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…

yarn bowl

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.

The PuffCuff: A Review

I’ve been wearing my hair natural since 2000. Worn almost every natural style; twists, locs, braids, afro, twist outs, etc. I don’t consider myself a product junkie, but a couple weeks ago, I saw this Youtube video posted on Facebook about a new hair band for creating afro puffs:

Over the years I’ve worn out too many bra strap hairbands to count creating afro puffs. Plus the bra strap style hairbands have become so hard to find now, I only know of one beauty supply store that still carries them, when I’m in the neighborhood I always stock up. So I was excited to try this new product that would save me the trouble of having to search for replacement hairbands.

Watching the demo video, the creator has about twice the length of hair as myself and perhaps not as thick. I was a bit nervous would this work on my very thick, kinky hair, and did I have enough hair to fit into it. After watching a couple of review blogs and video posts, one of which featured a blogger whose hair was similar to my own, I took a leap of faith.

Let me start off by saying I’m not being paid by any advertisers nor provided with any promotional products, so my review is totally unbiased. I’m a regular customer who did just like any other ordinary consumer would do and ordered the PuffCuff from Amazon, though you can also order it directly from their website as well.

I got the product in the mail a few days later. It resembles a huge banana clamp, except that it’s round. It’s made of the same type of plastic other hair combs are made of, strong enough to withstand ordinary use, but I would treat it delicately as it’s held together by only a small piece of metal at the center when it’s opened.

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Putting it in is as easy as it was shown in the video. Gathered my hair in the center of my hair, added the cuff around it and fastened the hooks. It took me a little while to get used to the look of it in my hair. The site recommends putting it in while your hair is damp, but I had no problem with using it while my hair was dry. If your hair is extra thick like mine, you may want to blow your hair out a bit to make it a little easier. I thought my hair was a little too short and wasn’t sure I liked the look but after a few days of wearing it, it grew on me. And after looking at a couple photos, I like it.

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One plus with the PuffCuff is that you don’t have to have loose hair. It will also work for updo styles if you wear your hair in twists, braids or locs as well. The only drawback I see is that it’s available in only one color, black. At the moment, they only sell it in one size which will tackle even the thickest heads of adult heads. But plans are in the works to add child size PuffCuffs as well. At $12 a pop, some folks may take issue with the price, but I’ve spent more on years worth of headbands that lasted for only a few uses.

I give it a definite thumbs up. I know this will get a lot of use, especially as my hair grows longer, And it’ll come in very handy on those days when I’m having a bad hair day or when I just want something simple and quick.

Fashion Show

I never got around to uploading this video, but it’s a fashion show at Vogue Knitting Live I went to back in January. Some nice inspirational garments and accessories. Enjoy!

Vogue Knitting Live 2014

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Soon after I woke up, I looked out my apartment window and it was beginning to snow heavily. Normally I would call it a good day to stay in, curl up on the couch with some hot chocolate & knitting and watch a couple of movies. Instead I had plans of trekking out to the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square to attend this year’s Vogue Knitting Live.

I unfortunately waited too late to buy my ticket in advance online, which would’ve been slightly cheaper. But I found a coupon on KnitPick’s website for $10 off purchase of a two day marketplace admission ticket. I didn’t plan on attending both days but with the discount, the price would be the same as if I had bought the one day ticket online. When I got to the ticket booth, somehow the man behind the counter somehow misread the coupon because he only charged me $10 for admission. I’m not one to complain about an unexpected discount so I took my green wristband and kept it moving, LOL!

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I haven’t been to Vogue Knitting Live in about 3 years. The vendors are mostly local knitting shops & some yarn manufacturers. It’s not nearly as large or extensive as the annual Rhinebeck festival. It looks like they’ve expanded a bit over the past few years though, because this year the vendors were spread out on two floors. Even if you’re not into knitting, you could appreciate the gallery of sculptures from fiber artists displayed outside of the gallery.

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I already have a pretty substantial stash of yarn so I wasn’t really looking to stock up. I didn’t want to necessarily leave empty handed either, but it was going to take something spectacular to move me. And as usual, it’s a bargain deal.

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The 5 skeins in the middle are from Full Moon Farms in upstate Gardiner, NY. The woman at the booth had a trunk full of mill end skeins that normally sell for $25 but were reduced to $10 each. By the time I got there it was a small crowd around the trunk, so I had to put in some work going through the stash & competing with fellow shoppers to find enough skeins to make a project and came up with these. The vendor even took off an additional $5.00 for paying in cash. WIN!

The gray yarn in the bag is from Black Sheep and Ewe The two skeins included are enough to make a beautiful cowl they had on display I unfortunately did not get a picture of. I bought the bag mainly for the pattern, and to try out the new yarn, which the vendors say is good for folks who are sensitive to wool.

The pink yarn on the right is from Freia One of the stalls I was looking forward to checking out, because they have these fabulous hand painted yarn that variegates when knitted up as if you mixed the colors separately. These balls came from their discounted yarn bin. Don’t know what I’ll make with it yet. It’s sport weight yarn, so it will most likely be a shawl or cowl of some sort.

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