Do-It-Yourself: Just Read This.

The New York Times has a really excellent piece on “The Ambassador of Homemade”, Faythe Levine, who has come to represent the epitome of handmade crafting in America.

Levine, who has her own crafting shop and gallery, is widely considered the “expert” on the phenomena that is reimergence of handmade goods here in the states and has been quoted in scholarly material up and down the river, plus, she’s the prime documentarian of D.I.Y. Nation. Drools!

The article discusses her beginnings–a felted owl and some sock monkeys–and how, at just aged 30, she’s come to represent all things Handmade Nation.

If you’re into crafting, or just New York Times profiles, this is surely a read for you.

Levine has recently completed a documentary on the crafting culture, Handmade Nation, which you can check into here, and a companion blog that goes with the film. She’s also got a really cool personal blog “I Was Born in 1977”, which I highly recommend.

And as if she couldn’t get any cooler, Faythe’s also in a band, Wooden Robot, and plays the musical saw. Golf, freaking, claps.

A woman of many hats?

As Herman Melville once so brilliantly noted, “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”

While, unlike Herman’s epic tale and its central figure, Ishmael, I do not take to the sea when these urges come. Instead, I tend to knit up….hats, so that may Ishmael ever rise from the ashes of literary history and meet me on the street, he may knock my hat off if he misses the sea.

And so today, finding a whole stash of Merino wool left over from a cabled sweater I cast on last winter, I decided to start–and at least come close to finish, if not finish oh so–the Piksi Hat by Erica over at CopyCat, which I have been drooling about for sometime and have yet to knit it up.

The yarn is a pumpkin color–one of my favorites (I adore all things hued of rust, or curry, or deli mustards) and might I say the hat is knitting up fast. I cast on sometime this afternoon and by 5, I was already on decreasing rounds and nearly to the finish line! Woo! A project that may get done pronto. Stat. Asap. It makes me gush and I was so eager to try on what I’d done and snap fotos of it, I accidently dropped a couple stitches in the process, which had me swearing, and fixing it up right straight. It’s all settled now and ready to be finished.

I’ll post fotos of it once its completed, but might I mention I didn’t have any size 8-16 in. circulars with me this weekend and was forced to cast it on using 4 dpns, and let me tell you, it was a task keeping stitches and markers in place–don’t do it! Resist the temptation to cast on something that may be burdensome with the tools you have in front of you. Don’t drool so much over a pattern that insists and begs you to cast it on immediately, like I always do.

File Under: Cold weather, cometh? You can expect to meet me halfway, in this pixi.

I wanted something whimsy…

And whimsy’s what I got.

Yesterday evening, while engaging in a little film watching, I decided my eyes simply couldn’t take working with size one needles on some ribbed socks I recently cast on–and needed a switch. Not in the mood to work on my version of the Noro Garden Scarf, I decided to finally cast on using those Size 35 mumbo jumbo needles I bought about a month ago, and had some leftover salmon colored yarn with little flecks of gold and green in it that I’d used a year or so back to knit up some adorable little baby booties that I never gave to any slobbering little one.

What I got was a scarf that nearly knitted itself up in an hour–using garter stitch, I cast on 18 and ended up with a wide, large eyehole scarf that reeks of whimsy, something often described in my dress. So what could go wrong? Not a thing.

Methinks this was so easy I must make one for all my friends! Get in line; who wants a touch of whimsy in an hour or two?

File Under: Must.Stop.Casting.On.New.Projects.Have.Too.Many.Scarfs.Already!

Malabri-n-go Me This!

I finally got my hands on some delicious Malabrigo yarn! Drools! While these two kettle dyed and handspun in Uruguay skeins really made my credit card sweat, let me just say,

Malabrigo yarn is smooth and soft as butter; a pure Merino worsted weight yarn well worth the $12 a hank; and might I add, I’ll even go for broke and sit and ball it much to my dismay because its that tasty (for those in the know, I get quite frustrated when I have to ball my hanks of yarn–once, breaking down in tears to my sister as I fought a gigantic hank of Israeli hand-dyed cotton that was far too impressionable to the great big, honkin KNOT!).

What’s more, Malabrigo works with generations of cattle ranchers in Uruguay to deliver the wool for their Merinos and laces; similarly, their Angoras are handspun by Native Americans in Argentina. It’s good to see my fellow Natives producing some of the most gorgeous yarns I’ve ever seen.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the yarn yet–its got hues of purple and grey in it, and I love that its color palette is slightly uneven. It may end up a gift for someone at Christmas, but I’m quite drooling to make myself a giant chunky cowl of some sort. I’m vacillating betwixt that and something a bit more dainty. What do you think?

I adore the feather and fan cowl that I first spotted at one of my favorite blogs Knitology via Stay Fancy Free, which I definitely plan on knitting up regardless of whether I use the Malabrigo. But then there’s the giant chunky cowl over at CopyCat.

File Under: I need to buy this same yarn in the Cadmium color. Covet. Covet. Covet. Oh, and I need to decide on a project.

Of Graham Greene, Dentures, and Dejarnette?

Graham Greene once famously noted of himself and men, “I had very good dentures once…some magnificent gold work…It’s the only form of jewelry a man can wear that women fully appreciate.”

If only this were true…of both men and women; then I should not find myself drooling over the hand-made necklaces from New Orleans artist Dejarnette? I wantsies so badly, and fortunately for me, the prices are reasonable.

My favorite is the Paisleys, which is a mere $44 and I certainly covet it. Yearn…Yearn…Yearn.

Dejarnette makes jewelry from natural objects, as well as found vintage objects. Uber drools! While the unique set of necklaces are a bit more pricey, they are certainly worth it for the one-of-a-kind artistry. What’s more, you can also make custom orders. Everything is hand strung and made with everything from shells and bone, to semi-precious stones and modern materials.

File Under: Giftage, anyone?

“Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy.”

After finding some serious inspiration over at Loop Knits, I decided it was high time I cast on my own version of their Noro Garden Scarf, which is pretty similar, save for a few deets.

Yesterday I took a trip by boat to PatternWorks knit shop in Center Harbor, N.H., and absolutely fell head over heels for Plymouth Yarn’s Boku and decided it was almost identical to the Noro Silk yarns. I picked up four skeins (as the aforementioned pattern called for)–two each in Black Cherry (color 11) and Golden (color 8). While the Noro yarn is nearly half silk, the Boku is 95 percent wool and 5 percent silk, so it would be decidedly a bit more bulky and warm for winter, since I was aiming to knit up a substantial winter scarf rather than something cool enough for fall trips in the garden.

And boy am I pleased. The Taiwanese yarn isn’t itchy but you’ll definitely know its high quality wool when you work it on the sticks. What’s more, the gentle gradation of color makes it perfect for the Loop Knits scarf, which is a simple K1 P1 pattern that looks like its knit up using traditional stockinette stich with the added bonus that because its ribbed, it won’t curl, so there’s no need for blocking after the project is finished, and again six months later, and again in a year…and it goes on…

The stripes are created by alternating the two different skeins of yarn every two rows; and of course, its best to work the yarn up the sides of the scarf so you aren’t casting off and on every other row. If you’ve never tried traveling the yarn up the seam, methinks you should, because it will open up your whole world to striped scarfing and the like. Drools!

While my version isn’t as bright as the Noro version, I’m pleased with the fact that its dark, earthen colors right now with pops of gold and bright green–but as I see the balls of yarn get smaller and smaller as I work it, the Black Cherry version has a lot of fuscia in its middle, which means maybe this scarf is better suited as a gift for a female. We’ll just have to see.

What do you think? Suitable for both sexes? Is the striping bold enough?

I highly reccommend anyone looking to start working a striping scarf give this one a whirl–the pattern is free (and available at the above link) and its so simple; I started this late last night while lying in bed and am nearly 15 inches along. Happy striping!

“This isn’t a blasted literary epic. It’s the unvarnished story of a seaman’s life.”

In search of something classic and not terribly taxing a few nights ago, I decided to watch the most excellent film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Though the atmosphere of this film conjures up images of cozy winter afternoons with woolly blankets and hot beverages, it also works for cool August evenings.

For the uninitiated, this 1947 film stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. Tierney plays Laura Muir, a beautiful young widow who moves with her daughter (Natalie Wood) to a seaside cottage. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Muir, the cottage already has a resident, the ghost of sea captain Daniel Gregg, played by the delectable Rex Harrison. In order to bring in money for Mrs. Muir, Captain Gregg tells her the story of his life, which she turns into a novel called Blood and Swash. Wait, wait, it only gets better. Of course, Mrs. Muir and Captain Gregg fall in love, but how can they be together? Will they ever find happiness?

The original story was based upon the 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R. A. Dick. Yeah, I know. Evidently the film adaptation did moderately well in the States, but was a smash hit abroad, particularly France. It also gave rise to a 1960s comedic TV series of the same name, which (mercifully) lasted only two seasons. Creepy. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir also became something of a cult film, including internet fan fiction spanning both the States and Europe. I leave you to discover those little gems on your own.

Now, I don’t want to hear any grumbling from the lower ranks about how this movie is “old” or “boring”, none of that says I. And not a word about it being in black and white. Silence off the port bow, as it were. To entice you to see this most excellent film, I am including some of the superb quotes from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.

Captain Gregg: “Confound it, madam, my language is most controlled! And as for my morals, I’ve lived a man’s life and I’m not ashamed of it.”

Lucy Muir: “Please be good enough to shove off.”

This film has everything you could want—smoldering, temperamental sea captains, tragic widows, obnoxious in-laws, seaside vistas, a classic movie score, and a refreshing lack of those obsequious, saccharine child stars with the high-pitched voices.

I insist you netflix this amazing film at once, or go buy it a Barnes & Noble for $9.99, like I did.

As a disappointing post script, I made the mistake of watching The Memory Keeper’s Daughter a few nights later. I knew it was a bad plan, but I couldn’t stop it. Based on a book I haven’t read and produced by Lifetime, it was like watching a car wreck unfold moment by predictive moment for 91 minutes. As the roommate said while credits rolled, “Man, Lifetime movies are some kind of special. Depressive kind of special, but also complete shite. They make me want to find the nearest tall building.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

“Like the strawberry wives, that laid two or three great strawberries at the mouth of their pot, and all the rest were little ones.”

It’s hard to believe the summer is almost through; though late August is one of the best times for b.l.t.’s and fresh picked local strawberries.

Today, with fall like conditions, I bundled up in a bulky sweater and took to a applewood smoked turkey bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich on homemade English muffin toast. And of course, there’s no side dish like the sweetest strawberries you’ve ever popped in your mouth.

If you live near local fruit, eat it up while you can….the cold weather is fast approaching.

Fly away, my sweet…

Yes, clearly I have a problem and need to be flown right out to space…or hinterland…with my shotgun.

Last night, while taking a break from the “serious” knitting (a winter cabled neck warmer like the one pictured here), I decided to crochet up a small amigurumi bird. What’s that you say?

For those of you who don’t already study these adorable little babies, amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed toys–whether they be animals or small anthromorphic creatures like blobs of slime and what not.

Just as this love bird was created, amigurumi are most often crocheted in a “spiral” and they take no time to make up–this L.O.V.E. bird took just but a half hour, with a twee help from my mum on the embroidery work because I exercise bouts of impatience. One of the only things about the above pattern that made me wicked was the fact I used all the proper yarns and crochet hooks mentioned in the pattern list (though it stressed that gauge was not necessary–and it really isn’t) and mine came out what seems decidedly way gigantian compared to the little birdies in the photo attached with the pattern. What’s more, the directions were shotty in parts; I hate when a pattern does not include how many stitches one has at the end of a “round”, leaving me to tedious counting and recounting. This would not be helpful for the first time crocheter or amigurumi maker–especially those who have never worked in the round.

Still, there are so many adorable amigurumi out there, that I definitely want to make more. The L.O.V.E. birdie was my first, but shall not be my last. The internets are abuzz with free patterns of drool-worthy designs, like the ones at Roxycraft, of course the ones at Lion Brand (the egg cozies are adorable and make me think already of Easter gifties) despite the poor pattern writing (luckily they are “easy” level, so its just a thorn in the ass more than anything) and of course you can never forgot the amigurumi over at hub Crochet Pattern Central.

If you want to make one of these little guys but haven’t the faintest idea how, there’s a really great three-part tutoria over at Hook & Needles which will give you all the tools (not the actual hooks and yarn, but the skills to eventually reach cuddle worthy satisfaction with your little baby).

Happy hooking. Not the street walkin’, but the crochet workin’.

Winter preparations begin…

This past Sunday afternoon, rather apropos of nothing, since it was 75 and sunny, my roommate said to me, “Does your iPod ever get so cold it doesn’t play?” Actually, no. I have a nano and it fits in my pocket, but the roommate has one of those fancy, 160GB ones. Evidently it gets cranky when she traverses the city in winter.

In response to this meddlesome problem, I sat right down and knitted up this iPod koozie. It’s made of two types of wool, and I’m assuming that it will do for iPods what it does for the rest of us, namely, keep us warm and make us itchy. I offered add a flap closure over the top, so it would button or snap, but the roommate said, “I don’t need no flap.” Indeed. So the drawstring closure is a rolled tube made by purling the last 4 rows and feeding through two loops of braided wool. If anyone wants more detailed instructions, let me know.

Oh, and FYI Word of the Day. The design on the front of the koozie is called a phage, for those you who are curious. It was selected by the roommate and here is the explanation: “A bacteriophage (from ‘bacteria’ and Greek phagein, ‘to eat’) is any one of a number of viruses that infect bacteria. The term is commonly used in its shortened form, phage.” I think you have to be a biochemist to really be excited about bacteriophages.

Squids prefer blondes? I hope not…

Even though Gentleman Prefer Blondes, and Blondes prefer diamond tiaras, I, Jenna Ruth Wolf, “always say a kiss on the hand might feel very good, but a giant squid lasts forever.”

And so true it is, which is why I’ve always been fascinated by the cephalopods–whether my intrigue be whetted by films documenting famous Japanese scientists in search of the mighty beast or even a tea kettle of scalding water, a ream or two of fiber, and my hands agitating wool to boot.

There’s nothing better than what I call a felted squiddle, the above Mr. Herman Squiddle drying out after one too many dunks in the moonshine barrel (translation: felting process) ages ago. And as most of my friends who have been gifted similar squiddles know, they absolutely melt your heart–and last forever.

Herman Squiddle was knitted up in the round using somewhat of an adaptation of this Naughty Squiddy pattern, which is available courtesy of Island of Misfit Patterns. I decided to felt it up quite tightly, molding the yarn for hours in order to get a distinctly smooth, round body. What’s more–instead of knitting every tiny leg in the round (which I certainly did on several trys and found it tedious), I found creating an i-cord was more preferable. Of course, as always, instead of embroidering eyes I used my favorite teddy ones, which give it an added oomf, me thinks.

And it’s all about the touches–its bottom knitted up in a moss stitch of sorts, so as to look like little “suckers”…the only thing I’ve never resolved is that weird “beak” the squid has…but then again, I’d like to think my Herman Cephalopod doesn’t have anything sharp hiding about its tummy. What do you think?

If you want to make your own squiddle, certainly follow the above pattern–which calls for size 7 dpns, feltable yarn (that means a natural fiber wool, nothing acrylic!), and of course a tea kettle of hot water and some dishwashing soap. Agitating the wool allows you to really manipulate how you want the squid to look–and you may add the teddy eyes before or after, either one has various issues (before means you have to be careful not to pull them out as you agitate the wool and after means its harder to push them through the felted body and apply the fasteners).

Once you’ve felted it up, it will need a couple of days to fully dry out before you stuff it with fiber fill. I suggest stuffing the squiddles empty innards with plastic shopping baggies and some paper towels, but make sure not to overstuff or understuff. I always like to use the plastic baggies to mold the squid into the perfect shape that will stick when dry. Of course, when it seems no longer water logged, just add the stuffing and sew up the bottom–I just eyeballed a standard moss stich swatch which would cover the underside and easily be darned into place…its that simple, so fear not!

Not the crafty kind but sensing you can’t live without one of these? Place your order for a felted squiddle now…I’ll send you one, price negotiable.