Friday, November 21, 2008

YPF: Malabrigo

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Malabrigo! I never understood what the fuss was until I saw this skein at A Tangled Skein, a LYS in Hyattsville, Maryland. I know it pills but it's worth it, many think.

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I saw it at Knit Night at A Tangled Skein. What a lovely place! The yarn displays are placed in such a way as to create four knitting spaces. I've attended twice with Deb. The staff and other knitters are so nice and welcoming.

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Deb and A Tangled Skein Owner

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tim Gunn!


photo by Olga

We saw Tim Gunn today! In his new role as creative director for Liz Claiborne, Tim is hosting fashion shows across the country including one today at one of military exchanges in Washington, DC metro area. Olga invited me a few weeks ago - thank you, Olga! - and we were put on the waiting list. We didn't know that we were actually going until last night.

We got there early, way early. There was only one other person waiting, who kindly offered to save our places, so we decided to look around the PX for a while. Just as we went back to queue up, one of Tim's assistants came out to look for 6 additional people to attend the private brunch they were holding for Tim. We couldn't believe it! We were second and third in line. I'm not a celebrity hound, but this was really exciting!

Tim taking questions at a private brunch

there he is sitting at the little round table!
I wore my Habu coat. I live in it now!

Tim answered questions for about 30 minutes. I wish I had recorded the question and answer session. He is such a nice man: his manners are impeccable, he treated us as though he was personally hosting this brunch and we were all his BFFs. He doesn't believe in "gotcha" makeovers, in which people are turned in by their friends and made over against their will. His philosophy to styling is to help people present themselves at their best in whatever way they want to present themselves to the world. Nor does he believe in "aspirational dressing," i.e. buying clothes for when one is 10 pounds lighter. He believes people should dress for their current body type, keeping fit, silhouette, and proportion in mind. But Tim's not too nice: he was willing to admit that Kendal from this season's Project Runway was a major pain, trying even his patience. In addition to the tasty brunch, there was a gift waiting for us: Tim's 2009 Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style Daily Calendar.

A Liz Claiborne fashion show followed brunch. I have to admit that I tend to walk by Liz Claiborne collections. They have just lacked a certain something. And though they didn't look like much on the hangers today, they looked great on the models. It really pays to try things on.

The collection included professional, casual, and evening clothing at very affordable prices. I really appreciated that they hired models of all sizes. The model in the bottom left photo has on cabled cardi, much like the ones we've all seen and knit. It's really cute belted.

Tim took a few more questions at the end of the show. More about evil Kendal; a few style questions - experiment with accessories if you work in a conservative office; belts help define the waist on most body types; use color in your accessories; don't go matchy-matchy. He isn't sure what will happen to the PR: it's still in litigation. He and Heidi fear it will not air at all, though in his opinion, it's the best season of all. They record an entire season of PR in 30 days! No breaks! He said the designers are fried by the third week. Isaac Mizrahi will have a collection out for Liz Claiborne in the spring.

Tim Gunn taking questions

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New Millennium

The elections are finally over. Like many of you, I'm a news junkie and have been parked in front of the TV late every night for months and I've got dark circles under my eyes to show it! I'll be tracking the new Obama administration's transition, of course, but now I can get a life.

I'm so pleased that we may re-engage the rest of the world now and I know many people around the world feel the same. If you have time and if you're inclined, read this Washington Post article about reactions around the world. It astounds me that the world still looks up to us as the embodiment of possibility and craves - needs - a better relationship with us. We need them too.

Washington should be an interesting place for a while. I've been here through a few administrations, but this one feels different already. Washington usually feels like the city described in The Jungle (I think?), in which the characters live largely in anonymity, unseen by others. I found this disturbing at first, but I've gotten used to it. I can be plenty self-absorbed too, especially on my way to work in the morning or speeding home at night. But something odd has happened over the last 24 hours - people see me. In my encounters at the grocery store last night with the clerk and another customer, and with a bookstore cashier and at Starbucks this morning, people have found an excuse to talk to me and look me in eye longer than they usually do. It's nice to be seen.

I've thought about moving at least once a month since I moved here 20 years ago, but I'm glad I'm here now. I've watched all those other inaugurations on TV, but I'll attend this one. I want to be bathed in this positive energy for as long as it lasts.

Though I expect that Washington will return to being Washington again as we settle into addressing our devastating problems, right now it finally feels like the 21st century has really begun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is Sarah Jessica Parker shorter than I thought? Was part of the skirt missing? Anyway, I think the dress looks better on Carrie than on the maniquin.

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Westwood Wedding Dress, Muleh

Muleh Westwood Show

The rest of the collection looked better than the photos. My pix don't do it justice.

Vivienne Westwood Collection

Modeling Westwood

Other guests:

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and then this:

Not Westwood

not Westwood, but reminds me of the Torii's gradation cardi. Back to knitting...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Carrie's Wedding Dress at Muleh

According to Project Beltway, the Vivienne Westwood wedding dress that Carrie Bradshaw wore in the Sex in the City movie will be on display at Muleh, October 23rd, from 5-8pm.

Westwood's Anglomania collection will be on display too.

1831 14th St., SW

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Coat

I finally finished The Coat. I was determined to take it to Moscow because I didn't have much else to wear. So I did the minimum finishing possible, i.e. just enough to hold it together and not have strands of yarn showing (shame, shame!). I have not woven in the yarn on the interior pockets. It still has no buttons and I didn't do the slip-stitch edging as instructed.

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I love it, even though I suspect that all the alterations I had to do to it caused my summer-long knitting hiatus. I love it, though I wish the collar would stand up more like this all the time. A little starch maybe?

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The Coat

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I love wearing it with slacks, and full skirts, and pencil skirts. It dresses up with a crystal brooch as a closure for the ballet or dresses down swinging open with a pair of jeans. I love it with turtlenecks and v-necks. I love it with pearls and I love it with tiny Russian icon pendants. It travels well and dries nearly overnight.

ETA: It's been so long since I've posted a finished object that I forgot to add some important details:

Pattern: Washi and Tsumugi Coat, Hand-Knit Works, by Setsuko Torii
Yarn: Habu Shosenshi Paper and Habu Tsumugi Silk, knit together.
Needles: US 6 Addi Lace Weights (perfect for the paper and silk)
Mods: I will make it again, but I've learned a few things. I knit the top as one piece, which meant no shoulder seams and makes it more comfortable to wear I think. I knit straight across the back, which would have eliminated grafting had I been more mindful of the size. I will make the sleeves longer next time. It has always been necessary to extend the length of the sleeves on most of my garments and I simply forgot this. As is the sleeves are 3/4 length, which actually works out just fine, but I wish I had been more aware. The pattern was an X-Large, I think, rather than a Large as the pattern was labeled. I will be more mindful of size and fit as I knit next time.

Nicole: I would be happy to help if you have resumed working on your Coat. You can post here or e-mail me at Ava.R.Smith AT I would be happy to help anyone else too.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Forgot My Slacks, or Shopping in Moscow

I tried them on, folded them up and laid them on my bed instead of packing them. When I was dressing for our Monday morning meetings, I realized that I only had a black skirt and the black jeans I traveled in. My trip was only a week but still. I needed slacks since it was getting chilly. My friends Natasha and Valeriy were taking me to dinner that evening so also kindly took me to buy slacks at Evropeiskiy Mall.

Natasha and me at Kiyevskiy Vokzal

Natasha and me outside Evropeiskiy Mall

photo by Valeriy aka "SnowHo!"

Evropeiskiy Mosaic

Wow! Evropeiskiy Mall is across the street from Kievsky Voksal, near the Radisson Hotel, for those of you who know Moscow. I had heard about the shopping possibilities that had cropped up since my visit in 2000, but if you remember like I do the Brezhnev era in the '70s when people risked entanglement with the police just to buy your blue jeans, this was really something to see. In ultra-modern Moscow today, you can get anything you want if you have the money. I bought my slacks at the British-owned Marks and Spencer, quite an out of body experience.

This fully-stocked grocery store, Cedmoi Kontinent (Seventh Continent) was a treat too. There are many of these grocery stores in Moscow and other major Russian cities. I visited the one at Smolenskaya Metro station across the street from my hotel. I like cruising grocery stores. We all have our idiocyncrasies! I spend hours at my Whole Foods looking at the new products. I got as many pix as I could before one of the managers kindly told me to stop.


Love the inclined moving sidewalk from the basement to the first floor. And the Christian Lacroix Evian water. I didn't get pix of the huge cheese, butcher, and liquor, or water sections, the coffee bar or the sushi bar. (There were sushi bars all over town too.)

Smolenskaya Station

Smolenskaya Station

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Moscow, 2008

I returned from Moscow last night, though my visa had expired and the Russian government wanted me to stay an extra day to get a new one. Long story short, the US embassy intervened and arranged for me to get a new visa while I stood at the Delta check in. I was annoyed, but was already making plans to go yarn shopping that night. Next trip I guess!

I had not been to Moscow for eight years and was pretty stunned by the continued development of its market economy. Moscow is the most expensive city in the world and the wealth resident there is very evident. How ironic to be there while the US is busy nationalizing banks and insurance companies. When Marx wrote about the evolution of economies he was writing about market economies and now I wish I'd read them more closely. To defend myself, Marx is a bit of a slog to say the least, so if I get serious about it, I'll read the summaries. Maybe these kinds of short cuts are why we are heading into the economic abyss...

Anyway, I was there on business and had virtually zero time for tourism. My colleague and I got to our hotel Sunday afternoon, Sept. 14th, and we headed straight for the Kremlin. Safe taxis are hard to come by and the hotel car service was exorbitant so we took the metro. I summoned the little Russian I could remember to ask directions, and was lucky - twice - to encounter Russians who spoke English. The first woman turned out to have participated in a US-sponsored exchange program and was more than happy to walk us to the metro and answer any other questions we had. "Providential," an embassy colleague told me.

St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral

For all of the times I've been to Moscow I've never been inside of St. Basil's. It's under major restoration and implementation of measures designed to protect the old structure. It was completed in 1560 and survived Stalinism - someone served serious jail time for refusing to destroy it, but more about political prisons later - and probably neglect for the rest of the Soviet era, so I'm confident that it will be OK, but I applaud their efforts. There's an ancient staircase inside that takes you to the iconstasis pictured here:

St. Basil's Cathedral Moscow

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Some of the steps were a foot and half high and many of us didn't make it up the staircase. I'm glad I made it, though my gluts were sore for days. Not only was the worship area pictured here quite beautiful, but we also arrived in time to hear a choir singing vespers.

I'm so happy that I discovered that the video component of my camera also includes sound! I love vespers. I find them very soothing.

We had a nice cappuccino at the National Hotel to end our day. I had good coffee everywhere including Moscow's new Starbuckskies.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Are any of you still there?

Thanks to those of you who asked where I've been. I really appreciate your concern. It's been a busy summer - some travel, lots of work, and I was a bit ill for a spell. I'm fine now after changing my diet a bit. I'm eating lots of fresh veggies, no red meat, no refined or processed foods, no sugar, and have radically reduced my caffeine intake. Giving up sugar was surprisingly easy, but harder to cut back on coffee. I love green tea, especially sencha and matcha, but I like my cuppa too.

I thought I ate well, but I didn't eat nearly enough veggies. I've been cooking them from scratch and have really developed a taste for them. My current favorite is Osaka mustards.

Osaka Purple Mustard Greens

Rather than cook them in the traditional southern style, I saute them in a tablespoon or two of olive oil with lots of garlic. They are delish. I've also found a good recipe for vegetable broth that I love to sip throughout the day. It isn't the usual veggie broth, besides the usual carrots, onions, and celery, it also has daikon radish, bok choy, nori seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, and ginger among other ingredients. I just chop, cover with water and simmer on low for an hour. Cooking from scratch is labor intensive. Fortunately, I like to cook.

Veggie Broth

The Coat is finished except for weaving in the ends and sewing on the buttons. That's not much to do, but I really didn't have the energy. It didn't help that I was also up all night watching the Olympics for two weeks, then the Democratic Convention last week. You actually had to watch them!

Here it is blocking. After the cutting the back, grafting, and seaming it, I didn't like the way the right front looked, so I took it apart, re-knit the right bottom panel, cut 2-3" from the top panels, and re-seamed. I finally got a garment that I like and fits nicely.

The Coat

Despite all the alterations, it was really a simple knit. Well, it was easy to knit, but I did have to wrap my mind around the Japanese numbering and charting system. Having learned how to graph the pattern at the Habu trunk show last year made the process easier and more precise in terms of the number of rows one has to knit. The main problem I encountered was that the instructions were for a large size, but it knit up as an extra large. The written instructions didn't always match the guidance on the charts, so when in doubt, I went with the charts.

Nicole, what problems did you have with the pattern?

I'll try to finish it up soon, but I'm taking business trip to Moscow in a couple weeks and don't know how much I'll get done. I'd like to wear it while I'm there so I'll give it a good go.

Frau Weubel, I'd love to come back to Frankfurt! I don't have any plans right now, but since I've made a few knitting friends there and love the city, I will have to arrange something within the year. Please keep in touch.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

WIP Wednesday: The Coat

well, it's still Wednesday, though it's late...

I ran out of yellow cashmere for my Habu shawl, so I started the Washi and Tsumugi Coat, which I call simply The Coat.

Washi and Tsumugi Coat

I started it on my trip to Denver last month and it knit up pretty fast. I nearly finished it - actually completely seamed - when I decided the top was too big. Rather than frog and re-knit I decided to cut it.

I had deviated from Olga's instructions and knit the entire top in one piece in order to avoid grafting the back. The top is knit sideways, so you begin with the cuff. I knit front and back simultaneously, using a stitch marker to mark the shoulder. When I got to the collar, I put the front left stitches on a holder and knit across the back. When I reach the end of the collar, I provisionally cast on stitches for the right front, and knit front and back to end of the sleeve, using another stitch marker to mark the shoulder. Then I picked up the stitches of each front and finished them, first one then the other. My tinkering worked, much to my surprise.

I tried it on several times as I knit it, and it seemed to be a good fit. It wasn't until I seamed it that I decided I wanted closer fit. I want to wear it to a conference in Reno next week, so I decided to take Olga's advice and cut rather than frog it. I would be grafting after all.

mosaicThe Coat

I pinned the back, measuring how much to I wanted to take it up; cut down the middle after "ungrafting the collar; ran life lines on each side. I unraveled one side back to the life line easily, but was difficult to unravel the ends of the other side since I was unraveling in the same direction as the knitting, so I cut out another chunk.

Cutting instead of unraveling

I'm becoming fearless with those scissors!
I tried it on one last time, then grafted it.

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I hope to finish The Coat this weekend. I haven't found any buttons yet but may hold it closed with a brooch until I find some.

Then I shall begin a cashmere search...


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Toyko Style Beads Collection" by Uta Ono

Toyko Style Beads Collection by Uta Ohno is a beading book containing some unique styles. No knitting involved.

Tokyo Style Beads Collection by Uto Ohno


Jyuzukakebato Ring


Mizakura Necklaces

Hatsunagi Wire Necklace


Souda Turquoise Jewelery

Lovely stuff. Now to tear myself away from knitting!

Deb, who hosted a few of us for a lovely knitting and stitching one Saturday afternoon, tagged me for a meme.

1) What was I doing 10 years ago? the same thing I'm doing now: managing an international exchange program for the federal government.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today? Laundry; swatch some Jaeger Aqua for a tank top; spend 5 mins purging magazines; pare down what I pack so that I travel lighter; continue working on The Coat;

3) Snacks I enjoy: Popcorn, chocolate, potato chips, popcorn, chocolate, potato chips!

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Pay off my debts; give some to family and charities; buy homes in New York, Seattle, and Santa Fe, each with a craft room; invest the rest; create a charitable or environmental foundation of some kind.

5) Places I have lived: Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, France, Germany (I'm an army brat.)

6) Jobs I have had: Sales person, Giftware buyer for a jewelery store; Teacher, Program Manager.

Please consider yourself tagged!


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