Saturday, January 30, 2010

great outdoors

The low desert is a lovely place to be in January. It feels clean and sleek after winter rainstorms. The air is soft, carrying more humidity than the rest of the year. The mild temperatures are perfect for hiking and climbing and being out and about.

And Mountain Man and I have been doing much of that! Last weekend, we went out to Devil's Canyon for the first time in ages, and it was glorious to see the snowy mountains in the distance ...

Yesterday we went out to climb in the McDowell Mountains, on the northeastern edge of the Phoenix valley. On the drive there, I finished up a new cap, sewing on two felted leaves as embellishments. It coordinated perfectly with the granite!

It's knit in a gray-green yarn from Manos del Urugay that's been in stash for nearly a decade. I finally figured out what to make with it! The hat design is called "Wild Rose," and it's a simple, top-down cloche pattern that I recently released on Ravelry (and which I'll post more fully about soon). The original pattern has a big, lush rose sewed onto the side, but here I added two felted leaves.

We knew it was going to be a full moon last night, so we didn't start our hike out until nearly sunset. It was a beautiful time to be quietly walking through the desert. A red-tailed hawk watched us from his cliff. A gray fox went slinking away from us through the boulders. Coyotes howled and owls hooted as night fell. And the moonrise? Glorious. Heart-stopping.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


This is a story about knowing when to give up on a yarn. The yarn is a simple, gray-brown, worsted-weight wool that I bought a few years back in Nepal with the intention of making a rustic sweater for Mountain Man. He still asks good naturedly about that sweater from time to time, and when I saw the Mr. Darcy sweater from the new Knitty, I knew it was time to cast on! I wound the first skein into a ball ...

And immediately started to get a little suspicious. The yarn had no integrity. It would tear apart under the slightest tension, and it left dunes of short fibers blowing across my desk.

I thought it might be wise to start with a smaller project, perhaps a felting project that could make up for the weakness of the yarn. I pulled out my new favorite knitting book, the amazing Alternknits Felt, and settled on the the smallest felted nesting box.

Here's my cat sniffing it disdainfully. What a dud !! Even with gentle hand-felting, the yarn practically disintegrated, leaving a felted fabric that was so thin in places that you could see right through it (you can see that on the left side of the picture, above).

The only saving grace is that the dog's standards aren't as high as the cats. While the cat sniffed this felted monstrosity and walked away, Isis at least gamely stayed around to give it a good bite.

Anyways, I feel like I've given this yarn my best try, but it was a complete and utter failure. I can finally give up on it. What do you think: compost? trash? give away? (I'm leaning towards compost, since I am not sure I want to inflict this horrid, dusty, falling-apart yarn on anyone else).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

reflections on color

One of the most enduring memories that I have of India is COLOR. Intense, outrageous, exhilarating color.

And that photo is straight out of the camera, folks. No enhancement, no adjustment. It's pure, saturated, living color.

That kind of color is everywhere you look -- fabrics, bangles, spices, fruits, everything! -- in every possible hue and texture. For someone who tends towards neutrals and timid earthy colors, it was thoroughly invigorating!

But here's the thing about cliches like "India is bursting with color." It captures the truth. It does. But it's not the whole truth. What's concealed by the cliche -- what you never see in artsy vacation photos and coffee table books -- is that, at least in the winter, the air pollution is so horrendous that everything is actually rather gray.

For example, take those famous blue-washed houses of Jodhpur. When you're close up, they do indeed looks beautifully and mysteriously blue. But here's what the overall view of the city looks like, through a haze of pollution:

Or the Taj Mahal ... which I remember when I first saw it in summer 1998 as a sparkling white monument against a beautiful blue sky. Here's what it looked like in winter 2009. It was mid-morning, and the sun should have been shining brightly, but it couldn't even break through the haze:

Delhi was even worse. I was very happy to be there and bask in the warm, wonderful glow of family. But outside, the air was cold and gray, dingy and oppressive.

When I finally arrive back to Phoenix, it was a breath of fresh air (literally) to walk outside and gaze up at green leaves and fresh grapefruits set against an azure sky.

This trip has really provoked thoughts for me on the nature of colorfulness. The colors here seem so simplistic compared to the saffrons, magentas, and turquoises of India, but I'm so grateful for getting to see them in this clear light.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

India, with a side of knitting

Apologies for the absence here. I've been out of town. WAY out of town.

Taj Mahal at dawn

Bathing ghats in Lake Pichola, Udaipur

The famous blue houses of Jodhpur

Roadside monkeys

Lounging cow

Camel safari, Jaisalmer

The story is that I hopped on a plane the day after Chrismas for a trip an amazing, awe-inspiring, and thoroughly exhausting trip through Rajasthan with my sister and husband. I'm still trying to process it all at the moment.

Of course, with such a long journey, there was plenty of time to knit on planes, trains, and automobiles. I was working on a pair of socks for my sister, and they were pulled out of my bag to work on at every opportune moment ...

Knitting while awaiting lunch, Udaipur

Knitting on a rooftop at sunset, Jaisalmer

Knitting on a camel, Sam Sand Dunes

I do not, though, have any finished socks to show you. It's a stupid story that will be left for another date!