December 2009 Archives

amigurumi how-to

| No Comments

A few people have asked me about learning to make knitted and crocheted toys. And in general, they are much easier than they look. For me they are much, much easier than sweaters and scarves. Because my problem is having a short attention span. So I'd much rather make a toy that I can finish in a day or two, even having to learn new stitches, than a sweater which I will never finish.

Of the knitted amigurumi I've made, if I were starting as a beginner I would make the cherry pie first. It's done on regular sized needles, and the only new technique is the bobble, for which the pattern provides nice photo instructions. A real beginner could make the crust first and then they would have gotten some practice in before trying the bobble.

If I were comfortable with double-pointed needles, I'd start with the slug. (Probably because I did, that was the first amigurumi I made.) It's simple and made in one piece with almost no sewing. So it's a good way to learn a few key techniques like short rows and how to increase without making a hole. The only reason I wouldn't recommend it to a super-beginner is the first few rows, when you only have a few stitches on the double-pointed needles, are kind of fiddly.

For crochet, they were all equally easy. Well, that's not strictly true. The katamari was a bit more difficult because the pattern said to crochet as tightly as possible, so the weight of the magnets couldn't pull it out of shape. And I ended up crocheting so tightly I couldn't get the hook through the stitches. It took a while for me to get a feel for the right gauge. But anyway, the point is that crochet is really not hard to do. There just aren't any difficult techniques, so a beginner can start with anything they like.

If you don't know how to knit or crochet at all and you want to make amigurumi, there are some terrific sites with instructional photos and videos. Or I have a great knitting book called Reader's Digest Knitting Handbook, maybe we can have an amigurumi party and I'll bring the book! It really, honestly doesn't matter if you've never made anything more complicated than a scarf before. Any stitch or technique you don't know, you can google and find either photo or video instructions. (I personally prefer photos to videos because I'm left handed and everything I do is the mirror image of what most people do. I have to translate the instructions, and that's easier for me to do with a photo. Videos go by too fast.)

As for me, I have a few more presents to make, and I need to make a hat for myself while it's still winter. And then I think I'm going to try some more challenging toys. I found a pattern designer on with some really complex, realistic patterns for sea creatures like octopus and angler fish. And maybe I will try designing a pattern of my own!

best and .. best, you fools

| No Comments

Why, oh why do I read Dear Prudence? Her advice is frequently terrible, and when called on it her response is belligerent. This week's Best and Worst of Dear Prudence in 2009 is a case in point. It's not at all a list of best and worst columns; instead it's a list of columns which her readers are stupid for disagreeing with. She does this every year. You'd think by now she would have gotten over knee-jerk defensiveness and would be willing to acknowledge the occasional mistake. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong.

Maybe I need to make a New Year's resolution to stop reading Dear Prudence.* On some level I'm still incredulous that they replaced Margo Howard with this judgmental bore.

*funny aside, throughout this post I have been typoing it as "Dear Produce" and having to correct myself.


| 1 Comment

The other thing I did on my vacation was knitting! And crochet. I made presents instead of buying this year. I made:

Two slugs: Sluggie and Sluggo. As you can see, Sluggie made friends with Sholem Aleichem in his new home.
Another sluggo about to be given away Sluggie's new home

An alien, who is basically the same as the slug, with extra eyes.
alien poddette

Another zombie! For this one I added a dangling arm and exposed viscera. Also I made the blood drips out of the thick cotton yarn, rather than embroidery floss, so it would show up better. I skipped the hair and necktie so he wouldn't look cluttered.
RE: brains

An immaculate heart. It was a gift for Santa Salsera, and we gave it to her on the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe festival. Timing is everything!
Immaculate Heart

The Prince and the katamari from Katamari Damacy. The katamari has magnets inside so it picks things up.
prince and katamari

A pair of wiener dogs for my sister who, coincidentally, has a pair of mini dachshunds.
Wiener Dog Wiener dogs

A slice of cherry pie. This was maybe the easiest because it was made on regular size needles. Most of these toys are knitted on extra small needles so the gauge will be small and the stuffing won't leak out. It makes it a little harder to knit them, in fact the tip of my index finger is still a little sore from poking the needle through on decreases.
Cherry Pie Time for pie!

A Cthulhu. Funny story: I wanted to make this for my brother-in-law, and there's this awesome book Creepy Cute Crochet with lots of amigurumi patterns including Cthulhu. And I tried to get the book out of the library, but it was out constantly. I guess because everyone was making Christmas presents just like me. Since I couldn't get the book I had to wing it. I used the same shape as the zombie and I guessed at the tentacles. And then on Christmas day, when I gave him the Cthulhu, he gave me Creepy Cute Crochet! I thought maybe Georg had told him to get it for me but no, he came up with it on his own. What synchronicity.

A fat cat and mousie. The mouse is made with an angora blend so it's nice and soft.
Fat cat and mousie Fat kitty

Finally the piece de resistance, a Flying Spaghetti Monster. I gave it to my dad, and that's his Richard Dawkins book behind it in the photo. The person who created this pattern is a damned genius. The meatballs alone are amazing: perfectly round and they have a texture that makes them look almost like real meatballs. Pipe cleaners make some of the noodly appendages posable. The FSM would have taken forever to make, except I bought an "Embellish Knit" cord-knitting machine which speeded things up considerably.
Flying spaghetti monster Flying spaghetti monster

home for the holidays

| 1 Comment

I'm getting a jump start on one of my New Year's resolutions: to post regularly in my blog again. Starting with today's entry, What I Did On My Christmas Vacation.

We drove. Traffic was bad on the way up to Delaware before Christmas, easy up to Staten Island on Christmas Day, and a slice of hell coming home yesterday. Some of the worst traffic I have ever seen. It was so bad that eventually we pulled out the map and left I-95, and found the state road just as backed up. Probably it was full of other people fleeing 95 just like us. We expected to get home about 8:30 and actually got in just before midnight.

We saw snow! Both Delaware and Staten Island had had heavy snowfalls a few days before we got there -- 17 inches in DE! -- and there was still plenty of snow on the ground when we arrived. It got warm and rainy and all melted off while we were up there, but still. That was the first "white Christmas" I've seen since I can remember.

We ate Sri Lankan food. It's a lot like Indian, with a lot of coconut. Apparently there's a Sri Lankan community on Staten Island. (For those nearby, the Sri Lankan restaurants are all together on Victory, in walking distance of the ferry.) The place we went to, called Dosa Garden, served mostly Indian with a Sri Lankan page at the back of the menu. I read on chowhound that they specialize in dosas. Thus the name, I suppose. We had pittu, cakes of dark brown rice with coconut, served with hot spiced coconut milk. And chicken kothu roti, which was chicken, onion and a dosa, all chopped together and sauteed, and served with sambal. We didn't realize the chicken had a dosa in it, so we also got a dosa. I'm pleased to report that the dosa at Spice & Curry or Green Leaf are just as good as at Dosa Garden in NY. Go Triangle!

We saw Sita Sings the Blues on the big screen at the IFC center in Manhattan. We didn't spend much time in the city; just rode the ferry in, went up to the movie theater, then took the ferry back to Staten Island. We spent way more time in transit than we did at the movie, which must be breaking some kind of rule of city life. I didn't mind, it was great to see the movie like that (even with the Amazing Talking Audience, this time perpetrated by two chatty old ladies who I think knew the director somehow). And just walking to and from the subway we got to see a few blocks of Manhattan.

We learned that lots of New Yorkers have the same gripe with the iPhone map that we did: you can't fine tune the directions, for instance it may try to put you on a bus and you can't make it give you subway directions instead. So it's very frustrating if you know basically what you want to do but can't remember some detail, like the location of the subway stop (or the exit number you want off the turnpike, and it keeps sending you a different way). On the bright side, the phone has the subway schedule with times, which was a big help. And it even has rudimentary drawings of buildings -- just the basic shapes -- which I think would be really really useful if I were lost in the city.

We went back to the Russian grocery near Georg's mom's house. There must be a sizeable Russian community on Staten Island because the store is a full sized supermarket. At least as big as the Red & White on Club & Roxboro in Durham. We went once before and didn't buy anything, I just took photos. This time we had a cooler so we stocked up. We bought:

  • cheese pierogies (the sign said pierogies but the receipt calls them "vareniki with farmer cheese")
  • pork & beef dumplings
  • lamb dumplings (the receipt says "manti handmade 10 pieces")
  • lithuanian cheese (the receipt says "kastromskoy"). We have no idea what it's going to taste like, there was a whole case of cheese named after former Soviet countries & we picked one at random.
  • fresh crepes and farmer cheese to make blintzes. They had a wide variety of farmer's cheese, many of them labeled "Amish." Are the Amish known for farmer's cheese? They also had a huge variety of yogurt, kefir and feta cheese. We didn't buy any because we can get all that back home (even the same brands of yogurt).
  • a couple of items from the amazing wall of sausage If you count bologna there had to be 50 different kinds. We got "kielbasa moskovskaya" which I guess means Moscow-style kielbasa. And a little tube of goose liver pate.
  • a couple of teas for a friend who always serves tea to his guests & clients, and I think he will have fun offering people Russian tea. We got chamomile and one called "linden" on the signage and receipt, but "lime" on the tiny English-language sticker on the box. The picture on the box doesn't look at all like lime. Who knows what it actually is.
  • a package of bialys. Which aren't Russian at all, but we always bring bialys back from NY and we didn't have time to go to a bakery.

We also looked at these beautiful frozen cakes with lots of layers, but decided that if we were getting the blintzes, we didn't need cake too. And we skipped the horseradish soda because we only wanted to buy things we genuinely wanted to eat. I do have a desire to try horseradish soda, but they only sell a big bottle. And besides, I don't even like regular soda very much.

While I was browsing the teas, trying to figure out what to get for my friend, a short, rotund old lady kind of pushed me out of the way (no physical contact was made but she definitely took over the space) and started grabbing boxes of tea while muttering to herself in Russian. It sounded like she was reminding herself of the kinds of tea to get. Mostly she got rose hip. She must have taken 6 boxes. It was kind of cute. I guess she really needed tea.

jack frost nipping at your nose

| No Comments

Winter has finally arrived here. Of course it's a typical NC winter -- it was about 45° yesterday, and today is supposed to be close to 70°. Which I like better, actually, than unrelenting cold.

I put up most of the outside decorations on Monday. Well, the lights on the porch were easy. They get left in place all year; all I had to do was find a new extension cord (the plug on the old one had gotten mashed & wasn't usable anymore). Then I put up the tree: we have a 6' white tree we put on the porch every year. No room for it inside the house, and it looks nice from the road with all the lights on it.

Sad to say, every year the hardest part of putting up the tree is cleaning the porch. It's amazing how much stuff collects in there. I got everything pulled out, threw away a bunch of stuff, sorted the rest into piles on the front lawn, then got the tree out of the shed, put it together and put the lights on it. The porch is small and there's not quite enough room to move around comfortably when the tree is set up, so I have to be careful when I'm going around and around, winding the lights around the tree.

I made the same mistake I always make -- start at the bottom and end up with more lights on the lower branches than at the top. The problem is that, when you're standing on the porch, the top of the tree seems to be hidden by the roof overhang. Because of that, I usually convince myself that there's no need for many lights on the top. But the house is kind of up a hill. So that to someone on the road, the top of the tree is completely visible while the lower branches are out of view. Which I discovered when I walked down to the road to see how it looked.

I went back and moved a bunch of lights up. There are still some gaps near the top, but it's good enough. You'd think I'd remember that from year to year. Maybe I should write myself a note and leave it in the light holder thing. (We have this nice zippered thing that holds four spools of lights.)

By the time I got the lights rearranged it was getting dark & I just managed to get all the porch stuff put back before it got too dark to work. Whew! I'm glad I did it Monday, when it was chilly, rather than Tuesday when it was super cold and raining too. Today would have been bad too since the ground is all wet.

We've been converting to LED lights, buying some on sale after Christmas each year. And I think this was the first year we had enough to do the entire porch with LEDs. I'm really happy that we switched to LED lights, they use so much less electricity. Though I confess, I miss the brightness of the old lights. They used to light up the porch almost as much as if we had the overhead light on. That tree would positively glow, and it looked really nice with the colored lights on the white tree. Now the LEDs are so subdued that you can't really tell it's a white tree from the road. You can make out the tree shape from the lights, that's all. Then again, with LEDs you can safely string way more together. So we can add more lights if we want to brighten it up.

We still have to put the big star lights down front by the road (and we may need another extension cord since I had to use one of the big ones for the tree), and decorate inside. We don't have room for a full sized tree in the house, so we always put up a fresh pine garland between the living room and dining room and hang ornaments and lights on it. Plus we have two small tinsel trees for the coffee table and dining table. (Yes, we have three christmas trees. I don't know when I stopped being a total grinch and got so into Christmas decorating.)

You know, we rearranged the living room furniture earlier this year and we might actually have room for a tree inside now. I'm looking at a spot where a small tree might fit. I think it would. It would be hard to use the front door though. Hmm.

the unemployment blob

| No Comments

Thanks (I think) to H. Trouser for linking to this map showing unemployment growth by county. It's alarming. Month by month unemployment seeps across the country, swallowing up jobs in its path. Just like The Blob.

4 hour show tomorrow

| No Comments

Due to a last minute scheduling issue (namely, the DJ before me is stuck out of town) I will be doing a four hour Divaville Lounge tomorrow. Noon to 4 pm. I may be a bit loopy by the end so who knows what will happen. 88.7 fm if you're local, if you're not.

progress progresses

| No Comments

I've got the Divaville Lounge website almost all set up. Rather proud of myself for writing all those date functions from scratch, using only Movable Type's template tags & functions so I didn't have to use PHP. The only thing I can't get working is getting the site to rebuild itself overnight. I don't know why it's such a pain in the ass. Why do I have to install a plugin and then use the command-line to rebuild? I can't possibly be the only person who needs to do this. There ought to be a button you can click in the main installation to set up an automatic rebuild.

Okay, enough complaining. Here's something funny: we were watching a movie about Lewis & Clark, and then TCM announced they were going to show a movie about Marco Polo. They kept saying "Marco Polo" and I told Georg I was trying desperately to resist the temptation to yell "Marco! Polo!" Well about three minutes into the movie there's a character in a gondola looking for Marco Polo, and yelling "MARCO! POLO!" over and over. I couldn't resist, I started calling out too. Then Georg started calling back to me from the other room, and then all we needed was a swimming pool.

I wonder how old that game is? I guess not as old as this movie, because it doesn't seem intentionally funny when the guy yells it.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives