A Good Yarn

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Socks and Movies

Two of my favorite things!

I started the 2nd quarter STR Ravelry group KAL a little early:

I couldn't capture the beauty of this yarn - it's much more muted changes and is absolutely gorgeous. I think it's my favorite STR colorway. The pattern is the Shur'tagal pattern.

I'm almost done with my Elsabeth Lavold sweater, too. I think I'll probably have a post about that next time. Here are a few more movies I've seen:

This is a Swedish film about a family at the beginning of the 20th century. The narrator is the oldest daughter, and she's primarily telling the story of her mother, Maria. Maria is married to an alcoholic and they have a large family. Maria won a camera and at a point of financial crisis, she tries to sell it to a professional photographer, but he convinces her to "keep it for him" and she falls in love with making photographs. It also seems like she's fallen in love with the photographer, too, but the story is really about Maria and how she finds meaning in her life, not some Hollywood love story. It's probably not a surprise that a film about photography would be gorgeous. The film really feels authentic - you can just imagine that this is a story that's been passed on down through the family. I wouldn't say it's anything groundbreaking, but it's really an interesting story, told well.

This is another interesting story, told well. The director was once the travelling manager for The Amazing Kreskin and this film is based on his experiences at that time. John Malkovich plays the Great Buck Howard, a mentalist best known for his numerous appearances on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was the host. Colin Hanks plays the part of the travelling manager, a law school drop out who isn't quite sure what to do with his life, much to the disappointment of his father, played by Colin's real-life father, Tom Hanks. The film feels very authentic and I'm sure a lot of the events are based on real events. Malkovich gives a fantastic performance as a past his prime entertainer, who alternates between charming and self-absorbed. There are other great small parts such as Steve Zahn and Debra Monk as Ohio siblings who host Howard during his performances in their town. Colin Hanks is sweet and sympathetic, but doesn't have the same magnetism as his dad. If you like magic and old Hollywood stories, you'll enjoy this film. If you see this in the theater, make sure you get there on time, because the opening credits are really unique and worth seeing.

Finally, this is a Belgian film that was an award winner at Cannes this year. It's about a 41 year old woman who is separated from her husband, while he explores his feelings for a 24 year old student (he's an art teacher). She's convinced he'll be coming back, so she's just marking time until she can get the life she used to know back. She has two children - a 17 year old daughter and a younger son, about 12 or so. One day she backs up in the grocery store parking lot and collides with a semi-truck. The truck driver is a 29 year old guy who blames her for not looking before backing up and she blames him for having such a big truck in a grocery store parking lot. They argue loudly and with sharp words, but something clicks. Eventually they start to date and the woman begins to wonder whether she really does want to return to her old life. The truck driver is not necessary Prince Charming either, as we begin to suspect when the police arrive at the accident scene and the police officers know him by name. I really enjoyed the film. The acting is so well done. The lead actress just blooms from a depressed, lonely woman at the beginning to a fully alive woman at the end. The oldest daughter, who behaves exactly the way the smart, funny teenage girls you know behave, is a great character. I would definitely recommend this film.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

More Movies

I finished up the Harry Potter/Hedwig socks for my nephew, Michael, but I didn't have time to take a photo of the second one. But you know what, it looks pretty much like the first one. I didn't do anything to try to make them match exactly, but they're pretty close to the same. I guess if I had wound off a few yards, I would have been able to match them up, but I am never that concerned about having them be the same. I didn't take a picture because I wanted to get them to Michael when I saw him on St. Patrick's Day, while there's still a need for wool socks. Spring is definitely moving into the Twin Cities.

I am also making progress on my Borghild sweater. I've finished the first sleeve:

and I'm almost ready to start the decreases on the second sleeve. This is a very long project for me. As usual, by the time I get it finished, it'll be too warm to wear. I seem to do that every winter/spring.

And, trying to catch up on my movie reviews, again, I watched three more nominees before the Academy Award ceremony:

I liked this one, but as you saw earlier, it didn't make my Top Ten. As you probably know, Mickey Rourke stars as a past-his-prime professional wrestler. He was gigantic in the 80s, but that was 20 years ago and now he's getting old and his best days are behind him. It's a pretty searing performance by Rourke, and just like Robert Downey Jr. brought so much of himself to his role in Iron Man, I think Rourke's own history makes this a role of a lifetime for him. The regret, loneliness and longing on Rourke's face is quite real, I'm sure. I think the reason the movie didn't totally resonate with me is that I'd already heard so much about it and seen clips before I saw it. There's a very emotional scene where Rourke's character has a conversation with his daughter, who he's estranged from after pretty much abandoning her in childhood to pursue his own dreams. I'd seen the climax of that scene in clips dozens of times before I actually saw the movie, so I think it lost some of its power for me. It's coming out on DVD in a few weeks and I'd definitely add it to your list.

Although I thought Mickey Rourke's performance was fantastic, I did think the Academy got it right in giving the Best Actor Oscar to Sean Penn. He plays the first openly gay man elected to a major office in the U.S. The movie starts at Harvey Milk's 40th birthday, when he realizes he really hasn't done much with his life, so he moves to San Francisco and starts living out of the closet, in the Castro. He organizes the neighborhood and runs for a position on the Board of Supervisors a couple of times and eventually, after he starts running on a campaign of hope, he wins. I don't think it's spoiling anything since it's fairly well known, but he's eventually killed, along with the mayor, by another member of the Board of Supervisors. Although it's a tragic story, you really get a sense of what a difference Harvey Milk made in his short time on earth and you feel energized and hopeful. The whole cast does a great job, including James Franco, James Brolin (who is fast becoming one of my favorite actors), and Emile Hirsch. This one is already out of DVD, so if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Continuing the theme of great acting, it's no breaking news to say that Meryl Streep is amazing. She completely inhabits the role of a tough nun in 1964. She's suspicious of the new priest, played by the always fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman. Is he just progressive and a new kind of priest, or has he done something completely inappropriate with the one black child attending the church's school? Caught between them is a young nun played by Amy Adams. The acting was really great, including a small part of the black student's mother, played by Viola Davis. The cinematography and writing is really well done, but it's a bit cold and I didn't think it reached a level of greatness, but it really is worth seeing.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Stash and Movies

My best friend Bill and his wife recently had a baby, so I've been doing a little more baby knitting. The big project I'm working on for baby Sam is the Festive Fish blanket:

As you can see, I'm not even close to done. I didn't even start until after he was born, because he came a lot quicker than I thought he would - even though I knew the due date. Sometimes I'm just in denial about how much I can get done in any given amount of time. I'm using the Knitpicks Shine worsted and absolutely love the yarn and the colors I chose.

I also had a special request for some hats for the little guy (although we're suddenly having spring, so maybe he won't be needing them much longer!). I already had a couple of hats knit up, but I made one more especially for him:

I used the Jailbird hat pattern from MinnowKnits, Too just so I didn't have to do any math and used some of my leftover yarn from the mitred square blanket.

In other knitting news, I have some new additions to my stash. Kerry was nice enough to be my personal shopper at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival again. Even though I don't need any more yarn, I felt a little bit ok with this because I actually have knit up all but one skein of the yarn she bought for me last year (yay for me!). Once again I mostly concentrated on the Blue Moon booth. I got some fantastic colors of Socks that Rock:

From left to right, that's Spawn of Braun, Never on Sunday, Jubilation, and Alley-oop.

Absolutely in love with them all. I'll be casting on the Jubilation soon, though, because I'm joining the latest KAL on the STR group on Ravelry.

I also got a skein of Luscious Single Silk in Spinel:

And because I fell in love with a skein Kerry brought back last year, I had her get me a skein of Cashmere laceweight from Just Our Yarn:

Catching up on a few more movies I saw this winter:

I was really surprised by how much I liked this movie. I'm not a huge Ron Howard fan (a lot of times I find his movies just too sentimental, too clean and pretty). I was just fascinated with this one though. As I'm sure you know, it's about David Frost's famous interviews with Richard Nixon, after Nixon left office. Both Frank Langella and Michael Sheen give amazing performances. You just are pulling for both of them. I mean it, it makes Nixon sympathetic. I'd really recommend this one, especially for people like me who love politics.

I AM, on the other hand, a huge Clint Eastwood fan. I have loved pretty much every movie he's directed, some more than others, of course. I wouldn't put this one at the top of my list, but I did really like it. Clint plays an old guy (shocking!) living in Detroit, the last white guy living in a neighborhood now populated primarily by Hmong immigrants. He's old and set in his ways and still remembering his service in Korea, so not so keen to be living among Asians. Because he's so angry and removed, he's pretty much estranged from his children and grandchildren. But somehow he ends up getting involved in the life of his teenage Hmong neighbor. I don't want to give away the plot, but it's a really good story and the ending was totally unexpected. I recently saw Changeling on DVD and can't believe he directed both of these movies this year. He clearly has more energy than most men half his age.

I saw this one before Joaquin Phoenix's recent strange appearance on David Letterman, thank goodness. I would have hated to have that in my mind while watching his sensitive, subtle performance. The movie is based on a Dostoevsky story. It's about an emotionally stunted guy who is living with his parents after his broken engagement has left him emotionally fragile. His dad owns a drycleaning business and he's in negotiations with a big businessman to buy him out. Phoenix meets the businessman's daughter and there's clearly a connection. They seem perfect for each other - they're both Jewish, down to earth and she clearly wants to take care of him. And obviously joining together would help the business deal too. So they start a relationship, but Phoenix is also drawn to his neighbor played by Gweneth Paltrow. She's blond, a party girl and as screwed up as Phoenix. The film is somewhat predictable, but more in an indie film way. I liked it, but it won't be on my Top Ten list next year.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

FO and movie update

I am happy to report an FO - and it was a gift, so I have never even mentioned it before, so here's the surprise!

Project Name: Scandinavian Jacket
Pattern Source: Knits for Babies and Toddlers by Fiona McTague
Yarn: Knitpicks Merino Style
Yarn Source: Knitpicks
Date Started: 11/16/08
Date Completed: 2/20/09

Comments: As I said, this was a gift, so I kept it under wraps while I was working on it. I really enjoyed it, though. Believe it or not, the pattern is written to be knit back and forth instead of in the round, which I had never done with fair isle before. So, I tried it and it wasn't bad. I would never do an adult sweater that way, but a baby sweater was ok and I was glad not to have to do steeks. It's big, but I wanted the baby to be able to wear it next winter, when he probably will be out and about a lot more. The mommy is a knitting friend, so she was very appreciative. I really love the yarn, Merino Style, but I'm sure it would pill like crazy on something that gets a lot of wear, because it's so soft. Such a nice, pretty, soft yarn, though.

I'm less happy to report that the Koolhaas hat I showed you last time is now suitable for wear with this sweater. Yes, my brother threw it in the washing machine and he shrunk it down nice and small - you know how great Malabrigo felts. I should have warned him, but I hardly ever wash my hats, so I didn't really think about it. Plus, he felted a sweater I knit for him once, so I thought he was clued into the whole washing machine and handknits thing. I think this is a pattern that's cursed for me, so I don't know if I'll be knitting him yet ANOTHER one any time soon.

I've also been working on a pair of socks for my nephew, Michael. It was a birthday gift for his 13th birthday and I wasn't sure how much he'd like them, but he actually said, "they're awesome."

I only finished one before his birthday, but he tried it on and it fit perfectly, so now I just need to finish the mate. The yarn is the Opal Harry Potter yarn in the Hedwig colorway. Michael LOVES Harry Potter and especially Hedwig. I knit the Quidditch socks last year in Slytherin colors just because he likes gray and green, so I thought this yarn was perfect for him. I'm using the Quidditch pattern again for this pair because I know it fit him well.

Ok, I've got a lot of movies to blog about because I was trying to get a bunch in before the Oscars. Here's just a start:

I wasn't crazy about this one. It was ok, but it's one of those movies where the characters all treat each other like crap and I just don't enjoy watching that. It stars Anne Hathaway as Kym, an alcoholic/drug addict and Rosemarie DeWitt as her sister, the Rachel who is getting married. It's sort of a slice of life movie, showing this family coming together for Rachel's wedding and all of the old hurts and disappointments surface. The acting was great all around and it felt very real, but like I said, just not fun. The film has a real documentary feel because there really isn't a big plot and structure. Stuff just happens, just like in life. It's filmed pretty much entirely with a handheld camera, which adds to the cinema verite feel, but it was way too shaky for one of the friends I saw it with.

This is another slice of life movie. I saw it the same weekend with Rachel and they went well together. Michelle Williams stars as Wendy and Lucy is her dog, her only companion in life. The film opens with Wendy on the road with Lucy. They're pretty much living in the car and then things go badly. Wendy is down on her luck and lonely and lives in a totally different world than Rachel and Kym, but they both show the lives of women in the our country today and neither one is a happy, joyful story. Williams filmed this movie right after she and Heath Ledger broke up and she made good use of whatever sadness and loneliness she may have been feeling at the time. Another great performance, but you need to be in the right mood to watch the film.

OK, long post. More movies next time.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Best of 2008

It's been a month since my last post, so I've got a bunch of movie reviews I want to post, but instead I'm going to stick with tradition and post my personal Best Movies of the Year list around Oscar time. I liked the changes they made to the broadcast this year and enjoyed the show. It was fairly predictable, but I'm pretty happy with the winners. So, without further ado, here are my favorite movies of 2008:

1. In Bruges
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. The Dark Knight
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. The Visitor
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7. Wall-E
8. Burn After Reading
9. I've Loved You So Long
10. Frost/Nixon

My favorite documentaries for this year were:

1. At the Death House Door
2. Young @ Heart
3. Man on Wire
4. American Teen
5. Gonzo
6. Up the Yangtze
7. U2 3D
8. Encounters at the End of the World

There were a bunch of other movies that I really liked a lot and quite a few that I liked, but didn't love, so overall I'd say this was a good year for movies, for me.

On the knitting front, I finished up one more preemie hat in January, using Chelle's preemie hat pattern. I guess I forgot to take a picture of that one.

I also knit up another Koolhaas hat for my brother:

I just couldn't capture how beautiful this yarn is. It's the regular Malabrigo in a very dark green. It was my first time knitting with Malabrigo and I loved it. And this time, I actually made it big enough to fit before I ran out of yarn:

And I finally blocked out my Chevron scarf:

Project Name: Chevron Scarf
Pattern Source: http://www.domesticrafts.com/Clog/2007/03/12/HitchingARideOnTheBandwagon.aspx
Yarn: Wollmeise 100% Wool in Red Hot Chili and Sonne
Yarn Source: Wollmeise
Date Started: 10/18/08
Date Completed: 12/3/08

Comments: When I placed my first Wollmeise order (back when the Wollmeise was dyeing to order and you could order any color she carried at any time) I knew I wanted to get two colors to make a chevron scarf. I thought these two colors would look really good together, and the scarf turned out pretty much exactly how I thought it would in my mind. There is one shade of orange that is present in both skeins, so the transition from one skein to the other isn't as abrupt as it could be, but I kind of like how gradual it is and that it reallly looks like it's just one skein of yarn with a lot of variation. This was the first time I knit or even saw Wollmeise knit up at a little bit looser gauge and I love it. I knit it on size US 3 needles and after I blocked it out, it's just really drapey and soft and warm. I'm very happy with how this project came out. I only used about 1/4 of each skein for the scarf, so I easily have enough for a pair of socks in each color left.

Here's a closeup view:

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't you just feel better?

What a great day yesterday was!! Unfortunately, I had to work, so I couldn't stay home and watch the inaugural, but I got to see enough of everything to be absolutely elated. After so many disappointments over the last 8 years, especially the death of Paul Wellstone, I feel such great hope.

I did spend part of MLK Day watching the fantastic concert on the mall and knitting preemie hats. I got three hats done:

Project Name: Spiral Preemie Hat
Pattern Source: http://www.geocities.com/bbcrafty_17//SpiralPreemieCap.html
Yarn: Artyarns Handpaint Stripes
Yarn Source: leftovers from a hat and scarf set - stash!
Date Started: 1/19/09
Date Completed: 1/19/09

Comments: I wanted to use up some leftovers in my stash and figured a worsted weight hat would go pretty fast, so I found this cute pattern on the internet. It went really fast but was still interesting to knit. And the ribbing-type will fit a wide range of headsizes. The pink one in the middle is Chelle's basic preemie hat pattern in some Plymouth Dreambaby DK I got in a yarn exchange at a knitting retreat I went to a couple of years ago. Look at me using up the stash for service knitting!!

I also took my nephew, Michael, out for a movie on MLK Day:

I would describe this one as mildly amusing. Neither Michael or I laughed a lot, but it wasn't a horrible way to spend a couple of hours. I think Kevin James is funny enough, but all of the jokes in the movie are pretty much exactly what you see coming. James plays a mall security guard who takes his job way too seriously. He's a single dad and has a big crush on the pretty girl who works at the hair extensions cart in the mall. On the day after Thanksgiving, thieves take over the mall so they can steal the credit card machine codes and the pretty girl gets taken hostage, so Paul Blart refuses to leave the mall without first rescuing his lady love. The movie is an obvious tip of the hat to Die Hard, but there are a few too many fat guy jokes and nothing that happens is in the least bit realistic. But Michael said he liked it and we had fun together. I'd say save the money and rent it or catch it on cable.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Knitting News

OK, as I said last time, I wasn't super productive in the knitting department between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I did work on a few things.

I finished one front and the back on my Borghild cardigan. I thought I'd knit the boring stockinette back before the second front so that I'd have something to look forward to.

As I mentioned last time, I gave a pair of socks I knit last summer to my sister for Christmas and I was knitting a hat for my brother.

Project Name: Koolhaas Hat
Pattern Source: Interweave Knits, Holiday 2007
Yarn: Classic Elite Lush
Yarn Source: Needlework Unlimited
Date Started: 12/7/08
Date Completed: 1/13/09

Comments: I didn't finish it in time, but I had him try it on and he definitely needed the length the pattern gives for a man's hat. Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn. I looked for another skein in a couple of my local stores, but couldn't find this color. I thought the yarn was a little soft and feminine looking anyway, so I decided to just knit it in the women's length and keep it for myself. I used a little bit of some other yarn to finish up the top, so it's not as fuzzy, but it really isn't too noticeable. It fits me just fine. So, now I've started another hat in Malabrigo for my brother and hopefully I'll have it done by the Super Bowl.

I also knit a scarf, but I want to block it out before I take pictures and I've been too lazy to get down on the floor and pin it all out. I've got this cold that will not go away, so my energy level is sort of bottomed out. But, I'm spending most of the weekend sleeping, so I'm hoping I'll sleep it away!

I've also done a little crocheting. Here's my progress on the Babette blanket:

I have a definite love/hate relationship with that project. Sometimes I look at it and think it's great and other times I think it's hideous. I definitely am a better knitter than crocheter.

I'm currently working on preemie hats for the annual January preemie hat collection. Here's my first:

Jeanne and Chelle have taken down their blog since last January, but there's a Ravelry group, so if you're interested in joining us this year, let me know and I'll point you in the right direction. I plan to heed President-Elect Obama's call to service for MLK Day and knit preemie hats.

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