May 29, 2007

SURPRISES

We spent Memorial Day weekend at our cabin in the San Juan Islands. One of the first things I went to do when we arrived was to make some coffee. I started the water in the kettle, and picked up the one-pound package of Starbucks from where we keep it on the kitchen windowsill and was turned around facing into the main area of the cabin, talking with Scott, who'd come in behind me. Suddenly I looked down, and I noticed little feathers down the front of my polar fleece jacket. How strange. Then I held the Starbucks package away from me so that I could see the bottom of it. I interrupted our conversaton to ask, "How'd this get all coated in feathers?" Very strange. Then I turned back toward the kitchen window -- and there on the sill was a dead bird. I screamed, "There's a dead thing!" and ran outside, Allegra right on my heels. Thank goodness Scott is not squeamish, and cleaned it up, including using some chlorine bleach and a flamethrower to sanitize the windowsill.

Scott spent much of the weekend on his Kubota:

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I think he has just as much fun moving dirt around as I do moving loops of yarn from one needle to the next. Simple pleasures.

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Simply Shetland was kind enough to send me an advance copy of Eunny Jang's pattern so that I can make a shop sample, so I spent some of my weekend swatching for the Autumn Rose pullover. Above, you see the swatch laid out on a towel to dry. The coloring is basically gold and yellow-green, with some jewel-toned reds, greens, and blues worked in. Because the pullover has raglan shaping, I was especially concerned with getting row gauge; I'm a tight knitter, but I found I could get both row and stitch gauge on size US 4 needles. That was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday evening, after Scott had spent hours moving dirt around and I'd spent hours knitting, as we all were getting ready to sit down to the table for dinner, Scott put his iPod in the dock and cranked up the music:

She thinks my tractor's sexy
It really turns her on
Shes always staring at me
While I'm chuggin' along
She likes the way its pullin' while we're tillin' up the land
She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan
She's the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor's sexy

Allegra and I did a double-take, and we all burst out laughing. I'd never heard this song before, but Scott was quick to inform me that it's a Number 1 country-western hit by Kenny Chesney. You can read the complete lyrics here.

Not all surprises are unpleasant, like the dead bird on the windowsill, or hilarious, like discovering that your spouse has a theme song. On Thursday I found out that a very dear friend, who'd been earlier diagnosed with breast cancer, is going to have to undergo some aggressive chemotherapy. What a sad surprise. So I spent much of the weekend working on a Shedir chemo cap:

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Long-time readers of Ideaphoria will recall that I made one of these caps about a year ago, for someone else. The yarn is Rowan Calmer in the new color Cork, a very pretty brown that I think my dear friend, who always wears earth tones, will like.

Posted by Karen at 12:59 PM | Comments (6)

May 24, 2007

HOW A LITTLE NEW KNOWLEDGE LEADS TO A WHOLE LOTTA RIPPING

Janine devoted some time in her workshop to how one might shape a garment that's knitted in the round. And she had given us a template pattern, based on her Acorn sweater, that would be a modified-drop shoulder and a slight amount of underarm shaping to reduce that bulky, droopy look that dropped-shoulder sweaters have.

I'm going to immediately apply this to the Sandness sweater that I've been knitting for Scott. One of the things that has slowed me down in knitting this sweater is that the pattern is written as a boxy, square shape, and I know from unhappy past experience that he doesn't like boxy sweaters. The Sandness pattern has you put only 1 stitch on a holder at the underarm, and continue on in pattern with an armhole steek -- aboslutely no underarm shaping whatsoever:

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Janine's Acorn sweater, on the other hand, has you put approximately 8 or so stitches on a holder at the underarm, and then do a few rounds of shaping as you continue on in pattern.

When I'd gotten as far as the underarm on Sandness, putting more than one stitch on a holder at the underarm, and perhaps doing a bit of shaping, was something I'd thought about. This was what I did for my Level II vest, after all. But I lacked confidence. I worried that doing this would inadvertently make the sleeve too difficult to knit.

Now, having seen Janine's Acorn sweater in person and possessing a copy of the template pattern, I'm ready to make these modifications. In fact, I began doing this at our Feral Knitters' get-together on Monday evening. And you should'a heard the screams around the table as I proceeded to rip out the last two inches I'd knit: "WHAT are you DOING?!"

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Now you see 'em . . . .

What's 20 rounds of rework, compared to a sweater that my dear husband might actually wear?

LOTS of Two Swans Yarns news:

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First:I can't stop buying yarn! I succumbed to the luxury yarn with the narcissistic name, Me, from Naturally. This yarn is 80% merino and 20% cashmere and it is the softest yarn I have touched in a long, long time. I got in three colors that are new for 2007 -- and you can view them here. The search engine on the Two Swans site is a temperamental creature . . . it doesn't like searching on a string as small as the two letters ME, but if you search on the words 'cashmere' or even 'merino' or 'Naturally,' you'll find this yarn, too.

And, at the request of a customer, I got in a merino-silk blend. This also happens to be from the Naturally line of yarns, is called Merino et Soie, and is 70% merino and 30% silk. Two Swans is carrying four pretty colors of this yarn, and you can view them here.


Second: As I've mentioned briefly, earlier on this blog, I had begun getting in the Jamieson & Smith line of jumper weight wools for Fair Isle knitting. With all the recent rumors about colors being discontinued, I've been in more of a quandary than usual about whether to proceed with this line. On Tuesday, after the workshop, I phoned the US distributor and spoke with her, and she reassured me that NO colors will be discontinued in the US. She will continue to have the mill produce the entire color line, including the two colors (#55 and FC10) that were discontinued last year and that I was unable to get previously since I only started ordering in January of this year. I'm working on getting these yarns listed on the website, but it all takes time. If there's a particular J&S color that you're looking for, please inquire. I may well have it, and of course, am always happy to order things for people.

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Finally -- and cue up the fanfare, please!: Yesterday, Simply Shetland put up photos showing the projects in its upcoming fall pattern book, Simply Shetland 4 -- and there are some stunning projects in it. I particularly like the Duxbury pullover -- an Aran knitted at a fine gauge using Simply Shetland's new Silk & Lambswool yarn. And -- the project every Fair Isle knitter is waiting for -- you can get a look at the Autumn Rose Fair Isle pullover designed by Eunny Jang. It has shaping, it has raglan sleeves and a dramatic scooped neck -- it is a design to put to shame other Fair Isle designs. To view a slideshow of the projects, click here. The book is expected to be available in late summer.

Posted by Karen at 08:44 AM | Comments (7)

May 23, 2007

MORE FAIR ISLE WORKSHOP PHOTOS

More shots from the workshop on Fair Isle knitting, taught by Janine:

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Linda K and Kathleen, hard at work on their swatches.

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Are these the two most happy knitters you've ever seen, or what? Left to right: Shiori and Marian.

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Shiori based her exploration-in-color swatch on the coloring of a Burnese dog. Suzanne's dog, Diva, was a reluctant model.

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Shiori's swatch shows how successfully black and brown can be used together, and I think you get a better sense of that in this photo. This swatch was probably my favorite, of all of the swatches that got knitted this weekend.

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Seems like Suzanne was always in the kitchen, cooking us up one wonderful thing after another (sometimes with Kathleen's help). Thanks for the hospitality, Suzanne! The first day I ate waaay too much, I felt as full as at Thanksgiving; the other two days I made myself be more moderate.


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When I developed this full-bore mania for knitting, circa 1998, Betsy was one of the first knitters I met. She moved away from Seattle a few years ago, so it was fun to see her in the workshop and have the chance to catch up on what she's been doing lately. Here she shows her homework swatch and two exploration-in-color swatches.

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Here's my own exploration-in-color swatch in progress. The bottom two peeries on the brown background show you what I meant when I said I was determined to follow charts that first day we were set loose to "play" with color. Janine's feedback on this was, "Your colors feel autumnal, but when I look at the photo, it doesn't look autumnal to me."

I was very surprised by that feedback, at the time. I wasn't thinking in terms of the emotional response of the colors. But that feedback was actually very valuable.When it was time to swatch the next day in the workshop, you can see that I focused more on what I think of as "happy summer" colors. Don't you agree that the upper portion of the swatch more closely captures the color and feel of my madrona tree photo? I also switched to Janine's method of speed swatching. Since you're just trying out two colors together, just knit these diagonal stripes and free yourself from chart chasing -- it goes ten times faster. I consider this swatch still in progress -- there are still other colors to work into the mix.

Posted by Karen at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)

May 19, 2007

HALLELUJAH!

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Two thick envelopes arrived in the mail for DD#1, "Welcome to the University of Washington," emblazoned across them. Hallelujah! She's finishing up her AA at community college, and applied to six different four-year colleges and universities as far flung as Sarah Lawrence in New York and Reed College in Oregon. We've been on tenterhooks, waiting, as so very slowly the acceptances have shown up in the mailbox. I think I can safely speak for the whole family when I write that the UW was our first choice for her. Located in Seattle, it's not so far away that she can't commute there, while still living at home, keeping her part-time job at the local branch of the county library, and being handy to give me wardrobe advice and to tease her little sister. Scott and I both have degrees from the UW; we feel sure she'll be getting a quality education. She plans to major in English with a minor in Environmental Science.

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This weekend, I'm continuing my own studies -- and the subject is knitting, of course. I'm taking the Designing in Fair Isle Workshop taught by Janine, pictured above. Day 1 I said that I wanted to "play with color," but by the time we started swatching in the late afternoon, it felt to me more like a chore than like play. Janine teaches a quick-and-dirty method she calls "speed swatching," which involves knitting a basic diagonal stripe in the two colors you've chosen -- no chart chasing (as I was determined to do on Day 1). I was able to keep a much more playful attitude, once I succumbed to speed swatching on Day 2 (today). I've been exploring the colors in this photograph I took in the San Juans Islands last summer:

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Posted by Karen at 09:19 PM | Comments (6)

May 15, 2007

SEASONS COME & SEASONS GO

On Saturday, we said goodbye to Mugsy

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and his companion Chase

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who are going to go live in new pastures. For the first time in 11 years, we are horseless.(Although I hadn't mentioned it here on this blog, we had sold Bobby, Allegra's sweet-tempered little quarter horse, last summer.) Our girls had outgrown their interest in horses, and it was time for these guys to move on. We won't miss mucking out the stalls in the barn, nor the job of catching the horses for the shoer's visit every six weeks. Since Saturday, every time I drive into our driveway, I find myself scanning the pasture, looking for those handsome devils . . . making sure they haven't gotten loose . . . seeing what they're up to . . . but I'm sure I'll grow out of that habit, soon.

For Mother's Day, my family took me to the Mariners game against the Yankees. First off, we stopped at the new Baseball Museum on the ground floor of Safeco Field. Scott's company had built and installed the displays there. Lest you think I'm going off on another tangent entirely unrelated to yarn, let me show you this picture:

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The display shows how a baseball is constructed. The caption reads: "Official Baseball Rule 1.09: The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two stripes of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together." Hmmm... I wonder if there's a fiber of preference. Merino? Shetland? Acrylic?

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Scott lives the fantasy of playing center field.

Our seats were in the All-Star Club, which is a new club on the suites level. Unlimited buffet food and soft drinks! (Alcoholic beverages could be purchased.) Scott's company had done graphics of the ballplayers, inside the All-Star Club and outside in the hallway, and everything looked shiny and new and very professionally done. (For example, in the hallway outside the All-Star Club were life-size graphics of Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey, Junior, with brief text giving highlights of their careers with the Ms.)

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Left to right: Jennie, Allegra, and me.

I have never before taken knitting to the ball park, because I would worry too much about keeping it clean in an environment full of beer and peanut shells. So this was a first, for me -- I worked on the Basic Black Vest before the game started and in lulls during the game. You can tell by the way we are bundled up that the weather wasn't warm, but it was a great game -- the Mariners beat the Yankees, 2-1.

At Ferals last night, I was remarkably productive -- knitted another two rows on the Basic Black Vest, as well as two rounds on my standby Fair Isle project, the Sandness sweater.


Posted by Karen at 10:01 AM | Comments (3)

May 11, 2007

KNOCK ME OVER WITH A FEATHER

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A Flamingo Stripe feather, that is. This is one of the new Shepherd Sock yarn colors from Lorna's Laces. I just ordered it on the 4th of May, and here it is, already. (Generally the dyed yarns from Lorna's Laces arrive anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks after I order them, so it was especially surprising that this Flamingo flew out here to the West Coast so quickly.) Lorna's Laces is donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Flamingo Stripe to breast cancer research organizations -- your Flamingo socks or scarf will show that you care.

In knitting news, last night I finished the homework swatch for Janine's class that will meet next weekend. Yup, I got the swatch done a full week in advance, all 2,835 stitches of it. I steamed it this morning and pinned it out on the dining room carpet to dry. A certain feline member of the family came along to test whether I have those T-pins in securely....

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Stormy laughs in the face of those who say, "Curiosity killed the cat."

Posted by Karen at 10:17 AM | Comments (3)

May 09, 2007

DUELING SWATCHES

Last week at Feral Knitting, we had duelling swatches:

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I was working on my homework swatch for steeks (for Janine's upcoming class) -- and it turned out that Gail was working on her swatch, too, and that we were on the same row! Gail's is the one at top -- she's using Moss and Rye, and mine's the one at the bottom, using Turf and Sand. I'd finish a row and yell over in her direction: "Finished another row!" and she'd ignore me and keep on knitting.

Yesterday I worked more on the swatch when I met with my long-lost knit-bud Abby for coffee:

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She was knitting a sock in Child's Play. The young woman who was the barista had knitted a few scarves herself; she had not ever seen before anyone knitting in a tube with three tiny DPNs, so that was fun to be able to talk knitting with someone who's new to the craft. In addition to knitting, Abby makes glass beads, and you can view some of her work here.

Over coffee, my Basic Black Vest also grew by a couple of rows:

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I gave my pockets an I-cord bind-off, following directions from the Spring 2001 issue of Interweave Knits. I am really, really pleased with this little detail on my pockets!

Working on Level II of the TKGA Master Knitter program, I have learned this method for knitting pockets into a garment as you go -- no need for seaming, later. Of the 22 swatches that one must knit for Level II, I have found the pocket swatch to be the one that was most enjoyable because you get to see this whole pouch emerge right from your needles. And it's a good thing that I found it enjoyable, because I knitted that swatch only five times before I got one that I felt partook of the Form of Perfection.

In a nutshell, what you do to knit in a pocket is to stop after finishing the wrong side row at the point where you want the bottom of your pocket to be. In the case of the vest, I wanted the pocket about 2 inches from the bottom hem, so I stopped with a WSR when the vest was that long. Then with a separate DPN and a separate ball of yarn, pick up in the purl bumps as many stitches as you'd like your pocket to be wide. For the vest, the pocket is placed 2 inches from the front opening, but obviously, you could begin picking up your stitches for the pocket further over if you wanted your pocket further to the side. You then knit a flap as tall as you'd like your pocket to be deep, working a garter stitch selvage on that flap. (The vest pockets are 3 inches deep.) When the flap is as tall as it needs to be, you return to your main needles and main yarn, and begin re-knitting the entire width of the garment, and you catch into your knitting (k2tog) the garter stitch bump from the pocket selvage on every right side row. This photo shows the knitting-in of the selvage stitches in progress:

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Voila! A pocket that needs no further finishing, other than to darn in the yarn ends.

In Two Swans Yarns news: The Summer issue of Interweave Knits is here!

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(For a long time, it's been one of my goals to learn Photoshop. Two years ago I bought the Classroom in a Book, but I have never had the patience to sit down and work through the lessons. I just want to know what I need to know, when I need to know it! So, trial-and-error, inferring from what I have already learned about Photoshop, I made the above graphic. My learning curve is not very steep.)

I am intrigued by the construction of the Luvtroja Mans hoodie. You first knit the center horizontal band, then pick up stitches for the side panels and knit them, intarsia style. The front checkerboard pattern is entrelac. The pattern says it is knitted on size 2 needles in Spindrift -- and I'll be the first to admit that that is a lot of knitting! You could easily upsize to the DK weight and size 4 or 5 needles, and have less knitting (and the sweater might be ever so slightly heavier, but not by so much that it would be a problem). And although the magazine shows it in two shades of gray with teal, it would look equally good in any three colors that coordinate well. I'm really partial to pink with gray . . . which Allegra is forever telling me are "eighties colors" . . . and I think Plum would look great instead of the Nighthawk. My kids gave this hoodie pattern two thumbs up.

The Ogee Lace skirt uses the new yarn from Rowan, Bamboo Tape. The skirt is knitted on size 11 needles and should be a quick project. The Ogee lace stitch pattern is pretty. I realize not everyone wants to wear a wrap skirt, but the resident ballerina in our house might want to, over her leotard when she goes to dance class.

Posted by Karen at 12:18 PM | Comments (5)

May 07, 2007

IS THERE MORE TO A PNW WARDROBE THAN PLAID FLANNEL SHIRTS AND JEANS?

Tim Gunn's appearance last night at University Book Store was was co-hosted by UBS and Seattle Metropolitan magazine; also, 4 chic men's clothing shops were co-sponsors. They would have a contest to find The Most Stylish Man in Seattle; the fashion editor at Seattle Metropolitan (along with some colleagues of hers) interviewed men who nominated themselves or were nominated by friends, and then of the interviewees, 7 were chosen as finalists. The finalists would take a walk down the runway, and the top 3 would have the opportunity to meet and chat with Tim Gunn.

Because this was like 2 events in one, 2 sets of tickets were needed: 1 ticket for the Most Stylish Man in Seattle event, obtained from Seattle Metropolitan magazine; and 1 ticket to stand in line at Tim Gunn's booksigning, obtained from UBS when you purchased your book. My girls and I are big fans of Project Runway -- we even have a Nick Verios Barbie doll! -- and so the instant I got the e-mail notice from UBS about this event, I phoned Seattle Metropolitan and got our tickets to the style contest.

Tickets firmly in hand, we arrived at UBS last night at 5:45; doors were to open at 6:00. There were only two people in line at the doors adjacent to the parking lot (these are the doors off the alley), but we could see through the windows a large line gathering at the main doors on "The Ave." The two people in line assured me that the alley doors would be opened; in fact, they'd been in the shop earlier in the day and been told that only the alley doors would be open. Caterers were coming and going through these alley doors. I had moments of doubt where I thought I should drag my kids all the way around the block to the front doors, but we stuck it out. A few people joined us in line -- I think there were ten of us, in all.

But when the time came to open the doors, the bookstore opened the alleyway doors first! I couldn't have been more thrilled -- I always like to get front row seating whenever we go to readings. I was the third person through the doors, right on the heels of the couple who were already in lilne when we got there. And we were like, Where do we go? The Book Store had shoved aside some shelving on the main floor, and built a temporary runway from the staircase between the main floor and the second floor. Around this runway were set up some round cocktail tables -- some tall and some small. There were no chairs, no seating -- it was a standing-only event, and I think I can safely say it was standing room only. There were easily 250 people, by the time 7:00 and the Style Contest rolled around.

I scoped out a table that was just to the right side of the runway, and right in front. I parked the girls there, giving them a quick admonition to save our spot while I went to the counter to buy our copy of the book and get the signing ticket. When I came back to our table, I was a little surprised to see a woman's large tote bag sprawled all over the table, and she with two companions who were now sharing our table. I realized by how snappily dressed he was and by the way that they were talking, that one of the men was one of the contestants. All three of them worked together. The other man (of this group of three people who were sharing our table) had nominated him, and he hadn't wanted to be in the contest, but the magazine editor had phoned him and pleaded with him to participate. I thought it all very interesting, and I was willing to overlook the woman's sprawling tote bag taking up more than half of our table, for this peek at insider's information.

I dislike crowds, and there was some jostling that we had to endure in the hour that we waited for the event to begin. Allegra (being short and small) was pretty miserable. I could go on a diatribe here about having good manners, but I won't. On the positive side, there were hors d'oeuvres, and some fruit punch for us to enjoy while we were waiting.

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(Jennie said later, "We paid $5 a ticket to see Annie Leibowitz and to see Byron Katie -- and they didn't serve food then. And these tickets were free, and we got food." I can't explain the disparity, other than to say that this was a co-sponsored event.)

Once the event got rolling at 7:00, the jostling crowd settled down and we had the event itself to focus on. The fashion editor from Seattle Metropolitan, along with her counterpart from the sister publication Portland, introduced the 7 finalists to the audience. These men were not professional models -- the first guy even had some trepidation about stepping out on the runway which was obviously a temporary structure.

I know my readers in other parts of the country think we're all about plaid flannel shirts and blue jeans here in the Pacific Northwest. These pictures might prove otherwise. Maybe.

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Blaine, a self-employed clothing designer in Seattle. He was asked by one of the editors (standing at left in the photo) to show a necklace he was wearing. It had skulls on it, and he declined to comment about what statement that made. (Standing room only -- notice the people on the second floor, viewing the event from above.)

Tim Gunn was then introduced and came down the stairs to meet and chat with the 3 who were chosen as top finalists. I didn't get a photo of the first "Most Stylish Man" candidate, whose name was Daniel and who had amazing dimples. He looked about 16, was a male model and was actually wearing something designed by Blaine (from the photo above). I didn't get a photo, but I'll try as best I can to describe what he was wearing. He had on torn jeans, a black T-shirt that had some sort of white writing all over it, and a blue-and-black striped sleeve (yes, just one sleeve -- initially I thought he had a cast on his arm since kids get casts in all sorts of wacky colors nowadays). This blue-and-black striped sleeve came down over his hand and had a thumb hole; the portion over the hand was done in contrasting stripes of green-and-black. It looked to me like this long sleeve was part of a separate garment worn under the T-shirt -- the black T-shirt itself had the kind of short sleeves you'd expect to see on a T-shirt.

Tim Gunn said to Daniel, "I say in my book that clothes are a projection of who you are. Is this how you want people to perceive who you are?" I should say that Tim Gunn sounded just like he sounds on Project Runway. He was making a statement and eliciting a response from Daniel. I did not sense there was any judgment in this, at all, but rather, that Tim Gunn was very accepting of this young man in torn blue jeans and a T-shirt with a single layered sleeve.

Daniel answered that, yes, indeed, the clothes were him. He would wear an outfit like this around town. He hoped wearing this kind of stuff would help his modeling career.

Tim Gunn nodded and said, "Career advancement; career advancement." He then asked Daniel to choose just one article of his outfit as representing him.

Daniel said, "No, I don't know."

Tim Gunn summarized this as, "It's all you -- the whole package."

The next of the top 3 finalists to be introduced to Tim Gunn was Gobi -- the same man who, along with his two friends and co-workers, had shared our table. When Gobi came down the stairs, Tim Gunn brightened a bit and said, "Now here is something I would wear."

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"Well, except for the white shoes. In New York, those shoes would be dirty."

Gobi works as a softwear engineer; he was born in India, was very soft-spoken with just a trace of an accent. His blazer was made of a material with nap -- velvet or something similar. He was wearing this with jeans -- I believe his jeans were of black denim. He said about his outfit that it was the kind of thing he could wear to work and then to a rock concert.

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Ahab, the third finalist, works as a buyer at Nordstrom. I believe he had on cowboy boots with his blue jeans, and this shirt that looked hand-painted, and the leather blazer.

Tim Gunn said, "Turn around. I want to see the cut of this blazer. Because you know I love a leather jacket." (I mentally gave myself a gold star for wearing my leather jacket that evening.)

When Ahab turned around, there were catcalls from the audience. Tim Gunn asked, "Who's it by?"

Ahab: "Boss."

Tim Gunn turned to the audience, raised his eyebrows and made a big frown. "You know, I can't afford Hugo Boss."

We all laughed, especially Ahab. I imagine that, being a buyer at Nordstrom, he gets an employee discount.

Tim Gunn asked him if this was the kind of thing that he'd wear to work, and Ahab said no -- at work he wears a suit and tie.

I hadn't realized, until writing this, that all three finalists were wearing jeans! Maybe we can't get away from that cliche about Pacific Northwest style.

After these introductions of the finalists, they opened it up to questions from the audience. Tim Gunn was asked about his writing process. He said, "If anyone here has ever written a book, I applaud you. If you are thinking of writing a book -- DON'T DO IT! I love to write, but writing a book is the quickest route to the mental hospital. I foolishly began by thinking I could write in my office at Parsons for an hour or so every day; but then everybody needs just a minute of your time, and then the whole day is gone. And then I tried writing in my apartment, and discovered that the refrigerator needed defrosting badly, and that there was dust behind the bookshelves.... The book was due to the publisher, Abrams, on Labor Day. I quit reading their e-mails around Thanksgiving. In January they locked me and my co-author, Kate Moloney, in an office for a week and literally brought us in food and wouldn't let us leave until we had the book done. Two weeks later I was reading the proofs, and I thought it [the book] was not half bad."

He then went on to apologize that there is one typo in the book -- in a French phrase, and if he would've spotted it, it wouldn't be in there.

A librarian in the audience asked him what kinds of books he reads. He answered that he reads a lot of biographies, and a lot of historical fiction -- and also word etymologies. He didn't cite any particular books or authors as favorites. He did say that he's in the process of moving from one apartment (with built-in bookcases) to another (sans bookcases), and it's "an albatross" as to what to do with all of his thousands of books. "I don't care that I haven't read that one book in 25 years; I remember that I read it 5 times and really loved it, 25 years ago."

Tim Gunn was very generous and very genuine in all of his answers. Most of the Q&A was about fashion, as you might imagine. The last question was from a young girl, standing next to Allegra and about her age: "What's the best thing about being on Project Runway?"

"Being on Project Runway!"

That Tim Gunn is quick-witted, eh? (I was glad that he called on the kid, since I think it's unfair when grown-ups ignore kids, and I was also glad that the kid was brave enough to ask a quesiton.) He then went on to tell an anecdote about how he was hired for the show -- his role didn't exist as part of the original concept for the show, but he sees his role as getting the designers to talk to each other. That first season, he didn't know whether his part would end up on the cutting-room floor. He hadn't gone to the screening party for the first season, hadn't seen any of the rough cuts as they were getting the show ready, so he was watching it when it was aired, just like all of us common folk, "sort of peeking at the TV from under the covers the way I used to watch The Wizard of Oz when I was a kid."

Then it was time for the booksigning. Long lines, but the UBS was good at crowd control. Our signing tickets had large letters on them, and we lined up in alphabetical order according to the letters on the tickets. And yes, the signing tickets were checked. He posed with people for pictures, even putting his arm around the shoulder of some people.

In the car on the way home, Allegra and Jennie took turns reading the book out loud. And there, on page 20, is the story of how Tim Gunn, when he had relocated to New York, wanted to expand his wardrobe a little bit from the staid suits he'd been wearing in Washington, DC. He wanted to buy a black leather blazer. "I found a great one at Saks. It was Hugo Boss and it was -- gulp -- $800. I loved it. I bought it. And I left Saks in a retail daze, because $800 was my clothing budget for the year. I crossed Fifth Avenue . . . and stumbled into Banana Republic. I recognized that I was in a stupor, but I believed that I spotted a black leather blazer identical to the one I just bought.... I moved forward, and, sure enough, it was entirely possible. More important the blazer was only $400! I bought it. I even opened a Banana Republic account and saved 20 percent, too. Then, I crossed Fifth Avenue, again, to return the earlier purchase. I was so proud of myself: mission accomplished and at a 50 percent savings!"

So, I gotta wonder: Had Ahab read that far into the book, when he chose the Boss leather blazer as part of his Most Stlyish Man outfit?

Project Runway has its largest viewing audience in the Seattle area. And the Events Coordinator from UBS said also that Seattle has the highest rate, per capita, of book sales. Tim Gunn said, "I don't intend to be in a lot of book stores [on this book tour], but I feel very comfortable being in a university book store, and this event tonight was very special."

And, to bring closure to my point about the tickets for this event. As we were driving home at nightfall, once it got too dark for the kids to see well enough to read the book aloud any more, Jennie told me this story: When I had parked them at the table to hold our place while I went to buy the book and get the signing ticket, my kids had set down their tickets to the Style Contest on the tabletop. And this woman with the tote bag appeared with her two companions. The woman said to Jennie, "Oh, can I see your ticket? I didn't get one." (I assume that the woman and her companion were able to get into the event because they came in with Gobi, who was not only one of the finalists, he was named Most Stylish Man in Seattle.) The woman then proceeded to handle Jennie's ticket and never gave it back to Jennie but proceeded to put it in her own tote bag. She then picked up Allegra's ticket, but must have thought twice about taking it, too, and put it back down on the tabletop.

There was no harm done, because at no point did anyone check to see whether we had tickets from the magazine to attend the Style Contest. However, I am appalled that this woman so blatantly took a ticket away from a kid. Even if that kid is 20 years old and so is old enough to have asked the woman to give her the ticket back.

Posted by Karen at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

May 06, 2007

The Most Stylish Man in Seattle

GunnBooksigning.jpg
Tim Gunn signs a copy of his book, A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, for Jennie, Allegra, and me. University Book Store, May 6, 2007.

Will blog more about this event later . . . my kids wanted me to post this photo tout de suite so that they could copy it and post it on their MySpace pages.

Posted by Karen at 09:53 PM | Comments (5)