Friday, March 30, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: A Tree From Heian Jingu

This is a sculpted tree we saw at Heian-Jingu, a prominent Buddhist shrine in Kyoto. (I'll write more about Heian-Jingu the next time I write about Kyoto.) I really liked how the branches looked spreading out over the water. You can see how the tree needed some man-made support to maintain its artistic growth!

Many thanks to GPG for prettying the picture up for me in Photoshop.

Kyoto, Day 2: The Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle

On the second day of our visit in Kyoto, GPG and I visited the Imperial Palace grounds and Nijo Castle. Unfortunately, as I looked back over the photos I took, I realized that I didn't take very good documentary pictures to show what we actually looked at. I think this is primarily because GPG was quite the shutterbug, and I unconsciously took fewer pictures because I knew he was taking so many. But I did try to take some interesting pictures, even if they don't really give you an idea of what we actually saw . . .

Kyoto used to be the seat of government for Japan for a long time. (I will paint Japanese history in only very rough strokes, because I am definitely no Japanese historian. GPG says the government moved to Kyoto in the 8th century.) Although the government got moved to Tokyo (I think in 1868?), there are still a number of Imperial properties in and around Kyoto that are preserved, at the government's expense, for historical and cultural reasons.

Fortunately for Kyoto residents and all visitors, this means that all Imperial properties are free of charge for entry. This is key when most other tourist attractions usually charge a fee ranging from 400 to 800 yen, or about $4-8 USD. However, in order to gain access to any of these properties, you have to apply at the Imperial Household Agency for a particular entrance time.

Since we weren't sure how far in advance you had to apply for entrance, we decided to go to the Imperial Palace early on in the trip. It turns out that you can enter the same day you apply, so we got a mid-morning tour of the Imperial Palace that same day--and in English, no less!

This is the gate through which nobility entered in order to visit the Emperor:

The tourist guide told us that the Emperor was so important that all visitors had to arrive on foot, except for a few select visitors who were allowed to arrive in ox-drawn carts.

Among various official state buildings on the Imperial Grounds, there was a very large Throne Hall, where the Emperor historically was crowned. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to get anywhere near it. We could only stand at an internal gate and peer at the building across an great expanse of white gravel. (The rest of the palace grounds, as well as the grounds of pretty much every other historical property we visited, were covered in black gravel. The guide told us that the large walled area in front of the Throne Hall got to have white gravel because of the significance of the Hall. The white gravel was supposed to reflect light better and literally increase/figuratively reflect the luminscence of the Hall and the Emperor.)

The Throne Hall and the wall surrounding it were painted in bright vermillion, which, as I mentioned before, was to ward off evil spirits:

I liked the geometry of the columns and the roofs, which is why I took this picture from this particular angle. If you moved left from my vantage point when taking this picture, eventually you would see the entrance of the gate that led to the Throne Hall (the high roof in the picture covers that gate). Then you could look through the gate over the white gravel and squint at the Throne inside its Hall, which was about the size of my index finger across the distance.

In addition to the "public" buildings, the Imperial Palace also held "private" residential buildings for the Emperor and his family. We didn't get to see the insides of any of these buildings, but we did get a drive-by viewing. Through this gate you can see one of the residential buildings, which were less ornate than the public buildings.

In retrospect, I should have taken more pictures of the buildings to document what we saw, but instead, I mostly took pictures of the Imperial Gardens, which were very beautiful. As GPG and I would learn in later days, many gardens used small ponds and pebbled shores to represent the ocean.

The Imperial grounds clearly demanded a lot of careful horticultural attention. While our tour was walking through, we saw some gardeners tending to an area of Imperial moss under some Imperial trees. (I have some pictures to show later--moss is VERY important in Japan. I had no idea there were so many varieties of moss. Seriously--there are hundreds.) The gardeners were wearing special footie bootlets to avoid damaging the moss, and they were very carefully tearing off pieces of sod and moss by hand and assembling a new mossy lawn. It was very similar to how landscapers here in the U.S. will use pre-grown sod and grass to give someone a new lawn really quickly, except that in the U.S. we just slap those squares of grass down, and we don't really care if you can see the original squares of sod because the grass will grow and cover up the lines between the squares eventually. In contrast, the Japanese gardeners were being very careful about making sure that the new mossy lawn they were making looked organic and natural.

There were also a lot of bridges across many parts of the various ponds we saw. I've seen many so-called Japanese gardens in the U.S. that feature crooked or zig-zaggy bridges that run in right angles, the idea being that evil spirits can't cross those kinds of bridges because they can only travel in straight lines. However, all the bridges I saw in Japan except for one wooden footbridge were perfectly straight.

The Imperial Palace was the only place where we got an English-speaking tour. I suspect that our entire time in Japan was probably somewhat culturally stunted because there was no way we could have learned all the really interesting and cool information about all the places we saw. (Although most historical sites had English-language brochures, those don't really substitute for a detailed tour by a docent who knows what he or she is talking about.) So I appreciated that we did get to learn some interesting tidbits on the Imperial tour, such as how traditional Japanese roofs are constructed:

If you look closely, you can see the hundreds of individual pieces of Japanese cedar wood that form the first, lighter-colored layer of roof just above the gold-embossed support beams. Above that is a layer probably about half a foot thick. That layer is made of millions of strips of cedar about the thickness of . . . maybe two credit cards held together. I.e., if you laid two credit cards together on top of a table, the distance from the top of the stack to the table is about how thick those strips are. I can't imagine how much work it took to make a roof like that. The guide told us that these roofs have very good insulating properties, but they eventually decay, so they have to be redone every five years or so. Incredible!

(And, as a funny side note: The English-language tours are for non-Japanese visitors only. You have to show your passport at the Imperial Household Agency to prove that you're not Japanese. While we were at the Agency to apply for entrance to the Imperial Palace, I wondered aloud to GPG why the English tours were only for non-Japanese. When we were actually on the tour, we found out the reason: we were surpassed by a Japanese-language tour probably five times the size of our English-language tour! The Japanese-language tour guide was using a megaphone to explain everything to the Japanese tourists! Apparently, you have to prove that you're non-Japanese so that you can avoid the cattle-call Japanese-language tour and get the much smaller English-language tour.)

Outside of the Imperial Palace proper, there is a large park still within the walls of the Imperial Grounds. This is one of the few public recreational areas in central Kyoto; we saw lots of people there walking their dogs or jogging or cycling.

We also saw some plum blossoms:

Although we missed the cherry blossom season (we were there too early), we did get to see plum blossoms, which were quite beautiful. I never knew there were so many colors of plum blossoms:

Are you worn out yet? We still went to see Nijo!

Nijo is a fortress that was actually built with strategic considerations in mind. The local shogun lived there, although I don't think that Nijo was actually ever used as a defensive position. Nijo's main curiosity is that the hallways of its buildings have "nightingale" floors that were designed and built to squeak when you trod on them. Beneath the floorboards there were metal fixtures that would rub against the underside of the floorboards and make a squeaky noise when floorboards bore any weight. They were designed to alert the people inside the rooms to the presence of, presumably, assassins.

Even military structures like Nijo were still beautiful! This is the corner of the grounds, where presumably a guard post of some type stood at the juncture of the walls.

My pictures got all disorganized, so this was the only Nijo picture I could dig up where you can actually see why it was a defensive position. The stone walls were immensely thick, and all of the entrances had enormous iron gates:

I'm sorry the pictures aren't so great. I'll try to find some better ones later and maybe post them as Eye Candy Friday pictures.

Like the Imperial Palace, Nijo also had beautiful gardens:

Note the straight bridge!

It was amazing how everything was so carefully cultivated and organized. Even the trees were deliberately shaped, just like bonsai trees. It was very rare that we ever saw trees at a site of historical importance growing without any human-imposed direction.

On an unrelated and final note, perhaps the largest demographic group of Japanese tourists besides uniformed schoolkids were geisha wannabes. Apparently, there are places in Gion, the geisha district, where you can fork over a whole lot of money and get dressed up like a geisha for a day. Of course, there are some people who dress in kimonos and other traditional clothing simply because they like to--they own kimonos like they own regular clothes and they go to work and other public places in them. But we did see lots and lots of women at all the tourist attractions who were playing geisha-for-a-day.

I took this picture at Nijo because I thought it was especially funny to capture a geisha (or at least a pretend geisha) in a very un-geisha-like pose:

The one in orange is posing while the one in pink takes a picture of her. It was amusing to watch--these particular women were clearly tourists, and they stood in very affected poses when taking photos of each other (you can see how the one in orange has her hand up to her face). I gathered that they were recreating some kind of ideal geisha image in their pictures.

That's about all I've got in me to post for today. Next up will be Choen-in, Heian-Jingu, and Ginkaku-ji (a.k.a. the Silver Pavilion)!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Flower Basket Shawl The Third!

I can't get away from the Flower Basket Shawl pattern, apparently!

This is my VERY belated Christmas present for my grandmother. My grandmother unfortunately got the short end of the stick when it came to Christmas presents, because once I managed to finish everyone else's presents, I had to start work on the Chairman's birthday present and GPG's Valentine's Day socks, which took an interminably long time to knit. It was only after mid-February that I was really able to make any progress on the shawl.

But I love the way it turned out:

(Please forgive the awkward position in the photo. The only clear wall in the apartment is behind the bed, so I was kneeling on the bed while GPG took the picture!)

Pattern: Flower Basket Shawl, of course
Needles: Inox 24" circulars, US 6
Yarn: Fleece Artist merino sock yarn, "Ivory"
Recipient: My grandmother

I was very, very pleased with the Fleece Artist I used. My aunt, who takes care of my grandmother, suggested a neutral sort of color for my grandmother, so I spent a long time last year looking for some kind of white or near-white yarn that wasn't totally white. I didn't want to be utterly bored with the knitting, you know? I didn't want just plain white yarn. But finding hand-painted, white-toned yarn was quite a challenge! Nothing really seemed suitable until I found this Ivory yarn from Fleece Artist.

It's impossible to see in the picture, but in real life the yarn has really beautiful, subtle variegation that changes from cream to gold to silver and back. It's perfect.

And, lucky for me, I still have a whole other skein! I ordered two, just in case, but managed to use up all of just one. I'm thinking about using the other skein for some nice patterned socks, like Pomatomus or Monkey. The variegation is subtle enough that a pattern will really come through.

I can't say enough good things about the Flower Basket pattern. I've knit it three times partly because for a while it was the only shawl pattern I had, but now that I've also knit the Diamond Fantasy pattern for comparison, I appreciate the genius of the Flower Basket much better now. The pattern is really simple, and easily memorizable once you get the hang of it, but it's so beautiful! And I've also decided that I much prefer the flowing, curvy lines of the Flower Basket to the straight, geometric lines of the Diamond Fantasy. I'll seek out new shawl patterns eventually, especially because I have LOTS of silk yarn from Japan, but I'm very happy with the Flower Basket.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kyoto, Day 1: Kyomizudera and Sanjusangen-do

On our first full day in Kyoto, GPG and I visited two of the city's most famous temples, Kiyomizudera and Sanjusangen-do, which are conveniently located near where the Chairpeople live. These were two very impressive sights to see to begin our Kyoto adventure!

Kiyomizudera is a very large temple in the eastern hills flanking Kyoto. You walk up a hill and up some steep stone steps and enter through this vermillion gate:

Orange, or vermillion, is a lucky color in Japan. It's intended to scare evil spirits away. We saw quite a lot of orange during our time in Kyoto.

Once you get through the enormous gate, you see this:

There are some temple buildings and shrines towards the front of the temple grounds. I'm not sure what they all are used for.

But the main thing Kyomizudera is famous for is the primary temple building, which is partially built out onto the side of the hill. A lot of pictures of the temple feature this enormous wooden platform:

In the picture, they're kind of small, but you can see a big crowd of Japanese schoolkids all mingling around on the platform. Hopefully their small size gives you an idea of just how big the platform is. The amazing thing is that it's entirely made out of wood. A lot of times during the trip, I was impressed with the historical buildings we were seeing precisely because they were made out of wood--not stone, like a lot of European cathedrals are. It's amazing that wooden buildings like that can last for so long. We're talking centuries, if not millennia! It's really jaw-droppingly incredible.

(Oh, and I think Japanese schoolkids must get lots of field trips, because there were lots of them in all of the cultural/historical places we visited. You couldn't escape them.)

Kiyomizudera is also famous for its fountain. Water pours out of three stone spouts, and people use cups attached to long handles to catch some of it. Supposedly, if you drink the water, you will live a long life. I drank the water. GPG didn't.

On a less crowded side of the temple grounds, I discovered a lot of small stone statutes, all wearing colorful bibs:

A lot of the stones were worn and eroded, but the closest one with the white and red big shows that many of them had an image of Buddha on them. Unfortunately, though, I am not sure what these were all for, or why they were wearing bibs. Bibs are a big thing in Japan; we saw many statutes--not just ones like these, but even very detailed stone and metal statues of lions or foxes--wearing bibs. But we never found someone who could tell us why the bibs were important.

Something else that's very prevalent in Japan is "fortune-tying" (my own term, not theirs!). You can buy fortunes printed on thin strips of paper at practically every temple for the equivalent of about three to five US dollars. I'm not sure how the fortunes are generated, but it's basically a luck-of-the-draw thing (think fortune cookie luck), not a buffet-style thing where you can specify the kind of fortune you want. The Chairwoman told me that if you like the fortune printed on your slip of paper, you keep it, and presumably it will come true. But if you don't like it, it's bad luck to throw the paper away.

So, people tie the fortunes to these little stands posted in places around the temple grounds. I caught some teenagers in action actually tying their fortunes:

In some places, the fortune-tying stands are absolutely covered with tied fortunes. Some of them are shaped like trees so that the tied fortunes look like white leaves. More pictures of these things will come later.

After Kiyomizudera, we got lost, but eventually found Sanjusangen-do, a temple which boasts Japan's longest wooden building. (It may also be the longest wooden building in the world, but I'm not sure.) The building is so long because it contains one thousand (that's right, one THOUSAND) golden statutes of Buddha. It's sort of indescribable; you have to see it for yourself to understand the magnitude of these statutes, all around 6 feet tall, standing in long lines one behind the other, shoulder to shoulder. Unfortunately, you can't take photos on the inside of the temple! So you'll just have to imagine it until you go see for yourself.

The amazing thing about the statutes (besides their number) is that they are all DIFFERENT. They all have subtly different serene expressions on their faces, and they each have multiple arms that are all holding a different object. It's amazing to think about how long it must have taken artisans to carve all these different statutes out of cypress and then coat them with gold. And in the thirteenth century, no less! It was really an impressive sight.

I did manage to get a picture of the garden outside, where a plum blossom tree was blooming:

Behind the garden you can see the building housing all the statutes.

Later on our first day, we went to visit the Chairwoman at the Kyoto International School, where she teaches, and we also got to see a photographer's studio and a kimono-painting studio, which was a real treat. One of the school board members of KIS is a professional photographer, and her father is a well-published and highly regarded photographer as well. She was kind enough to take me and GPG to her family's studio, which features photos from her father, herself, and her husband (it's a family profession!). Many of them were of different temples and gardens in Kyoto and were simply beautiful. Japan is a really stunning country, especially as the seasons are changing.

The photographer also lives in the major textile district of Kyoto, so she took us to a kimono-painting studio nearby. Many kimonos have woven patterns, but there are some that feature painted patterns, with embroidery providing the gold and other metallic embellishments.

The painted kimonos at the studio were astounding. Although kimonos are quite simple in their construction--they basically consist of four long panels of fabric (two long ones for the body, with a shorter one on each side forming the sleeves), their beauty comes from the fabric. As a crafty/fibery person, the kimono-studio was right up my alley.

Some of the kimonos we saw were covered in non-repeating designs that covered all the panels of fabric; these designs were painted on after the kimono was assembled. They were really beautiful--just like works of art, with the kimono as a canvas. But, perhaps even more impressive were the kimonos that featured painting only in certain areas of the kimono, like branches of cherry blossoms that stretched diagonally over the bottom of a kimono and across the sleeves. Although these kimonos featured less painting, they were pieced together from the same bolt of silk! That means that the kimono-painter painted identical (but very intricate) designs repeatedly at certain lengths over the entire bolt of silk. In doing so, he had to be precise enough in his painting that when different kimono panels were cut from the same bolt, the design could be lined up properly to present a seamless painting on the finished kimono when the panels were sewn together. This is probably quite simple to do with machine-printing, and it's also probably feasible with some kind of pattern--but the kimono painter worked entirely free-hand! And the designs were sufficiently intricate that you really couldn't tell that they were repeats, either--it looked as though the painter had taken a fully assembled kimono and painted a single beautiful design onto it. It was really impressive.

However, GPG and I felt that it would probably be wrong and gauche to take pictures inside these private studios, especially when the artists themselves were being kind enough to let in people like us (i.e., people who weren't going to buy anything) and show us around, so there are no pictures of these beautiful things. I really would have liked to show you pictures of these amazing painted kimonos, but to no avail. I do have some pictures of woven kimonos--the latest kimono fashions, apparently!--from my visit to the Nishijin Textile Center, so I'll post those eventually.

It's hard to believe that I was in Japan only last week! Already I am forgetting some of the details of my trip! I'll have to hurry and post some more memories before I forget them entirely!

Next up: The Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle! But before that, a knitting break and another shawl!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kyoto Fantasy Shawl!

Hi, folks! I'm back from Kyoto! (Actually, I've been back for five days now, but have only now gotten to surface on the blog. Life has been busy, and I can't believe I was in Japan only last week! The days are really flying by.) And I have lots to blog about!

Japan was GREAT. GPG and I had such a good time there. We spent most of our time in Kyoto, with some day trips to some nearby cities, and we saw almost everything there is to see in Kyoto, which is a lovely, historically rich city. I'm thinking about co-opting the blog for about a week and a half worth of posts to document what we did each day, primarily to record down my memories. That's a pretty selfish endeavor, but I promise that there will be plenty of knitting posts interspersed among the travel posts.

So, to kick things off, I present to you . . .

The Kyoto Fantasy Shawl!

Pattern: Sivia Harding's Diamond Fantasy Shawl
Needles: Inox 24 " circular, US5
Yarn: Koigu, 2 skeins (don't have the labels with me now, so I can't remember which colorway)
Recipient: Me!

I knit this shawl entirely during my trip to Kyoto. I cast on in Terminal B of Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport while we were waiting for our flight to Detroit (where we had a layover), and I cast off on the return flight from Osaka to Detroit eleven days later. I don't sleep well on planes, even on long transoceanic flights, so I was happy to knit most of the time going there and coming back (even if I was completely exhausted at the end of the flights).

The pattern calls for 6 repeats of the diamond stitch pattern for the "scarf," and 10 repeats for the "shawl." Given the other versions of this pattern that I've seen, I figured that I'd knit 6 repeats and then assess my progress. I wanted to wear the shawl on the Saturday after I got back at a fancy schmancy banquet for the journal I work on at school, so it was imperative to finish the shawl before I got back to Houston on Thursday night so that I could block it the day before the banquet. 6 repeats looked like plenty.

I ended up doing 7 repeats, which was just enough to use up all but a few yards or so of 2 skeins of Koigu. I suppose I could have done more repeats and broken into the third skein that I bought just in case, but I was getting very tired on the return flight from Japan. I also didn't want to start on the third skein and use only part of it, which would probably have happened because I was running out of knitting time on the way back. I decided that 7 repeats was probably big enough, and that 1 full skein of Koigu was more useful than half a skein. (Seriously--what can you make with half a skein of Koigu? It's not even enough for baby booties.)

I guess that I must knit lace pretty tightly, though, because the shawl was not as big as I'd hoped, even though I blocked as "severely" as I could, as the pattern instructs. Probably the full 10 repeats in my gauge would have been just right, even though January One's 10-repeat shawl looks totally huge. I also found the I-cord edging to be somewhat fiddly; I probably should have cast off more tightly because the top edge of the shawl is much stretchier than the rest of the shawl, as you can see in the second picture. If I undo the edging, I may just bust into that third skein and knit the remaining repeats.

Anyway, I'm glad to be back home, although I was really unenthused about going back to school yesterday. The good thing to look forward to is that I should be done in about a month and a half! The rate at which time is flying by is just overwhelming . . . !

Monday, March 19, 2007

Off the wagon

"Hello, I'm Seedless Grape, and I stash yarn."

I'm still in Japan and enjoying the country very much. There's a lot to see, even just around Kyoto where the Chairpeople are, and GPG and I have kept busy every day looking at things.

But today I found one more reason to love Kyoto: SILK YARN!

Yes, folks, I fell off the wagon today. Hard. I went to the Nishijin Textile Center with an eye towards learning about Japanese weaving, but instead I came away with over $100 worth of silk yarn. Despite my best intentions, I lasted for about two and a half months of yarn diet before encountering the beautiful, vibrantly bright, and (pretty much) dirt-cheap yarn that I absolutely HAD to buy today. As GPG pointed out to me, I bought over 2 km of silk yarn (red, blue, pumpkin orange, wisteria purple, and raspberry pink-purple) for about $120. I can't wait to show it to you.

Pictures are forthcoming. I'll be back in the States on Friday and will take some time to organize all the photos I've taken, of yarn and otherwise. Hope everyone is having a good week!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ohayo gozaimas!

Good morning from Kyoto! I'm here, and I already like it. Today we are going to explore the city and look at some of the temples and the Imperial Palace. Blogging will be light for two or three weeks, but I'll try to take lots of pictures to show when I get back.

In the meantime, for those who have it--Happy Spring Break!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

MPRE, ho!

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week. I had an edit to do for my journal at school this week, which sucked up a lot of my time, and after I turned that in I've been scrambling to study for the MPRE and to get ready for my trip--on Sunday, GPG and I will leave for Kyoto, Japan!

But right now, I'm off to take the MPRE. Here's to mediocrity on official exams! All I have to do is pass. So I hope I'm professionally responsible . . . but just enough.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Less than Perfect

After my success with the Torrid Socks, I'm afraid the current knitting is somewhat less than perfect.

First, an Odessa:

The Odessa is somewhat less than what I had wanted because I hadn't realized that the beads I chose (semi-translucent white beads) would fade so much into the pale lavender yarn. I bought the beads to use with a dark red yarn (the same stuff I used for my Shedir), this lavender yarn, and a cornflower blue yarn, all Cashsoft DK. The beads looked great on the red yarn, and I think they will be fine for the blue yarn, but they completely disappear in the lavender yarn. You can't even see them in the knitting in the picture, and you definitely can't see the remaining beads stranded on the working end of the yarn. So I am somewhat disappointed. I'll keep soldiering on, though, since this is intended to be a graduation present for a law school friend who's heading off to Palo Alto, CA.

Second, a blue Retro Rib sock:

I'm a little less than thrilled with this sock, too. I'm using KnitPicks Essential Sock yarn, and it's a perfectly acceptable workhorse yarn, but after knitting with luxurious handpainted yarns, the Essential yarn is something of a letdown. It's somewhat scratchy and rough on the hands, and it's not as tightly spun as Socks that Rock, Koigu, or the Wollmeise yarn I've been treating myself to lately. So the stitch definition is not as clear as it would be with a neater yarn.

I'm happy to be knitting the sock, since it's an ingenious pattern that I've wanted to knit up ever since I lost/had stolen a satchel containing a practically finished pair of Retro Rib socks in Lorna's Laces' "Gardenia" colorway. I have lots of handpainted, variegated yarns that I need to knit up, but I'm reluctant to use these yarns for anything more complex than stockinette or plain ribbing, because I've come to the conclusion that more complicated patterns and variegated yarns really don't mix. The Essential yarn is some of the only plain yarn I have, and I was itching to do something more complicated than regular ribbing, so I'm satisfied with the way the sock is turning out. But the knitting certainly isn't as nice as the original Retro Rib/Lorna's Laces experience.

But, beggars who are knitting exclusively from their stash can't be choosers. I'll just power on through these two less-than-perfect knits to move on to the more exciting parts of the stash.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Torrid Socks

The Torrid (hee!) Socks, a.k.a. the Southwestern Easter Egg Socks, are done!

Stockinette + studying for the MPRE = fastest socks ever. I finished these in exactly one week.

I love how the colors didn't really pool all that much (although, of course, it can't be helped around the heel):

Pattern: My own. Generic cuff-down pattern, 60 sts in circumference.
Yarn: Socks that Rock, "Torridon"
Needles: US1 Addi Turbos, 16" and 24" circulars
Recipient: Maybe the Pianist (my new sister-in-law) for her birthday. I made the socks a bit snug on me, so they should be just right for her.

These socks were a great first experience with STR. The colors are unusual but beautiful, the yarn is a pleasure to knit with, and the yardage in the skein is generous--I had a lot left over. I can't wait to knit up the remaining two skeins I have!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Galveston Sunset

I took this photo one weekend in January. The sun was setting and some kind of front was moving in. It made for a nice scene.

Happy knitting to you this weekend!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Southwestern Easter Egg

Currently on the needles: Socks That Rock, "Torridon."

I picked out this yarn for the next pair of socks because I knew I needed to dive in head-first and start using up the sock stash. As I've said before, sometimes I don't want to knit with yarn because it's so beautiful! But I know that I need to get over that reluctance, because what's the point of buying yarn if you don't knit with it?

So I picked out this STR yarn, "Torridon," mostly because the colors were somewhat Eastery and I thought they might be good Easter-type socks. (Of course, I'm seven years old, so associating a word very close to "Torrid" with "Easter" cracks me up.) Knitting up the yarn really makes me marvel at the color genius of those fine ladies at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The colors are beautiful--mustard yellow, deep lavender, sky blue, terra cotta red-brown, and shades in between all these colors--but I never would have put them together and thought, "That'd be a great colorway!"

The yarn is knitting up differently from how it appears in the skein, though. I can't quite explain it, but I guess my initial impression of the yarn in the skein was "Blue-Yellow-Purple." At least, those are the colors I remembered most. But knitting up the yarn, I see that the terra-cotta color and some brown sections predominate with the mustard yellow a lot more than I originally thought they would. It makes me think of the Southwest, for some reason, although I've never really visited the iconic Southwest (like Santa Fe) and wouldn't really know. I guess it's' the terra cotta. Anyway, when I was describing the yarn to GPG, I said it was like a "Southwestern Easter egg."

This picture may give you a better idea of how the colors are playing out:

I've actually made a fair amount of progress since I took these photos on . . . Monday, I think. I'm knitting plain stockinette socks to show off the colors better, so progress is quick. I should have some finished socks by next week, at the latest.

Heh. "Torrid." "Easter." I'm seven.