Cast On, Cast Off

Melon Stitch

See that thing up there? That's my melon stitch scarf from Victorian Lace Today, as inspired by Grumperina. I just cast that sucker off. And as you may or may not know, casting off means only one thing: Completion nearing. Huzzah! I can't even begin to describe how long it's taken to make this wee little scarf. Small needles, thin yarn, and all those dainty stitches sure are time consuming. Though I suppose that's obvious.

Icky Cast-On

Now a little bit about that strange blue blob at the bottom of the scarf. That's the cast-on method I chose. To be more precise, it's the "waste-yarn cast-on" from page 166 of the book. I wanted to give it a try out of curiosity more than function. The instructions merely said to cast-on with waste yarn, knit for four rows, switch to the main yarn, and then remove. Not very specific. And with the pull of the stitches when I did actually remove (thank the ninja gods I waited until the end), I wonder if I did it correctly.

Lace Bind-Off

Now for the bind-off/cast-off, which I really do find quite clever. I found a "lace cast off" from Elann. It's very tidy, but loose enough for knitting-on a border. My normal cast-offs tend to be quite tight unless I put forth great effort to make sure they're looser. And even then, the stitches still aren't loose enough to match all that effort. I'll definitely use this cast-off method again.

Seaslik Scarf

Flour Figurines

"'Flour Figurines' are a type of popular folk art [that] can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C to 24 A.D). Made from a sticky rice powder and strong flour, the figurines are shaped with scissors, combs and bamboo needles. Most figurines are historical characters from operas and legends or they reflect local customs and traditions." Via Spotlight on China.

Knitted Fortunes

What you see above are awesomeknitted fortune cookies from Indigomuse at She links to her blog on the post, but not the pattern which is here: Felted Fortune Cookies.

Chinese New Year Good Luck Bags

More Lunar New Year goodness coming up! Here's a tutorial for an embroidered Chinese New Year good luck bag from Purl Bee: "This fun embroidery project makes a great...small token of good luck in celebration of Chinese New Year. Fill the bags with favorite candy, incense, lucky coins (maybe chocolate ones!), or a special greeting."

Mmmmm...Lucky chocolate...A ninja's best friend...

New Year Cupcakes

Every crafty ninja needs a healthy dose of sugar now and then. And what's a better way to get your dose than with some super-cute Chinese New Year cupcakes from Cupcake Momma? I am seriously in love, here. I've always been a stickler for cute sugar cookies, so I might just be her next customer.

Chinese Paper Cutting

Another Lunar New Year's tradition is to decorate doors and entrances with intricate Chinese Paper Cuttings (in red, of course) to bring more good luck.

*beezy* has some stunning photographs of paper cutting gifted from friends in China at her Flickr acccount. Sadly, her photos are licensed so I can't include a teaser. But I'll forgive her since she graced us unworthy souls with such gorgeous pictures.

I'm becoming more and more fond of Chinese art, especially after watching numerous performances of the dragon dance while in the International District during Saturday's New Year's event. I find the Chinese style to be a detailed mix of whimsical and enthralling--a rich tapestry of history that is lacking from American iconography and folklore. As I grow older and am exposed to more bits and pieces of other cultures, I'm beginning to see exactly why Americans have always been fascinated by Asian motifs. Chinese (and Japanese) textiles, motifs, and palettes have consistently cropped up in popular fashion and home decor in one form or another from the Noir era on. I'm pretty sure it's all in the deceptively simple forms that dictate such a complex and winding history that spreads far beyond the American past. To pack so much information and importance in one single brush stroke goes beyond comprehension in a Western-based culture, and therefore is enthralling to us Westerners.

That said, don't take too much stock into my discursive nonsense. I practically failed all of my Art History classes before realized that I was a better English major since I had always focused more on writing than anything else.

Hong Bao Bag

About a year ago, Craftster user the_mullet posted this gorgeous purse made from Hong Bao—red packets/envelopes used to give money during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There's no tutorial included, but the_mullet covered the envelopes with Duraseal contact paper and used duct tape to hold the seams together. I'm sure there is a way to add that extra "professional" touch to the purse by fusing the paper to fabric and sewing it, or by using something like contact paper to reinforce and protect the packets and then in turn sew that. Might be something to add to my ever-growing list of projects...

More About Red Packets

Feast of the Boar

On Chinese New Years Eve (today), families will hold a reunion dinner where members near and far celebrate together. The majority of foods eaten are homonyms to words relating to prosperity and wealth, symbolizing the positive hopes for the new year.

A traditional dinner includes chicken and fish. Only part of the fish will be eaten, the remainder saved overnight to symbolize a wealthy coming year. This practice comes from the Chinese phrase nián nián yǒu yú, meaning "may there be surplus every year." The phrase sounds similar to "may there be fish every year." Via Wikipedia.

Other foods that might be found on the dinner table tonight include Buddha's Delight, a vegetarian dish that contains anywhere from 10 to 35 ingredients. For the new year, a version of this dish called Luóhàn quánzhāi (made from 18 ingredients) is served. Much like curry, each family has its own unique recipe.

Another dish might be dumplings, as it is believed the shape resembles ingots (gold Chinese money from the past). Oranges are also popular during the New Year as they are plentiful in China during this season and symbolize wealth and good fortune.

If you wish to join in on the festivities, below are more resources on foods to feast on.

Chinese New Year Eve Dinner:

Japanese House of Craft

On a whirlwind "bachelor party," my friend was in town very briefly this weekend. So I made sure part of her bachelor party consisted of a visit to Uwajimaya Village, home to the greatest Japanese bookstore in the U.S.: Kinokuniya. Her eyes practically burst from her skull when she first entered. After a cursory inventory of the entire store, we both settled down on the floor in front of the craft section and proceeded to drool for the next hour.

I don't know when I started to fall in love with Japanese crafts. Because it's so hard to resist the Japanese's talent for combing cute with whimsy with simplicity, I'm sure I was blindsided the second I first saw a picture of some form of Japanese craft. What I do know is that when I first visited New York last winter, I made sure to visit Kinokuniya in Manhattan (near MoMA) and came home armed with my first three craft books. And then when I returned a few months later, I again made sure to visit Kinokuniya, and once again came home armed with more craft books. Somewhere along my multi-year journey into obsession (the obsession started way before visiting New York), I found out about the Seattle branch of Kinokuniya. However, I brushed it aside as I also knew it was an "extension" of Uwjimaya, and I was therefore convinced it was a tiny little outfit not worth my time. And then when I first saw the New York store, I became convinced that it was the only truth and that the Seattle store was a mere speck of dust in comparison.

If only I could time travel. I would do so just to smack my slightly younger self into sense. Not only is the Seattle store as good as the New York store, I'm now convinced it's bigger! At least, it certainly feels much more open and easier to navigate than the New York store. And at the very least, their inventories are a close match. Why, oh why, was I too snotty to visit before now? Oh, why!!! I guess it's a good thing I still live in Seattle and have the ability to make up for lost time.

Anyway, If you ever find yourself near any of the 21 oversees stores, make sure you visit. Japanese craft booklets are craft ninja porn, and Kinokuniya has no shortage of them. And speaking of craft ninja porn, I decided to compile a list of Japanese craft sites. Ittadakimasu!

Crafting Japanese, I Really Think So

  • Japanese Knitting Basics: Simple translations to apply to your Japanese knitting patterns.
  • Crafting Japanese: Japanese craft book resource that logs cover pictures with ISBNs.
  • Flickr's Crafting in Japanese photo pool: for help with confusing instructions in Japanese craft books, but also used to show off finished items.
  • Also on Flickr: Many more photos tagged with "Japanese craft book".
  • CraftZine: Japanese craft links.
  • Puppy Yarn: Patterns for purchase—mostly crochet.
  • Knit Japan: Showcase of Japanese textile designers.
  • Kinokuniya: Japanese bookstore of heavenly heaven.
  • Uwajimaya: Seattle-area (and growing) Japanese supermarket complete with gifts and housewares.

Organic Flowers

To get those beautiful blooms you see in florist shops, the floral industry literally dips each flower in a concoction of pesticides. While there's no strong evidence that organic flowers are healthier for the recipient than flowers grown with pesticides, there is the questionable labor practices and environmental impact to take into consideration. The majority of these flowers are grown in Latin American and African countries that have lower chemical standards than the U.S., resulting in the use of nearly 20% of the chemicals banned in the U.S.

Organic Flower Retailers
Please note that I have not purchased from any of these retailers and cannot verify their validity.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Fair Trade Valentine's

Treehugger, a blog about anything and everything green, recently posted about a Fair Trade Chocolate Activist Kit from Global Exchange. While I've seen more attention paid towards sweatshop free clothing and fair trade coffee, the fact that the chocolate industry still relies heavily on child labor appears to have been swept under the rug.

The kit is $15 and includes a box of heart-shaped chocolates (milk or dark), fair trade themed Valentine's cards with a retro theme, an "amore" banner, and an "I love fair trade" iron-on. If you hold a fair trade activist close to your heart, then it would make an excellent gift.

Global Exchange is a company dedicated to fair trade goods and thus has a number of other fair trade items available for purchase—including chocolates and crafts. For gifts, recycled gift packaging is also available. I know where I'm shopping for V-Day gifts this year.

Wood Types

While trying to figure out the differences between maple, and oak, and birch, I ran into a really handy list provided by a furniture store named Frontgate: Know Your Woods.

While I doubt I'll be buying furniture from any online store, the fact that someone, somewhere out there decided to compile this handy and simple list gives me a warm-fuzzy feeling akin to a mug of hot buttered rum. I've always wondered what the best woods for furniture were, and also what woods would make better ornate carvings. And now I know.

Sea Silk Lace

Oi, back again to that 2007 knitting resolutions post.

A Seasilk in Progress

That's the progress shot of my Grumperina melon scarf—a modified version of the melon shawl from Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby. Being busy (and highly lazy), I mostly copied her modifications, including the Sea Silk from Hand Maiden Fine Yarn (in the "sangria" colorway). The one difference, though, is that I did 70 repeats per the books original instructions. I also think I will add a border to the ends, rather than around the entire scarf. I do think if one were to follow her modifications word-for-word, the lace pattern, yarn, and Grumperina's hard work make for a very special scarf that is incredibly easy and rewarding—perfect for someone who's busy and lazy (like me!).

And let me tell you, it's absolutely stunning in person. Even more so when the low winter sun streams through the bus windows and catches the sheen and variegated colors.

Melon Stitch

The original intent was to make this much later from now—maybe in Fall 2007. It was to be a Christmas present for the manflesh's mother. However, that blasted Backyard Leaves Scarf that was to be her belated 2006 Christmas present requires hella concentration. Hella. And after the whole birthday fiasco, which also included a surprise party that fell flat on it's rumpled ass, I decided it was time to spoil the manflesh mother and lavish her with both scarves and a pair of gloves that I have been ignoring for the past 12 months. Because this scarf does not require hella concentration, I've been tackling it more successfully.

That book, Victorian Lace Today, by the way, is simply amazing. If it weren't for Grumperina's review, I wouldn't have bought it sight-unseen. The original plan was to browse through either a library copy or a copy at a bookstore/yarn store. However, it has been consistently sold out from all the local bookstores and knitting stores, not to mention has 359 holds at the library. After a few weeks of hunting it down locally, I finally whipped out my credit card and purchased it from Amazon. Even the giant online bookstore of doom and destruction had a hard time getting my copy—it took them a mere 3 weeks to ship with 3-5 day shipping.


Today, my local newspaper ran an interview with Steve Dodds, author of the book Re-Creative: 50 Projects for Turning Found Items Into Contemporary Design. Dodds is a regular contributor to ReadyMade and has a penchant for collecting curb-side materials and giving them new life. Sound familiar?

The above article also includes a sidebar detailing the steps to make a "record album mail organizer." Not only is it a useful way to reuse records, but it's a change from the oh-so-three-years-ago record bowl or record cuff.

Etsy Upcycling Weenie Roast

A day late but not a dollar too short. The winners of the Upcycle contest co-sponsored by Etsy have been announced.

One of my picks, the Plasticoat, was runner-up. The others—well—sadly, they didn't even make it to honorable mention. However, with 200 plus entries to slog through, I'm impressed one of my picks even made it. The entries for this contest were overwhelmingly awesome, too.

And that wiener bench—I don't even know how the hell I missed it! I'm glad it won first place. If each one of those crocheted wieners would wiggle and vibrate, that bench would give one killer massage for sore ninja muscles. Honestly, can you think of something better than being kneaded by pulsating plush penises?

Though I think the cardboard chair was a bunch of...Hmpf! Honorable mention my ninja ass.

Apple Socks

I've never found too many patterns I like at MagKnits. However, I have recently been on a sock kick, and when I saw someone link this pattern for basic "tech socks" with a chart for an Apple logo, my knitting fingers began to twitch. Suddenly, an image of over-the-knee socks (or even thigh-highs) with an Apple logo popped into my mind. How scandalous it would be to wear a short skirt with tall Apple socks to my current place of employment—their direct competitors. BWAHAHAH!

Alas, first I must finish up the various belated Christmas and birthday and holiday-less spoilage gifts for the manflesh's mother. Then I have to finish that other pair of socks I'm a quarter way through—a pair that I listed on my 2007 knitting resolutions (the embroidered ones). Oh, and I'm sure there's a ton of other half-finished projects I really should get to before these socks. Waiting until all of those are complete might be asking for too much, though. After all, I really don't want to be wearing thigh-high merino socks in the summer, do I?