Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Freebie Friday’s Day Off

Filed under: Announcements,Contests,Daily Life — folkcat at 12:27 pm on Friday, September 28, 2007

I’m sorry to say that Freebie Friday is cancelled for this week. It should be back in full force next Friday.

I get migraines – not the painful ones, though. I will get a small headache, but the majority of my symptoms are the other neurological ones. Last night, while watching a little late night TV, I had the sudden flash of a migraine aura that left my vision blurred. This morning, things are still a bit out of focus, and I’m feeling a bit woozy and nauseous.

Best for me to take a day off, then, and let my head get back to normal. Please, everyone, don’t worry about me. Just have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday.

Kaffe Knits Again

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 12:30 pm on Thursday, September 27, 2007

kaffe knits again book jacket.jpgKaffe Knits Again by Kaffe Fassett

Published by: Potter Craft (Random House)

Acquired by: Free copy from Publisher

List Price: $35.00

Available: Oct. 2, 2007

I come to this book with a bit of a disadvantage. I am familiar with the general style of Kaffe Fassett’s designs for knitting. But I have never owned, nor had access to, any of his books.

The one thing I do know is that Kaffe Fassett is known for color. Rich, joyous, color. His inspirations often come from paintings, tapestries, fabrics, and other antique sources.

His new book, Kaffe Knits Again, is typical Kaffe Fassett. The colors and visual textures are like a wedding cake to someone used to eating Ho-Ho’s.

Kaffe Redux

The 24 designs presented here are not completely new. They are actually some of Kaffe’s older designs, re-invented, re-imagined, and updated for this publication. If you’re familiar with his previous work, then, much of the material in this book may seem familiar to you.

As Kaffe explains in the introduction, he has always been

disappointed when [his designs] are dismissed by even experienced knitters as too difficult to attempt. With this book, I am giving all nervous knitters the opportunity to try out color knitting. Using current Rowan yarns, I’ve reinterpreted some of my favorite patterns from years past that deserve a second chance.

Many of the patterns have been transformed from coats and sweaters into easier projects like scarves, throws, shawls, or cushions…There are several simple two-color-a-row designs as well as more challenging fare.

And there we have the premise of this book – not just a re-hashing of old designs into something newly marketable, but a reinterpretation to make them more accessible to more knitters.

Who’s the Book For?

Kaffe Knits Again is, on one level, eye candy. The first section of the book is pure coffee table art, with high quality photos and printing displaying Kaffe’s designs to their best advantage. The setting for the photo shoot, Charleston House, was apparently something of an artists’ colony in the UK in the early 1900’s.

A great deal of attention was given to the layout and design of the book. The cover is not a paper jacket – it’s full-color photography skinned directly on the hardcover binding. I imagine this will stay good looking far longer than paper would.

At that level, this book is for anyone who loves looking at colorful, rich art. I could happily keep this book on my table and just browse through it, enjoying the great images.

As to knitters, it’s always been my contention that this stuff isn’t hard – it’s just that some variations on our craft have more steps involved than others. Kaffe’s multi-color designs count among the more involved, even in this version designed to make his projects less intimidating.

Don’t let the colors scare you! Multi-color knitting is no more complicated than making a sweater from multiple knitted pieces is. You’re just following a chart – much as you would for counted cross-stitch or needlepoint – and placing the correct color of yarn in each stitch, as instructed.

The experienced knitter will have an easier time working these designs, of course. But the adventurous beginner, who is willing to take the leap of faith and believe that she or he can do this, will find success here as well.

Clear Instructions

The instructions for the projects in Kaffe Knits Again are well written. Full measurements are given for both the body being fitted, and the sweater you’re knitting. Needles required are called out in both US and metric sizes.

Gauge instructions are quite specific as to what stitch pattern and needle size to use. The special note “To save time, take time to check gauge.” is an appropriate reminder to all of us who tend to take shortcuts. These designs might suffer badly if your gauge is off even a smidge!

I will grant you that I haven’t read the instructions line for line, cover to cover. But what I’m seeing is very detailed, very concise, with little left to the imagination of the knitter. These instructions were written by someone who wants the knitter to succeed.

Many knitters will never have worked with a Fair Isle or Intarsia chart before. Again, the instructions are very precise – at the point in the knitting where you must begin using the chart, the first two rows are usually spelled out in text for you as well, to help you establish the pattern.

The charts given are as large as practical, usually spanning a full two-page spread. Still, many of the boxes and symbols are small – it would probably be advised to photocopy and enlarge the charts for easier reference while knitting.

Table of ContentsThere is a traditional “Table of Contents,” but also, at the beginning of the “Gallery of Designs” we find this photographic index. I love books that include this feature – it makes it easy to see at a glance which design you want to jump to.

Sizes

The sweaters in this book are in the average range for most knitting patterns, with most women’s designs sized for a 36 to 40 inch chest, and men’s up to a 44 inch chest. Some of these designs have up to 5 or 6 inches of ease built in, however, so it’s worth studying the numbers carefully to see if the sweaters might work for you after all.

Some minimal information is given in the back in reference to sizing, but it speaks more to choosing the correct size for you – and not how to re-size the patterns to fit a larger or smaller body.

Yarns

All designs in this book were created for Rowan yarns, which should come as no surprise – Kaffe has worked with the company since 1981. In case you wish to make substitutions, a section at the back of the book gives full specifications for each yarn used, making it easy to match those qualities with an alternate choice.

The Best of the Best

First, I must beg some forgiveness for the quality of these photos. The pages in this book are high-quality printing, which means a high reflection factor, too. I was forced to photograph them without a flash, and the resulting images are somewhat less focused than I care for.

Kaffe Knits Again - Mirage
Mirage

I recognized the inspiration for this sweater even before I read the descriptive text – kilim carpets. I like how it’s interpreted here. The pattern could easily be adapted for a bag or cushion as well. And Kaffe makes a great model for his own designs.

Kaffe Knits Again - Puzzle
Puzzle

Another pattern that I recognized, Kaffe found this graphic on a bathroom floor in an American hotel. I once had it on my floor as well, in a former apartment bathroom. Both Kaffe’s and my versions were in black and white tiles – I love this adaptation with Kaffe’s signature color style.

Kaffe Knits Again - Gridlock Pillow
Gridlock Pillow

Kaffe Knits Again - Gridlock Throw
Gridlock Throw

Inspired by “an ancient carpet,” the Gridlock Pillow and Throw look refreshingly modern and vintage at the same time. I can also see re-doing this as a quilt – I wonder if Kaffe did that in any of his quilting books?

Kaffe Knits Again - Foolish Virgins Scarf
Foolish Virgins Scarf

I think this may be my favorite project in the whole book. I love that it includes a little of everything. There are the figures of the virgins, some tumbling blocks, a little woven look. And all in those rich Kaffe Fassett colors. There are seven charts used to create this masterwork – if the project as presented seems a bit intimidating, Kaffe offers a suggestion to “take any one of the seven charted patterns and…use it for a cushion cover, shawl, or throw.”

That’s a great reminder that this book is about more than just knitting the patterns as written. Knitters are encouraged to borrow, adjust, adapt, and make something other than the suggested finished project. If a whole sweater seems too much for you, take a snippet of the charted pattern and practice on a pillow first. Soon enough, you’ll be stepping up to the plate and trying the sweater itself.

Kaffe Knits Again - Caterpillar Stripes
Caterpillar Stripes

On the other hand, sometimes a knitter wants to dip their toe in the pool without also having to dig the hole for it themselves. As a simpler project, Kaffe offers his classic color sense in Caterpillar Stripes – an entire sweater knit with only one color on any row. Instead of a chart with a box for every stitch, the instructions for this sweater have a table listing the color of yarn to use for every row.

Some of my other favorite projects included the Houses Bag – a shoulder tote with a bold graphic of a house and checkerboard borders; the Moody Blues cushion, adapted from a sweater design; and Polka Dots, a zippered cardigan worked in white polka dots on a background of wide, vertical, pastel stripes.

Bottom Line

This could be a book for just about anyone who loves color and visual texture. Some of the designs look cute and vintage; still others look very modern. Simply changing the colors can create an entirely different look for any of these items, and Kaffe encourages that with suggestions scattered throughout.

As a large woman, the sizes clearly won’t work for me. But you know what? I don’t care – I love the patterns, I’m infatuated with the colors. I can easily see adapting some of these charts to a sweater pattern that will fit me. And then there’s always the scarves, throws, and pillows to knit. I have a feeling my Ravelry queue may become a little overloaded!

Related Links:

New Hair, Same Old Bag

Filed under: Knitting,Second Life — folkcat at 5:37 pm on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Genna went and bought herself a new hairdo!

Genna's New Hair

It’s called Heather, and it comes in 80 different colors, including many that are two-toned. The designer is Amanda, of Calico Creations. I took this snapshot at the Calico Creations store, immediately after putting the hair on. Behind me, you can see the display selling the hairstyle.

Normally Amanda’s hair is very pricey – though deservedly so, because she’s a true artist, and the hair is all drop-dead gorgeous. But this particular style was available for only 10 Lindens, and that included all 80 colors in one package! Amanda is offering us this deal to celebrate that Heather, as well as a male hairstyle called Jet, are the first designs she created using a special type of prim (a Second Life building unit) called a sculpty.

If you want to know more about the designer, you can read her blog at Calico Creations.

If you’re in Second Life, and want to pick up Heather for yourself, you can find it at Calico Creation’s Main Shop. Caution to non-SLers – the shop link is a connection to a location in Second Life itself. You’ll stop first at a website with an SL world map, and there you’ll find a link that will actually teleport your character to the shop.

I’ve also been spending time looking at properties for sale and rent in Second Life. It’s turning out to be very much like househunting in the real world. One cute little mansion was quite affordable, but surrounded by large, commercial developments. Another was a condo that was also within my price range – but it had a very boxy, condo-living look, and no balcony or piece of yard attached. There are developments with covenants that restrict what sort of house you can build, as well as neighborhoods with no restrictions at all – so you could wind up living next door to a rowdy nightclub.

There’s no rush, so I’ll keep looking. Luckily, homelessness isn’t a problem in Second Life!

Real World

I did more knitting! The sixth tier of the desert-themed entrelac bag is finished, and I’ve begun on the seventh.

Desert Entrelac, Side OneDesert Entrelac, Side Two

At this point, each round will be smaller than the one before, until the squares get down to a mere three stitches across at the center bottom. Beginning with round eight, I’ll be working exclusively with the multi-green/brown yarn for the desert floor and scrubbrush.

I don’t know if I’ll make much more progress today – I need to write a book review, which is a lot more work than reviewing a snack is! So that will take a bit of time I’d otherwise be knitting.

Or househunting. I definitely need to go househunting later!

Third Life?

Filed under: Second Life — folkcat at 4:21 pm on Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I have a new identity, and a question. If you create a second avatar in Second Life, is that actually your Third Life? Or is it just Second Life V2.0?

Meet Genna Lunasea!

Genna Portrait

She’s wearing the same t-shirt that Probably Perhaps wears, at least until I find something I like better. It was created by a friend, and is a free giveaway at her shop on DarkStar – look for Arondelle’s Dreamworlds in the parking lot at the Mars Hotel to get your own.

As you can see, I’m getting better at controlling the camera’s point of view, too. It might be that there’s a future for me as a photographer in Second Life. I’ll probably want to invest in some poses eventually. The avatar’s eyes tend to follow the mouse cursor, which means that it’s hard to get an image where she’s not looking in the direction of the “Create Snapshot” button. I got lucky on this image.

I can’t guarantee that Genna will look like this in the future. She’s wearing a new skin and hair to replace those she was born with, and I imagine that I’ll make further tweaks to her appearance as my in-game resources improve. Meanwhile, though, I think she’s looking pretty good. And I like that hair.

Genna will be my primary avatar in SL, but I’ll continue to be active with Probably as well. Oh, and I’ve found knitting in SL! There’s a shop called Knit This that sells knitting needles, complete with a knitting animation and a scarf – or lace – project that you can actually color and everything. They also have balls of yarn and other knitting related items as decorative touches for your home. Once I have a place to live, I’ll probably create a nice little knitting nook!

Songs Not Old Enough To Be Old

Filed under: Books,Daily Life,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 2:14 pm on Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Okay, maybe you’ll only agree with me on this if you’re among my more…let’s say, seasoned readers. But am I wrong to think that REM’s Losing My Religion has no place on a radio station that I’ve always thought of as an “oldies” station?

The only radio station I can tolerate around here is Frank FM, 106.3 on the dial. They advertise themselves as “#1 for classic hits,” and typically play music that dates from the late 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s.

So I get into my car yesterday, and turn on the radio, and what I hear is Losing My Religion. An REM tune from 1991. I’m so convinced it couldn’t possibly be right that I push the pre-set button to get my radio station back.

But no, Frank FM is playing it, and my whole evaluation of their playlist changes in a heartbeat.

Maybe I’m just being an old fogie here, but I have some notion in my head that any song that debuted after 1990 should never be considered an “oldie.” Even if your euphemism for it is “classic.” Maybe that seems like an arbitrary cut-off date, but think about it – the bloom was off the rose for MTV, which had debuted a decade earlier, and we had a whole new decade and a new sound upon our ears. It wasn’t much longer before MTV even abandoned the live Veejays format, changing even the nature of music on the video screen in the 90’s.

Okay, that’s it for the soapbox – if I don’t step down now, it will crumble under my weight. On to what you really come here for, which is the crafting.

I’ve been making good progress on the desert-themed entrelac bag for Christmas 2007. I’m now on, I think the sixth tier. My blue Malabrigo for the sky has run out a little sooner than I’d hoped, but I think we’re okay – I simply substituted the mottled green and brown and started the scrub brush on the desert floor a little sooner than intended.

The bag is also getting big enough that I have to photograph it in two pieces:

WIP - Xmas 2007, #3, Side 1
Side One

WIP - Xmas 2007, #3, Side 2
Side Two

You can see how the two rocky outcroppings are different shapes. I’ve also put more of the golden yellow on one side of each, to look like the sun is shining from that direction.

The very observant among you might notice the dapper man with the colorful afghan standing behind the bag. That’s Kaffe Fassett, as shown on the cover of his new book, Kaffe Knits Again. It’s due to be released next Tuesday. I’ve got a copy from the publisher that I’ll be reviewing later this week, both here and at Shopping Jen. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, in case you haven’t looked recently, I’ve been very busy cranking out reviews over at Shopping Jen. I post there every day from Monday through Friday. Recent reviews have included:

And much, much more. I’m having a ball writing for Shopping Jen, and I hope you’re enjoying reading what I have to say!

The Disney Bead Winner is…

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 1:41 pm on Monday, September 24, 2007

Tracy! Congratulations, Tracy – I’ve e-mailed you for your address so I can get the beads to you.

Many thanks to everyone who played! You’re making Freebie Fridays a fun event for me. I love that you’re enjoying the giveaways as much as I am. Remember to check back later this week to see what the next prize will be!

Sept. 21st Contest Entries Now Closed

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Monday, September 24, 2007

It’s noon Eastern time on Monday, September 24th – entries are now closed in the Freebie Friday Disney Bead giveaway of September 21st. I’ll post the winner later on!

Marcel Marceau, 1923 – 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 10:53 am on Monday, September 24, 2007

Silence just became a little less golden. I was heartbroken today to learn of the death of Marcel Marceau at the age of 84.

Marcel Marceau wasn’t just a mime – he was The Mime. I was fortunate as a child that he came to Syracuse to perform at least twice, and my parents took the family both times.

Rest in peace, dear Bip.

Images On Your Screen Are Not As They Appear

Filed under: Games,Second Life — folkcat at 4:59 pm on Friday, September 21, 2007

Cameras Lie About Color

You know, this desert-themed entrelac has been a pain to photograph from day one. It wasn’t so bad when it was simply the blue yarn and it photographed overly intense. But then I started into the yellow, which always came out so red that it looked like vivid orange. And now that I’ve got actual rusty red yarn in there, I can’t get anything but a muddy looking brown from that!

I’ve tried tweaking the photos in PhotoPaint, even, and can’t seem to get the colors to balance correctly. The best I can do is this:

WIP Christmas 2007 - desert-themed bag, 5th tier

So it takes a lot of imagination to look at this photo and see what it really looks like in real life. The blue isn’t quite that intense; the yellow is more golden than orange; the rusty red is redder; and the brown I’m currently knitting with is more red as well.

As you can see, I’m making somewhat better progress than I had been. Now that I’ve got a chart, it’s a quick matter to whip out a few squares here and there.

Yes, That’s Me

Probably and Arondelle Dancing

I’m the one with the purple hair, my friend Arondelle is the blonde on the right. Last night we went to a live concert in Second Life, and hung out dancing to the music for a while.

My avatar doesn’t look a thing like me, as much as I wanted her to. It’s hard to make an overweight female in SL that doesn’t look like Frankenstein parts glued together. Since I can’t look just like me, we’re going for a fantasy life here. Which is, I suppose, the whole point of SL anyhow, right?

Now that the weekend is here, I imagine I’ll be online a fair bit. I think I may create a second avatar as well – Probably Perhaps was created nearly two years ago, after all, when I had no clue what I was doing and no one to guide me as I do now. A second avatar will give me a chance to make a better start.

If you’re in Second Life, Probably will still be around, so feel free to IM her or offer friendship. And I’ll let you know who I am in the new avatar, too, once she’s created.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Freebie Friday, Sept. 21, 2007 – Disney Beads!

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Contests — folkcat at 1:37 pm on Friday, September 21, 2007

Hello, everyone, and welcome to yet another Freebie Friday!

This week’s giveaway is open to everyone, in every country. It’s an item that’s a little hard to find, even here in the States – Disney beads!

Freebie Friday - Disney California Adventure Beads
(Click for larger image.)

These beads were only available at Disney Theme Parks. I was gifted a number of them by a special source, and since I have duplicates, I’m offering a set of 15 designs, all unique, as this week’s Freebie.

The beads are all flat circles made of ceramic. They’re about 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and a touch over 1/4 of an inch in thickness. The holes run horizontally relative to the designs, and easily accomodate cords up to 2 mm thick.

This particular set of images are all related to Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park. Some are logos for rides; some are characters associated with the park. All designs are identical on the front and the back of the beads.

If you’re a Disney collector, or have kids who love anything even remotely related to Disney, these would be great fun for you! I’ll throw in a couple of one yard lengths of 2mm waxed linen cord with the beads, so you can wear them right away if you like.

These rare beads could be yours, just for a comment and/or a link! It’s this easy to enter:

  • All readers are eligible for entry to this drawing, including international mailing addresses.
  • Enter by commenting to the contest post before Noon, Eastern Time, on Monday, Sept. 24th. Only one entry per person for commenting.
  • Earn a second entry by posting about the contest on your own blog, and linking to this post. E-mail me at fiber AT folkcatart DOT com to tell me you’ve done so. Don’t forget to post soon enough that your own readers have a chance to join in the fun!
  • Have you won a prize at Crafting Jen before? No worries, you can enter again!
  • The winner will be chosen by a random drawing from all entries received before the deadline.
  • I’ll announce the winner on the blog on Monday, and will also e-mail them for their mailing address.

That’s it for Freebie Friday this week – I’ll post later about my knitting progress. Meanwhile, best of luck to everyone on the drawing!

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