Monday, July 28

unfinished projects

I'm sick of seeing the same 5 or 6 projects at the top of my Ravelry project page so I've been trying hard to finish them. It's odd how a site like that can inspire; if they weren't taunting me there I'd forget I had started them and I'd just start something else.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I like these projects, once I rediscover them. Yesterday, as we ran out the door to Christopher's play, I grabbed my Mitts of the Dystopian Future. I started them back in April or early May when it was rainy and my hands were needing a little extra warmth. I used some left over Berroco Ultra Alpaca from Christopher's Christmas Stocking.

They knitted up huge. The first mitt I completed wouldn't stay on my hand so I reworked the pattern for a little negative ease, knitted a second (smaller) mitt, and then put it all aside when it got warm. Although I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I changed on my smaller mitt, they've proven to be a quick and rewarding project for the subway. Here is a photo of my original oversized mitt.

I've also been working away on my baby gifts. The blanket I started for my new nephew is done! (Well, it's not washed, but otherwise it's finished!)
The i-cord was not as bad as I had anticipated, and I'm just so happy with how it turned out. My one reservation is that the ends seem to be unraveling. I wonder if this is because I used synthetic fibers. At my knitting group last week Tony said that washing it should help keep the ends in place, even though the blanket is synthetic (Berroco Comfort). I hope he's right! It would be so embarrassing to have it suddenly sprout tails after I've given it away.

I have some other projects that are done, but as they are gifts for some people who read this blog, you'll have to wait until they have been gifted...

Thursday, July 24


This afternoon I left work early to go to what should have been an interesting panel discussion at The Public theater. 3 playwrights who also work in film and TV were to talk about the two worlds- film vs theater- and I dragged Christopher. Somehow I thought we'd gain some insight into the world we're trying to enter.

When I got off the subway, I was thinking of the swatching I've been doing, and also of Christopher's play. (For those of you who are curious, the play has so far been going very well. No, he hasn't been offered a production, but we've gotten very positive feedback from some people who are well known in the business.) Anyway, I was thinking about the nature of art and creativity, which you must realize I've been contemplating a bit recently.

Here's the gist of what I was mulling:

"Art" is something that one hones. The word "art" is used to describe something that is masterful, something that requires skill and thought and intense study. And for this reason, theater is my art. I have been involved in theater intensely for the past 17 or so years, and I still find that there are many things to learn. But I also feel that I have something to contribute, which is very exciting.

Knitting is a much newer "art" to me. Of course, I've been knitting for longer, but I haven't been honing my skills. This past week I've been swatching a sweater that I'm hoping to design, and it's been so much fun just knitting lace pattern after lace pattern. I feel like each pattern has taught me something different about the yarn and what it can or can't accomplish. It's very cool.

So I came out of the subway, and I was contemplating all of these things in depth. And it felt pretty cool to be going to The Public and checking in and receiving a packet. But then the panel discussion began.

It really should have been an interesting panel. The playwrights they chose are all under 40 and very successful. But the moderator... she was from the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. For those of you who don't live in New York, I should explain. This office is mostly responsible (in my opinion) for encouraging film companies to shoot their films in New York. They draw tourists in to see The Lion King. They give tax incentives to TV shows with studios in Queens. Their mission is to bring money to New York, and they do it very well. But this isn't an office that is concerned with honing one's art form. They are business people.

So the woman moderating this panel of esteemed young playwrights was from this office. Not only did she ask questions that didn't lead to interesting answers (Q:"what is your typical day like?" A: "I always walk my dog, and I try to structure my writing around that.") but she suddenly started referring to "the industry" and "the business." In fact, in one of her questions, she went on and on about "the industry" this and "the industry" that. And when it came time for someone to answer, the playwrights all looked really confused and there was a pause until one of them then said, "What industry?"

The word "industry" implies that many people are making a living or something totally crazy like that, like we're factory workers who can be plugged in to a role here or there, when in theater the whole deal is that we can at least call ourselves "artists." I mean, that's why we get paid so little, right? Because that title (and the ownership of our work) is worth the lack of pay, which is more or less what one of the writers had just said. (of course, you could say there are "industry" people in theater, but they aren't the writers or directors or designers or actors. They are the agents and producers, and Broadway theater owners and stagehands, the folks who are living off of our struggles.)

This whole lack of understanding frustrates me to no end, probably because it just shows a huge disconnect between how the city views us theater artists as just another way to make money. They don't see that we're busy honing our art. argh.

Thank you for reading that. Your reward is my swatch. I think I'm on to something!Of course, I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do, but I have some ideas. Yes, you'll have to wait.
One really cool thing (that you can't see in these photos) is that the yarn changes very subtly from lavender to grey. I didn't know that would happen.

Tuesday, July 22

my Tour de Fleece

Well, as I thought it might happen, I finished spinning my Shetland this weekend. While this is good, it also means that I have completed the Tour de Fleece early. I'm not sure what to do next-- start spinning something else?? (Not a bad idea, really.)
Other than finishing early, I'm rather pleased with this yarn. It softened considerably when I washed it, and it's really light and fluffy. The color reminds me of a melted popsicle.

For those who don't remember, Tomo and I dyed it with Kool Aid back in early May. There are only 2 ounces, and it spun up easily and quickly. I wish there was enough of it for mittens, but I only got about 100 yards of it. Another neck warmer? There must be some other perfect thing to use this for.

In other knitting news, I'm getting antsy to cast on a new project. I have tons of large (but not large enough) skeins of wool from Denmark, and I've been eying one of them for a while. This is Gotland Merino 8/2, by Old Mill, an Estonian yarn company. It's a blend of 75% Gotland (which is a Danish sheep, I learned), and 25% Merino.

According to the label, there are 225 grams of it. This yarn (and all of the yarn I bought there) was sold by weight, and no two skeins weighed the same. According to Ravelry, 225 grams of this yarn should give me 437 yards. In some fit of hopefulness, I decided that I had about twice that, and was brought back to reality when I balled and measured it on Sunday night at my knitting group. (The good news is that I have closer to 485 yards.)

In the meantime I'd become obsessed with making a short sleeved sweater from it, something I can wear over a long sleeved t-shirt in the fall, and I still want to make that work. I'm so set on it (plus I can't find the right pattern) that I've decided to design my own sweater. It's about time that I design something. I've been wanting to since last fall. And so yesterday, between visits to the eye doctor and the dentist, I studied Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Ringhetti, and swatched lace patterns from my mother's worn copy of The Craft of Lace Knitting by Barbara Walker.
I'm learning a lot from that little swatch, which i haven't yet washed. What's most interesting to me is that this yarn, which is supposedly fingering weight, already seems to be blooming. (The swatch is on #6 needles, which I thought would knit a looser fabric than it is.) I expect that when I wash this the whole nature of the swatch will change. Stay tuned for Eliza's experiments in knit wear design!

Saturday, July 19

opening night

I haven't said much here about it, but Christopher and I are producing a play that he wrote. He is a playwright, so the idea of this isn't too odd. But we've never produced before, and there have been some growing pains.

Tonight is our opening night! We're very excited (and a little anxious). Things still need to happen before tonight. We're tired. And just about everyone we know is coming to our opening night, so we've got a social day ahead of us as well.

That said, we've assembled a stellar cast and a really great production team. For all of our inexperience producing, I think we have a great product. And better than that, people are coming to see it. Reviewers. And agents. And directors. And that's why we're doing this, to give Christopher and the actors and director some exposure. (I've already learned that designers don't get much from these shows except for some photos for your portfolio, the experience of having worked with this team and a line for your resume.)If you are in New York this summer, please come and see the play! I will be there at all of the performances (though I may appear harried). There are 7 performances at rather weird times between now and August 3. Information below:


By Christopher Wall

Winner, Literary Prize, Washington Theatre Festival

When Ethan and Liz are stranded on a deserted highway, the past they've avoided finally catches up to them. Join Brent Langdon* and Jeff Award-winner Elizabeth Rich* in this savage, tender portrait of marriage in the breakdown lane.

Director, Lisa Rothe
Set Design, Eliza Brown
Lighting Design, Melissa Mizell
Costume Design, Christina Bullard
Sound Design, Daniel Kluger

Saturday, July 19, 5:00 PM (Sold Out!)
Monday, July 21, 8:30 PM
Tuesday, July 22, 6:30 PM
Sunday, July 27, 5:45 PM
Wednesday, July 30, 5:15 PM (Performance Added!)
Friday, August 1, 5:30 PM
Sunday, August 3, 3:00 PM

Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex
312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor
Just West of 8th Avenue

Use Discount Code CSAY at Ticket Central for $15 tickets

For more information go to

* These actors are appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.

Tuesday, July 15

I finished something!

Oh, I'm pathetic. If you look at my Ravelry project page, you'll see that I'm about this close to finishing 4 knitting projects. A few hours on each one and they'd be done, off my needles and I could move on. Instead I find myself avoiding them all, hoping they'll finish themselves while also not allowing myself to start a new project. Some of these have to get finished before I allow myself to get distracted with something else.

Back in April I started and quickly knitted most of Gretel for my friend Marjorie. Marjorie is a jewelry designer, and we'd decided to swap crafts. I made a hat that she picked and she's making me a necklace that I picked. Christopher got mugged on April 7, and in the confusion my #9 double pointed needles were shoved in the wrong place, and I couldn't find them when I wanted to finish up Gretel. The other day I stumbled across the needles, and I was relieved to be able to pick up this project again.It only took a day to finish it. That is: A trip to Manhattan and back, plus about 10 minutes on the sofa when I got home. It makes me sad that it took me more than 3 months to finish something that took less than 3 hours. But it's done, and I'm loving the cables.

I am glad this is for Marjorie though. It's a little too slouchy (and maybe too trendy) for my own taste. Plus I like color. Oh, yeah, details:

Pattern: Gretel, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in Oatmeal
(Yes, this is the same yarn I used for my dad's hat and scarf set last fall. I am very fond of it, though I'm ready for a new color of it.)

Sunday, July 13

Tour de Fleece

I mentioned a few days ago that I was joining the Tour de Fleece. The idea behind this is that during the Tour de France (July 5-27) each participant would take on a spinning challenge, something that would start and end on those days and that would also use stash roving. Since I've been so bad about spinning in the past few months, I set myself an easy goal: To spin the Shetland that I dyed with Tomo back in May. It's only 2 oz and seemed like a very manageable goal.

I think I need to backtrack a little. In the past few months, the months where I showed nothing that I'd spun, I actually had something on my wheel. I had been feeling gutsy (or overly confident) about my spinning abilities and I had started spinning the 2 oz of Bombyx silk/wool that Christopher gave me for Christmas. In theory this is was a great idea, a challenge for my beginner skills and something very different. The silk was really slippery though, and since it's also lighter and less dense than wool, there was a lot more of it to spin. It also is undyed, which offers lots of possibilities (like, I could dye it this summer when I do my big dyeing spree) but it also made it really unsatisfying to spin.

And so this stuff just took forever to finish. I think I've been working on it for months, and I'm pretty sick of it. But I only have one spinning wheel and 3 bobbins, so it had to get finished before I could move on to another thing of roving. The lure of spinning the Shetland for the Tour de Fleece was the kick in the butt I needed to finish the silk/wool, and I finished plying and washing it on Friday. Voila!I actually like it a lot and am still thinking of what to make with it. (I managed to get 211 yards, which is a personal best. :)

On Friday evening, while my silk/wool was drying, I started spinning the Shetland.Yeah, my spinning mojo is back! This stuff isn't as soft, but it is so much easier to spin. And I love the colors. (Kool Aid, baby!) In fact, it's so much more fun to spin that I finished spinning the first half of it yesterday morning. I'm clearly not getting the yardage (or fine weight) that I got with the silk, but I am still totally thrilled with how it's coming, and I keep wondering what I can make with it. (2 oz of somewhat scratchy and probably worsted Shetland, hm. A hat??)

But there's a hitch. At this rate I'll be done with my Tour de Fleece challenge in a day or two. I think I made the challenge too easy.

Thursday, July 10

summer in New York

From where I'm sitting now-- a room on the 6th floor of an apartment building in Brooklyn-- I can hear live jazz. This is one of the things I love about living near a cultural institution: there are always things going on, most of them behind the trees but within hearing or smelling distance. Last spring the smell of lilacs wafted over from the Botanical Garden. Tonight it's jazz. My own personal concert.

This summer, it seems that everyone I know is having babies. Though I have yet to meet any of them, there are three (3!) new babies in my life since June 24. Another is due in August. Talk about pressure! I've already discussed the first baby, my nephew Alden, who will someday receive the Buncha Squares Blanket. It's now pieced together and I'm weaving in ends. And then I'll attempt an i-cord edging. Stay tuned.

The second baby, Alexander, belongs to Christopher's cousin. We will meet him in August when we go to Maine. I haven't yet made anything for him. Ideas? (I take suggestions and requests. Hint hint!)

The third baby, Ellery, belongs to my college friend Faye. Faye lives in New York and is the first of my closer friends to have a baby here. Her baby shower was on June 28, and I made a baby tank top for her, since they had been contemplating moving to Texas and I didn't want to risk making something the baby couldn't wear.

I chose Evita, a pattern I found on Ravelry, and used some Brown Sheep Cotton Fine from my stash (yeah, stash buster!) I'm actually not so crazy about pink on a baby girl (too cliche) but perk of using stash yarn outweighed that. The pattern was great, though I had some trouble understanding the lace pattern. The first 2 repeats of it on the bottom were kind of a muddle, so I emailed Sarah (who had just finished the same tank) and she helped me straightened it out. On the other side I tried to make it look similar. I don't think Faye noticed.
One thing I'm not crazy about with this tank is how uneven the stockinette stitch is. I really want to blame it on the yarn (which is 80% cotton and totally unforgiving). I also really want to like this yarn, since it comes in such great colors and is affordable and would be great for more baby things.

And baby number four... I actually made a pair of Elizabeth Zimmernan longies for her back in April, but they are enormous and would probably fit a 2 year old. So I'm regrouping, also with baby pants in mind. A different color, a different pattern... once I get the blanket done I can start on that.

PS. I forgot to mention that I joined the Tour de Fleece. I actually haven't started the challenge yet, which is why it hasn't come up. My goal is to spin the Shetland fleece that Tomo and I dyed back in May. It should be simple, but I have been having so much trouble finding time to spin recently that I kept my goal small.

Tuesday, July 8

more thoughts on art

My knitting projects have become less portable recently. The blanket I'm making for my new nephew is being pieced together, the sweaters are so cumbersome, my mother's cowl needs only to be bound off but it's very fiddly. So instead of knitting on the subway, I've been carrying one of Christopher's old New Yorkers with me.

Today I read the most interesting article about the cave paintings found at Chauvet, France in 1994. I remember hearing about them a few years ago, perhaps when I subscribed to National Geographic. Anyway, the article is all about how the researchers are studying the paintings and caves and trying to figure out who the people were who lived there. To give you some perspective, these paintings are surmised to be 35,000 years old. That's really, really old. The cave paintings at Lascaux, which I studied in my college art history class, are only half that age, but they look so much more primitive. (I am not so comfortable copying over the images from their respective sites, so you might just want to follow the links to see what I'm talking about.)

Anyway, apart from the Chauvet caves being untouched for 35,000 years and the fact that the drawings look like they jumped off an art student's tablet, the article had another really interesting quote:

The authors cited laboratory experiments with subjects in an induced-trance state which suggested that the human optic system generates the same types of visual illusions, in the same three stages, differing only slightly by culture, whatever the stimulus: drugs, music, pain, fasting, repetitive movements, solitude, or high carbon-dioxide levels (a phenomenon that is common in close underground chambers).

Isn't that interesting? (Am I the only one who finds this idea completely mind blowing?) I mean, that trance like state, a state that a monk might easily slip into and that you might call "transcendent," is being compared to shooting up and to starvation. (Yeah, St Francis!)

Of course, they don't explain what those three stages are, and it's not like I'm having visions... but I feel like this is related to the same scary feeling I was trying to explain last week when I was talking about the act of designing, and how I let myself go to my unconscious when I design and how scary that can be. And how I don't feel that same fear when I knit, though in some ways it's similar (because it's a repetitive movement?) though less deep.


Monday, July 7

where I've been

Sorry I've been so absent. I've been here all week: It's all good, it just takes up a lot of time.

Yesterday was our first performance, and now I've got to move on to designing on Christopher's show. We have to see what it looks like in the theater on Friday afternoon, and I am sad to say that I am way behind.

Saturday, July 5

Happy Fourth

I'm too busy to actually write something, so you get just a photo of my Independence Day. Hope you are all relaxing! I'm almost done in the theater... Just a few more days.