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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I am in PA spreading the Chicagobama love. While I am here, I am hitting as many LYS as I can. Yesterday I started in Doylestown. I took a yoga class at Sun Dog (highly recommended!) and went hunting for A Fine Yarn. Doylestown is one of those places with businesses tucked in behind other shops, down walkways, and in alleys, so I missed it on the first pass. It was a fine shop with a very decent selection, though I didn't get particularly warm vibes despite making a purchase.

Within walking distance is Lisbeth's, a shop in the process of closing. The good news: everything is 50% off. The not so good news: there is more novelty yarn than you can shake a (pointy) stick at. Lots and lots of novelty yarn. So much novelty yarn that it camouflaged any non-novelty yarn that might have been there. I did get three sets of lovely leather bag handles but that was it.

From there I drove to Skippack. Yarnings is a lovely shop on two floors of an old house. If you haven't been there before, Skippack is one of those towns that has become a bit of a shopping mecca. It is chock full of little shops and restaurants heavy on the upscale country chic, if ya know what I mean. Real antiques are liberally interspersed with repros, etc. Yarnings is brightly lit, has some of the most elegant yarn shelving I have seen, and they have a great area to sit with big, attractive, comfortable chairs and a sofa. (That feature can make or break a LYS experience for me.)

Last stop was Lillie's which is a three minute drive from my mom's house. They have a slightly better selection than they did before (mostly in the way of alpaca yarns), but it seems like there are big gaps, at least from my knitting perspective. In general, there is a fair amount of acrylic and the wools are not my favorites though there are some serviceable choices. It is, however, convenient to have nearby when I am in a pinch. (Last time I was here, I was in desperate need for yarn to make a pair of Fetching mitts, and I was able to get there and back in less than 15 minutes!)

My schedule is pretty full, but I have at least one (and possibly three) more yarn stops this week. There is a farm with BFLs somewhere in the township where my mom lives, and I am hoping to make it there, too.

Today I am off to Downingtown for an acupuncture appointment (my first) with someone I found through the beauty of Ravelry. Very exciting! I'm so curious about acupuncture, and who better than a knitter to stick you with needles?!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Needle of a Different Sort

Can't get an official Obama shirt because is backordered? No worries, make your own. (Okay, it took longer to get the materials for this little project than it would have taken to get a backordered shirt, but I now have the satisfaction of going the super-crafty route.)

Inspired by Alabama Chanin, whose work takes ordinary materials and transforms them through the magic of upcycling, I set out to make a reverse appliqué image of Barack.

First, I combed the web for an appropriate image. It took about six generations of copies (print, define negative and positive areas, copy, repeat, getting the image to be as simple as it could be.) From there, I traced it on to stencil plastic and cut it out. (This part was pretty tedious, I'll admit. A scissor worked much better than the blade cutter on this thick plastic.) After the stencil was finished, I taped it on to an old t-shirt and covered the exposed areas with newsprint. I used Tulip spray-on fabric paint to stencil the image. (It has an air-brushed quality, but since I wasn't ultimately looking for a solid image, it worked just fine.) After drying overnight, I pinned contrasting fabric from another old t-shirt on the reverse side, being careful to make sure that it wasn't pulling or stretching. Using Coats and Clarks Button and Carpet extra-strength thread in a contrasting color, I did a running stitch just outside the image. Part of the charm is the rustic quality, so knots are done on the right side of the shirt, and you start a new thread each time you begin stitching around a distinct part of the image.

When finished, the harrowing part begins. You pinch the top layer of the fabric to separate it from the bottom layer and--shiver--cut. You cut out all of the painted area, leaving just a tiny border next to the stitches. It is really important not to cut into the bottom layer. (If you are doing a design with a lot of small cut-outs, if you snip one, you could always go back and replace the backing fabric, but since this particular design was mostly one big area, I was nervous about snipping too far and risking disaster.) As you can see, the result is not a detailed portrait, but I think you can tell who it is.

Since the stencil is plastic, I can "Barack" things to my heart's content! I may do another reverse appliqué and I will definitely do at least one plain stencil. (I also have a piece that would add more eye and nose detail to the dark side of his face, which I think could work on a stencil-only shirt, but it wasn't going to translate as well into the appliqué. Actually, you can see in the original in top picture that it kinda looks like a deformed rooster, so maybe I will skip it.)

Since taking the final picture, I cut out the neckline and lopped off the bottom and sleeve hems to add to the rustic quality of the finished item. I now need to step away from the scissors and the rotary cutter before I get myself into trouble.

All in all, I think this was a successful project and it will be a featured piece in my all-Obama wardrobe when I am in PA next week!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Am I Blue

As predicted in the last post, I did rip Fantine back all the way to the armpits and I repositioned the short rows for bust shaping.

I am so very happy that I didn't listen to the schusslig little knitter in my head that told me to leave it as it was. (My Pennsylvania Dutch is showing again. Schusslig means clumsy or muddleheaded, but my grandma used it when she felt that I was rushing through something and not giving it the attention it needed.) It fits and looks much better without the extraneous under-the-boob-pooches. I am quite pleased with the little crocheted ring that I devised for a button loop.

(As usual, the pictures are craptastic so it's hard to tell how it looks but, trust me, it's quite adorable considering I cannot crochet worth a damn. The color of the Rowan Big Wool I used falls somewhere between that in the pictures, not too pink and not really maroon.) Sadly, I had to abandon plans to use a really fabulous Moving Mud button in my stash because it was just too heavy. I gave it a noble effort, but it was a no-go. The abalone button works pretty well, I think.

In addition to re-knitting half of Fantine, I also made a couple of Lady Detective Hats.

This picture makes them look like they are for wee, jaunty leprechauns, but they are really quite flattering on an actual head. I fussed with doing a full band, but it didn't really add much to the hat. As you can see, I did a short, decorative band for one and I made just enough of a band to attach the buckle on the other. I did both in seed stitch because I loved the added texture--as if this pattern doesn't have enough of that! I loved knitting with the Noro Iro and have ordered it in four more colorways. I want this hat in every color-scheme there is. I am also going to do some stash diving to see if there are any other appropriate yarns for this pattern already in-house. (I'm thinking that I have some Manos or Malabrigo that could look good.) I love the irregularity of the Iro and I get cheap thrills from the trademark Noro striping. I had the vintage celluloid (or maybe they are Bakelite) buckles in the stash. I have a few left, but I am now going to be on the lookout for more because I loves 'em.

Since last I posted, I have started a pair of Nutkin socks in Wollmeise (oh. my. I am in love with the subtle shadings of Wollmeise) and I also have a Tuscany shawl on the needles. I'm using yarn from an indie dyer in a carbon gray, and the base is the Kraemer yarn that has sterling silver spun into it. It is going to be a little glitzy without being too flashy--very important. I am going to Pennsylvania next week, and a trip to Kraemer in Nazareth, PA is on the itinerary.

While in PA, I intend to be a walking billboard for Barack. The primary in the state isn't until April, so I figure I might do some good. It is my personal mission to convince my mom's manfriend (he's too mature to call a boyfriend) to vote for Obama. I have loaded up the iPod with all of the official Obama podcast segments and I am taking copies of his books. I know I have my work cut out for me. It is SOOOOOOOOOO conservative where I came from and I can prove it: Santorum. 'Nuff said? When I lived at home, I was always a little blue dot in a sea of red.