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The inside of the market near our flat

So this afternoon I realized two things: first, that we humans are prepared to think the worst of one another, don’t you think? And secondly, that I’m a cynic. To give a little context, this morning I was talking to Luke about what we think it will be like moving back to the US after being away for so long — specifically, how we’ll cope with the insane politics and the especially charged political atmospher right now, and wouldn’t it just be better if we stayed in England where we have NHS and people don’t own guns? That got us talking about the US new health care bill and the Tea Party movement and all the hype about elections coming up, and how all of those things sound so crazy when you look at them from a foreigner’s perspective (particular a European’s). Anyways, that got us theorizing (because we know what we’re talking about, right?) about how we think the United States as we know it will cease to be within our lifetime, and we just hope the transition isn’t violent, but when you got crazy gun-weilding Tea Partiers running around, who’s to say it won’t be? Besides, it’s kind of already begun with Irag and Afghanistan, right?

And then, thankfully, later today I had the opportunity to read another silly person’s doomsday prediction and it made me laugh at myself a little (in that sad, ironic way).  I was reading abook review of a book that blames environmentalists and naive leftist politicians for starting an ideological war about the whole global warming “myth,” and I couldn’t help but read some of the comments … do you see where this is going? One of the said commenters made a statement along the lines that he’s convinced environmentalists are just as capable of commiting genocide and other atrocities on the same scale as their communist forerunners.  Sound crazy? Sound a little like some other crazy person’s “prediction?” That person being moi.

This is not really a political rant. My husband and I don’t know squat about politics and we like it that way.  We like to cook together and go for walks and knit and have conversations with people, and we have this crazy dream that, one day, people will stop doing this.  The comment to that book review was equally silly.  I guess it just made me laugh a little (in that sad, ironic way) to think how quick silly people on either side of an argument are to assume the absolute, devilish worst of one another.

It’s also reminded me why I knit.

And speaking of, I finished that piece for my sister finally! I dropped it in the post on Monday, so I can’t post pictures until I know she’s received it. But let me just say, it was about bloody time. In total, it took 8 months of work, on and off, but it’s finally finished. If you remember, I followed Kieran Foley’s gorgeous pattern for the Cold Mountain scarf. More to come about how I messed up on the pattern, missed both gift-giving deadlines, but still ended up with a pretty alright finished product. It was my first every lace pattern, too!

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been working on.

The start of a crocheted pink beret... otherwise refered to at the giant pink doily.

You guessed it, the first on my long list of Christmas gifts. Luckily, the stylish pattern by CreativeYarn takes, literally, 2 hours to whip up. No joke. Even for me and I’m slow as, well, Christmas.

Also I’m working to turn this ball of nondescript yarn into a hat for my bro-in-law. Actually, “nondescript” is an unfair adjective for this beautiful and lush, man-for-men Italian alpaca, wool and acrylic by Linus! I got it while we were on our honeymoon in Maine — yeah, which, by the way, did you hear about that dummy who deleted all their honeymoon photos? No, you didnt? Oh, well, story to come… just too bad I won’t have any fotos to go along with it.

That yarn is destined for this pattern by Kris Percival.  Manly ribbed hat for a manly yarn.

Here it is — my brand new, first ever plarn creation! The design is based on Vickie Howell’s eco lunch bag from her book AwareKnits.  It’s just one of many great ideas from her book for the eco-conscious (and, I might add, time conscious) knitter and crocheter.

All in all, it took about a day of working off and on to complete it.  I added the last row of orange to the handles yesterday before breakfast.  It was a good one day project, but for someone who’s more comfortable working with yarn made from plastic bags, it could easily be done in a couple of hours.

There’s a sense of fun and novelty involved in crocheting with plarn that reminds me of those crafts we used to do as kids. (You know when we used to sit in those miniature chairs at those tiny, shellacked tables, sticky from the Elmers glue of past crafts, and decorate our paper plate masks, or some such project, with glitter and pipe cleaners? The messier the better.)

Making plarn is easy enough: you just flatten a plastic bag, fold it into a long strip about an inch or two wide, snip off the end and handles, then cut the strip into one inch pieces.

Cutting off handles.

Cutting the bag into 1" strips

Now unfold the pieces (which are now big plastic circles) and link them together so that they form a long chain. Wind them up into a ball.

More instructions about making plarn here.

Stitching up  definitely takes a little getting used to. I recommend only using plastic bags of similar thicknesses. You can see where I included plarn from a large, white, heavy-duty plastic bag. Not only was it thicker than the rest of the plarn (you can see how it bulges out), but it got to be rather painful to work with.  I cut it off after just two rounds because I couldn’t take the rubbing anymore.  In the end, I think it makes a niceish band to match the orange one, but I don’t think I’d crochet with it again.

In any case, I hope you enjoy!

After a week of traveling and having people over it’s nice to finally sit down and share some of the things I’ve been doing (and creating) lately.

So in between doing this in Dublin and seeing beautiful scenery like in the picture above and watching sunsets like this…

I’ve also been learning how to crochet.

My grandmother and knitting instructor was right: once you learn how to knit, crocheting is a cinch.  Of course, I still managed to botch things up a time or two, which meant having the unravel half the project.  But we got there in the end.  I decided to do a market bag (this is what I think of when I see the words “market bag”) for my first crochet project since, I figure, my vegetables won’t care too much if my rows aren’t perfectly straight. Jill’s  Rust Goes Green was a quick and easy project (even for a beginner) and it was a great way to finally use up some of this bulky nylon yarn I’d been practicing with for ages.

And the finished product…

And just for fun I made these dangly wire earrings with royal blue beads. I’m not sure about  the ear hook design so I’m thinking about changing them… maybe adding a loop so that the ends clip together to form a fill circle?

Two books that have become permanent features on my nightstand these days (along with the, happily, never-ending Cold Mountain Scarf) are Melanie Falick’s Weekend Knitting and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s The Hound of the Baskervilles of Sherlock Holmes fame.  The proprietor of the tiny second hand bookshop I bought it from in the market said Baskervilles was the only book that ever scared him…  I love the classic Penguin book cover possibly as much as the expert, chilling, and somewhat whimsical story-telling.

And in the meantime I’ve moved on to a new project (two actually, but the second will have to wait until another day). Now that I can crochet passably, I’m working on my first plarn project. Here’s a sneak peak of the lunch bag-in-progress, based on Vickie Howell’s design from her book Aware Knits. More to come when I’ve finished.

In addition to picking out our wedding favors these past few days (which, by the way, is still not a done deal: s’mores or candy rock?) I’ve also been looking into handmade wedding thank-you gifts for family and friends who’ve helped out. Naturally I’d like to knit and crochet some of these gifts. And I don’t just want to knit pretty flower pins and small gift bags either; I want my gifts to be personalized, practical, and something people would want to use or wear because, let’s be honest, the handmade movement is at its best when made-from-home crafts compete with factory-made items for usefullness and prettiness.  Otherwise, why would people bother with handmade? So picking the right gifts/patterns is key.

The other factor is, of course, time. Seeing as it’s taken me three months to get through half of a shawl for my sister’s wedding gift turned birthday present (granted, I was in the middle of finals), I know it’s better to be realistic than optimistic — game day is, after all, under three months away. Yikes!

But because I’m stubborn, I’m determined to at least try. Plus I’m sure these adorable gifties won’t take too long to whip up. What do you think?

1.) I love this Crocheted Hemp Flower Necklace from Crescendoh, which I’m thinking would be an adorable gift for the mothers and/or my soon-to-be sister in law. The kit comes with hemp yarn, a crochet hook, 40 hand-dyed buttons and intructions (v. important!). Of course, I think I would use different colored buttons and maybe throw in some novelty items, i.e. felt leaves, shells, and wooden buttons. We shall see.

2.) For our somewhat “green” wedding (whatever that means), I  thought this simple yet lovely market string bag from Erin Vaughan would make a nice gift.  You can never have enough of these washable, stretchable  bags, especially now as farmers markets are regaining popularity across the country.

3.) Here’s one for the winos and, incidentally, the men in my life.  I hope they wouldn’t feel too girly caring a “handbag” even if it is for wine. I don’t care either way. They’re cute as all.

Harry wine bottle tote by Tante Sophie.

I’ve never tried felting before but the instructions look pretty straight forward. I’d say now’s as good a time as any to give it a try.

4.) In the same vein, these crocheted baskets are darling. Perfect as fruit baskets, napkin holders, anything really.

5.) Finally, who doesn’t love an adorable, multi-purpose tote? What’s more, it’s made from recycled bread bags. Again, this would complement our eco-conscious wedding theme, plus it’d be great as a market or beach bag.

I love the colors on this one. Wonder what bread they used... Sarah Lee?

So will I have time for all these projects on top of writing this novel, on top of planning the wedding, on top of applying for real jobs? Okay, probably not. But one can dream, right? Besides, they’re great projects to put on the backburner if I don’t finish them before the wedding.

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"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson

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