Monster Knit Rally

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Travel update

Yes, I am wearing silly sunglasses in this photo. I also happen to be sitting at the top of Gellert Hill in Budapest, looking out over the city. You can see the Parliament building in the background. (We did not see any of the protests there, although they took place on the day I arrived. When we saw Parliament a few days later, it was completely fenced in, with police at regular intervals around the perimeter, and not many people except for a few tour groups.)

I am currently in Romania, staying with friends near Brasov in Transylvania. Brasov and the surrounding towns are located in center of a horseshoe formed by the Carpathian Mountains, which makes it absolutely lovely. It has been rainy the past couple of days, but this morning we woke up to a gorgeous blue sky. We took a train to the town of Sinaia, where Peles Castle is located. I taught my friend Z. to knit this morning, and we practiced on the train, in between checking out the stunning views of the Carpathian Mountains (covered in plenty of snow already).
Once we arrived in Sinaia, we had a nice lunch of soup, french fries, and these giant polenta balls with a sour cream/cottage cheese-like dip. Then we walked up the hill and were greeted by this:
Unfortunately, the inside of the castle was closed for renovations, but the security guards let us stroll right around it, even though we weren't supposed to. They also offered to take us inside in exchange for a bribe, but we declined. Too many poorly trained armed men around. Shortly after this encounter, we saw a poster from an Anti-Corruption Conference that had taken place there just a few days before. Nice.

I will most likely write more about my impressions of Romania once I get home, but I think that the most obvious thing I've noticed is that Romania is much more like many parts of Latin America and Asia than it is like most of Europe - it is still very much a developing country. Its entry into the EU will be interesting, to say the least.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rhinebeck, and a travel update

No photos today, since I'm blogging from an internet cafe in Budapest, where I just arrived yesterday. I'm so excited to be here, exploring a new/old place, and to see what I remember from my visit 15 years ago.

The Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival was incredible... they had so many interesting things that it was impossible to see and absorb them all. I got tons of roving - cotton, silk, bamboo, ingeo, merino/tencel, yak - to try out, and some lovely hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn in a muted red/pink colorway destined to become a sweater (perhaps of my own design). I will post photos in a couple of weeks when I return from my trip.

That's all I will update at the moment, since I'm off to explore!
I will post photos as soon as I am able.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Work-in-progress: packing, unpacking, repeating

All my things laid out for an upcoming trip. I've already done two "trial runs" of packing the backpack to see if everything will fit, if I can trim anything, if I'm forgettting anything. Today I packed for the third time. Will it be the last? (Tune in next time to find out.)

I've had people ask me how I can travel to new places on my own, or be amazed by the fact that I have. It seems that many folks have anxiety about something bad happening when they travel, or just not being able to figure things out on their own. I have confidence that those things will work out - I generally don't feel worried about my plane crashing, or missing a plane or train, or getting lost, or running into weirdos, or getting mugged or pickpocketed, or other strange things that can happen when traveling.

For me, it's the preparation that makes me anxious. What if I forget to do something before I leave? What if I forget to bring something with me, or I pack too much and my pack is a pain in the ass to carry around? When I verbalize these worries, they sound so silly, I'm not even concerned. I think the worries that really get me are the ones I can't name, those extremely vague but terrible what ifs circling round and round in my head. If I could speak them or write them down, would be shockingly horrible, or would the naming just negate them, make them no longer a concern?
But I can't name them. I know they'll all go away as soon as the trip begins, but for now all I can do is pack, unpack and repeat.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Vest Obsessed and a Wildlife Report

There is just something about the asymmetric seed stitch vest found here that I can't get over. Is it the variegated body with solid colored bands? The asymmetric join in the front? The seed stitch? (I do love seed stitch.)

But there is something weird about it. Almost ugly. It walks that odd line between ugly and awesome. I don't like the racer back. I do not like how cropped it is. I am not sure how I feel about the lacing. And there's nothing wrong with the girl wearing it, but her body type is so different from mine, I have no point of reference for how it would look on me.

So. Since I have been eying this vest for months, I think I finally need to do something with it. I'm thinking lengthening it, adding shoulders, widening the back, possible adding bands of solid color along the part that laces... anything else? I'm currently swatching and designing, so I'll post a photo when I have something to show.

Mr. Cool and I went on a hike yesterday in a very wild canyon. The photo above is from another recent hike since we forgot to bring the camera yesterday. It's a shame too, since we saw the most wildlife we've seen here in one day: a tarantula, several mule deer, a bear, some native trout (many of the streams around here are stocked, but this one was too remote) and a couple of elk. We've seen mule deer and elk around here before, they are fairly common. Tarantulas aren't even supposed to live this high up (as far as I know), but I'm about 90% sure it was a tarantula. It was very hairy and large, and had a lighter colored abdomen with very dark legs. The bear we saw from a comfortable distance, and it looked right at us, then turned and lumbered away. That was pretty neat.

I also finally remembered (OK, Mr. Cool reminded me) to smell a ponderosa pine tree. Lo and behold, as Amanda said, they do smell delicious. I thought the one I sniffed smelled like butterscotch. Next hike, I'll have to smell some more and see if I think they all smell like butterscotch, or if I find any vanilla or bubble gum.

Secret Pal 9 Questionnaire

Everyone except my secret pal, feel free to skip this post.

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I really love very soft yarns, especially ones with soy, alpaca or silk in them. I’m quite fond of hand-painted yarns, as well as self striping and variegated yarns like Manos del Uruguay, Tosca by Lang or Patons SWS. I don’t like rough/scratchy yarns (does anyone?), whether they’re acrylic or wool. I guess I’m not too fond of really crazy novelty yarns either… anything that sheds more than a small animal is not good.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
My Denise needles have their own case, my straight needles are displayed in a decorative canister thing, and my few circulars (besides the Denise set) and DPNs usually end up loose in my knitting bag or in a small zippered pouch.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I learned to knit a few times before it really stuck. My aunt taught me when I was a kid, but I never really got the hang of purling. I re-learned much more recently from the book Stitch ‘N Bitch. That was about 2 years ago. I would consider myself a beginning intermediate knitter with a willingness to take plenty of knitting risks.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
Yes, both. SP, I’ll email you with how to access them, I don’t really want them public. Used books are definitely cool with me.

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)
Um, I’m very sensitive/mildly allergic to many fragrances, so I’m not big on scented products in general. I do love beeswax candles, and I like natural, unscented or mildly scented body products, such as Burt’s Bees.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I definitely have a sweet tooth, and my favorite treat is chocolate, especially dark chocolate (bars, truffles, etc). My other favorite treat is tea (without sugar). I love herbal teas, red, green, and occasionally black teas.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I’m beginner at spinning. Right now I have a very basic drop spindle and a friend just got me a Navajo spindle. I will be attending the NYS Sheep and Wool Fest, so I’m hoping to come away with some fiber. I also like to sew, and I’m trying to teach myself printing/stamping. I love to cook, and have been on a baking kick lately. I also really enjoy growing things, and like to have plants around my apartment. I would like to learn how to crochet. My mom taught me as a kid, but I never got past the single chain.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
My taste in music is fairly eclectic, and I enjoy being exposed to new music. I’d love to be introduced to some good bluegrass or anything else you particularly like. My computer can play mp3s, but I mostly listen to music in the car, which does not have mp3 playing capacity.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
I’m quite fond of colors in the red family – deep reds, burgundy, pinks, but I also like blues, purples, greens, earth tones, black. I guess the only colors I’m not crazy about are yellow and orange, and that’s just near my face (I’m blond and fair-skinned, so they tend to look funny on me).

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I live with my boyfriend, Mr. Cool. No pets.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Yes to scarves, hats and occasionally mittens. No to ponchos (I’m small, so I would get lost in them - I probably would wear something similar but smaller, like a capelet or wrap or even a ponchette, if that’s a word)

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
I love quick knits like hats and wristwarmers, but I’m starting to really enjoy bigger, more wearable projects now like sweaters.

13. What are you knitting right now?
Armwarmers, a mesh produce bag, a vest and an afghan.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
I love it.

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
I have a set of Denise interchangeable needles which I really like, so I’m all set with circulars. I usually prefer wood or bamboo for straight needles and DPNs.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
I do not own either.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
That would be the afghan mentioned above (question 13), which was started last January or February (and I anticipate it taking many more months, if not years, to finish at the rate I’m going).

18. What is your favorite holiday?
I don’t really have a favorite, but any holiday involving food is a good holiday in my book.

19. Is there anything that you collect?
I try not to.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I’d really like to make the Ribby Cardi from Chic Knits. I like the color scheme they have, or I might consider a red or pink with brown, or perhaps go monochromatic and do two shades of reds or blues.
I’ve been wanting to try out Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk for a while, and I always swoon over hand spun and/or hand-dyed yarns. I do not have any knitting mag subscriptions, but am fond of some of the European mags and pattern booklets that I’ve seen, like Phildar and Drops.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
Lace (I’ve done very basic lace, but I’d love to try something fancy), cables, colorwork, steeking, etc.

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Not yet. I wear a women’s size 5-6, and my foot measures 8 5/8” from heel to tip of big toe.

23. When is your birthday? July 8