Wednesday, September 28, 2005

tag, you're it

siel from green la girl tagged me with one of the tails of basic juice's meme. if any of you think i'm talking in klingon, join the club. i think what i'm supposed to do is post about the best, wine-friendliest dish i've tasted over the past month and then tag someone else to continue the meme. i hope that's right. leave it to me to break the internet.

well, see the thing is, i'm TOTALLY not a foodie at all. while i appreciate being included (now i feel like a real blogger!) i'm such the wrong person to speak about food. pretty much every night for dinner i heat up an amy's frozen non-dairy pot pie and dump on it a bowl of nuked frozen veggies, add mucho salt, and that's my dinner. i really don't know what wine would go well paired with that.

scouring my memory for something a bit more gourmet than frozen dinners, probably the best food i've had in the last month was from zaytinya, a fabulous turkish/lebanese/greek restaurant in dc. my co-workers and i went for lunch last week. since i wanted to stay awake for my afternoon at work, i didn't have any wine, but i'm sure the meal would have been even more delectable paired with a wine from zaytinya's wine list.

zaytinya is a fun place to go with a group, because the menu is comprised of mezzes, or small plates that are shared by the whole table. the highlights of this meal for me were the "havuç köftesi" (carrot, apricot and pinenut fritters with pistachio sauce) and the "baba ghannouge" with still-warm-out-of-the-oven flatbread. of course, baba ghannoush (as i like to spell it) is hardly a gourmet dish, but zaytinya does an exceptional version of the mediterranean classic, and pairing it with the fresh flatbread certainly helps elevate it above typical "falafel shop" fare. i loved the bread so much i requested some olive oil to dip it in once all the mezzes were gone, and that turned out to be a brilliant decision. the chef made up a plate of olive oil laced with a swirl of pomegranate reduction; the combination of the olive oil and pomegranate was incredible. if i'm a foodie about anything, it's probably bread, so for me that was really the highlight of the meal.

vegan knitter of sweet little domestic life seems to be much more of a foodie than me, so i tag her to continue this tail.

Monday, September 26, 2005

mmm, cotton candy

i bought a new yarn at ac moore this weekend that i’m absolutely in love with. it’s a super-soft synthetic angora that looks like cotton candy, but hot pink. (did i ever mention that pink is my favorite color?) and, to top it off, it doesn’t seem to shed.

i started making a hat, but i want a whole wardrobe made from this yarn: matching mittens, scarf, legwarmers, etc. etc. i didn’t take a picture, i’ll just post a photo of the hat when it is done.

also, this weekend i found out some good news for vegan knitters in takoma park! i was just saying that takoma park needed a yarn store, and voila! yesterday when i was walking by a gift shop called “now and then,” i saw a basket of yarn in their window. the sign said that starting in october they will be holding knitting classes and selling yarn (in addition to selling funky gifts and cards as always). it specifically mentioned bamboo, soy silk, hemp, and organic cotton -- everything i want most! it didn’t say anything about wool. wouldn’t it be awesome if they only sold vegan yarn? either way, clearly they are focusing on vegan yarns. i can’t wait to check it out! just one more reason to love takoma park.

for those who have never been to takoma park, you should visit. the easiest way to describe it is that it’s like living in mayberry, if mayberry were racially and ethnically diverse, populated by hippies, artists, activists and other assorted liberals, and located within spitting distance of a major city. i could go on forever talking about everything i love about takoma park, but one of the biggest things has to be our little “old town” downtown area. you can see the store now and then in the background of this photo of old town taken during our annual street festival.

old town takoma is a vegan paradise, small town style. from our house we can walk to a variety of vegan friendly shops and restaurants, including a pizza place that serves (and delivers) vegan soy cheese pizza, a food co-op (where we buy most of our groceries), a boutique pet supply store (where we buy our vegan doggie biscuits), a few great consignment/vintage stores, a coffee shop serving fair trade coffee and vegan café food, an independent video store, a bead store, a middle eastern/falafel restaurant, and a diner-style restaurant with tons of vegan food (my favorite items are the ginger-tofu focaccia sandwich, asparagus and tofu brown rice fried rice, and vegan buckwheat pancakes and fakin’ bacon for weekend brunch). unfortunately, the used bookstore recently closed, which makes the good news that vegan yarn is coming to takoma all the more welcome.

if any vegan knitters want to come visit, i’d be happy to show you around dc and takoma park. then, we can go to savory, and i’ll buy you a piece of vegan chocolate cake and a fair trade coffee while we relax on the couches and knit.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

umbilical cord baby hat

i finished the baby hat! i really love how it came out. as planned, i used the pakucho color-grown, organic, free-trade cotton to knit the umbilical cord hat from stitch 'n bitch. i knitted it on size 10 needles using 2 strands of yarn.

i even made a little tag for it with the content and washing info from the label and wrote "made with love for my little niece-to-be by jen." i'm going to give it my sister un-law* when we go to york this weekend.

this pattern was so easy, quick, and inexpensive to knit. which is good because everyone i know seems to be having babies and this would make a great baby shower present. i have a feeling i'll be making a lot more of these. for the next one, i want to try dyeing the yarn myself with some kind of all natural dye, like maybe blueberries? i have to do some research into dyeing, right now i have no idea what is involved. but i like the idea of using berries -- if it tastes yummy, it could double as a teething toy!

* this is not a typo... i made up this word to refer to travis' family. you know, the people who would be my "in-laws" if we were lawfully married? since we are unlawfully married, i decided to call them my "un-laws." it's cute, no?

Monday, September 19, 2005

another resource on vegan yarn

michelle of michelleknits is another vegan newbie knitter, and her blog has a lot of good info on vegan yarn. i definitely recommend checking it out. it's also fun to read about all the yummy vegan food she gets to eat in NYC. i can't complain about the food here in dc and maryland, but i'm definitely drooling as i read about vegan waffle cones and vegan philly cheesesteak sandwiches. i hope she doesn't mind me linking to her blog.

i have to give michelle major kudos for how far her knitting has progressed. we started knitting around the same time, but her knitting is much more advanced than mine. she's already doing three needle bind offs and small gauge sweaters while i'm noodling around with my weird tank top thingy. i'm happy to keep noodling along at my own pace, but i have serious respect for a gal with such a short learning curve.

speaking of my weird tank top thingy, i finished it in the car on the way to connecticut on saturday, and i wore it to a brunch yesterday. i actually ended up making it into a weird halter top thingy, with straps that tie behind the neck. (i didn't get a picture, maybe next time i wear it.) it's definitely different. i got some compliments on it, but i'm not in love with it. it will get more wear in the winter when i wear it under a suit jacket. that was actually my original intention when i bought the yarn: to make something that would match with a particular suit i own.

i also finished the scarf for my dad in the car on the way home. i'm so excited that i can knit in the car -- i never tried it before because i thought i'd get car sick. now that i can knit in the car, i'm up for a road trip any time! maybe i'll have to hop in the car and head up to NYC for a vegan philly cheesesteak.

of course, i couldn't bear to be completely without a knitting project, so last night i started working on the baby hat for my niece-to-be. i'm making the umbilical cord hat from stitch 'n bitch, and for the first time ever i'm actually following the pattern! i'm using that pakucho organic cotton, knitting with two strands at a time on size 10 needles. the swatch came out just the right gauge and it looks just right for a newborn baby's hat. i got a lot done on the metro this morning -- even i can manage to just knit all stitches (i.e. knitting stockinette in the round) despite the various distractions of knitting in public.

Friday, September 16, 2005

recycling a failed project: my new camera case

this is my new camera case, formerly my cell phone cover. it was the proto-type for the cell phone cover i made travis. the problem is that it stretched out quickly after it was put into use, and it is now too loose and floppy to use on my cell phone. so i learned my lesson about making covers smaller than the items they are intended to cover, which is how i achieved such a nice fit on travis' cell phone cover.

meanwhile, with all the blogging i've been doing, i've started to use my digital camera quite often, and am enjoying it. it has a sliding cover over the lens, but i should probably have a case for it if i'm going to be throwing it into my bag and carrying it around town all the time. i remembered the cute camera case siel posted about on her blog green LA girl and decided to see whether my too-loose cell phone cover might work better as a camera case, and lo and behold it fits great! now i'm excited to be able to carry my camera everywhere with me and get even more fun pictures for my blogs. now that we are going to be such close friends, i should name her -- i'll call her "ollie" because she's an olympus.

by the way, i'm sorry the photo is so bad. since i was taking a picture of ollie, i used my cellphone camera to get the shot, and it doesn't take such nice pictures. i tried forever to get a nice shot and this was the best i could do.

the yarn i used for ollie's case is a nice, inexpensive 100% cotton yarn that i think works really well for ipod covers, camera cases, and the like. it's "sugar n' cream" by lily. it comes in a lot of great colors. i got it at ac moore, of course. here's a better photo of the sugar 'n cream taken with ollie.

now i just have to get working on a new cell phone cover that fits!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

weird tank top thingy

this is that weird tank top thingy i wrote about. this is also why i'm a terrible cook -- i hate to follow recipes. i just started knitting this without any clear idea of what i was making. pattern? pshaw, what's that?

i started knitting this in the round and then decided it would look better in a chunky rib and switched to that. i have a suit this yarn would match so i decided that it would be a tank top to wear with that suit. i guess i figured that since most of it would be under the jacket, it didn't really matter too much what it looked like. when i finished knitting the tube, i tried it on to see which way should be "up" and i decided it looked better this way. so now i'm knitting i-cord spaghetti straps for it. i'm still not sure this is something that is really suitable for wearing, but now i've put so much time into it, i'm kind of determined to wear it at least once!

here's a close up of the yarn. it's a really funky acrylic nylon blend i bought at ac moore. it's called "lazy daisy" and the brand is moda dea. this is a good example of the cool synthetic yarns that are available at ac moore. i know i've mentioned it before, but i really recommend ac moore for vegan yarn. as i said, i'm not a snob about using synthetic if it looks good, and i always manage to find a lot of fun vegan yarns at ac moore that i would love to use. i have to credit suzanne for recommending the store to me -- i never would have thought that it would have such good yarn. plus, pairing a trip to the rockville ac moore with a stop at the delicious vegetable garden restaurant right next door makes a super vegan field trip! what's better than an evening of wonton soup and fun yarn?

for those who are looking for warmth without wool, "lazy daisy" definitely fits the bill. i should have taken a photo of the inside - for some reason, most of the poofs stay on the back of the stockinette, making the inside really thick and cozy. (you can see the effect somewhat on the reverse ribs on the top, it's so kooky-looking!) stay tuned for more ac moore finds to come! now i want to go try to finish up my dad's scarf and this monstrosity before the weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

the dangers of knitting in public

knitting in public has not been going very well for me lately. i had a good time chatting at my vegan knitting group on sunday, but didn't make any headway on my knitting -- i ended up having to rip out about 5 inches from my dad's scarf because somehow i hadn't followed the pattern while we were chatting, even though i was using a row counter. i guess i'm not good at multi-tasking. it happens when i try to knit on the metro, too; i find myself making tons of mistakes, and i barely end up with any net gain for my effort by the end of the trip.

speaking of knitting on the metro, yesterday i nearly had a knitting crisis on the metro! i was knitting on a very crowded metro car and my ball of yarn rolled off my lap and out of sight through the forest of legs. i had no idea how i was going to get it back! luckily, it hadn't rolled that far and i was able to crouch down and reach around a couple pairs of legs to grab it. phew. a few fellow passengers were wondering what the heck i was doing on the floor, brushing against their legs, but i've seen stranger sights on the metro before.

i really wanted to finish both my dad's scarf and this weird tank top thing i'm making by this weekend (pictures of weird tank top thing coming soon). we are going to visit my dad in connecticut, and i wanted to give him the scarf so he can get as much use out of it as possible this fall. also, i wanted to wear the weird tank top thing to a brunch we are going to while we are there. if i were better able to concentrate while knitting in public i would have been able to get it done. but at this point, i don't think it's going to happen.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

not the knitting you know

on friday i went to see an art exhibit entitled "not the knitting you know" at eleven eleven sculpture space in dc. i thought other knitters might be interested to see some of the pieces from the show.

the gallery is located in the lobby of a law firm, which caused quite a bit of controversy for the show. the strategically placed fig leaf on this work was added in response to an outcry from law firm employees against having nude crocheted figures displayed in their lobby. considering the kind of work that law firm does, i think they have a very twisted idea of what is "obscene." you can read about the controversy here.

the photo above is of a piece entitled "settlement with the monkeys" by ming-yi sung. it is made of crochet yarn, cotton and polyester stuffing, wire, and ceramic. the show featured several works by sung, all based on a theme of androgyny. she writes of her work: "Based on my personal mythology, there once existed a creature, Androgyny, who took the form of both sexes. As time went by, it lost some of its own physical identities and split into two separated sexes, as we are now. Somehow the soul within ourselves still holds the personality of both sexes. Through the presentation of my installation, I am continuing my investigation of my personal myth and creating a world of my own."

the piece on the right is entitled "audrey II," and it is by gayle roehm. you can't see it in this photo, but one of the tendrils on the right is holding a plastic chicken. the artist writes of this piece: "Remember the wonderful musical 'Little Shop of Horrors'? Audrey II is the mean, green mother from outer space who takes over the shop. I challenged myself to shape Audrey without relying on anything but stuffing, and I almost made it. In the end, I added a bent coat hanger to make her mouth stay open, and some florist wire around the edges of her leaves so they would curl menacingly. You can remove the stuffing from Audrey's flowerpot and wear her on your head -- if you dare."

i love it that roehm cites "laziness" and "contrariness" as influences of her knitting. she says: "There's laziness. I love to sit on the sofa, knitting and trying new ideas or techniques. I can sit for hours, messing with variations on an idea, so I don't have to get up and do housework. Then there's contrariness. Every time someone tells me, 'How nice, my grandmother used to do that,' it makes me so cranky that I want to knit a mean green mother from outer space. And who says knitting has to be flat? There's a real challenge in figuring out how best to deal with the fact that yarn is soft, and knitted items want to flop. I've reached an age when taking myself too seriously is no longer an option. From now on, I'm just having fun. Messing with yarn is the most fun thing I know."

the piece at the left particularly resonated with me as a vegan knitter. it is entitled "rabbit collar," and it is by blanka sperkova. it is made of zinc wire. there was also a companion piece in the show entitled "skunk collar." i hope it is visible in the photo that the "collar" is an entire rabbit -- head and ears and all -- knit in metal and ready to be draped around someone's neck. for me, the piece is both a condemnation and a tribute. on the one hand, it is a reminder of the grisliness of wearing a corpse around one's neck. on the other hand, it is a example of how knitting in alternative materials can create made objects that surpass the grisly traditional versions in beauty -- in my view, sperkova's delicate and glittering rabbit collar is much more lovely than a collar made of actual dead rabbit, and that beauty itself pays tribute to all the poor animals sacrificed in the production of traditional rabbit collars. i find it so inspiring because that is exactly what i try to do with my knitting: use alternative materials in a way that makes animal fibers obsolete.

if you'd like to see more from the show, here is a link to the gallery's website. however, now that the show is over, the gallery may change the website to reflect its current exhibits. now, i'm off to meet with my vegan knitting group!

Friday, September 02, 2005

vegan yarn stash

these are my good yarns that i'm stoked to work with. my motivation in posting this is not only to ramble on about yarn, but i also hope this gives people an idea about some of the nicer vegan yarns available and helps demonstrate how vegan knitters don't have to feel deprived if they avoid using wool or silk.

this half finished scarf is one i'm making for my dad out of patagonia hand dyed nature cotton from chile. my dad asked for a ribbed scarf in multi-colored yarn. a traditional rib didn't look good (in my opinion) with the nubby texture, so instead i did a "faux rib" by alternating stripes of stockinette and reverse stockinette. so the pattern is: knit 1 row, purl 1 row, knit 1 row, purl 1 row, knit 1 row, repeat.

i love the colors in this yarn, they remind me of the fall foliage in connecticut, where i grew up and my dad still lives. plus, it's sooo soft. i hope he likes it -- if not i'm going to steal it back because i love this scarf.

i also have 3 skeins of patagonia nature cotton in a different color (the green yarn below) that i haven't decided what to do with yet. i was considering making arm warmers out of it. any suggestions?

i got these two blue / grey / gold balls of andalusia lana gatto microfiber on sale from knit + stitch = bliss in bethesda. it has a very funky texture and i really like the combination of these colors together. i think i'm going to try to make a hat for myself out of it.

when i was in san francisco, i found the BEST yarn store -- it's called imagiknit. i wanted to buy half the yarns in the store. i found this beautiful yarn called "stylecraft linen look" on sale for less than $6 per skein (below). i bought all the skeins they had left, which was 3 skeins of the cream, 3 skeins of the plum, and one skein each of the blue, gold, and khaki. it is 65% acrylic, 17.5% linen, and 17.5 viscose, but i think it looks a lot like a linen/wool blend. it's very soft and elegant.

i was thinking of making a sweater with the cream and plum, making the torso out of one color and sleeves and ribbed neck out of the other, but i'm not sure if i have enough yarn for that? anyone have any suggestions? (each skein is 230 yards and the gauge is 4mm/USA 6 needles.)

i figure i can use the blue, gold and khaki to make small projects like ipod covers, or maybe a striped hat with two of the colors.

finally, my next project after my dad's scarf will be a baby hat for my future niece, who is expected in november. i have this beautiful pakucho undyed, organic cotton from peru that i bought especially to make this baby hat.

pakucho yarn is color grown, which means that the colors are the natural colors of the cotton fiber. i bought it in off white, but it also comes in greens, browns, and other color-grown colors. or, if you want to get really creative, you can buy the off white and hand-dye it yourself.

because the yarn is organic and color grown, it's good for the environment. it is also fair trade. i just love the idea that one of the first things "baby girl frey" will own is something that not only is pretty (hopefully!) and keeps her warm, but is also something that was made with care not only for her but also for the earth and for all the people whose labor went into making this beautiful yarn.

p.s. reading siel's and veganknitter's comments reminded me that i should mention that the yarns i have in my stash are just the tip of the iceberg of nice vegan yarns! another one i'm really looking forward to using is soy silk.

i've even heard that there's yarn made out of bananas! other bloggers have much more comprehensive information on vegan yarns, for instance check out fake sheep - that's where i first heard of the banana yarn.

learning to knit

i thought i'd give some basic info on learning to knit, in case anyone stops by who is interested in taking it up.

although a friend in my dc vegan knitting group taught me how to do a basic knit stitch, i've primarily taught myself to knit using books and the internet. i was impressed how much free help is available on the internet - instructions on how to do a basic knit stitch, how to purl, various cast-on methods, make a buttonhole, translate knitting pattern-speak, pretty much anything you want to know you can find it online.

in addition to the internet, i used two books: the ubiquitous "stitch 'n bitch: the knitter's handbook," by debbie stoller, and "teen knitting club: chill out and knit some cool stuff," by jennifer wenger. (both are available from powell's books, see link in sidebar.) i have found both of them invaluable. stitch n' bitch is more comprehensive in its information, but teen knitting club breaks the basics down in a more easy-to-follow manner and has very simple patterns to get started with.

when starting your first project, use fat needles and VERY thick yarn that does not split easily. i didn't do this, and it made learning much harder. for my second project i made leg warmers with thick yarn and it was SOOO much easier to work with than the lion homespun i had used for my first project. also, thick yarn will knit up faster so you don't get bored taking 3 weeks to finish your first project. for the legwarmers i used lion jiffy and it was a great acrylic yarn for beginners.

i only used very inexpensive yarn for my first few projects, because i have a slow learning curve and didn't want to screw up some $12 a skein yarn. in fact, the project i'm working on now is the first one in which i've used a fancier yarn. (when i get a chance, i'm going to post some photos of my yarn stash. yum, yarn.)

i think a lot of knitters are anxious to "get to the good stuff," but i've actually been pretty surprised at how nice a lot of the cheaper non-animal yarns are. for as much as i love yarn, i'm not at all a yarn snob. which is good, because knitting is an expensive enough hobby as it is. if you are like me and you want to try to keep the costs down, the best place i've found for cheaper yarns, knitting needles, and other accessories is AC Moore.

if anyone is getting started knitting and wants some help, feel free to email me through my profile and i'll do my best. if nothing else, i can probably direct you to a website that will answer your question.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

knitting on planes

i know this is a big issue for knitters. when we went to hawaii i was very concerned that i be able to bring my knitting on the plane -- we had like 12 hours in the air each way!! but i'm happy to say that i had a very good experience. most of the long garter stitch scarf i knit for travis was knitted on the way to hawaii and back.

this is how i handled it: i made sure not to bring my yarn needle and i made sure i had rounded-end scissors, because pointy-ended scissors are not allowed on planes. i also made sure to bring bamboo rather than metal knitting needles because i figured they were less likely to attract attention. when i went through security i took the scissors out of my carry-on and put them in the little plastic tub with my shoes so it was easy for the security folks to inspect them. i went through security with no problem. i had no problem on board either. on one flight, the flight attendant asked that i not use the knitting needles during takeoff and landing so i complied and that wasn't really a problem. all and all, i had a very good experience and i'm SOOOOOO glad i had my knitting with me on the flights. being able to knit made the time just fly by. i would never want to be on a really long flight without my knitting. hmm, unless i could play video games instead. that's probably the only other thing that makes time fly by for me like knitting does.

long striped scarf

i designed this scarf to suit travis. he wanted a really long, striped scarf with several different colors. he said he didn't want ribs or anything -- he wanted the stitches to be very plain. i wanted the scarf to be durable and washable because hopefully he'll be wearing it all the time in the winters.

this scarf is over 5 feet long, so it took a while to knit, even though it's just a basic garter stitch. it's made of 5 different colors of red heart supersaver so it is a very inexpensive scarf to make despite the length (i probably used about $5 worth of yarn at most). i would have loved to knit him a scarf in organic, hand-dyed cotton or bamboo, but then the scarf would have cost like $75 dollars and wouldn't be as durable for constant use and repeated cleaning. i know it's not hip but sometimes cheap acrylics are the best choice.

one thing i learned while making this scarf is to make stripes with an even number of rows. each stripe here is 21 rows and this means that the stitches in the last row of each stripe section is actually made of two colors. what this ends up looking like is a thin contrasting line at the edge of each stripe section on the back of the scarf. it doesn't look bad, it actually kind of looks like it was intentionally done, but it means that the front and the back of the scarf aren't exactly the same, and that irritates me. (i'm the kind of person that likes everything to be even and symmetrical, not just in knitting but in real life.) it especially irritates me because i went to a lot of trouble to do a provisional cast-on so that both ends of the scarf would look the same - i don't like how cast-offs look different than cast-ons. oh well, it's all a learning process for me.