Monday, 2 March 2015

Scraptastic Fabric

When we moved here Pooch told me the names of some neighbourhoods I should avoid. Naturally I listened carefully and instantly forgot these because I am second only to goldfish when it comes to memory and lack thereof. It turns out, hilariously, that the moment I was left on my own, once Pooch had started work, I travelled straight to one of these, called the delightful sounding "Bayview". Bayview is where you end up if you travel due South from our flat, through the neighbourhood of Dogpatch (not making these names up), and on further. The place I was actually aiming for was called "Scrap - a source for the resourceful" and is between Bayview and Bernal Heights - the latter being ok to go to during the day but not so much after dark.

To cut a long story short, no one died and I duly arrived at Scrap.
Scrap in San Francisco.
This place was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!
Scrap in San Francisco.
I'd been to two UK scrap stores and they were fun but...meh. This one was a crafter's paradise - regardless of the craft but especially for fabric users. The guy at the till actually thanked me for taking a huge bag of fabric and assured me they never ran out so I should come back again soon.
Scrap in San Francisco.
See the sign at the top? "Small rolls, 15 for $1". Ha. I'm not going to say it's worth the risk of being shot because that would be flippant. It is pretty awesome though. Plus there were books and patterns.
Scrap in San Francisco.
Endless amounts of everything - including used and virgin cine film, slides, offcuts of every wood, plastic, metal you can name, frames, paints, glass...just everything.
Scrap in San Francisco.
I liked this jar - "$8 including green thingies - $5 without".
Scrap in San Francisco.
What are the green thingies? I have no idea. Who cares. The only thing I couldn't see was knitting yarn. The reason for this was apparent at check out.
Scrap in San Francisco.
Looks good though. When I got there the man asked me if $8 would be all right for my shopping basket full. A lot of the fabric there would be more than that for 50cm. I insisted on $10. My fabric haul...
Rolls of Fabric
Later divided into blue, green, red and yellow.
My creation
Special mention for the two cat prints.
Cat fabric
A vintage pattern for a dress I had and used to wear all the time when I was 19ish (the red model but full length).
Vintage Pattern
Plus a few vintage pattern books for a certain friend I'll be seeing on a certain knitting holiday in a month's time.

My new sewing machine - a Singer - arrived yesterday so I have used the fabric to cut out some coasters. I thought they would be a good small project to try out the machine on. I will report back on progress!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Plus Minus Cats

In Physics there is a symbol called "plus minus" (not anything greek or nothing) that looks like this:
plus minus symbol
When I was doing my degree I would use it daily - or maybe even hourly. In later life maybe not so much but probably still a few times a month. It is very handy to indicate a margin of error or, in other words, how wild an estimate you are making. In some ways it isn't suitable for this post because my Mum did definitely lose her cat this week.
Artemis cat bedtime
Poor little Artemis (Arty for short) developed a flea allergy about two years ago and had to go onto steroids. The weight gain they caused may have robbed her of her svelt figure but she was still a champion hunter and was leaving impressively large entrails on my Mum's doorstep right up until a few days before she died. She used to love sleeping with her paw over her nose.
Artemis the Cat 1
And she had terrible balance and could only get down out of trees if someone stood underneath and caught her.
Cat in a tree
On my farewell visit before coming to America I spent a lot of time with her on my lap with her doing this kind of inward snore, outward purr breathing while I stroked her soft fur. I'm really glad I did that.

The morning I got my Mum's email was the same morning I had booked my first visit to the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland. Oakland is where you end up if you follow the the Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate one) out of San Francisco. Traditionally it has had a fairly rough reputation with lots of race violence and shootings but parts of it are now Shoreditch-esque in there inclusion of vegan coffee and bicycle shops. It is not like the previous cat cafes I had visited as all the cats there are up for adoption so some are only at the cafe a matter of days before they go to a new home. The cafe has rehoused more than 135 cats since October last year which is pretty phenomenal and one was being fostered while I was there.
Tribune Tower
The whole place is very clean and light with lots of places for the cats to sit or play. All the cat furniture represents aspects of Oakland or San Francisco.
SF skyline
This *beautiful* one was sleeping at the top of the Tribune Building.
Cat at the Top of the Tribune Building
While in another "Quiet Area" (max two people at a time and no toys) there was a little house.
Quiet Area
Underneath this was a very quiet area where the cats could go if they were nervous. The ginger boy below had just got back from a patrol of the main room but the long-haired back one, called Mason (should have been 'Mow-son') was quite jumpy.
He loved being stroked though and completely stole my heart. Having just lost Arty and knowing that Mason didn't have a home with people who loved him made me pretty emotional. It was hard to say goodbye. I have mentioned him to Pooch but until we have sorted out some proper housing it's not really viable. Not really. Certainly not ideal. Probably not for the best. Not for the best. For the best. The best. The best thing that could ever happen.

Poor little Arty. She was a rescue cat herself. She was such a quirky little thing but so adorable.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Craft Blockage

I've finally got the space to create in...and I can't decide what to do.
I've still only got basic supplies BUT there are shops so I could go and get something. But...what to get? I was thinking of maybe some embroidery but I already embroidered this before I left England...
Embroidered crinoline lady
...and I don;t know what to do with it. I am therefore a bit wary of embroidering something else I don't know what to do with. I don't have a sewing machine yet and only have about 8 FQs of fabric (which, actually, sounds like a lot now I write that) but the designs aren't talking to me. Much like my Mum's cat wouldn't talk to Triple H even when he was being eaten by a dinosaur at her feet.
Cat, Dinosaur and Triple H
I could knit something. That's probably a better idea. But what to knit?! I have just signed up for the UK Knitting and Crochet Guild's monthly knitting challenge to knit something for a child. Naturally, my ickle niece came to mind. Her Mum is doing a great job with the face-training.
Sian and Jasmine
I've seen a cute Peppa Pig cardigan I want to convert to a zip up hoody but that requires many colours and charting and so can't be started any time soon. What I need is something more immediate. Much Ravelry trawling and I am thinking of this Drops cardigan which I have the needles for and can get the yarn for pretty easily.

Blockage shifted. I feel so much better now.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Lixie Reaches San Francisco

Finally! Two month after leaving Tokyo, Pooch and I have arrived in our temporary flat in sunny San Francisco (ignore the blog header suggesting I'm still in Japan - the image file is on a hard drive in a box somewhere in another country). Even a temporary lease of two months seems like heaven when you've changed location 16 times in two months. It seems nuts to complain about it when we were made wonderfully welcome by family and were fed all our favourite meals and were warm and clean, but I was definitely getting to the end of my tether. Living out of one suitcase for that amount of time is no fun, and all those meals have damaged the Byrne waistline.

Since arriving here this has been much walking to explore the local area and never more so than when we went to the weekly Ferry Building Marketplace this morning. Quite a selection to choose from.
Vegetables at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Tulips at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Vegetables at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Mushrooms at the Ferry Building Marketplace
Fish at the Ferry Building Marketplace
This one was mental.
Meat at the Ferry Building Marketplace
All those chickens and what looked like whole pig...bodies? Not sure of the technical term. They were all cooking and dripping juices and fat onto the baskets of brussel sprouts in amongst the meat and then onto the potatoes at the bottom. The smell was amazing. The only thing I tried was an ASTONISHING ice cream from a place called Humphrey Slocombe.
Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream Flavours
I had the Malted Dulche de Leche and, my word, I seriously think it is the best ice cream I've ever had. Obviously it doesn't have a chocolate in, but then nothing is 100% perfect. We also brought home fish and veg for dinner.

Getting here and being able to have more than one tiny project on the go has already paid dividends. One block for the I Love Lucy patchwork bee.
February Lucy Block
My Crazy Stripes Tee has blossomed a sleeve and the start of another.
Jumper in progress
I tried this on last night and couldn't be happier with the fit.

I've also got the desk set up with Nickerjac's LB's parting gift - a polka dot television he made himself complete with Japanese scene. Plus one or two other reminders of Tokyo.
The television

Exploring so far has been largely of the necessity rather than the crafty nature, but then Pooch starts work next week so I am planning trips to Thrift and Craft Stores for then (look - I said 'thift' not 'charity and 'stores', not 'shops'. La! I'm so american already).

Have a nice day!

Friday, 30 January 2015

SkipNorth Knitting and Spinning Holiday - Last Chance to Book!

What are you doing between 26th and 29th March this year? 

Oh really?

Well, that sounds fun, but you'll have more fun at the 
UK's numero uno knitting and spinning holiday 
- now in its 11th year!

Shop, eat, natter, eat, learn new skills, eat...and more!

We also have a discussion group on Ravelry

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Normal Service Will Resume At Some Point

I am currently living with The Pooch in a tiny studio flat in Paddington (London) without any craft materials other than one half done pair of knitted socks and one patchwork hand sewing project. I have also been ill with a virus pretty much since the plane touched down from Tokyo two weeks ago AND I sprained my thumb lugging that wretched suitcase around over xmas so can't in fact knit anyway until it has healed. As a result I've not got a lot to blog about apart from the occasional outing completed between bouts of coughing.
By March I hope to be living in a more permanent place in a country to be confirmed. Until then it might be a bit sporadic on here.
Sad Kitty
Here are some more cat pictures to round things off. I hate blog posts without pictures.
Tsukimaru Goes Veggie

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Delayed Visit to London's Only Cat Cafe

When I first heard about the crowdfunding campaign to get a cat cafe open in London I was all over it like a rash. I was so excited. I signed up and pledged my hard earned wonga and then sat back, eagerly awaiting the opening date. That was at the start of 2013, and shortly afterwards I found out I'd be moving to Japan which then finally happened in November of that year. I vaguely remember that the cat cafe was supposed to have opened by then but got held up by planning permission, so I was already in Tokyo and whooping it up in the cat cafes there by the time Lady Dinah's opened its doors.
Lady Dinah's Front Window
In return for my funding I got a "Nine Lives Card" entitling me to a discount on the £6 or so cover charge for a 90 minute visit for my first nine visits. Saturday was my first! The staff were very friendly and I was seated at my own table downstairs.
Inside Lady Dinah's - Cat Paw Hot Chocolate
There were cat perches everywhere and sure enough there were about five of the seven or so cats sleeping in different spots.
Inside Lady Dinah's
Some of these were accessible and some weren't. Before I went I had read one of their updates online saying that some people had been disappointed with the number of cats that were sleeping during their visit. I read that statement in the context of Tokyo's cat cafes and assumed the disappointment was due to the cats not running after profered toys or jumping into laps. What I hadn't realised was that you are not allowed to touch sleeping cats, even if they are sleeping right next to you. That basically meant that there were two cats to "go around" what turned out to be a really large number of people for the space. If the downstairs room was a cafe I would have described it as definitely full. Perhaps 20 people were down there? And half an hour after I got there - in what was the first "sitting" of the day - more people arrived and were seated at the tables upstairs in the play room. What quickly happened was that as soon as any of the awake cats did something (such as walk across the room) it was immediately surrounded by a little crowd.
Inside Lady Dinah's
The cat cafes in Tokyo and Seoul were never anywhere near this crowded and often I'd be the only one there for at least some of my visit.

On their website, Lady Dinah's talk about how some overseas cat cafes deprive cats of food so they beg customers for treats - something I never saw in Tokyo or Seoul - but at Lady Dinah's the cats instead were stimulated with some sort of powdered chicken treat. Initially this was done by staff but they then handed it to visitors so the cat in question would interact with them. This is what that looked like.
Inside Lady Dinah's
An even bigger crowd around the cat involved. If you were at the front of the crowd you got to pet the cat. Otherwise, you got to watch other people do it.

While I can understand that the thinking behind Lady Dinah's is all to protect the cats, I feel there might be a bit of anthropomorphism going on. If your own cat was asleep at home, you wouldn't fear upsetting its emotional balance by stroking it. And if the cat was peeved at being disturbed it would go and sleep somewhere else. The same thing used to happen in the Tokyo cafes I went to. Cats wishing for a good snooze would sleep up high.
Final Visit to Calico Cat Cafe
Cats open to a bit of doze/tickle would stay low.
Afterall, these cafes are only open for about 8 hours a day so that leaves another 16 for undisturbed r+r.

On reflection I felt that if I had never been to any other cat cafes I would have been satisfied with the experience on offer at Lady Dinah's. In fact I felt the word "experience" summed it up pretty well. It is a "cat experience" and a cafe. It was only having experienced a "cat cafe" as they were originally intended to be that made the name a misnomer in this case. However, as the Knit Harlot once said when I asked her for her opinion about knitting needles on planes (at the time they were banned) "It's their plane so it's up to them to decide what can go on them." So it follows that this is their cafe and their cats (I forget who exactly 'they' are) so it's up to them to decide when you can stroke them. However, I won't be needing the other eight of my nine lives so if anyone in the UK would like the card let me know and I'll post it to you.

One thing about the cafe is its very interesting location - on Bethnal Green Road. This is a low income area of London, coincidentally where I was living when I met The Pooch. You will not find many other hipster places just here which, let's face it, is basically what Lady Dinah's is. Depending on the way you choose to walk you can end up walking through parts of Shoreditch which has been gentrified and is now full of hipsters wearing layers of grey, black and plaid. This means the graffiti, something I quietly admire in general, is a mix of traditional and modern. You get the more artsy stuff...
Shoreditch Graffitti - Shark Fish Bowl
...on hoardings surrounding current building work while longer-term walls hiding waste ground get a more transitional treatment.
Shoreditch Graffitti
My personal favourite on this trip was this thuggish Peppa Pig amid a load of tags.
Shoreditch Graffitti - Evil Peppa Pig
Having had to draw Peppa umpteen times for my ickle niece I admired this artist's work. That's assuming it is Peppa. For all I know it could be a Hipster Icon and Peppa is simply an ironic reworking of it. In which case I need to rewatch the "Muddy Puddles" episode and think in more depth about the subtext.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

My 2014

My year started with us living in Japan and has ended with us back in the UK but with plans to be somewhere completely different within the next two months. Looking back, I have made at least 117 different things during the year. More than one every three days - not bad going!
Makes of 2014 Part 1
Makes of 2014 Part 2
Makes of 2014 Part 3
Makes of 2014 Part 4
Phew! I've knitted eleven hats, two adult jumpers, four little ones and seven pairs of socks plus various other bits. I've sewn six Sew Together bags, three bed quilts and twenty four other bags or pouches. Lastly, twenty nine of the things were for me or my home - everything else was a present or for a swap.

Personally there have been a few ups and downs and there has been a lot of uncertainty about the future but as the year ends it is all looking pretty good! I don't yet have any plans for 2015, apart from setting up another new home in another new place. Hopefully this move will be slightly more permanent but never know!

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