Friday, March 25, 2011

FO Friday, 3/25/2011

I had hoped to have a few things to show today, but this week has been MUCH busier than expected, and my job just exploded all over my entire travel day (as in, working on the plane) and my whole weekend, so I'm just going to leave you with:

Flower Pot Cozy!

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

Check out other people's Finished Objects at Tami's Ami Blog, and their fiber arts awesomeness on Wishdom Begins in Wonder.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Work in, 3/24/2011

Oh dear, I'm a day late. I even made sure I had pics of everything up and ready to go before I left for my trip, but I was ultimately foiled by a lack of internet and a lack of time yesterday, so today will have to do. As such, I'll keep this brief. :)

Poppop's Birthday Present

For my grandfather's birthday, I'm making a wheel chair seat cushion cover out of yarn that belonged to my grandmother before she died. It's ending up way too big (like, 2 - 3 inches longer than it needs to be), but otherwise I'm satisfied. The only serious problem is that I'm working with 1 strand of blue and two of tweed, and I did this on the understanding that I had about 11 1 oz. balls of tweed and 6 of blue. Unfortunately, it turns out that all but two of those blues were actually about half used up, and I didn't realize until I was already a good chunk of the way in. I'm almost definitely going to run out of blue before I finish, so I'll just have to manage with the last inches being only tweed. It's about half-way done right now.

I'd attempt to make this amigurumi a surprise, but since no one will have any idea what I'm talking about anyway, I'll go ahead and tell you that I'm making a gokk. This is part of Nerd Wars, and a gokk is an animal in Babylon 5 that is never actually shown, so I'm making it up based on a particular set of criteria that would have influenced the evolution of this creature. Since I made it on the plane to San Francisco, I took the Gokk around with me my first day.

Here we are at Fisherman's Wharf. I'll be posting a more complete post about my adventures with Gokk, and explaining the process that led to his development, when I finish him (probably on the plane on the way home tomorrow).

And, er, that's pretty much it! I finished another object, and have a few other things in the works, but they can wait.

1000 Amigurumi Crane Project
I promised an update on the 1000 amigurumi crane project, but I'm not going to be able to do it justice just now. The super short version is that things are going well! We've raised about $50 for charity by selling the crochet version of the crane amigurumi, and another member of the project has developed a knit version as well, which she is selling for only $1 to raise money for charity! (her pattern is not as extensive as mine, as it doesn't include resizing instructions, hence the lower price - also, it was ultimately up to her what to ask for her own work!). If you want to learn more, you can read about the 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project (a fund raising drive for Japan) in this blog post, join us on Ravelry at the 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project, where I also talk more about the project, mention other fundraising efforts, and am maintaining fiscal transparency efforts, and you can download the crochet pattern for $5 here, or the knit version for $1 here.

Want to see the awesome WIP being done by my fellow crafters? Head over to Tami's Ami Blog!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Growing Art Collection: New Pieces by Omar Rayyan and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I save money all year so that I can pay my taxes. One of the perks of this strategy is that I always end up with a little bit of money left over, and I usually take a percentage of that remaining money and buy myself something nice and expensive that I've wanted for a while. Okay, not always - last year, I spent every remaining penny to clear my credit card debt, but really, that was such a load off my mind that it might as well have been a gift to myself. ;) This year, I didn't have nearly as much left as I hoped, so I once again used it to clear "debt," but it was very specific - and special - debt. I had two expensive paintings that I'd been buying in monthly installments sent to the artist, but no longer - I've now paid them both down in full. I've already written about both before, but this time I've actually got, like, permission from the artists and stuff to share the images. ;)

Every year in August I go to Gencon, a gaming convention held in Indianapolis. I pretty much go for two reasons, and neither is gaming. One is to see all my dear friends who I see no other time of the year - Gencon, I often say semi-seriously, is my family reunion. The other reason, I go is to buy art. I've spoken before about my art collection a couple of times (here and here, specifically). I LOVE art, and I love owning original art, and since I can't afford Rembrandt, I content myself to collect the gorgeous fantasy art that I encounter as part of my hobby. I started small - my first original was $20, and my second was $5 - but I've gotten bigger over time. In 2008, I spent $900 on one piece and $600 on a second while at Gencon. But the real test came in August, 2009. That year, Omar Rayyan was the artist guest of honor, and as I was working my way towards his booth, I glanced over and saw a painting, and it was love at first sight. I couldn't take my eyes off it. It was a large oil, and I knew enough about the business to be able to make a ball park guess on how much money it would be, and I was terrified to ask him how much, because I knew how much I wanted it, and I knew that my credit limit was high enough that the temptation might be irresistible, but the timing was terrible to say the least. I was in the midst of trying to secure a mortgage before closing on my apartment, and about to leave for a three week vacation to boot, and anyway, when really is a good time to spend thousands of dollars on a frivolity - even a frivolity that one loves? But I couldn't not know. So I asked. And was told that it was $5,000. I actually debated buying it for 24 hours, but it was not an amount I could afford at that time. But it wasn't so out of reach that I didn't ask, before leaving, a few critical questions. What was the smallest down payment that he would accept? How could I get in touch later if I still wanted it? He told me $1000, that e-mail was fine, and he warned me that he'd be showing it again in November and if I really wanted it I might want to make a move.

As October came, I was still thinking about the painting. My situation hadn't changed. My closing date was coming up - it was 10/27 - and I needed every penny on hand to pay all the fees and such. I had promised myself I'd try to scrape together the $1000 down payment, but I just hadn't been able to. But I knew I wanted that painting, and so I contacted Omar, and I asked if he'd accept less with the understanding that in December I'd be able to hit the $1000. He said that would be acceptable, and in mid-October, 2009, I sent my first installment. I've been paying him every month ever since. And I'm glad I made my move, because he subsequently told me that when he attended the thing in November, one of his long-time customers had approached him and said they'd finally made up their mind, and wanted to buy the painting. If I hadn't made the move when I did, I wouldn't be the owner now, and that just breaks my heart, because I love it so very much. Every time I look at it, I grin like an idiot, ear to ear. ;)

I just love it. It's so Rembrandt (my favorite artist). I took down my poster of Sirius Black and hung the Man in it's place, and it's right next to my front door, so every time I leave the apartment, and every time I get home, and every time I walk in to the kitchen, I see him, and grin like an idiot again. My biggest challenge now will be not turning around and buying another. He's got at least two other paintings I would be interested in (one is the pendant to this one), and both are the same price. But while I really, really like them both, I don't love either the way I love "Man with Gold Earring."

The second has a story as well. Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (Shadowscapes) is the artist whose work first made me want to collect art. I remember scrimping and saving so that I could buy my first of her drawings, and being horrified that I was spending (gasp) 75 whole dollars for a piece of art work. How frivolous! How insane, when I was broke! And since then - that was, er, 2002 - I have bought at least one of her originals each year. At first it was drawings, but the last few years it's been watercolors (as my budget has improved). In 2004, I believe, she started working on a tarot deck, and from the start there were images in the deck that I fell in love with. My absolute favorite was the Lovers, followed closely by the Page of Wands (which, now that my taste has shifted a little, is now my favorite). She showed the Lovers at Gencon one year and I asked how much it was, but she said it wasn't for sale (a good thing, since that was when I still didn't have much $ for such things). And I waited patiently for the Tarot deck to become available. It finally did last year, and not long after she indicated that she'd be putting the originals on sale. I was dreading it a little, because I know how much her paintings go for, and I wasn't at all sure how I would scrape the money together. Still, I looked through the whole deck, ranked which cards' originals I wanted most, and waited until she finally announced the price list and the release day. The news was mixed. The Lovers was one of the most expensive pieces on there ($1500), and the Page of Wands wasn't for sale at all. So I modified my ranking and waited. Well, when the day finally came, the Lovers sold before I got to it, which was a mixed blessing - I love it, but the money really was an issue. I looked closely at what was still available from my most wanted list, and I finally settled on the Ten of Swords. I just love the color scheme. I finished paying for it out of tax money too - it was $760 total.

All in all, I finished paying for the most and third most expensive pieces of artwork I've ever bought, and I couldn't be happier with either. Now, I can't start saving money for this year's Gencon. ;)

Note that both images are used with the consent of the artists.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project

I've spoken in both of my blog posts this past week about my affection for Japan. In all my traveling, I've only ever found three places that I liked so well that I would want to live in them without any other temptation than just getting to be in them. These places are New York City (my home "town"), Tokyo and Venice. I've gotten to live in two of these cities - I was a resident in Tokyo for four months in 2007, and I feel in love. Even before that, I was a Japan-o-phile, studied Japanese for 6 years, and majored in East Asian Studies with a focus on Japan. There's no place like Tokyo in the world. I talk a lot about in this post (already linked in my WIP Wednesday, but I know I get some other folks for this post). Since last Friday, every day, I wake up feeling normal, and then at some point in my morning routine I remember that Japan is still in a state of crisis, and I look up the latest updates on the situation with the nuclear plant with a heavy heart, tears in my eyes, a little nausea, and the echoing thought that a place that I love is only 150 miles from such a potential disaster.

On Monday, I knew that I wanted to help. I went to the American Red Cross web page, and I donated as much money as I could afford. It felt totally empty. I kept thinking. I decided that if I can possibly manage it, I'm going to use my vacation in September to go and help with the rebuilding efforts that I'm sure will be well under way by then. It felt like too little, too late. I got dressed for the gym...and I had an idea. While I was at the gym, I let it percolate and develop. I ended up skipping out on work to implement that idea, and tonight it will be ready to go.

So, without more ado, let me introduce the 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project. The purpose of this project is simple: raise money for aid to Japan.

In Japanese culture, cranes are considered to be a sacred animal. There is an ancient myth that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes, threaded together on a string, will be granted any one wish by a crane. The gift of a string of a thousand cranes is considered to bestow good luck, happiness and prosperity, and strings of cranes are frequently given as gifts to newly weds, newborns, and as part of coming of age activities.

I've designed a pattern for crocheting an amigurumi crane that looks like the origami version of a crane. The basic pattern can be done either in sport-weight (pictured) or worsted weight, and turns out roughly 3 inches high, and 6 x 6 inches width/length. The worsted weight is a little bigger. There are also instructions for resizing the pattern to any other size within reason.

The 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project has 4 components:

1. The pattern. The pattern is just finishing up testing today. The regular pattern is already confirmed good to go; I'm just awaiting feedback on the resizing instructions. I've made the pattern live on Ravelry while still waiting that final feedback, because I can easily re-send the updated version to purchasers through their system. The pattern is $5. See the end of this post for more details on how the money end of this will work.

2. The finished dolls. I encourage you all to sell your finished dolls to raise additional funds. The regular dolls work up in about an hour - less once you get the hang of it - and are quite cute. My testers were thrilled. :) I've already donated one of my finished dolls (the orange one, pictured above) to a charity auction being done on Live Journal (here, if you're interested). There are several ways to go about donating your doll, such as an auction like the one I'm in, or posting it to a store you've got and donating the proceeds, or requesting a receipt as demonstration of donation and sending it. OR, if you don't want to bother, you can either send your doll to me, and I'll take care of figuring out a way to sell it, or you can join the Ravelry group, and we can match those who have cranes with those who want cranes. I'm selling the small cranes for $10 each, and larger cranes (made with the resizing more) priced accordingly, at roughly $10 an hour as the rate.

3. The commissions. Can't crochet and want a doll? Contact me and I'll make you one - within reason. If I get swamped, there's only so much I can do. This is where the matching comes in. :)

4. The community. An effort like this can't work without your help. I'm only one amigurumi crafter, and I'm a small fish in a very big sea. If you think this is a good idea, if you think this is something that can succeed, then please help even just by spreading the word, and encouraging those that you know to spread the word. I'll be distributing information by whatever means I can. I've made a group on Ravelry at The 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project, and over the next few days I'll be sharing it on every forum and group that I can think of - but I'm only one person, with a full time job, leaving for a business trip on Sunday. Even if you can't give - even if you've already given in another form - I know I've heard lots of crafters say in the past seven days that they wish that there was some way we as a community could band together to help. This is my attempt at doing that. I'll also be organizing a crochet-a-long.

I'm raising money in two ways:

1. Buy from me, pay my pay pal account, and when I've built up chunks, I'll pull the money and donate it to the American Red Cross. I'll be keeping updates of the fiscal end of things, including screen caps, in the Ravelry group and the blog for accountability purposes. The downside of this option is that I am not able to cover the percent of your purchase price that gets deducted as fees by Ravelry and/or Paypal and/or Etsy. The upside is that you can then download it immediately from Ravelry, you don't have to worry about anything except sending the money, the rest is up to me. This option will result in approximately 90% of your money going to the American Red Cross. The pattern is now available from Ravelry, and I'm still deciding if I'll put it up on Etsy (etsy has a larger following, but more fees associated with it). You can go directly to buy it here, or you can check out the pattern here if you're a member.

However, in case ya'll don't trust me (and I wouldn't blame you, the internet is rough that way!) there's the second option...

2. Receipts. Show me a receipt (with all personal info blurred out) demonstrating that you have donated the requisite dollar amount to a charity of your choice working for Tsunami Relief, and I will send you the pattern or doll that you've requested. This can be a cell phone bill showing a $10 text donation, a confirmation screen cap from the charity, or whatever else shows that you did it. In this case, I'm trusting you - and I do. I highly recommend the American Red Cross, with the downside being that they require a minimum donation of $10. The Japan Society in New York is also doing a funding drive that appears to accept smaller donations - you can access that here. The downside with this option is you'll have to wait for me to send the pattern for you (I try to have a less than 24 hours turn around on sending out patterns). If you have already donated and want the pattern or a doll, send me proof that you have made a donation of the requisite amount and I will send you the pattern. You can send this information to me at

If you want to follow this more closely, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@unforth), join my on FB (fanpage is Curiously Crafted Creations), join the Ravelry group (The 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project) or just keep an eye on this blog. Contact me at, or Private Message me on Ravelry (Username: unforth) or anything else you feel like (ie, comment on this post) to get in touch with me and ask me questions - or if you have ideas to help! I'll admit, I'm hoping that other people will have other ideas to contribute to raise money for the 1000 Amigurumi Crane Project - but for now, I'm getting us started. :)

If we can sell 1000 amigurumi crane patterns, we can raise more than $4,500 for relief to Japan. If we can sell 1000 amigurumi crane dolls, we could raise an additional $10,000 or more. When I think of all the people that we could help, it brings tears to my eyes. Together, we can do more than any of us could dream of doing alone, and we can help bring joy and happiness and prosperity back to the people in Japan who are suffering. Thanks for your time, everyone.

FO Friday on Tami's Ami Blog
Fiber Arts Friday with Wonder Why Gal.

Edit: There are now more posts about the project! Use the 1000 amigurumi cranes tag, and there's an update in this post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday - 3/16/2011

I was thinking I had nothing to share this Wednesday until I actually looked at what I had in front of me, and realized I kind of have a lot. Which is good, cause I'm not even sure I'll be able to post next Wednesday, as I'll be in California for a business trip (conference!) - but the crocheting is never done, and I'll definitely have projects with me (I mean, all that time on the plane, what else am I going to do? :) ).

Soon to Be Not Super Secret Project:
This weeks super secret project is already finished, and I'll be sharing it along with more information on Friday. It pertains to helping Japan. I'm very, very upset about what has happened there. I feel like it hits me again every day, and I know that while that feeling fades it never goes away completely, because I know how I feel every time I crest Route 80 and get my first glimpse of the skyline of NYC and realize once again that the Towers are gone. Next to my home city (which is NYC) there's no place in the world I love so well as Tokyo - I lived there for four months in 2007. So I've developed a project to help out (in addition to my out of pocket donation and a charity auction that I joined on LJ) and I'll talk all about it on Friday when the pattern is out of testing. But for now, if you want to read more about my time in Japan, and see pics, it's in my previous post.

Anyway! Enough sad. On to the works in progress!

Flower Pot Cozy
I'm not done with the flower pot cozy that I talked about last week but I have at least made progress.

I've gotten to the point that I can do one round in about 10 - 12 minutes, which seems sluggish but is faster than I was was working. Unfortunately, I've reached the point on the flower pot that I have to start increasing the size of the rounds.

As you can see, I'm about half way up, and I'm pretty much at the point where it fits the pot snugly. That said, now that I've seen it on the pot, I'm MUCH happier with it than I was before, so that's a step in the right direction. :)

Yet Another Version of Jose Estrella
I'll be making at least one more version after this, but this is the most important version of Jose Estrella, the Starfish - the version in his baseball uniform! As I've said, Jose Estrella is the Short stop for my amigurumi undersea baseball team, the Oceans!

The Sugar 'n Cream in white and yellow didn't quite do what I'd hoped, but I'm just going with it. Anyway, he's completely done except for the embroidery on his uniform, which I've forgotten to do for the last two days. He'll be done by Friday. :)

Jenny (my spinning friend) gave me a bit more fiber - a bunch of merino, and a bunch of romney. I spun the merino first, and there are pics below, and now I'm working on the romney. The merino was definitely the easiest of the three types of fibers I've tried to draw. However, even though I'm not finding it easy to draw the romney while the spindle is going, I am finding it relatively easy to get the thickness I want and keep it consistent. No idea if that's the fiber or me. :)

I also spent 20 bucks (after shipping) to get a pound of roving in mixed shades of black and gray and white. I don't know what type of fiber it exactly is (except sheep) but I bought it from here on the recommendation of a friend on Nerd Wars who had used it before - not the kind of thing I'd chance without that - and I'll definitely report on how it goes!

I also did some work with my previous spinning. Namely, I removed it from the spindle, wrapped it around a wooden hanger (cause I don't have a knitty knoddy or whatever they're called), dunked it almost boiling water, let it dry for 24 hours, wound some of it, let it dry for another 24 hours, and now it's ready to go!

The top is the first fiber I did, and the bottom is the merino. I think it pretty clearly shows my improvement. :) Anyway, I don't yet know what to make with it, but I'm thinking a shawl with a nice loose gauge to make the unevenness a feature instead of mistake (I have a K crochet hook in the house, or maybe I'll use the size 13 knitting needles - yes, I might actually knit something! ;) ). For the shawl, I'd use the merino. Not sure yet what to do with the other. :)

Poppop's Birthday Present
My grandfather turns 93 on April 4th, and me, my brother and my mom will be going down to Texas to visit. Before I even knew that, though, I had concocted a plan to make him a present. One of the Nerd Wars challenges this month is "WIP Help," and the idea is that you help someone who can no longer finish projects on their own to complete something that they had started. While ostensibly, this was aimed at helping little old arthritic ladies finish their blankets, they've made allowances because so many of us don't know any old arthritic ladies. One of those exceptions is that we can use stash yarn that belonged to people who have died - provided that we make something that that person might have made with the yarn. That's the option I'm going with - so I'll be making my grandfather's birthday gift out of stash yarn that belong to my grandmother, who died in 1976 (six years before I was born). I wouldn't be sharing this yet, except that I anticipate being done or mostly done by next Wednesday. :)

This yarn is SO COOL. I've done some research on it. It's labeled as having been made by "Patons & Baldwins Ltd" - a corporation that merged with J.P. Coats in 1961, and became what we now know as Patons. It is in fact Scotch Fingering, 100% wool, imported, and it's been Patonised, which just sounds cool. I couldn't find much info on this yarn specifically, but based on images of the same yarn that I could date, I'd place this particular label as dating to the late 1940s or early 1950s. The skeins are 1 oz each, and I've got 10 skeins of the tweed and 6 of the blue, and also a decent size chunk of knitting that dates to a time in the unknown past when my mother thought to make something out of it and then got frustrated at how long it was taking. I'll definitely photograph that before I (with her blessing) frog it. For what I have in mind, I'm going to three ply the yarn - two lengths of tweed and one length of blue - and the goal is to make him two wheel chair cushion covers. Cause his wheel chair cushion is comfy and squishy but dead ugly. :)

Go see what everyone else is up to over on Tami's Ami Blog on this rainy WIP Wednesday!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Memories of Japan

I am an avowed Japan-o-phile. I started out by getting interested in anime in 1999, and started studying the language later that same year. In college, I earned one of my undergrad degrees in East Asian Studies with a focus on - surprise - Japan. I'm very interested in Japan, Japanese, their culture, art, history, and - though much less than in the past - I'm still interested in anime and manga. This all culminated in 2007 after I finished grad school, I moved to Tokyo for four months. It's pretty much my second favorite place in the world, after New York City, and I miss it lots.

Thus, it's not a surprise I've been hit pretty hard by the news of the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear power plant problems, and mounting casualty list. The more I read about it, the more I see the pictures of the damage, the more nauseous I feel whenever I think about it. Early today I realized that many people didn't have the personal experiences that I did, and that they were seeing the devastation and that might be the image of Japan that was lodging in their minds. So, to help me process my own feelings, I thought I'd put together a post with some of the best pictures I took while I was there, so that everyone less familiar with the country can get to see a glimpse of the Japan that I know and love. Though a long post, this is only a small selection of the shots I took there - though I was only just getting in to photography then, and I wasn't very good by my current standards. If you'd like to see more, the collection of the images I took on Flickr is here.

Tokyo is a city jammed with people and lit by lights. Unlike many cities (like New York), Tokyo doesn't have one center, it has several, and they're not all close together - many are miles and miles apart. All of these centers have names, and most are united by a loop train called the Yamanote line. This is a shot of Shibuya, where I only visited once.

My favorite of the city centers was Shinjuku. On the weekends, they close the streets to traffic, and people fill the streets. Buskers perform (next to a sign that says no buskers allowed!) and frequent all the high-end stores. I went to Shinjuku a lot, for various reasons, like to pay my rent, or to go to the Kinokuniya there which had a good selection of books in English, but I never left without indulging my love of mochicreams, indescribably delicious frozen treats - like mochi but so much better - which I could buy just outside the train station.

Ikebukuro was another of my favorites. It was home of the greatest used doujinshi store I've ever seen. Like a candy store for self-published manga fans. I ended up getting completely soaked this day (it wasn't raining when I got on the train, so I didn't have an umbrella ;) )

The closest city center to where I lived was Ueno. I took this photo my very first full day in Japan, with the station and Ueno Park on the right, and the shops on the left, and the road leading to Akihabara, which became a major haunt of mine. Any time I wanted to go anywhere, I would walk the mile from my apartment to the Ueno train station. I walked SO MUCH when I was in Tokyo; once, I walked all the way from my apartment to Shinjuku and back - 15 miles in total.

A mile in the other direction from my apartment was an area called Asakusa. Historically, Asakusa was the traditional "low town," where the poor and working classes lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century and served the court. At that point in time, as much as a half million people lived in that small area, but it was leveled flat by an earth quake in the late 19th century, then again by the great Kanto earthquake in 1923 which killed more than 100,000 people, and then a third time by the Allies fire-bombing during World War 2, and so it's much less populace now. There are a bunch of streets in Asakusa that are covered and filled with over priced stalls and shops that cater to the tourist trade.

Asakusa is a major tourist destination because of Senso-ji (ji means temple). I would wander that neighborhood a lot, I loved it around there. Like most historical buildings in Tokyo, the original Senso-ji - built in the 8th or 9th century if memory serves - has been destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly. There is only one tori gate on the whole complex that dates from the original construction. The current version, like most "historical" buildings in Tokyo, is a concrete reconstruction meant to stand up to whatever comes.

I lived in a neighborhood called Matsugaya. The streets were quiet, mostly two story one family buildings, some broken in to apartments, others with business in the ground floor.

I lived in this one. There was a carpenter across the street, and a man who started work early every morning who would walk down the street singing Japanese opera. Every few days a car came around making a loud announcement that I never quite deciphered, and people would come round in cars and shout that you could buy fresh yakitori or other food from them (but I never actually got any!) At the end of the street was a tori that, when I first arrived, was the only landmark that I was able to use to find my apartment in the maze of similar-looking streets. Tokyo is VERY hard to navigate, and the atlas I bought of the city is the single most useful travel book I've ever had, anywhere. I mean, even more invaluable than a London A - Z. :)

This is my entire apartment. It was around 150 sq. ft. I had to fold the futon up every morning and pull it out every night; sometimes I aired it out the windows, which slid open. The tatami mats smelled like heaven, and I dream even now of having a room in my home where I can just lie on the tatami and soak up the wonderful smell. I never would have thought I could be happy in so little space, but I was. Even in late fall, when my little heater couldn't get my room above 55 degrees at night, I was still happy (and I've had much better cold resistance ever since then ;) ). I was in this apartment when a typhoon hit, and I felt two different earthquakes while I was there (the first time it happened I thought it was my downstairs neighbors doing something best left implied, until I realized how ridiculous that was).

I spent a lot of time just wandering the city, and I grew to adore walking and exploring while I was there. On one of those days, I ended up walking 20 miles, including south down to the Rainbow Bridge. I was terrified of crossing the bridge (it's a phobia of mine), but I mustered my courage. It was worth it - it afforded some gorgeous views of Odaiba, a city center built on reclaimed land and home to an amusement park, a science museum, and loads of other neat stuff. For all that, it was kind of strange though.

The Odaiba ferris wheel is probably the most popular site there. The views when you are up in it are amazing. This is one of the first photographs I ever took with a deliberate eye towards trying to make in all artsy and interesting. :)

Food is one of the things I loved about Japan, and that I miss most. I loved to go was Tsukiji. Every morning at around 5 am, fresh fish are brought in to Tsukiji and served throughout the day to tourists who want to experience the freshest sushi in the world. It's not expensive, and it's absolutely delicious. I've never had sushi that compared. At one of the places I tried, they served me a bowl of Miso that I was shocked to discover these shrimp heads at the bottom.

Every two or three days, I would walk to Cafe Geeva to buy fresh bread (in the bag in the back left) and I'd sit and read, drink jasmine tea, and eat Melon Bread of Cream Bread. I've looked and looked but I can find only facsimiles of my favorite foods from Japan. I've found mediocre melon bread in New York, and I found a place with mediocre cream bread the last time I went to Paris, but it's just not the same. And I've never found anything like the regular sliced bread, either - though just Thursday, I was in Flushing and saw some bread that looks suspiciously similar; I can't wait to buy some and try it and find out. I miss the mochicreams so much that when my oldest friend went to Japan last year I told him that all I wanted was for him to some how find a way to bring me mochicreams home. God bless the man, he bought me a dozen mochicreams and a thing of dry ice and carried them home on the plane in an insulated bag. They were just as good as I remembered. The only thing I've found a reasonable version of locally is kitsune udon, which is a noodle soup. Yum...

Tokyo is a constant contrast between old and new. I took a lot of shots that highlighted that contrast, but I went with this one because this is a stereotypical shots - one of the most common tourist shots of the entire city, and it's why people visit this temple, just so they can take a picture of both the temple and Tokyo Tower.

In addition to the big temples, there are little shrines all over this city. Many shrines relate to children, and the dressing of child shrines is considered a duty. I don't know enough about the religion to explain more fully, though.

At some temples, there are even entire sections dedicated to the children shrines. These represent the souls of children who died, and every single outfit is hand made, and the flowers are always kept fresh. When the wind blows, all of the pinwheels go round and round.

But in the end, it's the people who make Japan. The people who can sit on the seat of an ancient shrine (that's Senso-ji in the back) dressed as Hiko and Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, without a qualm. The people who throng through Shibuya, the two million+ people who pass through Shinjuku station every day. It's a vibrant place filled with life.

Very little has survived the rounds of destruction that have hit the city. There are virtually no buildings that have, only a few small structures. But at Hama-Rikyu Garden - which used to be a hunting ground for the shoguns - there is a pine tree that has survived for 300 years. And as I think about what's happened there, I just hope that this tree has survived. Because in the end, as long as life has been preserved, there is hope, and a future. Tokyo, and Japan, has rebuilt before, and it will rebuild again.

I know this post got very long, but for anyone who has stuck with me, I hope that these images of Tokyo help to show you another side of this wonderful country, not just the destruction filling the news. Please, consider doing what you can to help. Even a dollar can help to feed or medicate someone who has lost everything. Me, I'll be donating money and food to charity. I wish I could go there to help, but I just can't miss work.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Throwing Down the Gauntlet (Two Pairs of Them, Actually!)

Well, it's another week of Finished Object (or, if you prefer, Fiber Arts) Friday! If it weren't for yesterday, I'd have felt like I had pretty much nothing to show for this week, but I spent about 12 hours crocheting yesterday so I've pulled something off. ;) Haven't finished either of my WIP from Wednesday, but I did publish my Andromeda Cowl Pattern (available on Etsy and Ravelry. I also went out and bought a huge pile of new yarn on Wednesday, most of which I have plans for, to make up for my much-depleted stash. I'll write more about this in the next day or two, or possibly next WIP Wednesday. ;)

More Starfish!
Last week, I presented Jose Estrella, the Starfish, and mentioned that I had variations of him in the works. The pattern is very easy to modify, and when I publish it I intend to include all the different options that I can think of, but that means first I have to make them. This week, I made two (which actually cover five of the available options - I'm trying to reduce my work load ;) )

Variation 1 and 2: The Red Serpent Starfish
This is a red serpent starfish:

...and here's an amigurumi Red Serpent Starfish!

This reflects two of the potential variations on my pattern:
1. modifying the limbs to be long and thin!
2. Working from the corners of the center body instead of from the sides (hard to explain but if you were looking at the pattern it'd make excellent sense. ;) )

Variation 3, 4 and 5: The Tree-Topper Star

Another alternate use of this pattern is to make a star that I think is perfect for a Christmas tree. This reflects another three potential variations on my pattern:
1. Remove the body texture (sc around instead of sc/dc around)
2. Make the whole starfish smaller
3. Lengthen the limbs as compared to the body size

Here are all three starfish, hanging out together...

The red serpent starfish has no respect for the personal space of others. :)

The Gauntlets
One of the March challenges in Nerd Wars is "Warrior's Friend." The idea is to make a shield, either literally or figuratively (an item to protect yourself or something you care about from harm). My main idea for this had originally been to modify my male doll pattern and make a version in full armor, but as I felt this would require me to learn to felt to really do it justice, and I just haven't the time, I changed my mind. Wednesday night and especially yesterday morning, inspiration struck as I was trying to figure out what project to bring to my totally dull, have-to-be-there-all-day meeting where nothing was actually expected of me. An excellent crocheting opportunity! (I frequently bring projects to such things and no one has given me a hard time yet...)

The result was two pairs of gauntlets. The first is the Shielding Gauntlet:

My main goal designing these was that they should fit me nice and snugly, and that they should have no mesh at all. At such, it's just sc except for the borders. I'm VERY happy with how they turned out - I used one of my favorite colorways (which unfortunately is Red Heart, but life goes on...). They fit just about perfectly, if I made them any more snug around the wrist they wouldn't fit over my hand. ;)

The second is the Roundel Gauntlet:

Sorry the picture is so shadowed. :( These were a much more daunting project, and designing them took a lot of trial and error. I had two goals when I designed them: first, that they should be largely lattice so that you could see through them, and two, that the main motif be inspired by a shield.

I'm not as thrilled as I could be, but I am satisfied. The main decoration runs down the center of the back, and is composed of two spirals flanking a roundel, hence the name. They're not quite lined up right just now, though, so I'm going to move the thumb catch tonight - it'll only take a couple minutes but will make me much happier with my FO. ;)

However! The real goal of all of this was to make two gauntlets that can be worn TOGETHER.

Why? Because once it gets even a little warm I like to wear short sleeves, but sometimes my hands get cold. Now that I have two different pairs of very snug gauntlets, I can keep my hands warm. ;)

The real priority to the solid base and the lattice second pair was so that you could see both, of course!

All in all, they don't look quite as good together as I'd hoped, but I'm satisfied enough with both individually that I have no complaints. I mean, I made two pairs of gauntlets and ended up with three different looks! And suitable for three different types of weather.

Now I just have to figure out if I can see how to make them easily resizeable, and thus suitable for publication as patterns... :)

Join Wonder Why Gal for Fiber Arts Friday and Tami's Ami Blog for Finished Object Friday! See all the awesome stuff everyone else has been working on!! :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday - 3/9/2011

Wow, it's Wednesday again? That's kinda scary, actually...anyway, I've not felt like crocheting much at all the last week, but that hasn't prevented me from getting SOMETHING done. I have one FO already for Friday (and hopefully will have a second tomorrow), and I got some other odds and ends done. I also started two projects that re in progress right now, both for Nerd Wars on Ravelry.

Flower Pot Cozy
I've got this problem. After months of knowing I needed to transplant my snake plant, I finally found a huge, cheap ($6!!) pot at Target.

The problem, as you can (hopefully) see in this picture (my apartment has terrible lighting, sorry) is that said pot is really rather ugly, in addition to being quite large. The plus side is that the pan is built in to the bottom of the pot, so I don't have to worry to much about splashing water all over something I make. Obviously, the only solution is to make a flower pot cozy for it.

One of this month's challenges on Nerd Wars is to make something inspired by "capillary action," as in the tendency of water in certain circumstances to flow upwards. Plants and roots both exhibit this, so I figure a flower pot cozy fits in perfectly, and so I'm doing a cozy inspired by the way hyperspace looks in Babylon 5:

Fortunately, I just so happened to have all three of these colors in my stash (any week now I hope to be able to triumphantly show just how I've decimated my stash in the past few months, by the way). :)

The sad truth is that I'm not that happy with how it's turning out. I did the entire base once and frogged it, and was determined not to frog it again, but it doesn't sit quite right, and I'm highly displeased, even though I know the FO will be fine - but the displeasure is making it hard to motivate myself to work on it. It's also quite large, so it's slow work; I'd estimate I've got about 10 hours more labor on the damn thing before it's as high as the flower pot.

Yarn-bombing? Yarn-bombing!
One of the other challenges in Nerd Wars this month is "Don't Hide Your Light Under a Bushel," the idea of which is to exhibit your craft in some way in public. While this challenge can be met simply by crocheting/knitting/spinning/weaving in a public location, I refuse to meet it that way because I crochet in public all the time and don't consider that any kind of merit or worthy of any points in a competition. There is a secondary part of this challenge, though - to yarn bomb something. Now, I've been wanting to yarn bomb something for quite a while, so I'm excited at this relatively sanctioned version. :)

For those who don't know, yarn bombing is essentially the use of a knit/crocheted/etc. object in an act of graffiti, and it is technically illegal though I know of no prosecutions. There are many examples of this (check out wikipedia for a quick low down) - here's one that I encountered:

It was on a street light just outside the Lion Brand Store in Manhattan. Because every lamp post needs a cozy, obviously.

Anyway! I pondered what exactly I wanted to yarn bomb, and what exactly I wanted to make, and have finally decided on both. I have two large things of dark green red heart that I want to use up, and for the rest I gathered all of my scraps that had anything interesting about them at all...

And I got to work...

The idea is simple - a vine with a wide range of different flowers sprouting off it. I'll design all the flowers myself, and the different patterns will be my free patterns for the month of March, thus solving a second problem. :) I expect to complete two whole vines like the one pictured, probably with 10 - 15 flowers each. As to what I'll be yarn bombing, I'm gonna head down to around the Lion Brand Store (near Union Square) and twine these fellas around an Alternate Side of the Street parking sign. Because I fricken hate alternate side of the street parking. Take that, law and order! ;)

Want to see more awesome WIP this Wednesday? Head on over to Tami's Ami Blog to see what everyone is up to!