Posted by: ritsukurimono | July 15, 2012

Because I can.

Image

I love putting small, bright details into my clothing–like this red handstitched herringbone hem on a grey store-bought skirt. Even though it’s on the inside and nobody will see it, I’ll know, and it’ll make me happy every time I wear it.  

Does anybody else do stuff like this? 

Posted by: ritsukurimono | March 7, 2012

Eater of Whales

Once while I studying abroad was in Japan, my host parents asked me why Americans felt so strongly about whaling.

I shuffled my vocabulary about and drew a hand. “Well, it’s because they’re an endangered species…” I was on solid ground there. We’d just finished a unit on ecology.

But how then to continue? I tried to find a way to say that the first thing I had read by myself had been the World Wildlife Federation’s children’s magazine (Ranger Rick, holla!) and that I’d grown up in a region with the kind of whaling history that made visiting the whaling museum and watching Voyage of the Mimi compulsory during grade school.

This was in the dark winter of my immersion; I had such a hard time wrestling my vocabulary and grammar into the shapes I needed them to make.

“And… they’re…cute?” A swing and a miss.

My host parents roared with laughter. “Cute? Whales aren’t cute! They’re way too big to be cute!” And then they told me how whale meat had been the cheapest protein when they were growing up poor in post-war Kyushu and how they had eaten whale meatballs and whale steak and studied by the light of whale oil lamps until they’d grown utterly sick of the taste of it. “But it’s good if you haven’t eaten too much of it,” they said. “You should try it sometime.” The idea took root in my head beside with my blossoming foodieness. I’m not a squeamish eater but I am a curious one; I want to eat all the things! At least once.

But I did want to do it in as undamaging and sustainable a way as possible, so not in some sort of sketchy black market illicit sperm whale situation. I didn’t get a chance while I was studying abroad, but whale happens to be a traditional staple in the Icelandic diet (did you know vegetables were only brought to Iceland by the Danish in the late 17th century? That blew my mind) so I seized the opportunity on my first night of the vacation there.

Gamla vinhusid's pepper-crusted minke whale on a bed of roasted winter vegetables (thank you, Denmark!) with a bed of peppercorn gravy and a baked potato
Gamla vínhúsið’s pepper-crusted minke whale on a bed of roasted winter vegetables (thank you, Denmark!) with a peppercorn gravy and a baked potato.

It was fantastic. The taste is like red meat without the distinctive beefiness of beef (actually, it’s like horse, if any of you have eaten horse) with the texture and watery clarity of flavor of tuna. I had mine medium rare, so as you can see up there, it’s quite pink in the middle. Perhaps it’s a function of how it was prepared, but I didn’t find whalemeat to be chewy or recognizably muscular at all; it was silky and gave under my teeth like sashimi. The whale itself was filling without being heavy, but its hearty accompaniments were just what I wanted to fend off the blustery September chill.

I’m unlikely to eat it again, but I’m glad I did it at least once.

It was also a good warmup for the smoked puffin I ate three nights later. ^_^

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 12, 2011

Homework and new textbooks

I’m pretty excited about two classes I’m going to be taking this weekend at my LYS! Shannon Okey is in town teaching at Gather Here, and I’ll be learning how to knit from sewing patterns and how to steek! It kind of feels like forever since I last learned a new knitting skill, so I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons this weekend–especially steeking! Colorwork is one of my favorite things to knit and I’d like to attempt the full-on Fair Isle sweater this coming year.

So the photo above is of my homework for steeking class! We’re supposed to bring in three swatches to practice steeking on. I’ve been promised booze for the momentous steeking moment (I almost wrote “momentous scissoring”, but that’s, uh…something different). And now I’ve written steek so many times it has ceased to look like a word at all. Steek steek steek.

Neither class is full yet, so if you’re Boston-local you can join in by signing up here!

And yes, I treated myself to the Colette and BurdayStyle sewing handbooks over the weekend. More later on that when I have more time to pore over them like they deserve, but based on the peek I stole during my lunch break, both of them are awesome.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 10, 2011

Looking back at stuff we’ve done

The Knitty Deep Fall 2011 surprises have been posted! I updated my review post here with my opinions about the new patterns. I was underwhelmed, particularly because it was otherwise such a strong issue.

But on more positive note, I’d like to draw your attention to a delightful post by Kate Davies over at needled. Her blog is pretty wonderful in general–she’s a designer, a rambler, and co-founder of Wovember, a month-long campaign celebrating all things wool! She recently revisited one of her previous FOs with an eye to how the garment was wearing, and I found her analysis to be insightful and fascinating. I’ll definitely check out Blacker Corriedale (the yarn she used and waxes rhapsodic about in the review post) if I ever get my hands on it!

I love the entire idea of revisiting old FOs. It’s true that Ravelry is a great resource for pattern ideas, project sizing, and yarn pairing inspiration, but almost all of the project photos are of brand-new, freshly-blocked, never-worn knitted objects. I rarely see any followup shots taken after the garment’s seen regular wear. Isn’t that important too? I love being able to ask the boards to recommend a yarn that won’t pill for a sweater, but having four people recommend a particular yarn without further explanation is different from seeing a two-year-old sweater that looks pristine.

What do you guys think? Do you ever revisit your old knitted objects to see how they’re doing a year or two down the road?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 10, 2011

I fear I’ve made a terrible mistake

Somehow, I’ve made it through five Boston winters without a proper pair of winter boots. No, I don’t really know how I’ve done it either! But Winter Is Coming (thank you, House Stark) and that was a situation that could not be allowed to stand.

So off I went to Zappos! First I was looking at the Serious Business Sorel boots, like:

Joan of Arctic

and

Cate the Great

but then my friend Lise pointed out that I don’t actually live in the Arctic and that boots graded to -25F will be less a toasty marvel and more a swampfooted mess in comparatively temperate 10F weather. Both of those boots also suffer from my Perpetual Boot Woe, which is that I have 12.5″ calves. Regular boots are have a circumference of 15″. Those grey Cate the Greats have a calf circumference of 18″. It would look like I was playing dressup in my dad’s shoes.

So then I decided to get a pair of these:

Sorelli Tall Lace Boots

They haven’t even arrived yet, but now I am having second thoughts like whoa.

Pros:

  • Lace-up for better calf fit
  • Insulated but not enough to herd caribou in
  • Waterproof rubber footbed

Cons:

  • Only calf-high
  • I’ve been wanting to add more color to my winter wardrobe, so I ordered these in this mahogany color combo. But on second glance, I’m not sure whether it’s funky in an appealing way or funky in an appalling way.

What do you guys think? They also come in black and grey:

I think I like those better, but I don’t know whether this is me wussing out of moving out of my comfort zone or good sense slapping me hard upside the head.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 9, 2011

Cats Vs. Wardrobe

My roommate has two cats, Gus and Sam. They’re cute little buggers, but I put on my favorite cardigan this morning only to find that someone had been clawing on it.

I know these look like mothholes, but they also got the belt of my trenchcoat with clear claw-and-bite marks, so I’m pretty sure it’s one of them. Damn it, this is why I don’t want children.

I sometimes find myself conflicted about the way crafters talk about mending on the Internet–namely that it’s, like, their favorite thing to do and they find needleweaving tartan patterns in silk to cover that hole in their jeans a fulfilling and spiritual experience. I may be exaggerating for effect here, and it’s not that I think the ability to needleweave tartan to cover a hole isn’t insanely cool, but it’s that homely-joys beatification that suffuses blogposts about mending things. Maybe some people do feel that way about the humble darning egg, but I never seem to see the other side of mending expressed on the Internet.

The fact is, personally speaking? Mending sucks ass. It’s tedious. My back cramps when I’m hunched over concentrating on it. There’s the pressure to do it as invisibly as possible and the knowledge that even if you fix it nicely enough that other people won’t notice at a glance, you’ll know that it’s there.

I’m a product knitter. I derive pleasure and comfort from knitting, but my primary goal is to create a beautiful, functional garment that I’ll wear and enjoy for many years to come. I tend not to knit just to knit. Even if I were on a desert island and had no other yarn to knit with, I would never frog an FO to be able to re-knit it. (I believe this is how Yarn Harlot describes process knitters in one of her books.) To me, mending is a necessary evil, a roadbump on the way to garment rehabilitation.

But mend I shall, because that’s the only way my sweater will be wearable again. And there is, after all, something quite nice about a job well done.


The two holes are at the tips of the open scissorblades.

Reluctant menders of the world unite!

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 6, 2011

DC and the Air and Space Museum!

Well, I totally failed at NaBloPoMo yesterday. In my meager defense, I’m in Washington DC for the weekend! I was at a ballroom competition all of yesterday (and I mean all of yesterday, I got back to my friend’s apartment where I was staying at 2AM) I showered my competition makeup and hair off and pretty much collapsed.

But today! Today, my boyfriend and I had the whole day to spend in DC. We got gelato first thing in the morning, because we’re adults and we can do things like that!


I ate my gelato too fast to get a photo of it. This photo is via goinggreendc.

We went to Pitango Gelato, which was mindblowing. Mind. Blowing. Why is gelato not a thing in Boston? I know we have the North End and there are some good gelato places there and stuff, but it seems like every other corner houses a RedBerryFreezeLineMango yogurt shop. No. Down with yogurt, I am a gelato convert!

I got a scoop of hazelnut gelato and a scoop of quince sorbet. The hazelnut was rich but light, nutty but not like I was eating Nutella from the spoon. The quince sorbet was like biting into an ice-cold slice of orange on a sweltering day and feeling all the juice vesicles burst and flood your mouth at once, except the juice tastes like quince. Just absolutely refreshing and delightful.

After my friends and I had brunch at Logan Tavern (make-your-own Bloody Mary menu, recommended!) it was almost two, and my boyfriend and I really wanted to check out the Air and Space Museum, so we walked down the Mall.

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Taking obligatory touristy cell phone pictures along the way.

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If the Washington Monument could make a sound, that sound would be “BWOOOOOOONG.”

The Air and Space Museum was pretty fun! It covers the history of flight since the beginning to the modern day and by the time we got there, we only had two and a half hours until closing time, so we took a sort of speedy, whimsically wandering approach. (To the spacecraft! And then the Wright exhibit! On to WWI! Boeing 747! Back to spacecraft!)

Seeing the Wright brothers’ flyer was interesting, though. It’s fascinating how quickly aircraft started to look “modern” compared to the original wood-and-fabric design. Seriously, forty years after the first flight and they already pretty much look like modern commercial planes. I guess we went from first flight to spaceflight in about sixty-five years, so perhaps that’s not so ludicrous, really.

My favorite part was the exhibit about the history of human imagination of flight, though. The Smithsonian built a real-life model of a fantastical flying machine envisioned by Étienne-Gaspard Robert in 1820 called La Minerve.

The design:

The model:

20111106-212419.jpg

That barrel is for “the storage of food, water, and wine,” by the way. It’s good to fly DreamAir France.

My flight out is obscenely early in the morning and I’m getting off the plane and going straight to work, so I’ll sign off here. Good night, DC!

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 4, 2011

Fresh from the Dyepot!

My (awesome) LYS invited me to participate in a fiber artist trunk show before Thanksgiving, which is crazy exciting! That deserves a more detailed post as the date draws nearer (Gather Here, you’re the best!) but I’m packing for a weekend trip to DC right now, so here are some braids of fiber that I just pulled out of the dyepots! Some of these are BFL and the rest are merino.

I think my favorite is the BFL that’s third from the right–it goes from these great pumpkiny oranges to cool violets and blues, and it reminds me of a bonfire at a summer camp. I’m really proud with how that one turned out.

I didn’t notice until I was uploading the photo I snapped with my phone, but I totally organized this fiber in a little mini-spectrum without realizing it. Our minds are weird and lovely sometimes, don’t you think? Do you guys do anything subconsciously like that?

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 3, 2011

FO: Meisi Gloves!

Meisi Gloves!

My hands are always cold and I live in New England, so I basically live in woolen handwarmers from November through March. I knit a pair of Endpaper Mitts and a pair of Anemoi Mittens for myself back during my first year of knitting, but I’ve been wanting to knit some intricate twisted-stitch mittens for a long time. They just seem like the perfect marriage of beauty and function–you definitely can’t find anything like them in the stores.

So when the awesome bdelloura RAKed me the pattern for the gorgeous Meisi gloves by the queen of knitted gloves, Julia Mueller, they leapt onto my must-knit list. I cast on in mid-August with an eye to wearing them in Iceland during September, and I just squeaked in under the deadline–I wove in the final ends on the flight there!

I knit these in Cascade Heritage with Silk that I bought at the LSGversary 2 celebration at WEBS. I love knitting with Heritage; it’s such a workhorse fingering-weight yarn. It wears well, it’s soft, it’s reasonably cheap, it comes in a huge array of colors (this was Charcoal) –what is there not to love?

I did notice that the Heritage Silk pilled a little more than the Cascade Original Flavor I was used to, but not to an egregious amount. The silk content lent a beautiful sheen to the yarn in the skein, but I think the twisted stitches broke up that luster in the FO. The twisted cables popped like crazy, though. Put that together with the fun LSG Year 2 memories evoked while I was knitting these and I couldn’t think of a better yarn pairing for this pattern.

Despite their intricate appearance, these gloves felt like a breeze to knit (isn’t that the best combination?). Julia Meuller does a great job explaining the knitting process and her charts are clear, well laid out, and easy to use. I had to tink a couple of sections, but those were definitely operator error and, uh, from taking these gloves to a Pints & Purls night. I was definitely glad I already knew how to cable without a cable needle, though, or else these would have been a great deal more painful to make. I received a ton of compliments on them.

I would definitely make these again, and, well, I might have to, because I brought these home safely from Iceland, but they’ve now disappeared. They’re probably in my apartment somewhere, but no amount of determined tidying has turned them up yet. I live in hope.

Posted by: ritsukurimono | November 2, 2011

When I want to be a superhero I just wake up


Oh, Ace Ticket, shouldn’t you at least spell the event you’re promoting right?

I just got back from the Childish Gambino concert tonight in Boston! It was amazing.

Childish Gambino is the pseudonym of Donald Glover, the actor who plays Troy on Community. You know, this guy:

Troy from Community

Except when he’s onstage he looks like this:

Shirtless Donald Glover

‘Cause I’mma be on these tracks
Like indie girls on Amelie
I’m rappin’ ’bout everything I go through
Everything I’m saying I’m Super Saiyan like Goku

I think his flow is sick and that he’s witty as hell (he wrote for 30 Rock!), but Donald Glover’s music doesn’t just appeal to me on a nerdy level. He raps a lot about his childhood as the smart, misfit black kid in a predominantly white school. A lot of the things he says resonate with the part of me that is the second generation immigrant, the daughter of parents who sacrificed more than she knew and more than she’s comfortable with to give her opportunities. He understands that relentless self-pressure to make good. I guess what I’m trying to say is that his music reflects a lot of the tension, pride, and defiance that characterize the way I experience my Asian-American identity.

Now you’re paying attention, pick your fucking face up
When I wanna be a superhero I just wake up
Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz
I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.

“I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.” Is there anything more empowering than that? I was who I was, and now I am better. There’s no going back now.

I’m not affiliated or anything, but if you’re interested you can download Culdesac and EP for free and preorder his new album Camp here.

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