Of roads, quilting, photos, and blogs.

This weekend, I randomly went to Kentucky. I also spent an insubordinate amount of time in a car, driving the interstate between Louisville and Cincinnati, happily gazing outside the windows to see mountains much like the mountains near my hometown in Massachusetts.

New fabric and knitting
I've been drawn to blues and blacks and whites recently.

Scott's mother, our sister-in-law, and Scott's aunt embarked on a trip across southern Indiana and northern Kentucky on Saturday for a shop hop; the three of them purchased 'passports' from one of the shops, then had to get the passport 'stamped' at eight different shops in the area. Eight. I was along for the ride during round 2 of the hop, which took me to five different shops throughout the area. I was interested. I like driving around a state I had only been to twice prior; once to Louisville about five years ago, and again to help his grandfather move into his old apartment a few years ago. I love new states.

I knit. Everyone knows I knit. What everyone does not know, however, is that I quilt. A little. Scott's mom taught me how a few years back and got me a basic sewing machine for Christmas that year, but I haven't devoted much time to it so far. I have a few quilting books, even, and I've put together a few tops. She said I did a good job for not having done it before, and I had a good time figuring things out. I think I like quilting because of the mathematical parts; measuring, fitting things together, finding a way to put the pieces together. It's like a puzzle, somewhat.

But now I want to do more quilting. I saw some patterns I liked (how could I not; I did go to five different quilt shops, each with their own assortment of quilts adorning the walls, of course I'd find a pattern or two I liked!), and I'm pretty sure I can improvise a pattern and figure out what I need to do without buying a book. It's pretty fascinating, the art of cutting up fabric and sewing it back together in patterns. I always liked geometry and tesselations as a kid, and I do have a minor in mathematics, so it's no surprise I'm drawn into quilting.

Blonde hair
001.365. I hope I stick with this.

I believe I'm going to attempt the 365 project again. I tried taking a picture of myself once a day back in August and again in October, failing after about thirty days both times. This time, I hope to take pictures every day, even if I loathe the photo immensely. I want to stick with it.

. . . . .

I wanted to mention this in my last post, but my husband started a blog, titled Zero Comments. Please, don't let his blog live up to its name and leave him some feedback! He'll be writing about politics, gaming, and life in general, and he has a post now about who he's backing in the 2008 US Presidential election and some reasons why. I'm looking forward to reading more of his posts.

Dear spring, please come soon.

Star ornaments
Christmas stars, in March.

I've been quiet this week, mainly because I've been so tired after a day of work. Today's been a good day, mainly because I've been able to relax, get a few things done, and take time to update Wordpress to the 2.5 release candidate. (Which I'm digging so far. I really like the new look of the admin interface.) I love weekends.

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Arisaig side panel

I finished the left side of Arisaig the other day. As I predicted, as soon as I finished the ribbing from hell, it took me maybe three days of casual knitting to get the top part done. The shaping on the top part of the left side differs slightly from the right; I decreased a little earlier on the left side than I did the right, but I don't think it will be too noticeable. We'll see what happens.

My biggest worry throughout this project is that this thing's going to be way, way too small for me. I keep on forgetting that this is a lace project, knit on tiny needles; therefore, once I block the pieces, they'll look a bit more normal in size.

Arisaig lace close-up
This is what the lace pattern will look like once this is blocked.

. . . . .

Jaywalker sock

I also finished my first Jaywalker sock a couple days ago. I met up with a new (to me) group of people in town on Wednesday and the sock flew off my needles as I sipped my hot chocolate and chatted with the new people I met. All in all, good times, and I'm halfway done with a cool looking pair of socks! It fit me perfectly as well, though due to the lack of stretch in the pattern, I had a difficult time putting the sock on and taking it off. Still, I'm looking forward to getting the second sock done.

. . . . .

Much to my dismay, we received a few inches of snow here yesterday and today. Even though I've lived in places that get considerable amounts of snowfall each winter, I still dislike it. I hate clearing off my car, driving in slush, and slipping on ice. I had hoped winter was over, but no. Not just yet. Hopefully now we won't get much more snow, but knowing this area, we'll have a blizzard in April. Winter, I'm so over you.

Knitting, Heroes, restaurants, and relaxation.

Arisaig and Heroes

I spent the majority of this past weekend knitting one of the front panels of the Arisaig cardigan and watching Season 1 of Heroes, which I borrowed from a friend months ago. (Yes, Josh, I'm finally watching the series. Finally.) We didn't do much this weekend, but we enjoyed ourselves and I felt pretty productive.

I've been working on Arisaig now for over a year. I started back in January 2007 after I bought soft purple yarn from WEBS when I visited my parents for Christmas. I love the pattern; I love the lace and I love the stretchiness of the fabric I've made. What I don't love is knitting lots and lots of ribbing on size 1 US needles. Thankfully, finally, I finished all the ribbing on the last part that needs it last night, so hopefully the last panel and the two sleeves will go quickly. I want to finish this cardigan before spring is over.

Tangled Arisaig

 Let me tell you a story. Last week, somehow, one of my cats managed to tangle my yarn around my computer chair arm. Not on it, or under it; around it. I still don't understand. It took me all day to untangle, wind, and rewind the ball to look halfway useable, and now I've learned my lesson. No leaving knitting projects on my desk.

Speaking of computers, I went ahead and bought a laptop this past weekend. I've been talking about it for the past few months, and we set aside some money and took the plunge. I'll be able to finish my novel, surf the internet in other rooms besides this one, and bring it with me wherever I go. I can't wait for it to come in.

. . . . .

On Sunday, Scott and I went to a new restaurant a few miles from our house. We've passed it on the street many times; a nice, new looking, green and red stripey building with tinted windows, outdoor deck area surrounded by a black wrought iron fence, and plenty of parking illuminated by decorative lights around the perimeter. As we sat down, we looked at our paper menus with football themed titles for the sections ('first down' was appetizers, etc) and glanced at the shiny new flat screen TVs broadcasting the Florida - Kentucky basketball game, musing that this place must be a sports bar.

Until we heard the first few strains of "Keep on Loving You" by REO Speedwagon over the loudspeakers and glanced at the 'Live - Laugh - Love' and 'Home is where the journey begins' framed pictures on the rust colored walls which would have looked more in place at my mother's house. We couldn't stifle our laughter. We were so confused as to how this place wanted to present itself as a restaurant. A mid-end family eatery? A down home, local sports bar? We couldn't tell, but we enjoyed ourselves. I ordered chicken fingers with honey mustard sauce and topped it off with a raspberry cheesecake, and didn't end up eating dinner that night, I was so full. We definitely enjoyed ourselves.

. . . . .

This morning, I woke up groggy and devoid of sleep, wishing I could go back to bed. Today, at 7:30, watching the setting sun, I decided I didn't mind the coming of Daylight Saving Time.

Michigan Fiber Fest!

Michigan Fiber Fest stash

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m two WEEKS late in posting about Michigan Fiber Fest, but hey, I’m getting around to it, at least! I’ve been too busy playing Everquest II with Scott, knitting and spinning up a storm, and spending more time off the computer to sit down and write a post about buying lots of yarn and fiber. I’d rather play with my new stuff than write about it!

Anyway. My mother came to visit me the weekend of the Fest; we had a great time going to wineries, driving around town, and just in general having a good time. I miss my family and I’m glad she came out, and she helped me a ton in answering questions about Scott’s surgery and healing process (my mother is a nurse, so she endured tons of calls from me immediately after the surgery!) She also stayed an extra day due to some issue with the South Bend - Detroit part of my mom’s flight; she was delayed the entire day so she just decided to fly out the next day instead. I felt bad, but was also glad to see her another day.

I hadn’t ever been to Allegan, the home of the Michigan Fiber Fest, so I looked up directions the night before. It seemed easy enough; drive up I-94 to I-196 and cut across. Piece of cake. What we didn’t bank on was tons and tons of construction all along I-196! Thankfully it didn’t slow us down too much, but still, what a pain. We arrived at about 11ish and ran into some of my friends almost right away, who had arrived just before we did. Success!

Much like Sandy, I go through the same sort of steps when at a fiber festival such as this; I never like to buy anything right away and tend to look at nearly every booth before I go back and buy what I want. My only exception was at a booth selling worsted weight yarn at 50% off; I found three skeins of a beautiful brown/pink/melon colorway, and bought them up right away as I knew they’d be gone later on. We drooled at yarns from The Fold and we each bought a few skeins of sock yarn; I bought two skeins of Gypsy Creations yarn in the Raspberry Ripple colorway and can’t wait to knit them up!

Of course, I bought fiber as well; I didn’t buy anything on impulse, but I still loved everything I picked up. I bought 4 oz of beautiful blue alpaca fiber, a big ball of peach and red wool, and my favorite, a purply green pile of fluffy merino/silk goodness that I cannot wait to spin. I’m very excited about my purchases and happy I spent just about as much as I wanted and came home with plenty of things to keep me busy for a long time. I had a great time with my mother and friends, and will hopefully be coming back next year!

Ravelry!

So, while at work today, I received an invitation to try out Ravelry, a social network/organizer for people who knit and crochet. I’d been waiting for my request for about a month; I requested an invitation a few days behind (as always, I’m fashionably late), so I didn’t expect an invitation until it opened to the public! I’ve played with the site a little bit since coming home from work; I’ve added a few of my completed projects and details about the ones I’m doing, but I let it get too dark to take pictures of what I’m working on now. Tomorrow! I also want to take pictures of my stash (the yarn I’ve hoarded, for those who aren’t into the knitting thing and for some reason are reading this post), which won’t take me long because compared to a lot of knitters, mine is very, very small.

I’m amazed so far at what’s been implemented so far in the systems. Being a coder myself, I’ve noticed a few nice touches throughout the site that make the product pretty sweet for the end user. I think the owners have done a great job with it so far :). I’ve been spending time poking around at new patterns, looking at other peoples’ finished items, and updating my own profile and pictures here and there. I’m having fun.

So, if you have a Ravelry account, my username is (surprise) starshaped. Feel free to add me; I love new friends!

An entry about yarn.

Look what I finally finished!

Pumpkin Candy yarn

I’ve decided to call this bundle of yarn love Pumpkin Candy, because it reminds me of candy corn and those little pumpkin candies that seem to never disappear around Halloween. (Unless, of course, I’m eating them.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have many details about this yarn. I got the ball from Michelle when I bought my wheel; Michelle, do you happen to know what kind of fiber is in this and how much there was? I’m guessing about 6 ounces. I also don’t know the yardage due to the fact that I still don’t own a niddy noddy and I didn’t feel like counting all the loops I made wrapping it off the bobbin onto my kitchen table, but I’m guessing I have about 600 yards total.

I also experimented with plying techniques with this yarn. You can’t see it in this picture, but in another picture I’ve taken, you will see that I have two skeins of this stuff. That’s from me greatly underestimating how much singles to put on each bobbin so I could ply from two seperate bobbins. The bigger skein is from the two bobbin plying I’ve done in the past. The smaller skein, however, I wound into a ball with my winder and plied by taking the center pull and the outside and plying those together. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hairy as I thought it would be. I’m happy with how both turned out.

Currently I’m spinning some purple Shetland lambswool. I think the wool felted a bit when it was dyed and it smells of the dye, but I still like the colors. I figure any experience I get is good experience!

Safari for Windows

Yesterday, when I returned home from work, I discovered something I had hoped would happen for the longest time; Apple released a version of Safari for Windows. I’ve used Safari on the Mac a few times a few years ago when I worked for IU in the computer labs; I liked the interface, and I liked being able to check any websites I developed in the browser to be sure they displayed correctly. Since moving to northern Indiana, however, I’ve been Macless and have had to find online screenshot tools to test items in Safari.

Until yesterday. I shouted “Awesome!” to no one in particular when I pulled up apple.com and saw the news on the bottom of the page, and proceeded to download and test it. I like it, so far; it won’t replace Firefox as my main browser because of the lack of addons, but I like the small size and how quickly it seems to load. I like the resizeable textarea boxes and the look of the fonts as well, so it will be a great alternative browser to use when I feel like using something other than Firefox. Plus, I’ll be able to finally check my sites in a browser on my PC (that is, if the Mac and PC versions of Safari are pretty much identical). I’m pretty excited.

The iPhone? I could care less. I’m definitely more excited about Safari for Windows than that overpriced bit of technology (though it does look pretty).

Our BRMC trip. Or, how I can now die happy.

(Note: Some of this entry may not make sense to people who haven’t heard of or listened to a lot of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. But, I am still damn pumped and excited from seeing them live twice that I don’t really care. Important parts will be in bold if you are just skimming the entry.)

So, Scott and I just got back from seeing BRMC in concert in Columbus on Monday and Indianapolis last night. We saw them on their last tour last year, in Columbus, and they rocked so hard that I knew we’d have to see them again after they released their next album. We bought tickets sometime in April and planned to make the trips as sort of a post anniversary vacation. It fit us perfectly, and we had such an awesome time.

We left South Bend on Monday morning after running a few errands around town, and arrived in Columbus at about 4ish. We hung out around the hotel for a little bit before deciding to go to the general concert area to grab a bite to eat before the show. I hadn’t realized that the venue was RIGHT on the border of where the Ohio State campus was, so we ran into a lot of little food areas and stores on the street near the venue. It reminded me a lot of Kirkwood Ave in Bloomington with all the bars and restaurants. It rocked.

We ate at a nice bar and grill for dinner and we decided to order some drinks to pass the time. We found out that the place didn’t serve pitchers of any kind of beer at all on Mondays, which struck me as odd. We ended up drinking a few glasses of Bud Light to pass the time, and we enjoyed our meals.

After we ate, we went to stand in line, and we noticed the line wasn’t as long as we remembered it last year. While we waited, I talked to a girl standing in front of us who follows the band around the country and goes to nearly all their shows! She and her friends reminded me of the Band Aids from Almost Famous, discussing how far on the tour they were going to go and what buses they were going to catch. I think it would be neat to follow a band around the country like that, but unfortunately, I can’t take the time off work to do it. If I could, I probably would, in a heartbeat.

The Columbus show was pretty good; I didn’t think it was as good as last year’s Columbus show, but either way, we enjoyed ourselves. We stood near the back of the venue, behind the railing for the pit, so we could get a good view of the bands. The openers were good; The Dead Combo went up first, and they were entertaining, but I really liked the second opening act, the Cobbs. And, of course, I dug BRMC. We left at about midnight, our ears ringing, enjoying the show, and returned to our hotel.

We woke up too late to get breakfast at the hotel the next morning, so we watched a bit of TV and headed out to Indianapolis. We underestimated the distance between Columbus and Indianapolis and arrived in town close to 2, stopping to eat at a Steak and Shake on the Indiana border. We continued our way up to the northern side of Indianapolis and stopped at what we thought was our hotel, but, in reality, was not. We had wondered why we had issues with our reservations up to the day we left; it turns out that we had been calling the WRONG hotel! Thankfully the one we had booked was only a few miles away and a bit closer to the venue, so we took off and checked in. We relaxed for a few hours; I went into the Jacuzzi in our room and watched TV on the Science Channel, knitted a bit and did some crossword puzzles. I am the epitome of cool.

Scott’s friend Beau came to the show with us yesterday night; he lives in Indianapolis and I think he wanted to go to a show, so we met up with us after he got off work. He had a gift certificate for a bar and grill on the north side of Indy, so we headed there for dinner. We sat outside, drinking Blue Moon and talking, and I felt so happy and peaceful. The weather was great, we were going to see a band I loved, and I just felt awesome. I had a great time at dinner.

After we had a bit to drink and gasped at the pitcher costs ($13.50 for a pitcher of Blue Moon???), we headed to the venue, just down the street from the restaurant, and found that the doors had opened 45 minutes before we got there. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to get close to the stage, but to my surprise, I ended up being in the second row! The opening acts, the same as the night before, came, and rocked as much as they did the day before yesterday. We were happy.

Then, BRMC came on and blew me away. Some of the setlist stayed the same from the night before, but they added a few more songs (they played ‘US Government’ and ended the show with ‘Heart + Soul, which is an awesome closer) and said they were playing closer to a double set because they had to cancel in Indianapolis last year. I rocked out with the people around me, singing along to all the songs, and I took a few pictures with my cell phone before I saw Robert put his hood up over his head and I wasn’t sure if that meant he didn’t want any more pictures taken! (There was a guy next to me taking a lot of pics with his camera; compared to my three pics, he took a ton!)

Near the end, they asked for requests. I’ve wanted to hear them play ‘Salvation’ every time I’ve seen them live; it’s probably one of my very favorite songs by them and I just wanted to hear it live, just once. I shouted it out, Scott followed, and I think one other girl shouted it on the other side of the stage, AND THEY PLAYED IT. They played it after not playing it for a long time live, according to them. They played ‘Salvation’ and as nerdy as I am, I teared up and sang along and felt so completely happy and pumped and awesome. I am so so damn happy they played it, so I could hear it, just once. My other favorites; “Love Burns”, “Red Eyes and Tears”, most of the stuff from the new album, and Robert’s acoustic cover of a Bob Dylan song (I just wish I remembered the title!).

After the show ended, Beau wanted to buy a copy of their newest cd (which would be autographed by the band) and I wanted to buy a Cobbs CD, so we stuck around for a bit. As Beau waited around for the CDs I went up to the merchandise table and talked to the Cobbs for a bit and bought the CD; they were so nice and seemed genuinely happy when I told them they were awesome and asked them to sign my CD. They were very fun to watch and it made me happier to see that they seemed like nice guys who appreciate their fans.

We stood around for a little bit more after I got my CD signed when I noticed Peter from BRMC walking back into the venue from the back. I decided ‘to hell with it!’ and walked toward him, waiting my turn to say a word. He knew I was waiting for him and he said hello and introduced himself, which I thought was cute because yeah, I definitely knew who he was :). (I just wish I had thought to actually introduce myself too; it didn’t even cross my mind to do so until later on!) I shook his hand and thanked him for playing Salvation, and he smiled and thanked me, and I think I said ‘no, thank YOU’ back to him, but at that point I was tired and excited that I got to meet one of the guys from my favorite band, the guy who sang ‘Salvation’ earlier in the evening, that I can’t really remember how the conversation went. I was excited, to say the least.

The rest of the night was a blur; we drove back to the hotel and Beau went home. We slept, woke up this morning, and drove back home. I’m still in a daze/rush from the show last night; I heard my favorite BRMC song and I met one of the members. Plus, I heard two kickass sets and had a great time with Scott and Beau. It really doesn’t get any better than this, and I couldn’t wish for a better time.

Migraines and fiber!

You know what’s not fun? Driving home from Chicago with an in-between headache and migraine. I can’t decide if these particular aches are migraines or not; I know that a few hours prior to the head pounding fun, my eyesight goes all fuzzy and I have a hard time seeing. I never think it’s a migraine because it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I imagine migraines hurt, but it still throbs and causes me to not really get a lot done. I think my episode today came from the fact that I hadn’t drank any water all day and I didn’t have anything to eat until 2pm. I’m home now, drinking water and relaxing before my in-laws arrive for the weekend.

Fiber from my friends

In other, much better news, my fiber arts group surprised me with a basket full of spinning fiber, books, and other spinning fun yesterday during our get-together! I’m very excited to spin up my new fiber, and I think they did a great job of picking out colors I love. Vicki even made some of us orifice hooks for our wheels and name tags to go with them; I picked a hook in red.

To Vicki, Jess, Elizabeth, Michelle, Liz, and anyone else who may have contributed to my basket (which I will get great use of this summer, holding drinks!), thank you very much. I feel very lucky to have such fiber enablers as friends!

I’m a wheel owner!

I first learned of spinning my own yarn at the end of 2004, when a few friends of mine purchased drop spindles and roving from a store on ebay. Intrigued, I ordered my own kit, wanting to spin myself my own beautiful yarn. However, I didn’t anticipate it being so difficult, and I struggled for a month or two, not knowing which way to spin my spindle, not knowing how to control the spin or the flow, before I put my spindle and beautiful blue-green roving away. I always talked of properly learning to spin, but I didn’t know anybody in Bloomington who also spun, and I didn’t know who to ask.

Spinning brownish fiber
Some of the first yarn I spun on my favorite drop spindle.

Fast-forward to about a year ago. I’m married, living in South Bend, and slowly but surely getting to know a few fellow knitters and spinners in the area. After attending meetings and watching my new friends spin on their spindles and wheels, I decide to try again. However, after getting advice from a few spinners, I decide to try a different type of spindle to spin my roving. I watch my friends spin, and all of a sudden, it makes sense. I watch them for a bit, then I try my own. My yarn doesn’t look perfect, but it doesn’t look totally bad, either. I finally learned it, and at that point, I knew I wanted to invest in my own wheel someday.

My new wheel!

A year later, I’ve achieved that goal. A woman in the fiber group I belong to put a few of her wheels up for sale, and this past Tuesday, I tested a few of them. I’ve only spun on three wheels now; a Majacraft Millie, a tiny Cabriolet, and my new wheel, an Ashford Traditional. With the Millie, I was able to spin just fine after a little bit of trial and error, and I struggled with the Cabriolet. However, as soon as I sat down in front of the Ashford and began to spin, I knew this wheel was the one for me. I honestly couldn’t believe how easy it was for me to spin on this wheel; I attribute much of it to the fact that I’ve been spindle spinning exclusively for a year, so I’ve had time to perfect my technique. The woman I bought the wheel from told me I must have a lot of patience for spinning on a spindle for so long, and I’m inclined to agree with her.

The first yarn I spun on my new wheel

I’ve been spinning every day since bringing home the wheel on Tuesday night. By Thursday, I finished the fiber I began at the end of May last year on the spindle, and I’m almost done spinning a 1.5 ounce bit of Shetland lambswool in different shades of pink I bought from Vicki earlier in the year. I’m so excited to finally be spinning up all the fiber I’ve purchased within the past year! I’m going to need to buy myself a niddy-noddy and a lazy kate for when I ply and skein up my new yarn, but I can get around just fine without these items for now. If anyone can point me to any places that may sell these items for cheap, I would appreciate it, as I’d much rather keep my bobbins in place while plying them together instead of them rolling all around the floor, and I’d rather not wrap my yarn around the end of my kitchen table. But that’s just me.

In short, I’m very happy with my purchase. Let the spinning commence!