking riding jacket, I want it to keep me warm! And this one does, quite nicely. I also modified the collar instructions, adding about eight more rows to the top of the collar in order to get it to fold over the way I envisioned. I adore the result: I've also worn it with a knotted scarf, cravat-style, which accentuates the Edwardian appeal.


These photographs, by the way, were taken during an extremely welcome burst of late-Autumn sunlight, at the gorgeous Lone Fir Cemetery, a heritage graveyard near our house, which is also a favorite destination for a scenic meander. In keeping with the Halloweeny season, I think the story for this shoot has something to do with a country schoolmistress who, cycling back from her single-room schoolhouse one fall afternoon, comes upon a mysterious cemetery she has never noticed before...


I'm sure a litany of spookiness ensues, but at least she's sensibly and attractively attired in a wool jacket and seasonally-appropriate full skirt. :-)

All in all, this was a great project, and I think that giving myself a little brain-break as I put the finishing touches on the Accessories Collection was the right decision. Coming up soon: some stuff about my own designs, and a very special (and somewhat nerve-wracking) sewing project. Stay tuned!


How time flies


Good grief! How did almost a month go by without blogging? Things have certainly come to a pretty pass, haven't they?

The truth is that Family Trunk Project has been hit by a perfect storm of anti-blogging factors: secret patterns I can't show you until later, intensive planning for my classes (which went great! more on that later), a big sewing project that I've been dithering about sharing, and the onset of grey, un-photo-friendly winter weather have all conspired to keep me away from the old fiber blog. One of my hangups about craft-related blogging is that I feel there should always be pictures, and when there aren't...well, we can all see what happens.

But! I do have some exciting news, and some lovely knitted goods that will hopefully be both photographed and share-able in short order. On the exciting news front:

  1. Classes! I spent the last two weeks hunkering down to prepare for the two-part Beginning Design class I taught at Twisted here in Portland. I have to admit that preparing for it was WAY more work than I anticipated, but I think the end results were really cool. The first week's class was devoted to coming up with ideas, finessing those ideas into specifics, and going about developing sketches and swatches. The second class was about applying math and planning for different shapes. As you can probably guess, the first class is more fun and glamorous than the second; the prep for it included making a huge pile of swatches:

    We used them to talk about yarn choice, needle sizes, drape and body in different kinds of fabrics, structure, and so on. The first class also incorporated a random, Flickr-generated image, lots of garments, and photos of cool staircases. The second class involved lots of charts and graphs, and an imaginary woman named Doris. I think both halves went well, especially considering that it was my first time, and everyone came up with SUPER-cute sketches and swatches. I hope they'll make up their designs so that I can see.

    Twisted and I are talking about doing another set of these classes in a few months and at a slightly later time, so if you work an 8-5 job and are interested, keep an eye out.

  2. AND, speaking of that...

  3. I got a job!

    You may remember that the company I was working for went out of business in June; since then I've been enjoying all the extra time, but also stressing at the provisional nature of unemployment. Well, I start a new, half-time position on Wednesday, and it's pretty much exactly what I had in mind: a generous rate of pay, a consistent schedule, half-time so that I can continue to work on Family Trunk Project stuff, conveniently located right downtown (a 5-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk from my house), and best of all, the other members of the organization seem really nice and fun to work with, and the organization itself does worthwhile work. I'm psyched for such a perfect-seeming match, and I think I'll do well in the position. So, hooray!

  4. Now that I've caught you up, I hope to get back to more regular posting soon. Nice to see you again, Internet.