A Song for Employees

We’ve all been through that frustration with a bad boss, a bullying coworker or anyone who’s just a pain in the ass. This was a favorite video of mine when I posted it on my Facebook profile a long time ago, and I was just reminded of it today.

I read that the man behind the song is also a pastor, so this is sanctified for all y’all sensitive to foul language, LOL. Enjoy!

Stitches East 2014

I didn’t think I’d ever go there, and factually I never really heard of this event before, but after going to Rhinebeck for 3 years in a row, my friend Nicki from D’NALI managed to convince me to give Stitches East a try this year in lieu of going to Rhinebeck.

It’s weeks later and I find myself on a 3 hour Amtrak ride along the Connecticut coastline, headed for it’s capital, Hartford. It’s interesting watching the landscape change from the predominant concrete & brick buildings of the city to upscale colonial homes of the suburbs to wooden houses in the countryside. I’m seated next to and have a brief conversation with a woman who teaches knitting and crochet classes at Fashion Institute of Technology, and is also traveling to Stitches East.

Only 1/2 hour after our train arrives we are already settled into our hotel room, which was just a short walk from the train. While relaxing from travel & contemplating our next move, we were greeted by demonstrators picketing outside our hotel in support of a local candidate running for governor along with counter demonstrators in support of it’s incumbent.

We finally decide to head over to the Marriott, where the Stitches East convention is being held. We didn’t get good walking directions, and it didn’t help that some of the locals we asked didn’t know where it was either. Another thing about downtown Hartford; it’s not the most pedestrian friendly city. Walking signals at times seemed nonexistent, you didn’t know whether to simply wait, or play chicken crossing the roads. As a New Yorker, my instinct is to simply jaywalk as soon as traffic clears, but with also right turns at red lights being permissible here, that also incurs risks.

But on to the knitting……

One of the major reasons for coming to Stitches East is for the knitting classes I signed up for. I wasn’t ready to commit to their 3 hour mega classes so I decided to do a few of their market sessions that were only 1 hour apiece. My thought was to get a taste of what classes were like, and frankly, 1 hour is about all my attention span was ready to handle, LOL

Of course, we did a little bit of shopping at their market place, and the first day of the vendors opening, Nicki and I scored this deal on stitch markers.

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The vendor, Chappy’s fiber arts and crafts sold a variety of knitting & crocheting supplies. I’m a sucker for stitch markers since I do projects that use a lot of pattern repeats. The different designs will help to keep things interesting. I picked this particular bunch for the lipstick marker that was included.

The next morning while Nicki went off to a quilting class, I signed up for a seminar on tunisian crochet. I’ve done a bit of crocheting before, in fact I learned to crochet years before I picked up knitting. Tunisian crochet I always associated with making huge objects like blankets because of the long needles involved. It will be useful for making blankets & other objects that help use up yarn that would otherwise sit in my stash indefinitely. I didn’t have a problem picking up the stitch technique, but note to self: slippery yarn & metal needles do not work well together.

Later that afternoon, I took a second class on combining yarn colors. The instructor focused mainly on fair isle knitting, but went over basic techniques for combining colors of yarn. During the class, the instructor pointed out to me that I had been knitting “backwards”. I never took any formal knitting lessons, I am mostly self taught. But for all the time I’ve been knitting up to that point, I didn’t realize I’ve been doing all my knit stitches through the back loop instead of the front. I didn’t see any difference in my stitches when I made scarves or blankets for example, but that explained why I would occasionally notice when making hats or anything in the round for example, that my stockinette stitches looked a bit twisted. Thank God none of the folks that I made gifts for ever noticed, LOL

Later that day, I did a little more shopping with the vendors. I overheard two of them in conversation speaking about the relatively low number of vendors at this year’s event compared to the past. One attributed it to the number of yarn related events scheduled close together such as Rhinebeck coming up this weekend. I wasn’t seeing any yarn that specifically jumped out at me and didn’t want to really splurge, since I’m also planning to head for Rhinebeck as well. But I did find this clever creation of a yarn “abacus” from Knitting Abacus

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The row counter, which also doubles as a bracelet can count up to 999 rows. The seller also makes 2 row bracelets that can count up to 100 rows, but the advantage of the 3 row bracelet is that you can also use the last row to count pattern repeats if they’re less than 100 rows. This will keep me from trying to keep track with multiple row counters.

I also bought these skeins of malabrigo yarn from Yarn Barn out of Kansas at around $11 each. Had the vendors been more willing to make a deal, I would’ve bought their entire bag of 10 skeins they had stored under their table. No matter, I’ll save my bargaining skills for Rhinebeck, LOL

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I don’t know what I’ll make with it yet. More than likely some kind of fancy cowl or scarf or maybe a hat & scarf set, but I just fell in love with the color combo. And I’ve heard some good things about malabrigo yarn so I look forward to seeing how this knits up.

Saturday started out with 2 more classes. The first, on blocking your knitted work was informative and I got some tips on which techniques work best with which types of yarn. The second class called “knitting from the inside out” speaks for itself. How to knit in the round starting from the center. Again, I had problems with my slippery acrylic yarn & metal double pointed needles, but practicing the technique was ok.

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I know a number of african americans who knit or crochet, but I didn’t know of any that owned a yarn shop until I came across the Neighborhood Fiber Co. booth. I loved their vibrant colors of yarn and would’ve been happy with any of their selections, but I picked out a worsted weight yarn to start with since I have more than enough sock and fingering weight yarn. The garments they had knitted up as samples with their yarn were enticing. Hope one day I can catch them on a sale and stock up.

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I first fell in love with ombre yarn when I saw the Freia yarn booth back at Vogue Knitting Live in January. Bought this ball of silk/merino wool at the Apple Tree Knits booth. I’m thinking a lacy shawl or scarf will be created from this, haven’t decided yet.

It’s off to Rhinebeck next weekend to see what else I can add to my already overflowing stash.

Truth In Advertising

It’s been a minute since I posted. Spent most of the summer working on my knitting challenge that I talked about in my last post. I’ll update with pics soon, but I’m working on my third scarf for holiday gifts this year.

A few days ago while talking with a coworker about shenanigans at work, I recalled a video clip I saw for the first time titled “Typical Day In Corporate America.” about workers at a corporate firm where instead of the characters spoke truthfully whatever was on their minds. Searched for the video clip and ended up finding the original short film it was taken from. It’s an old film, but hilarious. You might recognize one of the actors, a comedian who now stars in the improv show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway.”

Well here it is. One of my favorite all time YouTube videos. No matter what your work environment is, these folks have been your coworkers at some point. The story does live up to it’s name.

Knitting Challenge

It all started when I heard about the warehouse sale at the local Save-A-Thon stores they have periodically every year.

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I’d been wanting to check out their warehouse sales in the past and never had a chance to go. For the first time I got the chance to go this year, and my primary intent was to check out their sewing machines and fabric, since I have a renewed interest in getting into sewing in addition to knitting. Where I’m gonna find the time to do both? I don’t know, I’ll work it out somehow, LOL.

I had no intention of going home with any yarn, but then my mom reminded me that one of my aunts, who briefly was into crocheting had expressed interest in me making a cowl or scarf for her when she saw me knitting a cowl for myself. So ok, while I’m here, I figure I’ll take advantage of the discounted yarn prices & see if I can find some yarn to make a project for her.

My plan was to make the scarf for my aunt as a Christmas gift. Yes, not even summer yet and I’m thinking about Christmas in June. But then this happened…..

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You’re looking at that picture & probably wondering what kind of shenanigans I’ve gotten into. Well, what had happened was…. somehow one aunt turned into 3 aunts, an uncle, a cousin, my two sisters, my brother in law, a niece, nephew, and my mom. I figure I’ll get a jumpstart on them since I’ve now committed myself to an iron man knitting challenge; doing 11 projects by Christmas. The upside of that at least is come this year’s holiday season, I’ll be cozy in my home sipping wine and knitting while you folks will be battling it out at WalMart like this woman on black friday:

And the sewing machine? Well I did see one I’m interested in buying, but found a better deal for it online. And bought some really pretty fabric too. But more about that in another post.

Pottery Class….The Results

I almost forgot to post about this. Been busy the last few weeks prepping for a cruise with the family that turned out to be a well needed vacation. In between, I got the email from La Mano pottery stating that the yarn bowl I made was finally ready for pick up. That episode almost turned out to be drama in itself.

I receive the email over the weekend, and made plans to head there the following tuesday. When I get to the studio, I tell the receptionist at the counter I’m here to pick up my pottery. I give her my name, and date of the class and she proceeds to search. She’s looking through all the bags of student projects stored on the shelves and she cannot find it. Another worker joins the search, they go to the back, downstairs in their basement. Still no pottery. My heart is slowly sinking. All kinds of wild thoughts are going through my head. What if it broke? Did they mistakenly give it to someone else? Twenty minutes I’m standing there and staff can’t find it. Finally she apologizes and tells me to follow up “Damien”, the staff member who emailed me to pick up my bowl in the first place.

I follow up later with a “dude, where’s my stuff?” email to Damien, he replies it’s been found. I return to the studio two days later. I encounter another receptionist and some different staff, which included the instructor I had for the course. In the midst of another 10-15 minutes of not knowing where it is again, the owner, a middle aged woman with a pleasant manner appears. She remembers my yarn bowl, remarking on it’s size. “It’s so big, students don’t usually make anything that large in the wheel throwing classes.” What can I say? The class was at half capacity being it was Easter Sunday, so there was extra clay to work with. She also recalled having worked on the finishing of the piece itself, noting she had to do repairs on the cylinder portion which had separated from the bottom.

After all that drama, they finally present my piece. I’m pleased with the way it came out for my first project. It’s got some sharp edges on the inside so it won’t work for practical use as a yarn bowl, but it’ll make for a nice display piece in my crafting room. They glazed it a cobalt blue. I’d have preferred a mix of colors or some accent colors, but students were not permitted choice in coloring.

And now, the pictures. So tell me, did I do a nice job or what?

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RIP Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

We lost a phenomenal woman today.

Like many young black girls, the first time I was exposed to Maya Angelou was through her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings which was required high school reading. Hearing the stories of my dad’s upbringing in the south, and the annual road trips there to visit my own relatives, I could relate somewhat to the story of a young black girl born in St. Louis who grew up in rural Arkansas by her grandmother during the years of brutal segregation. Who later grew up to become a dancer, an actress, director, activist and most notably a writer.

I imagine much of Maya Angelou’s poetry and writings served like a soundtrack to the lives of many african americans. While browsing YouTube, I came across this video that I haven’t seen in many years. The movie adaptation of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” It’s dated, given it was shot in the late 1970s, but has a cast of well known black actors/actresses of the time.

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Pottery class part 2

A week ago I posted about the wheel thrown pottery class I went to at La Mano Pottery from a groupon deal.

On this Easter Sunday morning, I’m back again for the original pottery class I signed up for. A hand building pottery workshop that I also bought a groupon deal for.

This time it was a much smaller class so our instructor started us off with a tour of the studio. She took us downstairs into the area where finished pottery work done via the pottery wheel or hand built are dried, fired in their kilns and then glazed. Some of the finished pieces are the work of students who’ve taken workshop classes, others like the ones you see with the white tags are done by professional artists. Showing various shapes & designs, the students drew ideas & inspiration on what to make.

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We return to the class area and the instructor then begins to demonstrate how to cut & shape the clay, imprint designs, attach pieces together and seal any gaps. I came in with the idea of making a yarn bowl, then became concerned when the instructor said bowls were not very good to design with the flat clay because of the higher risk of the finished piece cracking while drying.

After speaking with the instructor about my concerns with making a yarn bowl, she suggested I do a cylindrical design as opposed to a bowl shape. (sigh of relief)

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All pieces start out with a flat slab of clay. The clay is quite moist, a newspaper is required under the slab to prevent it sticking to the table surface. With a trimming instrument smooth away any uneven surfaces, then depending on what your desired piece is, you will then cut & shape your clay into whatever the final piece will be. Any design you want on the finished piece can be stenciled on at this time.

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Lucky for me the class wasn’t full so there were extra slabs of clay to work with. Most yarn bowls I see on the market will hold small to medium size skeins of yarn. I wanted something that would hold one of those really huge skeins which I haven’t found anywhere. For that size, I needed an extra 1/2 slab of clay, which I cut and attached here. Originally I wanted a floral design on the outside but the imprint didn’t turn out well, so I went with this wicker basket design on the background.

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If you’ve ever baked any bread or pastries you’ll find those skills useful here. The piece was so huge when I seamed the edges together, the instructor had to roll out a new piece of clay for the bottom. I used a lazy susan to spin my piece around while sealing the sides & bottom together and then adding other decorations.

There was a letter & number stencil I tried using to carve out letters which didn’t work out. I went with slabs of clay with handwritten words “yarn” “knit” and “purl” and some hand drawn motifs of knitting needles and a basket of yarn to decorate.

The final step was carving out the sections for threading the yarn through. I’ve never had a yarn bowl and I wasn’t sure how deep to carve the openings, plus I was concerned about the bowl falling apart. I may or may not have carved the opening deep enough.

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Compared to the wheel throwing class I had, I’m proud of my result & I get to keep what I make this time. For a $15 fee, this masterpiece will be fired in their kilns and glazed with whatever color they happen to have in their stash at the time, we don’t get to choose. The end result will be smaller than what you see here due to the clay drying. Crossing my fingers for the next 6 weeks hoping the piece doesn’t crack.

Put the phone down……for a minute.

I recall one occasion where I almost lost my iPhone. I wasn’t paying attention & left it in the computer lab at my job. Lucky a coworker found it and returned it to me. Another time I didn’t lose my phone but it froze and I couldn’t get it to function again. Fearing it was broken, I took it to a local Apple store where an employee did a simple move and reset it for me. Those moments remind me how we become so dependent on a small piece of technology that without it, we seem lost.

One of the only times when I didn’t feel connected to the phone is during travel & vacations. And that is only because I was in places where cell phone reception was unavailable, such as aboard a cruise ship. Or overseas in countries with sporadic reception unless I wanted to pay exorbitant roaming charges.

But how truthful and accurate is this video? We get so focused on tweeting, face booking & instagramming every moment of our lives, we sometimes forget to live in and enjoy the moment.

Pottery class, part 1

I’ve thought off and on about getting one of these…

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I admire those yarn bowls, but most bowls made will only fit average size skeins of yarn & I haven’t been able to find a yarn bowl large enough to fit a skein with a lot of yardage. Then one day I’m browsing groupon and spot a deal for pottery class and suddenly I had dreams of creating my own yarn bowl from scratch.

So thanks to one of those groupon deals, I signed up for my first pottery class. It was only an introductory course but the thought of coming home with an original piece I made of my own I couldn’t resist.

Not knowing there were several types of pottery classes available, at first, I signed up for a hand thrown pottery class, then had trouble with scheduling because all the classes had been booked. While waiting for more classes to be scheduled, I then found another deal also on groupon for a wheel thrown pottery class at the same studio. I thought it was a good chance to compare the two methods & see which one I would prefer.

So on a warm late saturday afternoon I head downtown to La Mano Pottery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, just around the corner from the world famous Fashion Institute of Technology. I arrived about 10 minutes early for the scheduled 6 PM class, and the guy at the reception counter instructed me to return at 6:00.

After a bit of window shopping, I come back and get set up for class. The environment is an open studio, with separate areas for individual students and artists to work on their crafts, as well as separate teaching areas for wheel throwing and hand throwing pottery. The studio offers introductory as well as multiple week courses for adults & children.

Classes are small with about 12-15 students, each sitting in front of individual potter’s wheels. I think clay artisans in the ancient days must have been mostly short in height because you’re sitting on a small folding stool that is relatively low to the ground. Someone who is tall may experience a little back pain after a while from the constant having to bend over the wheel.

But this is how you start. Each student is given a few balls of clay,a couple of tools to help shape the object you’re constructing, a bucket of water & a sponge.

starting with the potter's wheel

starting with the potter’s wheel

The instructor went through beginner techniques. How to shape the clay, center it on the wheel, spinning the wheel and manipulating the clay while on the wheel. There were a few mishaps during class. I and another student had to move to new wheels because the instructor found they were spinning in the wrong direction. The clay wouldn’t stay centered on the wheel. I couldn’t figure out the optimal speed for the wheel; either it was spinning too fast or too slow. One woman expressed she found it therapeutic just playing in the clay. Another student looked as if she had taken classes before, although claiming to the instructor it was her first time. She created one sculpture after another, while I struggled just to get basic techniques down.

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After several mishaps, I began to get a feel for the technique. I got the clay to open up as if to begin making a bowl or cylinder:

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Then it turned into this:

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And after a good deal of time had passed, I finally was able to create my first “masterpiece”. A miniature bowl. Too bad none of the pieces created during wheel throwing class could be saved. This would’ve made a fine ashtray, or maybe a shallow candy dish.

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After 2 hours, it was time to clean up the mess. A fun time was had by all. But unless I get a lot more practice, I think my dream of making my own yarn bowl might be deferred at this point. I have a second class in hand thrown pottery at the same studio the following week. Maybe I’ll have an easier time there.
Meanwhile I’ll leave you a video for one of the experts to show you how it’s supposed to be done.

Finished projects

Look what I’ve made over the past couple of weeks…

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I posted about this project a few months ago while a work in progress that’s finally done. Actually, I finished it a long time ago, but somehow never got around to finishing off the seam.

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The original pattern I think was made with a softer yarn so it doesn’t lay as flat. The wool is a little bit scratchy at the moment, hopefully it will soften after I wash it & look forward to wearing it when cold weather returns.

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One of my aims was to get back into doing some crocheting this year and I did with this pattern I found on Ravelry. I used some thick Lion Brand wool yarn I bought at Michael’s a few years ago that I couldn’t quite find the right pattern for.

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This will be perfect for those really cold days. It’s so thick I will have to wear it outside my coat. Still have some leftover yarn, maybe enough to make a matching hat.

This baby blanket was made at the request of a coworker who was pregnant. It’s another pattern I found on Ravelry, it’s a pretty design & the ease of the pattern directions made this a relatively quick knit. I didn’t finish knitting in time before she had the baby and it still needs blocking but since it’s acrylic, and machine washable, though I would not advise it with this pattern, she’ll still get plenty of use out of it when she receives it.

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close up of pattern:

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Next up, I’ll be attempting to make pottery, and soon I’ll take a stab at spinning my own yarn. And of course, I’ll still be knitting and crocheting in between.

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