Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Socktoberfest Wrap (Toe-)Up.

Socktoberfest has come to a close! This month went by really quickly, and I didn't get as much done sock-wise as I might have hoped. I did, however, finally figure out my perfect personal sock recipe and make a few second socks for my lonely singles. I will have such cozy tootsies this winter happily ensconced in their custom-made merino marvels. I wish I had a camera already to show you some of my FOs and WIPs. Soon, I hope. We are planning a shopping expedition later this week.

Alas, the lovely lace patterns were not in the cards this time, but they are still in the planning stage for impending cast-on. However extensive groundwork has been laid for the next year (or century) of sock knitting, much to the delight of sock-yarn-and-paraphernalia purveyors in the webverse (and the stash-related dismay of my DH). I shamelessly acquired much too much sock yarn this month, as well as multiple sets of 2.0 mm and 2.5 mm dpns and circular needles, to indulge my need to have several sock projects on the go at any one time. In my defense, some portion of this haul will be lovingly packed up and sent to go live with my Secret Pal spoilee.

Meanwhile I bowed to the fates, ripped the lovely SKB (Sob!) and rolled the beautiful Kidsilk (Cosmic Dawn) back into a ball for repurposing. My LYS ordered a few more skeins for me back in July purportedly for arrival in September but the order has been delayed with Fleece Artist and recent reports indicate the estimated time of arrival might be in December. Ah....

Instead, I cast on for the originally intended preliminary SKB using (hopefully great quantities of) my still copious stash of fuschia cotton. And I've got a cute grey scarf on the needles in SRKertzer Baby Monkey held together with a simple light gray DK weight (probably acrylic) inherited from my grandmother (who passed away in 1995). It will go well with several of my grey and black fall sweaters and jackets, and I will feel closer to Grandma when I wear it.

I am trying to choose a pattern for my luscious Manos del Uruguay (colour 111). I want to make a cardigan/jacket, but knitted sideways with some short-row shaping, so the lovely colour striations work vertically instead of horizontally (so flattering on a zaftig curvy girl).

I also picked up 8 skeins of Rowan Chunky Print in a gorgeous deep warm purple which will hopefully be enough for a cardi-wrap sort of thing, though I might have to add a little something else either for a collar border or the sleeves, or both. There are several things in the stash: none have the right weight, but they'll work if two or three strands are held together. But I love the look of this stuff. Maybe I should just look for some more?.... Well, no decisions need to be made until I have an actual pattern found/made-up and a better idea of my yardage requirements.

Oops - I almost forgot: I also started a pair of really warm socks, holding two strands of Fortissima Socka together.

Okay. Off to bed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Toys are good.

First and foremost I have to report my latest new knitting gadget: MezzoDiva now has a nifty twirling whirling Royal ball-winder gifted by her favourite knit-goddess Haley, the magnanimous mistress of Knitomatic. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I spent last night digging through the stash for various and sundry loose skeins and merrily winding them into lovely centre-pull cakes, process and product much admired by the charmed DH who loves toys of any kind. And we got him a little something too so he wouldn’t feel left out.

You see, DH enjoys several artistic outlets. One of the longest has been drawing increasingly detailed abstract geometric pictures, both free-hand and in computer media, in a style influenced by the ouvres of Escher, Vasarely, and Josef Albers. In recent days we had numerous discussions of fibre arts and potential crafty expressions of his colourful designs. His work would lend itself beautifully to various kinds of needlework, from cross-stitch and embroidery, to knitting, quilting and weaving. The last was very appealing to DH and we fantasized together about having a large enough home, with room for a craft studio or a converted garage/house with space for a good-sized loom, as well as some dyeing and spinning.

When I mentioned DH's loom dreams to Haley, she suggested we start with a smaller version to try out the craft and see how we like weaving, and quickly produced an adorable starter loom for us to try. So of course it had to come home with me. It’s for ages 7 and up so I hope we can figure it out!

DH is absolutely delighted with presents of any kind, not having been properly indulged in his early years (a topic for later discussion). Now that baseball season is over for the year and the weather is getting chilly, I anticipate many domestic hours spent together indulging in our individual crafty pursuits. We’ll just imagine the fireplace for now - or maybe we’ll get one of those DVDs of a crackling log in the hearth, just for atmosphere.

Contemplating a craft studio makes me think of painting and drawing again, too. I haven’t painted in over 22 years. I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a teenager, and then I just stopped, almost suddenly, right after high school. It’s really odd. I wonder why I stopped.

I keep meaning to pick it up again. There is a stretched and primed canvas that’s waited that long, even an easel and a whole case full of new unopened tubes of paints, acrylics as well as some oils, tempera and other media. I also have drawing paper, pencils, charcoal and conte crayons, as well as pens, nibs and jars of ink (some dried out) that are all about 25 years old.

I came across some of my old drawings and paintings while sorting and uncluttering around the house (um,… okay not that you could tell, but I know it happened). There are a couple of pieces that I deemed not worthy to keep for posterity and threw away, but I found a handful that were surprisingly good and just need cropping or mounting and a nice frame. I get a kick out of the idea of decorating using my own work. And maybe having it in view on a regular basis will motivate me to start again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So, how's that working for you?...

Oops. I haven’t posted for nearly a week. I kept meaning to write, as there’s been a lot on my mind, but I haven’t been able to clearly articulate what I want to say.

I’m doing a personal thought experiment that is very revealing. It’s made me more aware of my personal dynamics and where they are leading. I highly recommend this exercise to everybody as a valuable annual personal check-in:

Write a detailed and specific letter to yourself from 5 years in the future as though your life was going just as you dreamed. Then to write another letter from 5 years hence, but as though you had continued doing everything pretty much the way you are now, with ensuing results, and note the differences between the two.

This is a huge wake up call. I’ve began to reassess all the arenas of my life: my career and vocation, physical and mental health, spirituality, love-life and family, extended social relationships, my home and living conditions. The more I allow all this to percolate in my mind and my soul, the more I realize what I need to start changing for my life to become what I want it to be. I am not treating these as resolutions, rather incorporating gradual changes in my lifestyle with a more conscious and intuitive awareness of my habitual patterns, observing what I do now and then choosing whether and how I want to change things.

To be honest, I flaked out a bit in the last couple of years. I am beginning to understand that term: flaked out = fragmented and scattered. I was thrown by some overwhelming events that shook my personal world in the year leading up to my 40th birthday, and I didn’t find the resilience to bounce back. As a result, I lost much of the healthy balance, direction and momentum in my life. Over the last few weeks, I’ve really owned that and recognized how I need to reclaim the responsibility for creating my own life.

One of my "unresolutions" is to reconnect with my friends. I admit I'm not very good at the whole keeping in touch thing once the circumstances that brought us together, like work or school, are over. Ironically, for a dynamic stage animal, I'm actually rather an extroverted introvert - I just overcompensate for innate shyness. So I'm working to change those tendencies and make the effort to reach out more when my time is my own.

I had a long extended lunch date with a dear friend a couple of weeks ago. It’s been tricky to get together recently as she has a 15-month-old and lots of baby things on the schedule as well as her own pursuits, and they moved out of the city several months ago so distance has become a greater factor – I can’t just come over on a whim as before. It was terrific to spend the afternoon and evening with her, to have several hours together and cover all the topics from the banal frivolities to the deep chewy issues. It was wonderful to re-establish the connection - almost like we hadn't been apart.

I have knitting news! I got my knitting mojo back in the last few days. It is a great way to keep my hands and my uber-mind busy while I watch the World Series and contemplate life and all of the above from a deeper intuitive place. And after much tinkering and tinking, I finally figured out the perfect sock recipe for my heel and ankles! I’ve been rather unsatisfied with the fit of several standard sock patterns and I can see that’s been at the root of my second-sock-syndrome. Once I solved the formula for the first one, I whipped off a second one to match that same evening. Yippee! So my revised Socktoberfest plan is to fix the fit on my other singles (so I'll actually wear them) and get them all paired off. Once I get a few of those done, maybe I’ll reward myself and crack open one of those pretty lacy sock patterns I’ve been ogling.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Today's agenda:

Funeral this afternoon. Not someone very close, but still…

Cramps? check. Headache? check. Backache? check.
Cranky? check. Moody bitch on wheels? check.
Hormonally challenged to the MAX!

Sock knitting - frustrating. Dropped stitch in short-row heel.

Hot soup, Advil, comfy slippers, sympathy and TLC c/o
underappreciated DH.

Not fit for human company. MIA from S&B - again. Aaargh!

Where the F--- is the CHOCOLATE???

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I am head-over-needles in love with this curvy cabled cardigan from this pattern book.

I might be very sad if I can't make a cardigan like this one.  It's been beguiling me since I first laid eyes on it a few weeks ago during a stroll through late summer postings on Brynne’s blog as she was knitting up a shop sample for Yarntopia: you can see her modeling it here. I may have to get it online - my LYS said there’s no distributor for these in Canada.

This really is the only pattern from the book that’s making me drool, so maybe I don't need the pattern. I just need that curvy cabled shaping. Maybe I can use it as inspiration and re-invent one of my own on similar principles?... I want to modify it anyway for a more open neckline, probably a V-neck, and for an appropriate gauge with whatever yarn I choose from the stash.

That's right. You heard me. I said: "from the stash". I'm not buying new yarn for this one. It's tough, and we'll see how my willpower holds out, but I'm trying to cut back on yarn acquisition, at least briefly. (Sob!) I need to be more responsible and leave the wallet at home when I go to S&B - I can't seem to exit my LYS something fiberlicious following me home. It's not just a question of cashflow. I'm having serious yarn overflow issues in the house and if I don’t start using significant quantities of the stash ASAP I’m going to have to start keeping it with the root vegetables or in the freezer. Maybe the microwave...?

To be totally honest, yarn is not the only thing overflowing around these parts. 2D Girl posted that she has been industriously uncluttering her nest. I'm simultaneously impressed and envious. Maybe I can convince her to bring some of that healthy clearing up energy over to my 3-D house of stuff? I could use a good push to purge this place, if only to make room for orderly storage of my stash!

Actually, we've got so much stuff (how much stuff do you have?) our stuff has stuff, and it's parked three deep in every room. We have stuff in the living room and kitchen, the bedroom, "spare" room and the basement, everywhere. There are books, papers, clothing, shoes, electronic devices, magazines, more shoes, collectibles, art supplies and half finished projects, still more shoes, and of course the yarn and the comic book collections.

You know the drill: Bend, lift, carry, sort, sneeze, purge, argue, clean, reorganize, vacuum, etc... It's a good idea but the process means the house is a much greater mess than usual, as I move things from one room to another to get at what lurks behind/beneath. Maybe George Carlin was right and we just need a bigger house for our stuff to live in. And if we're nice to it, maybe it'll let us visit.

"That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff... Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore." — George Carlin (1937-) U.S. actor and comedian - Quote from A Place for My Stuff (1981).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Okay, PAL - make with the hints!
Vee haf vays of makink you tok…

Sorry – I know threats won’t work.
But slip me something, pretty please!

Happy SP9 Day!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Benign stalker.

My SP9 pal dropped me a line a few days ago from her anonymous email account to inform me that she'll be spoiling me for the next few months. She said that she scoped out my blog and my answers to the swap questions and indicated that we have a lot in common (like what?...) and this is going to be tons of fun for both of us. She proceeded to threaten me with yet more questions at a future date. Then she asked me whether I'd prefer that she avoid any hints at all as to her identity, or would I have more fun if she drops obscure hints ("really, really obscure, like you'd have to read every swap blog AND do some extrapolation of those blogs to figure out who I am").

Actually, I wouldn’t worry too much about me figuring out her secret identity: I’m such a complete SP neophyte that I initially set up my anonymous email account (from which to correspond with my own spoilee) using the same name as my blog profile display name. (Hmmm... yeah, that should be a tough one to figure out!) So much for my pretentions of intellect.

Fortunately I hadn’t yet contacted my spoilee, so I quickly set up another new and more obscure account from which I emailed both her and the SP9 hostess. THEN, to my shock and horror, I saw that my internet provider lists my real name in the header of all outgoing mail for my accounts and I quite sensibly PANICKED (fearing I had just spoiled the fun of the chase for my spoilee) until I realized that it won’t help her find me in the blogverse (heh heh…) because my profile name is an alter ego and searching will not connect my name to my blogger identity. I suppose she could try hacking into Blogger, but I doubt she'll go that far.

SO – to make a long story short (it's too late, I know): Yes, I want hints. Lots of really easy hints. Obscurity will be completely unnecessary. You could provide the URL and I might still get lost. For pity's sake, please just give me some breadcrumbs to follow.

And I am looking forward to getting to know my spoiler pal (if not during the next three months, then after secret identities have ben revealed).

Phew! It’s been such a stressful SP9 and I haven’t even started.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What do you do when the fairy dust clears from your eyes?

I’ve been in a bit of a knitting funk the last few days.

The purple raglan cardigan languishes (reproachfully) in her clear plastic zippered bag. I’m not turned on by my Simple Knitted Bodice, beautiful as she is in all her Fleece Artist Kidsilk glory. There’s no magic in either of them for me right now.

I am trying to muster up the enthusiasm to cast on some sock-weight merino for a lace shawl, with either some of the rich mottled brown or the tone-on-tone deep orange, both of which followed me home in the last couple of weeks. I have several sweaters' worth of all kinds of delicious stuff I could be making into something warm and lovely. There’s a mountain of gorgeous Manos upstairs just waiting to become a fabulous sweater-coat. Whatever.

Even the socks aren’t doing it for me (et tu, Koigu?), though I give them a few rows to keep faith with my Socktoberfest pledge. I might not get to the fancy ones at all, but I am determined to have actual wearable PAIRS of socks by month's end, so I am dutifully knitting up the partners to my lonely singles.

Sigh. It’s just not happening for me. I'm not even interested spelunking through my stash bins for inspiration. I feel somewhat bereft and abandoned by my knitting muse.

Maybe I should just go make an acrylic scarf.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I used to keep Brunnhilde in my wallet. I found her in a newspaper many years ago. Sorry, I don't recall where, or who the cartoonist is. The series title was "Bent Offerings".

She reminds me how much I love what I'm doing and how I am blessed to be doing something I truly love with my life.

I've been seeing alot of personal revelation Q&A memes around on many people's blogs lately. Maybe this has to do with the season: autumn is typically the time when our minds turn to evaluating our purpose and place in the scheme of life. For some it's a religious and spiritual self-renewal, for others the whole back-to-school zeitgeist has been so deeply imprinted on the personal calendar that we never really outgrow it.

I also noticed that although I bill myself as the operatic knitaholic, I haven't ever posted anything about my musical life. So instead of the 10 knitterly things you don't know about me or the socktoberfest questionnnaire, I've decided it's time I told you a little about MezzoDiva's other addiction. (These questions were originally posited for another forum, but they provide a structure I like for this post so I'm using them here to anchor my answers.)

1. Why do you like opera? Why did you pick this genre?

Actually, it sort of picked me. In childhood I was always interested in performing, and pursued singing music theatre and popular music since adolescence. In my early teens I could do a perfect Barbara Streisand imitation, a phase I fortunately outgrew. While singing pop/rock covers with a band in my late teens (from Carole Pope to Pat Benatar) I suddenly started losing my voice, and a band member gently recommended that I might want to see a singing teacher. Good thing too, because I was pre-nodal and could have damaged my voice completely through misuse. I started lessons, somehow gradually drifted into more classical repertoire, and discovered a whole new realm of vocal arts.

Initially, classical singing (vocal technique which encompasses genres from the middle-ages to the present – I’ll leave the stylistic eras and definitions to the musicologists and historians) was one of those “oops, how did I get here and whose idea was this anyway?” experiences for me. But I have come to feel a deep abiding rapport with this realm of artistic expression. Opera is the consummate art form. It communicates the profound eternal truths of human experience in a remarkably visceral way, with a richness of language and musical expression that often transcends the more popular vocal and theatrical idioms of contemporary culture.

2. What is the most difficult thing to learn when trying this genre of music?

I think the most difficult thing for contemporary singers is to learn to respect their own artistry. As students and young professionals we can be overwhelmed by the rigours of training in musicality and style, in technique, language and theatre arts, and we often allow our own creative wills to be subsumed by the axioms and strictures we are taught, as well as by the aesthetics of teachers and mentors. This can foster a culture of restraint, where the artist is always afraid to be "wrong", a confinement which permeates much of the art being produced, resulting in a proliferation of homogeneity which is quite frankly rather boring.

As emerging artists we need to take all we have been taught and filter that through our experience, our own emotional and physical creative impulses, to reclaim ownership of our instrument, our skill and our artistry and take the creative risks to produce truly thrilling experiences we can share with an audience.

3. What is your favourite thing about singing this kind of music?

There is a remarkable euphoria that comes from using your body as your instrument in this way. Particularly when singing in an operatic style, the breath and the open-throatedness are extremely honest and revealing of your vulnerabilities, and can evoke sweeping emotions, passions and deep cathartic experiences, all of which are heightened by being shared when you are truly connecting with the audience or interacting with others on the stage.

4. What is your favourite memory/experience performing or learning?

The most exciting things for me occur in rehearsal when we allow ourselves to play and explore, inventing and discovering different ways to say or sing or do something, reducing a musical or gestural expression to the kernel of its essence or embellishing it to the point of absurdity, and then distilling a clear and powerful authentic communication from that process. And, in the greater sense, I believe that art is more than entertainment: it has a true contemporary relevance. Art can change the world - both through communication of socially relevant eternal themes and through artistic efforts and endeavours on behalf of worthy causes.

5. What do you think about the opera industry, worldwide or local? Is it a strong community? Can you comment on its growth since you started studying it?

We need to provide the much-needed opportunity for emerging artists to hone and develop their performance craft in the most time-honored and effective way: by doing it regularly! We also need a strong networking system for artists and more widely accessible support for professional development, including master classes given by renowned industry professionals with international careers. And we need to foster a sense of social relevance and engagement in the artists themselves, to build an ongoing commitment of artists to social responsibility through artistic means.

There is an unfortunate shortage of opportunities in the apprenticeship programs attached to the larger opera companies in Canada, as compared to those in the U.S. and abroad. These are a vital transitional phase in the developing career of an opera singer, providing on-the-job training, performance experience, and immersion in an atmosphere that prepares one for a performance career. Often application or selection criteria for these programs are narrow or very conservative, and many exceptional and gifted performers fall through the cracks. Many similar programs require the already cash-strapped (student loan bearing) artists to pay for the privilege of performing.

6. What would you like to see happen within the opera community?

I would like to see a greater cross-pollination of ideas among the various art forms. Particularly in the performance arts there seems to be a rather narrow adherence to conventional sub-genre definitions and stylistic performance codes. Musicological insight absolutely should inform current performances of these forms, but when applied too strictly the current interpretations of this knowledge often confine the range of expressions available to performers to virtually archival reproductions instead of contemporary and relevant communications. Some of the most exciting creative work is being done by collaborative partnerships between the conventional opera producers and cutting edge artists from other media, such as film and visual arts, who bring modern sensibilities to the genre while respecting the historical idiom.

Grass roots projects developed by artists for artists and audiences, such as collaborative hybrid performances integrated with storytelling bridge the language barriers and promote contemporary understanding of the classical art forms for audiences unfamiliar with the opera genre as well as for the die-hard enthusiasts, offering artistically and financially accessible opportunities for cultural enrichment, and encouraging audience members to interact with the artists in a warm atmosphere conducive to getting to know the performers as members of the community. Therein lay tremendous opportunities for growth in all the strata of opera and theatre production, as well as the development of future audiences.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Secret Pal 9 - Q&A

EDIT: this questionnaire has been preempted by the next round - see Secret Pal 10 Questionnaire.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kick up your heels for SOCKTOBERFEST 2006!!!

I'm a relatively recent sock addict, but so far all my socks have been plain stockinette or ribbed.  I am constantly ogling all the sexy sock patterns, totally and passionately enamored of a few patterns I've worshipped longingly from afar for several months. I've done a fair bit of lace work in tops but nothing fancy in the sock department yet. So I set my personal Socktoberfest challenge: this month I am planning to make a pair of Pomatomus and a pair of Baudelaire, as well as finishing the mates to all of my sad lonely sock singles.

Uh oh.  I am hooked on the toe-up version; either on dpns or magic loop, various provisional cast-on methods, short-rows (preferred) or increased - but I always go for the toe-up approach: I just love the way the toe box looks and feels, I can adjust for fit as I go, and I don't have to worry about how much yarn I have, I just start at the toe and knit until it's done (because Koigu is a terrible thing to waste).

Alas, the lovely Pomatomus is knitted top-down.  So it looks like I'm going to have to convert this pattern to a toe-up direction. Aaack! I'm pretty confident juggling sweater patterns, but I don't really think in "sock" yet, so I'm not all that eager to reverse the pattern direction myself. Hmmm... I think I'll be getting some good old-fashioned advice for this one.