Friday, February 27, 2009

In Which I Report Some Minor Progress and Major Obsessions

Yurk! It's been a while.

Last week I was sick and planted myself firmly on my heated carpet with all the Harry Potter books in our small but incredible ALT library. These are all books that ALTs in Yats have left and donated over the years, so while it is pretty huge, it is more than a bit random. I'm in the process of getting on Goodreads (do not get me started), so if you want you can check it out yourself. Anyway, the library only has books 1, 2, 4, and 6, and I have 7 which I read on the plane from LA to Tokyo. I just love those books. But while I didn't miss skipping number three too much (it only hurt a little), I found that I could not bring myself to skip number 5. That might be my favorite one. What to do?

Still feeling lazy and incapable of peeling myself from the floor for anything except work (and that was very, very grudgingly), I rented the first five Harry Potter movies from Tsutaya and started watching those over the weekend and the first part of this week. God, that second movie is just the absolute worst. Sucked every bit of joy and humor from the book and replaced it with wooden delivery and new bits of "drama" that were generally terrible. All in all, the movies are okay, but the books are so much richer, why even bother?

Now, do you see what I was NOT doing in all of this? Knitting. I don't know what got in to me. Or got out, or whatever. I just couldn't be bothered.

But this weekend I did pick up the blanket again for a bit, and this week I've made myself do one pattern repeat per night. I've actually gotten so comfortable with the pattern that I can do it while watching a movie now. Yea! By Wednesday, I'd run out of HP movies, so I moved on to the classic Jane Austens. Persuasion is such an excellent movie - don't you just lurve Captain Wentworth? Sigh.
So now the blanket is just about halfway done - at least the knitting part is halfway done. There'll still be the border after that. And Sheila is due this weekend. Yikes.

Which is actually cool, right? Hell, my friend is going to have a baby this weekend or around now or next week or something! Crazy!

But it does put a bit of pressure on.Oh, and I couldn't stand it - I bought used copies of HP 3 and 5 from BetterWorld Books. It was only $17 bucks to buy and ship them, and really, how could I let the library go all unfinished like that? I looked for used copies of the Patrick O'Brian books, too, but nada. Well, at least my OCD has been partially satisfied.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Go Ahead, Waste a Few Minutes. Nobody's Watching.

I didn't work on the blanket at all, all weekend. I was a very bad knitter.

Instead I watched a bunch of sci-fi/apocalyptic movies and went to a really lame club despite being sick.

So, I offer you this for your Monday:

What I think is going on here: The man is going, "Thanks, honey! No one will make fun of me, now!" and the woman is laughing because the flowers are slowly poisoning her a-hole of a husband.

Write your own caption! Because honestly, what the hell is going on in this picture, which appeared on the back of some fabric softener I bought?

Also check out these websites I discovered today, which are entertaining.

Thank you, StumbleUpon!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Leaves and Flowers

All right! I finally have a picture of the Leaf Panelled Baby Blanket, so now I can finally post about it.
After all, if I'm not sticking very well to my promise for shorter entries, I may as well always include pictures, right? Right.

So, the blanket is going well, now. I have learned the vital importance of stitch markers to lace projects, and also not to watch tv while working on something that required me to count a lot, especially as I am first starting said thing, and not familiar with it.
I'm only 30 rows in (3 pattern repeats), but I think if I can make myself do 10 rows (one pattern repeat) every night, I should be able to do the crochet edging and have the whole thing done by the 1st. Yes, that is the day Sheila is due, but that's also when I next get paid, so it has to wait until then. I'm a little nervous about how much yarn I have - I may not be able to do the booties in this yarn even if I do have time. Oh, well. I'll figure it all out.

Also - spring is almost upon us! I took these yesterday while I went for a walk (my way of excusing myself from not going to the gym), and the weather was gorgeous.
I did not need a coat, only a long-sleeved shirt. Not sure what the purple is, but the pink and white are ume blossoms, the precursor to the cherry blossoms. These are only a tiny sign of the gorgeous yet to come, but I think the bright splash of pink in late winter, when things have been grey for so long, is amazing.Lovely! Of course, it's only mid-February, so I expect it to get cold again before spring shows up for real, but the ray of light has given me some motivation. I'm going to put more effort into enjoying the time I have left here, and to finding money to pay for when I get back.

Unfortunately, I think the sickness that has been hovering all winter long has finally attacked for real. My throat feels terrible. Boo.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yarn Travails

So, I went yarn shopping over the weekend.

I spent some time on Friday figuring out possible yarns for the Prepster and the baby blanket that I thought I might be able to find at the craft store I like in Kumamoto city. Thanks to Ravelry, I could scope out some Japanese yarn brands and look at weights in English. I smartly changed the blanket pattern I intended to do, after seeing a note somebody wrote on my #1 choice saying "What was I thinking? This is taking forever." Bad sign when Sheila's due in three weeks. I changed it to the Lace Panel blanket, which called for a size 7 needle, same as the Prepster.

I also tried to work out what needle size I would need if I was going to do the vest in the round - I took the gauge, worked out how many inches each piece would be according to that, and converted the inches to centimeters. 18 stitches to four inches, 80 stitches for the back piece, 80 divided by 18 (4.44), multiply by four (17.78) for the inches, then convert to centimeters (45 cm). Perfect, right? So I thought I'd better go small, and cram more stitches on a smaller needle, than stretch out on a bigger. Something about that process seemed wrong, but I couldn't think what.

About this time was when I first began to clue in that US needle size numbers and Japanese needle size numbers do not match up. I was shocked to discover this, as I had gone along blithely assuming they were the same this whole time, buying and using Japanese needles for US patterns calling for US needle sizes. It hasn't been a problem, really, but still! I felt betrayed. And stupid. I realized I needed Japan sizes 6 and 8 needles, since the pattern calls for US sizes 5 and 7.

Not one to let a little thing like "budget" or "being able to eat for the next three weeks" stop me, I decided to get yarn for the vest and the blanket. I poked around and found Diaepoca. The Diaepoca is Gorgeous (with a capital G, right) and I've been lusting after it since I first went in to that store - I originally thought to do it for the Origami Cardi. They have a huge selection of beautiful colors in this yarn at that store, including an eye-popping dark pink that was perfect for the color scheme in my head. There's also a nice grey. Color cards here (click on Diaepoca, then color sample - mine is 319). The label said it was good for sizes 7-8 needles, and so while it seemed pretty thin, I figured it would work.

Then I looked for the baby yarn, and settled on the Wanpaku Denis, an acrylic wool blend. I realized I had written down the yardage needed but not the meters, and the labels here show meters. Whoops. I decided I would need six skeins for the blanket, to be on the safe side, plus an extra skein for the booties. Seven skeins.

Now, what about the vest? I decided to get the pink yarn now, and come back for the grey later - I couldn't afford all of it. I bought three beautiful, luscious balls of this beautiful, luscious pink. I almost forgot, but quickly went back for the needles - 40 cm Japan sizes 6 and 8. They looked short, but I'd worked it out, so I grabbed them, and went to the register.

Way too much money later, I had oodles of yarn and two new needles, and I was ready to start the blanket and was only six skeins of the main color away from starting the vest! Yippee!

When I got home, it all started to crumble.

First, I pulled out the needles so I could start the baby blanket. I took the size 8, same as the US 7, out of the package. 40 cm. It was tiny. It was incredibly short. It was the same size as the needle I have for a hat. I put it against my waist, trying to imagine knitting a top on it. Fail.

As I wigged out for a moment, I mentally reviewed my calculations and came up with the problem: I calculated for the back piece, forgetting to double it. This despite the whole point being to knit both pieces at once without having to seam. Fail.

Could I start the blanket then? 166 stitches on a 40 cm circular? Fail.

Then, the next morning I did a small swatch of the Diaepoca, since it was just so pretty I couldn't resist. I measured it. 18 stitches over 4 inches? Hah. Try 20 stitches over 3 inches. Fail.

The yarn is too thin. Way too thin. Ravelry says it can be used US sizes 6-8, and it is a DK. Is it me? Probably, but since I'll be knitting the vest, that's the important part. Can I get gauge with this yarn and have it look right? No. Fail.

Now I still need the needles, and the yarn. Fail.

But yesterday I bought a 60 cm size 8 so I can start the blanket, which I did (5 rows, which took ages - not a good sign), and I think that the Tokai Heart store at Youme Town has an adequate yarn for the Prepster, for when I get paid next. And now I have three balls of pink to use for something else.


Friday, February 6, 2009


So I had to share this with you, internets: my students knitting with their fingers.

(click on each picture to get the mega-huge version then hit back to keep reading)

Not exactly knitting, but close enough. These are my elementary school fourth-graders, in 4-kumi. The girls in that class are always doing something elaborate and crafty - one day I played the store game with them during the lunch break, and while I could not for life of me figure out how it worked (there seemed to be several shops and a lottery system involved), I walked away with some stationary and a pencil. Yesterday when I walked in, three of them were sitting around doing this:

I immediately asked them what they were doing, and what I picked out from their answer was "muffler," which I have learned is how the Japanese refer to scarves, and not to that big rusty can hanging off the back of the car. It's really more weaving than knitting with fingers - they just kept moving the thread back and forth across their hands, bringing the loop at the base of each finger around the yarn and over the finger. I watched them do it for a bit yesterday, then tried it myself today:I like that last one where my hand looks like a giant spider. Anyway, I thought that was pretty dang cool, and while as a craft it has some limitations, it still makes a pretty neat little end product:

Definitely a child's scarf.

While there are many, many aspects of English education in Japan that make me shake my head in frustrated, furious amazement, art and craft education seems to be top-notch. The elementary kids are constantly making something cool and artsy - and while there is definitely a sense of homogeneity to the finished works (it's usually not "Please draw a person" or "Make a robot from boxes" it's "this is how we draw a person" and "this is how we make a robot from boxes"), there is just such an impressive amount of artistic endeavor. You should see what my junior high kids make - you'd think they were all anime artists. Just check out what the elementary first-graders did recently:
While I would love to say that this yarn monster (I think it's a dog, actually) is my favorite:
I'm afraid my favorite is definitely this Optimus Prime-looking dude. How freaking cool is that?

Also, if you're wondering how and why I was finger-knitting at work - that's kinda how this job is. I had the yarn with me for today's second-grade lesson on colors - I have them run around touching things depending on what color I call out. I've been very reluctant to bring knitting to work with me up to this point - it's bad form to be too obvious in my slacking off, but given how well today's little experiment went off, I might break my own rule.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fetching Just Will Not Die.

I started a new project. Yea! After the blanket and the catnip balls were finally finished (but still not mailed - knit gift failure!), I was absolutely itching to start something else, and so I did what anybody does when they're about to start a new project: I stood in the middle of my apartment quivering in indecision two minutes before I needed to leave the house.

Tuesday was a very long and crappy day for me, so Tuesday night I was delighted to go for coffee with the girls. Coffee is our almost weekly trip to Starbucks to sit and gossip/bitch and moan, and since both Katie and Brenda have had me show them how to knit (have I told you about that? I think so...), I feel like this is my public knitting time. Therefore, Tuesday night right before I was to leave for coffee, I needed a project. Projects I need/want to start right now: Brenda's gloves, baby blanket for Sheila's kid, Prepster vest, wristbands, Brenda's headband, Emily's gloves. Do you see why my brain started to melt a bit under the pressure? Of course, I didn't actually have the yarn for any of that, but I tossed some of the leftover Vittoria in a bag, thinking I might do Brenda's gloves in that. By the time we got to Jusco I had nixed that idea, though - acrylic Fetching? I think not.

Luckily, Jusco is also the location of Pandora House, the new craft store that is inexpensive and carries the yarn I used to make Aashima's gloves, which turned out lovely. And who really needs even that much of an excuse to go yarn shopping? Brenda picked out this nice rusty red color, and I've got something fun and brainless to work on. Started it during coffee and continued last night during the first disc of Heroes (new addiction - thank you for your 4 for ¥1000 deal, Tsutaya!). I tried the cables without a cable needle for the first time, thanks to the article that subliminalrabbit cited in her blog. And hey, thanks for the comment! I feel special.

In other news, I bought the pattern for the Prepster Vest. I'm pretty excited about it, but a bit nervous as well. For one thing, I don't really like the way the pattern is written - I've read it through twice and there are bits that don't make a lot of sense to me. I think a chart would be better, honestly. And it's knit in two pieces, which I really don't like. I really hate seaming. I'm going to try to figure out how to do it in the round, because that would make me much happier - seaming = hibernation. Then there's the bit at the bottom of the pattern where it says: This Pattern Is Designed for SWTC Yarn Only.

Well, dang. Does that mean if I do it with something else they'll sue me or something? I mean, I was totally willing to buy the pattern for $3 online, but buying a yarn I've never felt (at $10.50/skein) and paying for it to be shipped internationally is just a bit of a stretch for me, when there are plenty of great yarns here. That little issue does not take much convincing for me, but what does trouble me is the issue of what yarn to use instead. See, I have this feeling that the first time around doing this pattern is going to turn out a bit off, because let's face it, all of my projects kinda turn out that way the first time around. But I haven't found anything at my cheap yarn sources that's really grabbed me, and I don't think I want to do it in ¥100 store acrylic, because ... well, because I don't. All that work for acrylic? Scratchy, inflexible? But then, if I use the yarn I really want to use, which is the love of my life in Japan, Exceed Wool, this is going to be a mighty pricey vest, especially if the first try doesn't turn out so hot.

So I'm stumped. But I need to go into the city soon anyway for some glasses, so I guess I'll just check out what they've got at that store in Shimatori, and see whether buying that yarn will allow me to eat for the rest of the month.

Also, check out what I found when I cut open an apple the other night. What the hell, man?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Balls Are Nippy

Hey, look, I'm actually doing another blog when I said I would. This is pretty amazing.

And what do I have for you? Balls!

These delightful little things are the Stockinette Short-Row Spheres that have become cat toys. They are cute, aren't they? And super easy and quick. At least, they're quick when I can be bothered to focus.

So I bought something that I thought was catnip at the pet store, and for once, what I bought turned out to be exactly what I thought it was. This does not happen as often as it might in a country where I could, you know, read the labels of things. Katie, Brenda, and I managed it together, though, along with the helpful picture on the package of a cat freaking out. It's just a tiny plastic bottle of powder, some of which I tapped into the stuffing as I finished the second ball. Before I shipped anything off to DC, I wanted to test it out, so I took that little beta ball over to Brenda's to be tested out by her cats Petruschka and Paljas. And woo boy, is that stuff potent. Petruschka nearly tore the ball to shreds right then and there. Brenda says she only lets him have it a bit at a time, but a week later it still seems to be working.

Name: Balls!, for the cats of Brenda and Reidy.
Pattern: Stockinette Short-Row Spheres, by Brent Annable.
Yarn: Patons Decor in Secret Garden, one of those variegated skeins I bought cause it looked so pretty but then turned out to be terrible in any actual pattern. It's nice for these very short rows, though.
Needles: Size 6 bamboo DPNs (only cause I didn't have regular size 6s).
Finished Measurements: Ooh, you know, I forgot to do this. They're just a bit bigger than a golf ball, if a golf ball is how big I think it is.
Pattern Mods: None. Pretty flexible pattern in terms of needle, yarn, and gauge, and if you changed anything else, it probably wouldn't be a sphere, would it?
Knitting in Public/Movies Watched While Knitting: Kinda had to pay attention to these dudes, but I did do the last one during Princess of Thieves the other night. Boy, Kiera Knightley started working before she started acting, didn't she?
Number of Times Frogged: None. I rock!
Things I Would Change Next Time: Well, it isn't finished on Ravelry yet because I want to do the larger size, too. That'll be a while yet, though.

Also, I realized that Sheila is due an entire month sooner than I thought she was, so I really need to get moving on baby stuff. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Basketweave Is Woven! And... Basketed.

Okay! Sorry for the delay. My birthday was last week and I took the opportunity to sit and do nothing but stuff my face and read embarrassing novels. And then I didn't want to post until I had something to show you. Which...

Ta-da! The blanket is done! Complete! Finito! Owarimashita!

I admit that I cheated slightly, and finished it a little earlier than was ideal. It's not quite square, or even longer than it is wide, which would have been a little better. No, no, I couldn't hold it, just could not keep going. But it still looks nice, and when I sit cross legged it almost entirely covers my legs. I think it will sit nicely on a chair or the end of a bed and comfortably hold two sleeping cats.

FO Details:
Name: Chussie's Basketweave (Of Doom)
Pattern: Basketweave Blanket, by Classic Elite
Yarn: Vittoria in dark blue, a random 100% acrylic yarn I got at Pandora, the crafty store in Jusco. Lovely color, and not bad for an acrylic, but it was definitely a discount yarn - constant knot ties in the yarn, one of which I stupidly went ahead and knitted into the project instead of cutting and fixing, and there were times when the yarn got ridiculously thin for a while, or simply ended in the middle of the ball and the next end was somehow hidden. But, the blanket looks nice and can be machine washed.
Needles: Bamboo size 6 24" circular.
Finished Measurements: 32" and a bit wide by just over 30" long.
Pattern Mods: Just made it slightly bigger and did seed stitch for the border, like most others. Cast on 180 stitches, 6-stitch border each side, blocks are 4 (across) x 6 (high).
Knitting in Public/Movies Watched While Knitting: Let's not get ridiculous, here. I worked on this thing for two months, and I watch a LOT of movies. So, just the most memorable moments: in the car on the way to see Tropic Thunder at Diamond City Clair (it's kinda far away but that movie was so worth it), the train to and from the JLPT in Kurume, and the car to and from the mid-year conference in Kumamoto for KIP. Now, movies or other screen watching: most importantly, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I stayed up until 3 am here to watch that live. Naturally, I stopped knitting for the speech so I could give that my full attention, but the rest of it I knit through. I think the best movies I knit this blanket to were Sunshine (the Danny Boyle one), the Spiderwick Chronicles, and Lucky Number Slevin. The worst were the Avengers and Johnny Mnemonic. Weirdest was Samsara. Clearly, Amadeus was good and 2001: A Space Odyssey was weird, but I'd seen them before so it doesn't count.
Number of Times Frogged: Well, not counting the failed Diamond and Smocked attempt, none. I had to pick up a few dropped stitches and go back across a row to fix wrong stitches, but no frogging. Whoopie!
Things I Would Change Next Time: For this pattern, nothing but a nicer yarn. For this purpose, though, I am going to make Chussie a nicer and bigger blanket when I am back in the States. Notice how vague "back in the States" is. Gives me plenty of time.

Speaking of whoopie, by the way, I got 120 points for that in Lexulous. Damn, I love that game.

Okay, more later. I'll tell you about my other FO tomorrow. And by tomorrow, I mean any time in the future that isn't right now.