26 November, 2007

Felted Zig Zag Tote

And finally, an original pattern!

(This being the 1st time I've intentionally felted anything, it must have had some beginner's luck because I think it came out swell).

Note: I took the high contrast 14 stitch zig-zag chart from Kaffe Fassett's Pattern Library, and I'm sure he must have gotten it somewhere. It hardly seems copywritable, since it's so simple. Here's a snapshot of the chart.

Ok: before felting, 15 1/2" wide, 18" tall. After 15 minutes in the washing machine: 10 1/2" wide, 15" tall.

Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, 1 skein silver, 1 1/2 skeins orange
MC: orange
CC: silver

With MC, loosely CO 140 sts, knit one round. Join CC and pm, then follow chart. Knit 10 repeats of the pattern, and using your brain, finish the last CC triangle without making a new one start, i.e., use MC across each pattern repeat, slowly phasing out the top of your CC triangle. Once CC is completely phased out and those zigzags are no more, knit one round MC, then knit another round MC decreasing every 10 sts or so. Doesn't matter, but this is to keep the bag from flaring out more than is attractive and functional. Knit one more round, purl one round, knit one round, and cast off using k2tog, slip back onto L needle, k2tog, etc.

Pick up the 140 sts at the bottom of your bag (the cast on edge) and k20, pm, k50, pm, k20, pm, k50, pm. Miter the corners by k2tog before each marker and ssk after each marker, until no more sts are left on the sides. I used the 3 needle bind off for the bottom of the bag: since it's going to be felted, you won't see that seam. You can mattress it if you want to.

Side one: Pick up 4 sts a few inches in from the side of the bag, i-cord for quite some time (sorry, I forgot to measure, but make them about twice as tall as the bag), attach to the same place at the other end of that side (make it symmetrical). Repeat for the other side of the bag.

Washed on hot/cold, heavy duty, smallest load with one pair of jeans. It was felted just fine after about 15 minutes. Stuff with towels, shape, and let dry.

After felting, you'll have these terrifically long straps, so you can do as I did or get creative: I grabbed one of those long straps and twisted it around and down, essentially doubling it. Then using MC yarn and a Chibi needle, I whip-stitched the center of the middle loop to the top of the bag. Repeat for each side. (illustration coming soon to remedy that horribly inadequate description). Wrap the top loops up on each side so that you don't have zillions of handles to deal with.

18 November, 2007

A knitted hat: just make it up

In the midst of all this gift knitting (which is fun, I swear, and it suits my startitis very well since I have about eleventy-billion projects all going on at once), I feel an urge to knit something for myself. It's the last thing I should be doing, of course, but what's one more barely-started project, eh?

I used to have this gray tam. It wasn't as full as your typical made-to-stuff-full-o-dreds tam, but it certainly wasn't as slim as a beret. It was perfectly in the middle. I found it in a thrift store. It had a lining knit out of smooth, thin yarn but the outside was a worsted weight cabled affair and man, I wore that cap out. I think it made it all the way through college, but I haven't seen it in a few years. In any case, it's time for a new favorite hat.

My local yarn store was having a final final sale this weekend, and although I had already looked at this yarn once when it was just mostly on sale, something about the complete and thorough markdown made me realize just how nice it is. Bulky, soft, excellent colors, and 50% off. Hello, yarn.

My beef is: I can't find that perfect pattern with which to replicate the old gray hat. I've gone back to Ravelry many times to search through the pattern browser, I've looked through all my magazines, books, and print-outs, and I think I'm just going to have to make it up. I've got a pencil and a calculator and an EZ book... Stay tuned for what may be my first great pattern ever.

(For the knitters in the audience: Last night I started knitting it from the ribbing up, but had calculated incorrectly and it looked like the hem of a sweater, so I ripped out, started from the top down, and realized there was just no way to work out what cables I wanted to put in where, plus I was knitting with size 8's and I should be using at least a 10. So, ripped again. Back to the drawing board.)

A few of my favorite things

When the papers call out to be written, I respond... by playing with pretty things on the Interwebs.

Credits and more here.

15 November, 2007

HCMC Top 6

I don't know if i ever got around to posting this back in the spring, but I've been talking with a few people who are going to Vietnam for Xmas, so this is for them.

Written in March '07

In a fit of premature homesickness for my adopted city (which I am now sadly leaving), I decided to make a list of my top favorite things to do in HCMC. These are things I think that everyone passing through the area should do/see/eat at least once.

Best Ice Cream: Fanny Ice Cream

Their flavors are consistently amazing—as in, you’ll be amazed at how authentic the flavors taste and how real the ingredients are. My favorites are, in order: green tea ice cream; ginger ice cream; and the “I can’t believe it’s just chocolate and not crack” chocolate ice cream. Worth the price of a plane ticket at least. And if you’re lucky enough to be in town on the first Friday of the month, the Ice Cream Buffet is every thing it sounds like and more, and is simply the best bargain an ice cream lover could ever hope to find. And if that’s not good enough, they deliver—all at prices cheaper than New Zealand ice cream (the popular grocery store brand that you can buy at Citimart).

Best Vietnamese Resteraunt: Quan An Ngon

Rumour has it that some savvy Viet Kieu spent a year traveling all over Vietnam sampling street stall fare and invited the best to come join his (or her?) restaurant, cooking exactly what they were best at, but in a much more sanitary and stable environ. The food is affordable and delicious, plus you can see it being made along the outer corridor of the bottom floor. But eat upstairs- the lighting is yellowy and soft, the fans have misters attached, and you can look over the balcony and see all the waiters rushing around. To try: the green papaya salad with shrimps and pork, any of the noodle soups, and definitely the sweet black bean desert (che) and the floating cakes found almost at the end of the menu. The salad rolls rock.

Best Overpriced Drink: The Saigon Snowball at Vasco’s
If you don’t mind spending $3 or $4 on a cocktail, and have a penchant for 90’s cover bands, then Vasco’s really is a fun place to hang out. I inadvertently met some of my favorite people there (we were all looking a little sheepish at being at such an obvious expat-only venue) and it’s got a good outdoor seating area. The Snowball is an alcohol spiked desert in a chilly glass, made mostly of crème de menthe and ice cream. What’s not to like? And now for something not edible:

Best Real Massage: The Shiatsu Place on Nguyen Binh Khiem, across from the Somerset Hotel
This place has trained masseurs who wear immaculate white uniforms and from the moment you walk in, everyone is polite, professional, and best of all mostly quiet. If you’ve been getting backpacker massages and you’re sick of paying little but getting little, this place is a relief in lots of ways. It almost feels like a doctor’s office sometimes, albeit a nice smelling, prettily lit one. There’s no sketchy undertones, no gabbing while giving a rubdown (which is a pet peeve of mine—who needs to hear giggling whispers while their upper thigs are being squeezed?), and probably the best thing about it is before (or after) your massage, you are welcome to liberally use the showers, steam bath, and sauna. The latter two rooms are deliciously scented with fresh ginger, cinamon and menthol. You are sometimes given iced Vietnamese tea to drink, and sometimes not (can’t really figure out how to consistently make that happen yet). A sixty minute body massage is 90,000 dong. Some of the masseurs are gently, some do deep tissue work, and some just make lots of clapping sounds against your skin. If you like it therapeutically rough, ask for massage therapist number nine and you’ll be walked on, cracked and popped, and practically beaten up in the best way possible. Tip well and be happy.

Best neighborhood to walk around in: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai at the Cho Thi Nghe Market (which is at the border of District 1 and Binh Thanh District)
Maybe it’s because it was the first market I experienced when I moved to Saigon, but this one really has it all in my opinion: there’s never any other travellers or expats, which means you actually feel like you’re in a Vietnamese market, and the prices are so, so much lower than at Ben Thanh. I really enjoy eating a meal there, buying veggies and shrimp, checking out the flower stalls, and buying sweet treats. Everyone is really friendly and seem genuinely pleased when you come out with even the most rudimentary Vietnamese. The streets around the market, including the clogged and smelly Thi Minh Khai (which changes its name somewhere around the market to Xo Viet Nghe Tinh) have seemed to me to be the most authentic downtown neighborhood- it’s full of city people doing city things, and life in multiple generations just teems over the sidewalks and in and out of the streetfront stores. You can find anything in this neighborhood—including the best and cheapest kem tuoi (soft serve ice cream) in popular Vietnamese flavors. To find the kem tuoi shop from the market, cross the street (be careful) and start walking away from the bridge until you get to the big Nokia shop on the corner of Nguyen Cuu Van. Turn left there, and walk down a block or so. Ice cream is on the left. I recommend the taro flavor (it’s purple).

Most Useful Hand Gesture: The Jazz Handed “No Thanks”

You can say khong to your heart’s content, and even throw in a few omphful nos, but when it comes to stopping those (flower girls/xe om drivers/ persistent coconut sellers) in their tracks before they can begin their litanies, nothing has been better to me than the “no thanks” hand gesture. It doubles, as you will find, as the “we don’t sell that,” “we’ve run out” and “I don’t understand you” hand gestures. To make, hold up a hand about shoulder level, palm flat and fingers spread, and rotate the wrist back and forth just a wee bit in each direction but at a high speed (Fosse hands, if you will). It’s a little like the American “kinda sorta” gesture, but higher up on the body. Think of it as a groovy hang ten, but with all the fingers involved. Couple this with a wrinkled up nose and no eye contact with those whose services you wish to decline, and they will drop away and look for the next potential customer. Works like Magic (To Do). Heh.

(there was going to be more, but I got busy... now I miss everything, so it'd be hard to try to discriminate enough to get a top anything).

13 November, 2007

This was such a sad day. The kids in afterschool were just so horrible to each other. Their actions made me feel this sort of disproportionate hopelessness that I know will go away as soon as they have one good day together, which may well be tomorrow, but right now my ears are ringing with shunning remarks and screaming voices. It's after a long day of school, I know they have steam to blow off, but seriously, this is Montessori school. All they've been taught is kindness and respect and patience, and somehow, every few days, they just all seem to feed off of each other and I'm in the middle of this lip-quivering accusative mosh-pit trying to calm everyone down simultaneously.

And I fell off the road on my way home and there are dishes in the sink and a paper to write and I am just so, so ready for Friday, when half of the kids don't stay after and we have this sweet, manageable little group.

Plus, a dear friend and I talked last night, and she just found out her Mom has been given one year to live. Now that's sad.

12 November, 2007

Tens of thousands of words worth

Just returned from the very sunny, very dry city of Prescott, AZ. Adventures included knitting the world's fastest mini-sock for the elderly masseuse sleeping next to me on the flight out there; finally having a productive, satisfying chat with my advisor; sleeping in a narrow slot in between two mattresses on the floor and waking up feeling unbelievably, extraordinarily comfy; and of course, exploring the town's restaurants and yarn shops. There were some great student presentations, a few very helpful and informative faculty presentations, and a horrific 80-minute power point presentation given to us by the keynote speaker at 7pm on Saturday night. All in all, a good weekend.

Oh, and I took pictures this time.

04 November, 2007

How does he do it?

I've been living in Williamsburg for about 3 months now. And I've made a handful of friends, nice ones, and I'm glad to know them. I go out sometimes; I know a few fun places to be. My step-brother has been living in Madison for the same amount of time but is apparently rocking the world apart with his fast-acting, high-quality social skills and good taste (which might have something to do with the cool factor of Madison compared to, let's say, Williamsburg). Read about his amazing new life here.

02 November, 2007


Behold how good and pleasant when brethren dwell together in the city...

Yet another post reflecting on the joy I get from living within a bikeable distance of everything (as well as the joys of November weather).

I know the value of a good car trip every now and then, when you've got a comfy seat and a good NPR show to listen to, and the miles count themselves out behind you. That can certainly be enjoyable. I love train travel and airplane travel (as long as it doesn't happen too often within a given amount of time, then it's a pain) and I also like taking short trips on public busses. I occasionally even enjoy the rare suburban safari, stalking good deals from the big box store, usually accompanying my Mom, which means bonding and a grilled dinner are sure to follow. But for errands or exploring, especially if you have the day off, nothing beats a bike. Well, nothing beats a bike in a city, however small it may be.

Williamsburg today is grey and really windy, but we can all still feel the scorching days that stretched September and October into one long July, and it feels great to finally cool off. So we turn our bare necks towards the chill and crunch through the leaves, like we never thought Fall would actually happen again. I celebrated the return of Fall weather this morning (as well as my day off) by straightening up the apartment, not in any OCD way but just until it achieved a nice, normal, it's-nice-to-live-here kind of cleanliness, and then Kenny and I rode the short distance over to the W&M library so that I could return my textbooks from my last course (Motor Development, basically) and choose ones for my next course (Crafts of the Appalachian mountains, basically). Forget needing a campus parking pass, forget circling around and around, hunting down a space. Bikes go straight from our back door to the door of wherever we're going. Around noon we biked into our quaint little bricked downtown area to have lunch at one of the frou-frou sandwich shops (my avocado wrap was good, but the chicken looked and tasted just like the turkey, which is hmm) and then we parted, he to a seminar and I to my errands (bank, drug store, Indian grocery, home). On the bike, off the bike, lock it up, back on, quick as a fox. Ha ha, cars.

Ok, I admit that I also stopped at our little kinda-ghetto nail salon for a leg wax and a pedicure. I like to practice my Vietnamese, and everyone is really friendly there. Plus, its just about as cheap as what you'd find on South Blvd. in Charlotte, so what's not to like? Windy day, warm water, people being amazed at me for saying "thank you" and "just a little bit" in their language... hmm. Anyway, our apartment is finally cozy warm instead of strangling-you-in-your-sleep warm, and I'm going to keep working on knitting Xmas items while I pick apart a pomegranate and listen to a podcast. Thank you, day off! The leaves sound just perfect skittering by on the concrete outside. Ahh.

I'm on Flickr a lot.

Jessica K.. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr