Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Warning: Cold Slimy follows...

Example of how NOT to take a photo.
Lately I've been discouraged.  I'm not sure exactly what it is.  The weather?  The annual onset of holiday stress?  Or just the general pessimism that comes with an economic downturn.  Still, I can pinpoint one the reasons that my enthusiasm has been firmly curbed.

Nearly a full week before Black Friday, my boyfriend and I braved crushing crowds in pursuit of a spice rack at JCPenny's.  On our slow and tedious way towards the escalator, we shuffled past the section devoted to winter accessories.  That's where I found my own personal rain cloud, disguised as sock monkeys, felt eyed frogs and owls, garter stitched pandas and penguins.  Admittedly this particular storm had begun brewing much earlier and across the country.  This is evidenced by a picture I took of some hats in a store along the "boardwalk" at Newport beach on the last day of my visit home.

These adorable hats (click here for more examples) are the latest example as to why I should stop trying to pursue knitting things for others.  Lovely machines churned out these little gems, no doubt in places where the labor regulations are more accommodating for the bottom line of companies like JCPenny (who owns the brand Arizona Jeans; the label these babies are imported under).  As a knitter I notice that not only is the fleece lining sewn in, but the shaping of the crown is done by cutting the knitted fabric and then using a sewing machine; this is basically like watching someone put packets of ketchup on filet mignon.

To add insult to injury, is the reason of WHY these hats are considered cute and chic...  It's because they try to look handmade.  Basically the first stitch a knitter learns is... well, the knit stitch.  After a number of rows of this you have a fabric that has been done in "garter stitch".  This is is the foundation of knitting, just like the foundation of reading are the letters of the alphabet.  Essentially, they want to appeal to the crowd that likes to look at handcrafted items on Etsy, but would prefer to pay less.  But who are you supporting when you pay less?  It's not unreasonable to assume that you could be supporting sweatshop conditions.  According to Green America's Retailer Scorecard which wants to curb sweatshop practices, JCPenny earns the grade of D- (out of a typical A-F grading system) for subcontracting to five companies out of the nine named with documented poor human rights records.

Thank you for letting me share my own personal rain cloud.  I can daydream about trying to make a living doing various things with knitting; but perhaps it should remain just that - a daydream.  There's no way I can compete with the sweatshops.  The cost of materials and shipping alone are typically at the upper limit of what the average American would pay for a knitted accessory.  When I make something I don't expect or hope to get minimum wage for my time, but I'd like to help the household expenses a bit.  The silver lining?  There are a handful of people out there that have been willing to support my daydream.  Moral of the story: if you want something that looks handmade, buy handmade... and the spice rack?  I'll get one elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Intimidated by warm fuzziness

Confession:  while I yearn for luxurious fibers to knit with, I cringe at the thought of actually using them.  Silk?  Mohair?  These are idols I worship at, not merely yarn to be used as I would an acrylic.  Gracious relatives that know me and my addiction have gifted  me with some of these amazing yarns.

Among my gems are five skeins of Rowan's Kid Silk Haze in a color called "Marmelade" and three skeins of Noro's Silk Garden, also made with silk and kid mohair with a touch of lamb's wool.  While I did celebrate a thirtieth birthday earlier this month... these are actually gifts from previous years.  

What have I been doing with these luscious fibers?  Mostly hoarding them, like a dragon.  In fact, I don't want you to look at them too hard in case it makes them lose a touch of their softness or their enviable coloring.

While I did flirt with projects for each of these yarns, I still couldn't bring myself to try them for fear I'd screw up on the pattern.  Yes I know I can unravel them; but I don't want my precious yarn to lose anything from my mistakes.  Besides, the inevitability of needing to trim ends and thus CUT these beauties?  I'd rather slash a finger... well not quite, but close.  

In my heyday of playing World of Warcraft, I was very very tempted to use the Noro to make my own Murgle from a pattern called "More than a Fish" by Ixetal Cilona.  However, having had no experience with making amigurumi, it seemed like a terrible idea to try and learn on my precioussssss Noro.  Still, aren't they cool?  Just check out some of the finished ones like Nordly's on Ravelry.

Also I thought about using the Rowan's Kid Silk Haze with a project posted in the Winter 2007 issue of the ezine Knitty.  Featured was this gorgeous cowl pattern by Rosemary Hill called "Ice Queen".   The yarn is so lightweight that you can put small beads on it which look like little ice crystals.  Even though this yarn is as light as a feather, the "haze" makes it surprisingly warm, all while being so soft you just want to rub it until your fingers fall off.  Of course it wouldn't have been very "ice queen-ish" in the marmalade hue, but doesn't that mean it would be warming in color as well?  Then the sad realization hit me.  I don't wear cowls.  And while I usually give away nearly everything I knit, the hoarding dragon within me wants to hold onto these luxury fibers even after they stop being in skein form.  Then again, knowing me, that may never happen.  

Oh the materialism!  It reminds me of when I was in grade school and Junior high.  I would get these Lisa Frank stickers.  While I loved looking at them, I never stuck them to anything.  I knew that whatever it was would eventually be tossed or forgotten and I couldn't stand that; so in my desk they remained.  After discovering boys I did happen to forget about my Lisa Frank stickers.  That was of course until I found them again in my college years.  Finally I was able and grateful to use them.  They were perfect for sticking all over government addressed envelopes, when taxes were due, responding to jury duty, etc.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

... he called me Nurse Ratched!

Total Knee Replacement
My father is currently working his way through his fourth week of recovery from his total knee replacement.  Working being the operative word, since for him to get the most out of his surgery he needs to be in a constant rotation of walking, physical therapy, and icing the joint to keep the swelling down.

The surgery and hospital stay occurred at Kaiser Permanente's Sand Canyon facility in Irvine.  Despite replacing parts of his femur and tibia, they had him walk away from the operating table.  No rest for the wicked, eh?  Due to some complications that came as a result from an anti-nausea medication he stayed in the hospital a few days longer than originally anticipated.  I have no idea why, but dear old dad was in a lather to get back home.  When I visited him in the hospital, he had his own room.  Everyone that came in was warm and friendly, even the woman who maintained the cleanliness of the room.  While I was there he had a visit from a Golden Retriever named Meggie.

Hospital Harpist?
If that weren't enough later on soft music began drifting into the room.  I glanced out into the hallway from his room and said "Dad, there's a harpist in the hallway."  Not a sentence you anticipate hearing, let alone in a hospital.  My father felt the same way, replying with, "You're kidding."  I think that he, even like me, didn't quite believe his eyes.  The lovely harpist even nodded a consent to let me photograph her.  When she had finished her song my father thanked her, and she replied quietly and shyly that Kaiser had asked people from the local symphony to come volunteer and play for people in intensive care.  Again... why he was in such a hurry to get home I'll never know.

Where'd they put that 3"?
Unlike most patients, my father was replacing his knee not due to constant pervasive pain in the joint, but rather because he had so little range of motion.  This is largely a result of a motorcycle accident he was involved in during 1997 ( I remember it was April-ish of my Sophomore year), where they placed some serious hardware in his knee.  The total knee replacement made the hardware unnecessary, but don't worry, the pops has maintained it as a souvenir/trophy.

Nurse Shirley on duty
Once he was home my Dad and I had some serious bonding time; aided by Doc Martin on Netflix and some gnarly pain killers they prescribed to him.  With the pain killers being on a four hour rotation, my father's physical therapy two to three times a day, and the required elevation of his leg and icing; for the first two weeks my dad and I were busy most of the day everyday with his recovery.  Oh!  Great tip:   make your own gel-ice bags with a gallon ziploc and 3 parts water to 1 part rubbing alcohol.  So, due to my nagging ways, my father sometimes called me his Jiminy Cricket or Nurse Ratched; depending on his mood.  Of course I maintain that the negative comments were caused solely by the pain killers wearing off; and never by my own poking and prodding.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Back in Chicago

Here I am, my first full day back in Illinois and it's about time for me to catch up on my blogging.  Seems like an ideal time to blather about one of the major reasons as to why I went home in the first place.

Fall color just before I left
Originally I had a vague notion about wanting to be home for my 30th birthday.  Then, while trying to nail down the dates with my mother; she mentioned that the end of October and the end of November were going to be a little busy for her.  It's not unusual for my mother to be stressed out in early November, since she works with Los Angeles County and one of her responsibilities has to do with making sure all voters have requested materials and know their polling place.  On top of all of this, my father had scheduled his total knee replacement for October 24th, which required a caregiver for the first week or so after he got out of the hospital.  My silly mother.  She had been wringing her hands and wondering how she was going to pull everything off, and didn't want to impose by asking her daughter to come home early to help.  I swear, this woman makes Atlas look like a pansy.

November Nudes
Anyway, I offered, and got to spend nearly a month at home.  Part of it was spent finally being able to turn the tables a little bit and help my folks out.  Unfortunately, being at home and without my computer didn't exactly lend itself to being able to blog on a regular basis.  So, in an effort to get back into the swing of things I'll be posting multiple times this week.  Must say, it's great to be back with the boyfriend here in Illinois; but he did something terrible to the trees around here, they're all naked now!