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Paris

I forgot an FO in my last post: Fetching:

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It has been really chilly here in London, but I don’t need to wear them yet. They’re made of a strand of worsted-weight Plymouth alpaca and a strand of alpaca laceweight (KnitPicks, I think). Should be good for digging my Oyster card out of my bag on a cold morning.

In Paris, I stayed in a very pleasant little hotel near L’Opera and was in meetings all day Friday, but Saturday I had to myself. Here’s what I saw outside my window:
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To say Saturday was a beautiful day is a woeful understatement. Here’s how blue the sky in Paris was:

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After breakfast, I walked to La Droguerie because I had to visit a yarn store. It was in the same general area as the hotel, and it sounded more interesting than visiting a department store. Droguerie means “drug store,” and I assume it got its name from having been set up in an old drug store—it has old wooden shelving, beads in jars as if they were old apothecary supplies—but maybe it’s because it caters to addicts. Sigh. I wish I had been able to go there on a weekday. On a fine Saturday morning, it was crammed full of Parisians. The yarn was gorgeous. There were dozens and dozens of buttons I wanted to take home with me. But I didn’t NEED any of it enough to make it worthwhile to stand on a very long line to be helped by someone who might or might not have the patience to deal with my nasty French. So after touching many hanks of alpaca, I set off for L’Orangerie in the Tuileries.

The original orangerie was a building constructed to protect the king’s orange trees from the cold. It’s been rebuilt a few times, and it has been since 1927 the home of Monet’s ultimate waterlily canvases, Les Nymphéas. When I was last in Paris, it was closed for reconstruction. I’m something of a Monet freak, so I felt like I’d been waiting for my whole life to see these—perhaps since I first encountered the waterlilies owned by MOMA in New York as a teenager and fell in love. Here are some little snippets that I chose mainly because of the palette. I want to knit these colors:

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While I was working on Friday, I interviewed a young woman. She was Italian by birth, spoke fluent French, and spoke enough English to make it through a job interview with a great deal of poise. These trips to the Continent are making me more and more aware of how hard other people work to communicate with me. Yet mostly I won’t even attempt the little French, Italian, or Spanish I know—I’m painfully aware of how bad it is, but that’s no excuse for not trying. At one point on Friday I was forced to ask a woman on the street to help me with directions, and I simply had to attempt to interact with her French. I didn’t do that badly, actually. So I’ve resolved to break out the language tapes, starting with French and Italian, and at least get back what I once had—and to actually make the effort to practice when I go to visit. I can listen to the tapes while I knit!

Yarns and FOs

Well, it’s only taken about a month to “get right back” to this, which considering everything that’s going on, may not be so bad. Besides endless battles with my new Dell, there’s been lots more travel. Here’s a window picture from Manchester, which marked the end of my holiday:

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Between this window and the Tucson window at the end of my last post, I visited New York and Boston to see my kids and friends. The Boston visit ended with a great a Brighton Knit Brunch (a Ravelry group), which turned into a long visit with Double Helix, who ended up driving me to the airport because we chatted for so long, for which I am so grateful!

Back in the UK, I had some holiday and the chance to see a little more of the country—Greenwich, Salisbury, Old Sarum, Bath, and Stonehenge–and to wander into parts of London I hadn’t seen before. On the trip to Stonehenge I actually drove a car (and didn’t hit anything)! As always I took tons of pictures—except for Greenwich, because I forgot the camera. My next electronic treat may be a camera small enough that I can have it with me all the time. Suggestions for good ones are welcome. Here are two London images for your amusement. The first is a headless street performer on the Thames Walk. The second illustrates what I think is the best thing about the jumble that is the London landscape—the justaposition of very new and very old.

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Here at last is the knitting content!

Last week was I Knit Day in London. I Knit is a great shop—a cross between a well-stocked yarn store, a social club, and a pub. I don’t believe I know of any other yarn store that has a liquor license! I’ve gone to a few of their Knit Nights, which they have every Wednesday and Thursday evening. I was eager to attend a knit event in London—especially since the Yarn Harlot made an appearance. Last time I saw her speak was in Massachusetts. I liked her talk even more this time than last, but I didn’t get a good picture of her. These are of the room where she spoke:

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There was also a hall with vendors and presentations, and I bought some yarn. I was able to limit myself to one indulgence, aptly named Seriously Gorgeous, which according to the label is made of 67% silk and 35% baby camel by KnitWitches Yarns. (The extra 2% must be the unbearable softness, and the dye job is excruciating.) I bought three 100 gm hanks to make a wrap, and I don’t want to talk about what it cost!

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I bought the latest Interweave Knits (which I shouldn’t have—I really don’t like anything in it) and one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s books for her to sign.

A cultural aside: I’ve learned that Londoners don’t casually talk with strangers. This is like New York, mostly, but more pronounced. If the train or bus is very late, you might share a brief complaint, but it doesn’t lead to conversation. On a queue (line) in a shop (store) people don’t strike up conversations. Sometimes I’ll ask someone a question, but it seldom leads to much more than a simple answer. I have theories about why this is so extreme—British reserve, the fact that there’s a huge chance the person next to you won’t speak any English, which is awkward, whatever. But if I hear an American voice, it’s easier to strike up a little chat, which is what I did while standing on line waiting for the Harlot to sign my book. It was a long queue, but the wait went quickly as I knitted a swatch and got to know TakePaws.

My other purchase was two pairs of socks. Buying socks at a knitting show sounds a little like taking coals to Newcastle, doesn’t it? They’re made of 55% alpaca and 45% nylon from John Arbon Textiles in Devon. I want to see how they’ll wear. The alpaca sock yarn they were selling had wool blended in the mix, and the socks were beautiful colors . . . so I couldn’t resist. I wore a pair of them last week, and they were fanatastically comfy. I also spent some time fondling the cashmere in the Devon Fine Fibres booth. I’m going to have to arrange a visit to Devon soon!

On the crochet project front, I finished a hat for my daughter from what was left from the Araucania that I recently used to make an Afghans for Afghans hat and gave it to her while I was in the States. I bought a couple of balls of Paton’s cotton at I Knit the first time I was there and have been making dishrags from it. I may get three from each ball.
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Before I left Boston, I finished and mailed to my dad the cozy socks I knitted from Bare Superwash Merino from KnitPicks. There’s quite a lot left from the one ball of that, but not enough for a second pair. It was a good project. I feel pretty confident about the whole toe-up short-row heel thing now, so I’m going to try something in a more traditional sock weight, Maisy, for myself.

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Sorry for the terrible lighting on this photo—taking pictures in hotel rooms can be a challenge. This is a baby afghan for a surprise baby. Two friends adopted a DSS baby in Boston earlier this year, and his first name starts with an L, so I made him a log cabin built of Ls.
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The silk scarf from the Laines du Nord Mulberry Silk was also finished during my travels. It’s a cables and lace pattern. The left side shows the cables, and the right shows more of the lace. Even after it was strenuously blocked, it stretches when I wear it. I could have made it wider and shorter. But when the weather’s cool, I can wrap it twice around my neck and it looks quite nice.

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Window-logue

I must begin by thanking Knitfix for noticing that I’d was missing in action and sending me a message that nudged me back to doing something about this blog. It’s been so long since I posted that I had begun to feel I could never “catch up.” But I don’t need to catch up, do I?—just pick up and move forward. I have to unapologetically warn any lingering readers that this blog will still be a knitting blog, but it won’t be able to help being other things as well. A travel-blogue and an expat-blog for a start.

First things first: I have moved into a flat in Islington, my things arrived, and I’m working away at my new position. I officially began working in the UK on the first of May, but actually left the States on the 9th—three months ago as I’m writing this. Since then, I’ve been back to Boston once (4-day meeting), to Italy (2-day meeting and 3 days at Lake Como), to Amsterdam (1-day meeting), and I’m writing this from Tucson, where I’m visiting my dad, and I’ve been in the States for two weeks this trip. So 26 days of the three months have been spent on the road. And the first three weeks in London were spent in a hotel.

I’ve got several pent-up London posts: the new home of the stash, early forays into knitting groups and yarn shops, the tube and the trains . . . well, you can imagine. This blog has not lain fallow for want of material, but for not being able to find enough time to write without giving up sleep altogether! Since I’m not in London right now, though, I offer a window-logue, with a knitting update to follow in a day or two.

What’s a window-logue? I have a tradition, which I’ve established over the past 10 years, of taking a picture of the view out the window everywhere I stay. Over the past few months, not only have I not kept up with blogging, but sadly, I haven’t kept up with my window pictures, either—I really lost track for a while. So this cannot be comprehensive, but here goes:

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Islington: The view from my room at the Islington Hilton, where I stayed for two weeks in March—the beginning of my “home search” as the relo people call it, and a series of get-acquainted meetings with future colleagues.

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Hoxton Hotel, Old Street. The view from the window wasn’t much, but it was really a very trendy boutique hotel in what my relo person called a “raw” part of town. I was here for a few days in April—during which I saw 16 flats and picked the one I’m living in now.

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Pink bedroom: This was taken from the back bedroom window in my flat before I moved in. It was the daughter’s room (hence the intense pink), but since it faces the garden, I took it as my room.

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New Jersey: Okay, this is taken from the wrong side of the windows, but there’s a good reason for that. At one point, I had a position that required me to travel from Boston to New Jersey every week because half of the people who reported to me were there. I stayed in this hotel every time I went. I had to make a visit to the NJ office before I left the US, so I took this farewell shot of what was once my home away from home. Cozy, eh? We called it the “deathstar” because it was so imposing, but it’s not a bad hotel at all.

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Lake Como: I had a two-day meeting in Milan (where I forgot to take a window shot) and afterwards took a long weekend in Verenna to try to relax. At that point, my things were on a boat, my flat wasn’t ready to move into, I had to get out of the hotel in Holborn (where I also neglected to take a picture), and I was starting to melt down. It rained nearly the whole time I was there.

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Boston: Soon after I moved into my flat and my things arrived, I made a quick trip to Boston for a meeting and stayed at the Radisson in the Theatre District. The Hancock is my favourite building in Boston—maybe one of my favorite anywhere. My daughter came up from New York and stayed with me—kind of a funny mother/daughter pyjama party.

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Kitchen window: This is the view from my kitchen window in London. The part of the garden you can see is actually the part used by my upstairs neighbor.

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Miami Beach: I spent nearly two weeks in Florida. The first week was in Hollywood, and I didn’t take a picture. Both Miami and Hollywood were brutally, unpleasantly hot and crowded. I like Miami better, though because of its edginess and Cuban food.

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Miami Beach again: I took this the morning I left. I can’t resist those pinks and blues.

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Tucson: Some contrast with the last picture, huh? This is what happens when I’m paying the hotel bill to visit my dad. What a typical view!

Tomorrow morning early, I go to New York! Knitting and crocheting post to follow quickly, but this has gotten just too long.

Here’s what Regent’s Park looked like two weeks ago when I walked through on a sunny, though chilly, day:

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This morning, the BBC site said that it was snowing in London! A white Easter. How awful.

But I’m back in Boston, where it’s cold and sunny, with my latest crop of traveling FOs and a new WIP. First, a scarf made of Baby Alpaca Grande Paint on size 10 needles. I used all of four balls, and it’s nearly eight feet long. Extravagant. But it’s not too wide, so it wraps and ties well:

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The colors are somewhat spring-like, yet it’s appropriately warm. The stitch came from the Yarn Harlot’s “One-row homespun scarf” recipe, with a minor change. Instead of a multiple of 4+2, I stuck with a multiple of 4 and slipped the first stitch of every row instead of knitting it. It gave me a nice even selvedge. The stitch itself gives a very dimensional look to the fabric, which I love.

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Next, Ysolda’s Gretel, which I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. I first made it “slouchy,” but it was too much—it overpowered my smallish sized head. I ripped it back and did the semi-slouchy version, and I just love it. It’s knit in Mirasol Miski (100% llama and unspeakably soft) on size 7 needles. The pattern was incredibly well written!!

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And for my final FOs, two more charity hats. One was made from Nashua Handknits Wooly Stripes, which I got out of a sale bin. If I could wear wool, I would wear this. The other is single crochet in Araucania Nature Wool, two skeins of which came out of the same sale bin. It looks like I can make two more of the same, which is basically two more trips from Heathrow to Boston with no knitting needles—that’s pretty much exactly how much time it took.

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And a new traveling WIP. A cables and lace scarf made from Laines du Nord Mulberry Silk in Taupe. I have two balls (from a different sale bin), and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have enough for at least four feet. I suppose I could make it narrower, if I need to.

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So my portable project strategy seems to be working. I still have two unfinished sweaters, but I’ve given myself permission not to think about them until I’ve moved. I think I’ll try fingerless gloves next. That will be a handy thing to have next year when I’m commuting in London!

Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy spring to all!

FOs large and small

It’s been a month since I’ve posted—I can’t believe it! And tomorrow I’m off to London again for two weeks of business and relo stuff. Before I go, a quick update. The crocheted afghan is finished, and along with two hats made from the scraps, was sent off to Afghans for Afghans in time for their Campaign for Newborns.

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The afghan ended up consuming 24 skeins of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, so it should keep some baby nice and snug.

Amazing how easily the crocheting came back to me. Also amazing how much harder it was on my wrist than knitting. I’m quite happy with the afghan, and I’ll take another crochet project with me (kids’ hats this time) in case I think I can’t get my knitting on board for my return flight from Heathrow. But I’m a knitter who crochets—I don’t think I’ll ever be a crocheter again.

I thought I’d share a brief detour into the distant past, though. A tunic made from mercerized thread in a tablecloth motif back when I could actually get away with wearing something so funky:

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Back to the present—also in the FO department, a finished scarf from Muench Touch Me Due. What amazing stuff, and I love the scarf. Here it is:

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Here’s what it looked like before “felting”:

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The fabric does take on a lovely antique appearance after washing and drying, and it’s soft as can be. Normally I can’t wear anything against my skin with even a small wool content, but this doesn’t itch at all. The wool must be in the core of the chenille or something.

On the down side, though, after all the trouble I took with the cable pattern, it can hardly be discerned in the finished fabric. And unfortunately, the yarn is every bit as expensive as it is soft!

Since I’ve been home, I’ve worked on the cashmere cardigan a bit, trying to get the neck and shoulders right. The fabric is so stretchy that it all has to be pinned out on a blocking board just to see what’s what and measure it. So that project, as well as the infamous green sweater, are impossible to travel with—not because they’re big, but because they require measuring and trying on and tugging at and fussing over. Life right now demands projects with good variety but few challenges, whether I’m traveling or at home. The afghan, hats, and scarf really provided that. So I’m going off to London tomorrow with more of the same—some baby hats, Gretel for me, maybe a lacy scarf. I wish I were more fluent in sock knitting, but my inexperience makes even those too fiddly. Sweaters will definitely have to wait until I’m settled in the new home I have yet to find!

WIPs and Trips

I’ve been back from Athens for one week, and I think my jet lag may finally be gone. The time difference going west to San Francisco (-3 hours) doesn’t usually bother me much, but I returned from there, spent less than 48 hours at home, and then went off to Athens (+ 7 hours). I don’t think I ever really caught up in Athens, but it was an amazing trip.

San Francisco was hard work the entire time. I had planned a day off at the end for myself, and it shrank into about half a day off. Though the day was anything but clear

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I was very clear about what I wanted to do with that time. A nice long walk, and this was my destination:

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Yes, I sat and swatched—once I had looked at and touched every color of every yarn in the place. I ended up with two strands of Golden Chai in different colorways. The darker one has some very deep teal hidden in it, and the highlights in the lighter one pop when they’re together. It has the feel of a very fine wool (which I don’t wear), and I think it will make a very simple, elegant stockinette pullover that will be nice for work. As you can see, the cones, which I had sent to me because she didn’t have enough of one of the colors, have already arrived.

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Then I had dinner in Chinatown with a friend at a restaurant that I’d never been to, but that’s been there forever, House of Nanking. Very tasty. And I was happy because I’d managed to have fabulous sushi twice while I was there as well!

Oh and what else happened in San Francisco? I accepted the job in the UK! So here’s my yarn buying pledge: No more yarn except exceptionally special souvenir purchases until after I move and fully unpack. Target date for the move: May 1, 2008. I’m about to panic.

Athens was a fabulous blur. I was working pretty hard—getting to know many of the people I’ll be working with and trying to remember who was already supposed to know and who wasn’t. I had two days at the end for sightseeing and took a couple of day trips with a tour company. Altogether I saw a bit of Athens, Cape Sounion where the Temple of Poseidon is situated, and the Strait of Corinth, Mycenae, and Epidauros on the Peloponnese.

This is the Acropolis from my hotel window. You can see how hazy the air is—Athens is as dirty, busy, and sprawling as everyone had told me it would be, but I still could have stayed a few more days. The Parthenon is nicer at a distance—and even more so at night where you can see it from nearly anywhere in the city. Close up, you see that it’s covered in scaffolding. Athenians still curse the name of Lord Elgin, who took away so many of the good bits and did so much damage.

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Heathrow update/WIP: My flights in and out of Athens were booked through Heathrow (not a good choice, but that’s the way it worked). There are still no knitting needles allowed through security there, so I came up with this strategy: I had a bunch of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes I had bought on sale for charity knitting. I had been planning to do something for the Afghans for Afghans campaign for newborns, and the last time I was at their site, I noticed that they said they especially liked crocheted baby blankets because they’re denser. I haven’t crocheted anything more than a seam or an edging in years, but I thought I could probably get a bamboo crochet hook through security. I slipped the hook in with my pens and pencils and had the yarn in a ZipLock bag. I packed a second crochet hook in my suitcase just in case, but it wasn’t needed.

Before I left I did a “design.” I settled on a simple chevron pattern, and I had 16 balls of WoTA: 4 each of Arctic Pool Heather, Forest Heather, Amber Heather, and Firecracker Heather. I decided on a width based on AforA’s specifications and the size of the pattern, and then crocheted one stripe using two strands of the Amber Heather and a size K hook until the first two balls were used up. I got 8 rows out of them, and the fabric is dense but not without drape. I used a screen grab to get color samples from the Knit Picks site and got to work in Paint Shop Pro (which I use because I’m too cheap to buy—and too lazy to learn—Photoshop). As I was working on the color sequence, I realized I needed a fifth color, so I ordered 4 balls of Amethyst Heather to fill out the palette. I ended up with fat stripes and thin stripes and alternated them so that I’d get one fat stripe and two thin stripes of each color and tried to keep the color balanced. Here’s the design and the in-progress afghan:

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As of today, I’m 52 rows through the 80 in the design, and I’m pretty happy with it, though the red pops way more than I thought it would. Also, the chevron pattern wants to accordion on itself, and the vertical edges curl just a bit. I’m hoping the whole thing relaxes when I wash it and lay it out to dry. If there are any crochet-heads out there who know whether I’m kidding myself on this, let me know. I don’t really want to crochet an edging along the sides. There will be about an ounce of each color left when I’m done, so there will probably be a stripey hat to go with this.

Meanwhile, I’m remembering why crochet is not my sport of choice. If I work it too long, my wrist hurts. I have to look at it much more when I’m working. And most of all–if I notice a problem in a previous row, I either have to pull everything out or live with it. On the other hand, it’s a good solution to flying where needles aren’t allowed, and even if they do take your hook, the work won’t unravel on you!

Happy New Year

I had visions of doing a comprehensive end-of-year post looking back at my foray into blogging, the advent of Ravelry, etc., but I just can’t seem to find a quiet moment. So I thought I’d at least take enough time to wish everyone a good start to 2008.

I’m off tomorrow to San Francisco for a week (business) and looking forward to finding a few minutes to sneak off to Artfibers, which is not too far from the hotel. Of course—just what I need is more yarn. My stash is looking very different now that I’m pondering the possibility of packing it up and moving it to another continent. Airline travel does encourage knitting, though!

Happy knitting and crocheting to everyone, and a peaceful and productive new year.

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