Archive | January, 2012

New Look, New Hat

30 Jan

This tam was the first project I've ever completed using beading.

This week I used a new knitting technique and gave my blog a makeover. I’m slow to accept change most of the time, but this is just refreshing.

The new knitting technique was part of my Garden Party Lights Tam, made from the Holiday Lights Tam pattern published in Interweave Knits Winter 2011.

Though “Holiday Lights” was a very fitting name for the golden hat featured in the magazine, I felt that my green-and-blue version, knit on the cusp of spring, better represents a sort of garden-party, crocus-bud kind of feeling.

Using the beading technique for the first time was interesting, but very easy to get the hang of. This technique involved stringing beads onto your yarn before knitting, then placing the beads on certain stitches for the pattern. This particular hat highlights the beads using a slipped-stitch bow pattern, which to me makes the beads look like little droplets of water sliding down a green bulb.

The yarn is Cascade Ultra Pima (DK / 220 yards) in the Olive colorway, and has been hanging around my stash for nearly a year now. I purchased it at Loopy Knit/Crochet in Missoula, but haven’t been pleased with any particular pattern I tried for it. I knew I wanted to use it for a beret or tam, an after several non-starts, this pattern seemed like the perfect fit. The yardage was also perfect for this project, and I have a little chunk left over that will go into my hexipuff stash.

The beads were purchased at my local Jo-Ann Fabrics and are Blue Moon 6/0 seed beads in a blue/turquoise color. For less than $3 I was able to buy enough beads for two hats, with each hat requiring 360 beads.

This hat will not be staying with me, although I hope to knit one for myself in colors more to my taste. This particular hat will be arriving in the mailbox of some lucky lady within the next week, and I hope she loves it.

As far as the new look for my blog, I wanted to spice things up a bit and draw more attention to some of the extra links I provide. I hope to add more original designs to my Patterns page, and the links under More Blogs are my favorite source of humor and inspiration.

I hope you all like the new look! Coming up: The Scent of Lavender.

The Case of the Missing Hexipuff

28 Jan

My ever-expanding pile of hexipuffs.

A mystery struck the Pallares household last week. Behold, the thrilling Case of the Missing Hexipuff:

I’ve been working diligently on my 2012 resolution to knit enough hexipuffs for a small, lap-sized Beekeeper’s Quilt. I don’t have as many as I should, but the pile is certainly growing, and I keep a small project bag (made from a T-shirt sleeve!) full of the supplies at all times, just in case hexipuff fever strikes.

My finished hexipuffs are kept in a separate, larger bag, which sits on the floor next to my favorite knitting chair in the living room. For three days in a row, when I went downstairs in the morning I found this bag dragged to the middle of the floor. On one of these days the bag was opened, with a few hexipuffs strewn about.

At first I though my 8-year-old stepdaughter was getting a bit too curious and inconsiderate about the hexipuff project, but something didn’t feel right. This didn’t seem like a cut-and-dry case of kid mischief.

One evening I was sitting in my bed, watching some Netflix and knitting a bright pink hexipuff, which has become on of my favorite ways to wind down my day. When I finished the hexipuff I handed it to my husband, who pretended to use it as a pillow and play with it a bit while I grabbed more yarn and began another.

When bedtime came, I asked for the hexipuff back, but Ismael didn’t have it. He had at one point gone to the kitchen to get some water, and I assumed he accidentally took the hexipuff to the kitchen table and left it there. No problem, I thought, I’ll get it in the morning. And off to bed we went.

The next morning I found no hexipuff on the kitchen table, and I hadn’t found it when shaking out the bed sheets and blankets, either. On the plus side, my hexipuff bag was still in its place by my chair, unperturbed.

For two days I kept up the hexipuff hunt. I had upturned just about every surface in our bedroom, quadruple-checked my hexipuff project bag, and steadily escalated the accusation against my husband. He must have kept the hexipuff on purpose, as a token of my sanity.

But throughout those two days, the hexipuff bag by my chair remained undisturbed. I began to suspect that the missing hexipuff and the ignored hexipuff bag were connected. And then it hit me.

The missing hexipuff is discovered!

I noticed that my rabbit’s “house” – a small sleeping hut intended for cats – was slightly ajar and pushed away from the wall. And there it was. The missing hexipuff had been purloined and hidden by 3, our 2-year-old Californian/Holland Lop mix. (Yes, his name is 3. It’s from a comic book)

The hexipuff was covered in rabbit fur – and probably spit – and thus it became a new rabbit toy, unfit for human use.

This means that 3 was also the culprit behind the hexipuff bag disturbances. So great was his interest in the tiny pillows that he would sneak down to the living room at night and try to abscond with them. So, when Ismael got up that fateful evening to get water, he must have dropped the hexipuff to the floor, and 3 saw his chance. He stole and hid the hexipuff, probably playing with it while we were away at work and school during the day.

The scoundrel.

Since the incident, there have been no further attempts to steal other hexipuffs. It seems 3’s desire to possess one of his own has been sated. I shouldn’t be mad. After all, it’s not as if he has enough toys already:

The toy collection of one spoiled rabbit.

Why Vegan?

23 Jan

Cotton is the most common vegan fiber. Photo by scottchan.

You may have noticed that there is one common theme for all of my projects on this blog: The yarn is vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle in which you abstain to the best of your ability from eating or using any materials derived from or tested on animals. This includes meat, dairy products, most mainstream toiletries brands, leather, silk and wool.

I’ve lived a vegan lifestyle for four years, and was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 6 years before that, which means I didn’t eat meat or fish, but I did eat eggs and dairy, and I used products made from and tested on animals. The switch came from my belief that human veganism is most in-line with my views on morality and biology. I believe humans are meant to be herbivores – though we can tolerate omnivorous diets – and I believe that I should respect the web of life that I am a part of by not causing any harm to other living creatures. This belief is also called “ahimsa” in Sanskrit, and literally means “to do no harm”. It is a term many people are familiar with because Mohandas Gandhi applied it to his non-violent revolution in India in the 1940s.

I have a tattoo on my forearm of "Ahimsa" in Sanskrit as a reminder to respect all life. Though many tattoo inks contain animal fat, this brand of tattoo ink is vegetable-based.

In the knitting world, I belong to a small, sometimes unwelcome community. Knitters who use animal fiber – wool, mohair, angora, silk, etc. – may believe that animals are intended for human use, and others still may work with those animals and have close relationships with them, seeing to their welfare and treating them fairly. I understand that some farms do treat their sheep, llamas or rabbits with respect and love. However, the idea of veganism promotes the respect of all animals, and not just the lucky few who live on nice small farms.

Say for instance that a small farm with less than 20 sheep produces high-quality yarn from their herd. This yarn will cost significantly more and be produced in tiny batches. Large companies that ship yarn to every craft store in America will need much more wool. They will likely use factory farms to get their wool. These factory farms are pretty much exactly what they sound like: Factories. The animals unlucky enough to be raised in these factories are not treated as individuals and often live short lives in filthy, cramped conditions. Because sheep are also killed for meat, much of this wool comes from sheared sheep on their way to slaughter, or even from their skin after slaughter. This mass production of wool means that skeins of yarn cost significantly less for the consumer, and many knitters will buy these brands because they are budget-friendly.

I don’t believe that these knitters are evil, careless people. But we live in a mass-production society, and often animals are caught in the cross-hairs of consumerism. If I purchased and used a wool yarn from a small farm where the sheep were loved and lived out long and happy lives, I would break solidarity with the unfortunate sheep serving their lives as cogs in a factory farm. If I knit a cute wool hat made with yarn from well-treated sheep, I may inspire another knitter to make that same hat out of factory-farmed wool.

Silkworm cocoons are boiled with the worms inside them to create silk (with the exception of “wild silk”, which uses found cocoons). Factory-farmed angora rabbits are tied spread-eagle and shaved, not carefully plucked by a hand-spinner. For every single animal raised with love, a thousand are treated with no regard for their life or comfort.

Some animals are harmed indirectly in the production of crops for plant fibers like cotton, bamboo, soy and corn silk. However, through vocal opposition of careless farming and harvesting practices, veganism continues to support a harmless alternative to animal fiber. Cotton may not be nearly as warm as wool, but at the end of the day I can wear my handknits and know that I did my best to live according to ahimsa.

I hope that non-vegan knitters read my blog. I want to share the joys and frustrations of knitting with all of you. But if anyone is turned away from my work because of my vegan lifestyle, I won’t apologize. I try my hardest to lead a good life, even when it places me out of the mainstream.

To learn more about veganism and mass wool production, visit the Vegan Society website.