Friday, October 31, 2008

New Template!

I was getting tired of the monolithic blueness that was the "Denim" template. I did like its clean lines from the beginning and the fact that the fonts were easy to read.

It took me a while to find a similarly clean layout in a light and pretty template that looked great in all major browsers and still reflected our blog title well. Also, any sort of color photo should look good in it.

This is called "Dream", in XML code for the New Blogger, by I tweaked it a little bit to fit my taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shipping with Johnny Air

Lilo's Halloween party outfit generated so much excitement, I totally forgot to blog about my receiving my recent eBay+KnitPicks orders! Yes, it's Christmas again, this time in October. I think I started celebrating Christmas way back in July, but that makes for a happier Gravelcat.

Johnny Air Cargo played Santa this time, not Philpost. My previous eBay order of bamboo circular needles did arrive on time, via USPS-Philpost (30 days shipping). I paid PhP 35 processing fee, which is correct. I figured nobody there would be interested in what looked like barbecue sticks stuck together with a nylon cord. While I was relieved at receiving my items, I still can't shake my mistrust of Philpost, and continue to dread missing items, having to deal with "creative taxation" or seeing "received partly torn" notices on my envelopes. I know current Postmaster General Hector R. R. Villanueva is trying to do something about public perception of Philpost's service, but I am not about to tempt fate yet, seeing how close we are getting to Christmas, financial crisis and all. Desperation and corruption go hand in hand.

Several years ago Johnny Air came to my attention via They offered safe US-Philippines shipping for dvds. While I wasn't that much of a big dvd buyer, I filed it away in my head. I came across them again this year, when I heard from my friend ECT that she had bought a Nikon D40 and had it shipped quickly and safely via Johnny Air. She picked it up in their Megamall branch.

Of course the cheapest way to send to the Philippines will always be the relatives' balikbayan box -- IF you have the patience to wait till December or January. For people who have a choice, Johnny Air's "Shop Online Service" is great. It's safe. It's fast. It's reliable.

I blog about this because I'm a satisfied customer, and you might need the information one day. (I also don't want to impose upon my relatives too much, because I love them, and their plates are full in these trying times.)

Let's say you want to buy something from eBay (vendor A) and something from (vendor B). offers free shipping for your item within the US. I mean, you wouldn't want to waste the savings if you could combine shipping, right?

1) You write an email to Analyn Diego at to advise her that you plan to buy items from vendors A and B. You let her know to combine these packages into one shipment, which must fulfill the minimum 2-lb requirement.

2) You shop online. Under shipping info you write:

ATTN: Analyn Diego/Client's Name (this means YOU)
Johnny Air SOL
6904 Roosevelt Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
Tel. (718) 672-7080, (917) 332-7806

3) You email Analyn Diego again, with your shipping details.

Order #
Tracking #

Specify whether you want to claim it at JAC Makati or JAC Megamall. Provide your contact details so they can notify you when you can pick them up.

4) Shipping is by volume weight. As of my order it was USD 7.50 per lb + USD 5.00 handling fee. For further inquiries you can call JAC Customer Service at 631-7101, 638-8512 or 0917-8100306.

I see in the USPS international postage calculator that it would have cost me at least USD 29.93 for 6-10 days' Priority Mail shipping. What third party would bother to combine packages for me? And even then, I wouldn't even be sure whether I'd get it via Philpost or if I'd be charged extra fees.

In my case, I ordered my items on October 14, and received them October 24 from JAC Megamall. I paid USD 27.50 for 3 lbs. I showed the very nice folks my ID, and within a minute I got my box! And yes, they smile, too. Nowadays perhaps we don't count on people to smile a lot, but when they do, it really makes my day.

Now remember, it only works if that price and service are acceptable to you. If you are able to find a similar service that is also as reliable, let's hear about it!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yellow Halter Modeled!

Little Girl: (Excited) Yaya, what's that?

Yaya: It's for your hair, Isabel has one too. (One of her neighbor playmates.)

Little Girl: Okay. (Fidget. Fidget.)

Incredible Joie: Anak, sit still please. Auntie, I can't believe you made that.

Auntie Gravelcat: Neither can I. It looks better than I thought. Thank God!

Yaya Lea: Andyan na ang marching band! Let's go! Baka antukin itong bata tapos mamaya masungit. (She's beginning to look sleepy, we better go before she gets cranky.)

Incredible Joie: Auntie, bilis, I need my sd card. I need to take pix of the parade.

Auntie Gravelcat: Sure Mommy, I've blogged it na.

Oh my darling girl, you make my finger cramps so worth it. I love you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lilo's Yellow Cotton Ribbed Halter

There's nothing like an event deadline to make your fingers fly! I just finished the yellow halter for Lilo's Halloween-Hawaiian costume. I knitted roughly 3,000 stitches spread out over 5 nights and a bit of this lunch break. I checked my knitting log and realized that I had been steadily engaged in this top for an average of 4 hours a night since Saturday. The fingers need a break.

Lilo tried it on today... fortunately for me she refused to remove it for 10 minutes straight. That counts as "she likes it". However the ribbing makes the top too narrow. "Kita dede," as the kid would say. I added a bit of invisible elastic to keep it snug until she grows into the actual circumference of the top.

Because it's a ribbed top it looks funny all scrunched up. It stretches to about 12 inches across. I know the neckline looks a little stiff, next time I'll just knit it an inch lower, straight across and sew two separate i-cords on either end to tie around the neck. I was kind of thinking that this way it would still fit in the next 6 months. It looks better on the kid, but no pix available till Sunday morning. You have to see it with the grass skirt.

I am sharing this free pattern with my friends and readers for their personal, non-commercial use. Please acknowledge me if you're publishing your success with it online. I'd love a photo or two, if you manage to take some. Please read carefully before starting the project, there are portions where I provided alternative instructions to accommodate different preferences. If you can improve on it further, let me know so I can make my niece an even better version (whereupon I credit YOU!).


Copyright 2008 Mona Caccam


2 balls Monaco crochet cotton shade BUT25 (butter yellow) -- about 1.5 balls used up
2.75mm/US 2 needles -- used my bamboos, love love love them
2.25mm/US 1 double pointed needles for I-cord
tapestry needle

Finished Size: As close as possible to a Philippine children's size 8 (roughly 3-4 yo child) cotton t-shirt, about 12.5" wide x 10" from shoulder down to hem.

Gauge: 10 stitches by 12 rows per inch

1. Front: Cast on 128 stitches.

2. Row 1 (RS): *Knit 4, purl 4*, repeat * until end.

3. Row 2 (WS): *Purl 4, knit 4*, repeat * until end.

4. Continue knitting K4 x P4 ribbing for 7", ending in WS.

5. Begin armhole shaping: Bind off 10 stitches next row (RS), knit in ribbing until end of row.

* Alternate instructions #5 to #8 (armhole shaping): Instead of the bind off above, at this point it might be easier to decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of every row until you haveknit 2-2.5" or reach the neckline width you prefer (. This will produce a diagonal "armhole" instead of a round one.

6. Bind off 10 stitches next row (WS), knit in ribbing until end of row.

7. Bind off 1 stitch next row (RS), knit in ribbing until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch next row (WS), knit in ribbing until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch (RS), knit until end of row. Bind off 1 stitch (WS) until end of row. (Ribbing should still be in multiples of 4.)

8. Knit in K4 x P4 ribbing, without further shaping, for 2.5" ending in WS.

9. Neckline: Knit in stockinette across for 8 rows, ending in WS.

*Note, instructions #9 to #12: If you find the neckline portion of this halter top a bit stiff, as I did, just knit across. Bind off. Reinforce with single crochet border if preferred. Make 2 separate I-cords 12" long. Sew ends of I-cords to the corners of the neckline.

10. Bind off entire row. Set aside.

11. I-cord: Cast on 3 sts on 1 dpn. Knit across with dpn 2. Slide work to other end of dpn 2, knit with free needle. Continue knitting I-cord for 26". Bind off. Weave in ends.

12. Fold stockinette portion of halter front with I-cord inside, forming a tube. Sew stockinette seam across, as it contains I-cord.

13. Back: Cast on 128 stitches.

14. Knit in P4 x K4 ribbing (reverse of front) unti 7", ending in WS. (Take note, this is to alternate ribbing when front and back are joined.)

15. Bind off entire row.

16. To assemble, align wrong sides together, making sure that a K4 rib connects to a P4 rib at either side of the halter top. Sew or crochet seams together (use your preferred method, I sewed this one because it uses up less thread). Weave in ends as neatly as you can.

Washing instructions: Handwash gently in cold water, with mild bath soap or liquid soap. Rinse well. Do not wring. Roll in towel to remove excess liquid. Let dry flat. You can use a steam iron on the wrong side of the garment, pressing lightly. You want to keep the color and the sheen of the mercerized cotton.

More pictures Sunday morning!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sneaking In A Few Stitches

Lilo, Incredible Joie's precious little 3yo tyke, is going to the neighborhood Halloween party this Saturday in a Hawaiian dancer getup. The last time she did so, she was way bothered by having her tube top shifting unceremoniously up and down while she did her floor-sweeping "freestyle Hawaiian breakdancing" routine. Which everyone enjoyed amid much hilarity, because she brought the house down and created a fan club among the neighbors. She was also particularly bothered by people commenting that they could see her bellybutton. How refreshing to see a little modesty in today's children (which disappears more quickly than we can register our surprise at how quickly they grow up)! Indeed, tube tops are not meant to be either belts or even miniskirts. Even in toddlers. Martial Arts Daddy isn't mentally prepared to filter her visitors list this early. I decide to help out by knitting a yellow cotton halter top long enough to cover the navel.

I want the item to fit right now, with a little ease built into the K4 x P4 rib for the next 4-6 months (I'll give it 4, unless she shoots up and doesn't grow much sideways). The size is based on a "Kentucky" brand cotton cami size 8. It's my own pattern, with some armhole shaping help from Sharon Turner, she of the Teach Yourself Visually Sweater Master Pattern. By my own I mean I drew myself a schematic with measurements in inches and just knitted to shape.

While waiting for TDM to fetch me for our lunch date I am trying to knit 192 sts x half an inch. To the jazz-rock sounds of the Dave Matthews Band (I know they have a new album out, but I spent my money on yarn... forgive me, Dave).

Oops. I only managed 2 rows, TDM is downstairs waiting in the car.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Doll of the Cthulhu

Now I am a great H.P. Lovecraft fan. (Like I am a great Dr. Who fan. Science fiction and fantasy, I am your girl!)

Dark Roasted Blend
, one of my favorite "odd photo conglomeration" sites, gives us this entertaining view of how love of knitting and cult monstrosity mix. [You'll love the different photo sets in their other blog posts too, I promise.]

Just the other night I was watching downloaded beloved reruns of the 80's seasons of The [New] Twilight Zone (Harlan Ellison era, 1985-89) and there was one episode about a little boy whose nigh-on-dying grandma turns out to be a creepy Cthulhu thrall! Now this!

Amber's crocheted Cthulhu is absolutely, uh, adorable. I wish I could post the photo here, but do visit the link to see Amber's celebration of creativity. The amigurumi (knitted toy Japanese style) pattern is free. Unfortunately I'm not that much of a crocheter. Incredible Joie is, and amigurumi gives her a bit of carpal tunnel.

One of the knitters on the monsters page, Kimberly Chapman, did her Dalek from EntropyHouse's "ExtermiKNIT" Kit! Previously I wrote in Knittipina about the Knitted Dalek photographed in a UK convention by Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I did not know there were more in that army *amusement*

Yes, the Dalek pattern is also FREE. I might make it one day. I'll probably have better luck finishing it than meeting David Tennant in person. But hey, I met Neil Gaiman in person, so you never know. And then shall come... a Knitted Sandman?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pinch me, PLEASE

At one point over lunch today I asked Incredible Joie to pinch me very, VERY hard.  Why, she asked. Good question.  I was feeling a little blue due to the time of month and had indulged in some online retail therapy.  Remember my eBay bleached bamboo needles?  I mentioned lusting after the carbonized ones.  Incredible Joie had bought her carbonized bamboo crochet hooks from a certain reliable seller earlier this year and I couldn't stop being amazed at their smoothness and lightness.  The seller claimed they were harder than bleached bamboo needles and weren't subject to mildew because of the carbonization treatment.  And doesn't bleaching weaken fibers or something?  At any rate, I was intending to go to great lengths to get them eventually.  Earlier today I just did.  Boy, did that drive the blues away!

I'm smiling now, but for a few seconds after I hit that checkout button earlier, several thoughts passed through my head.

1)  There's a global financial crisis!  The currency exchange rate is at PhP47.25 = USD1.00! (Alarm bells!  Sirens!)

2)  You don't have the carbonized bamboo dpns yet.  (Warning!  Danger!  The rabbit hole!)

3)  How about Knitpicks Harmony circulars?  (These are beautiful beech wood needles with the same flexible nylon cords I've come to love.  Dream on.)

4)  Now you'll have cheaper circular needles from 16" to 40"!  (Ecstasy!  Delirium!)

5)  Oh dear, they're only 12 oz in weight.  I have to get 20 oz more to qualify for Johnny Air Cargo's 2-lb minimum!  (More on this next month.  This was the point of no return.)

6)  NOW is the time to get yarn before Christmas!  (Knittipina in Wonderland steps off the cliff dazed at the sunset... and lands on a woolly beach seeing stars.)

To make a long story short, there was a sale in  I ended up getting 500g of discount sock yarn and Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears.  Figured that would make the Johnny Air delivery service worth it.  *sheepish grin*

And this was all because last weekend I made one sock using the new size 1 and 2 bleached bamboo needles.  The size 1 bends a bit, but because of that I don't hold it too hard.  Because I don't hold it too hard, my hands don't cramp.  Yay!  Such smooth, light and relaxing knitting! Now when the sock was done I realized the color wasn't suitable for an adult.  Too busy a colorway for my personal taste.  Maybe for a child's sock.  I won't frog it though, there is always someone in the world who likes something like that.

I decided to make another test sock, in a plain color but with texture and pattern.  I frogged the first attempt, Christine Walter's Zigzag Socks from Vogue Knitting's Ultimate Sock Book, because I realized after completing 16 rows that my ssk's were going in the wrong direction (how funny is that!).  Maybe later when I'm not so frustrated.  Or should I say, later when I'm not so excited over my retail therapy that I can't think straight.  I'll probably try one of the short-multiples stitch patterns recommended in the same book too. 

Right now I started another cable rib sock for fun, in mercerized cotton this time.  I just want to see how cables work in cotton.  I'd love a good fit.  To non-knitters this all sounds like a lot of work after a long day, but that's relaxation for me.  I like the rhythm of the needles in my hands.  Knitting stitches in a repeating pattern are sort of like using prayer beads.  There's the clicking sound for some needles that lulls me, there's that smooth glide when the two tips rub against each other.  There's that counting going on that sounds like a mantra.  This is what drives me to add needles to my collection and yarns to my stash!  The endless possibilities of lovely things I could make! *starry-eyed

Somebody pinch me, PLEASE.

Famous last words:  It'll be at least six months before I do anything this crazy again.  In the next breath:  Yeah, right.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WIP: Lilo's Cotton Hooded Cardigan

(Account follows Knitting Everywhere: At The Hospital.)

Here's the pic with the finished first sleeve! I am halfway through the second sleeve as I write. I'm surprised that it actually looks like a REAL kiddie cardie already (and I haven't even blocked the pieces yet). Remember, this is my first knitted garment from a book pattern.

Here's another shot (on my mom's shawl):

Am quite pleased. More progress pix as I go along!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bamboo Circulars from eBay

It's Christmas in October this time! The bamboo circulars I got from eBay finally reached me after 30 days (international transaction). These are 2 lots from the same seller, US size 0 to 15 in 29" and in 32". They are smooth, not too pointy, and the joins look good. However, they are bleached bamboo and not carbonized. I still want to get carbonized ones. If later on I get carbonized ones, I'll sell these via the Pinoyknitters yahoogroup or the Pinoy Ravelers group. How fantastic though, to have needles in sizes bigger than US 10.5 (I have no bigger sizes in Addis), for quick baby afghans and the like.

For the future: Carbonized bamboo needles in 16", 24", 29", 32", 40". And dpn versions from US size 0 to 15 if I can get them.

I know, it seems like overkill (didn't I say this already in a previous post?) in these times of financial crisis. But life is short. I want them while I'm still 30 years away from arthritis. I want to knit as much as I can, no matter where I am.

A Knitting Portrait

While confined at the hospital, my mom got busy sketching. Me! Knitting! I love this! I will scan it when she's well enough to be brought home. I just realized I don't have any pictures of me knitting. I take pictures OF my knitting, but that's all. It's my mom's birthday on Oct. 25, I think I'll make her a knitted summer tee.

Knitting Everywhere: At the Hospital

It's Nanay's 5th day at the hospital. In 3 hours she will have her gall bladder removed because of a pesky gall stone. As the unmarried daughter, I've been her appointed company and attendant. I brought my ASUS eeePC with me to the hospital so I could finish working on an ad for a November conference, but apart from that I haven't been online much, because... I've been knitting.

Nothing beats what I'd call "captive" knitting -- the knitting you do when you are compelled to stay in one place for a certain period of time. I mean, there's cable tv at the hospital, but one can't just sit and watch all day. One must be productive. (I couldn't surf on the internet all day either; wifi is free at this hospital wing but the signal I'm getting is pretty weak. I've been using my cellphone as a modem for about an hour at a time.)

Good thing I brought my knitting. I had a cone of Monaco 6-ply natural color cotton yarn that's like a thinner version of Lion Brand's Cotton Ease. I'm making a basic vanilla hooded cardigan sized for 3yo Lilo (sized for a 4-6yo, so she'd get more wear out of it). The pattern is from Sharon Turner's Teach Yourself Visually Knitting Design. What a wonderful, very precise book! The moment I arrived at the hospital, I started with the back piece. As of today I've completed the back, the left front, the right front, and one sleeve. I've got the other sleeve, the hood, the button plackets and a couple of pockets to go. And assembly of course. Incredible Joie will add the brightly colored crochet appliques and other decorative trim. After this I'm considering making a mommy version for her.

(Second photo taken at night.)

While at the hospital, my dad brought the bamboo knitting needles that I'd ordered a month before from eBay. I'll save that for another blog entry. *happiness*

Nanay and I have been bonding. Incredible Joie brought her a small sketchbook and she's been drawing the (smoggy) view from her hospital window.

Am I apprehensive about my mom's upcoming procedure? Not really. She underwent a gastroscopy like a trouper (fiber optic camera down the esophagus check to rule out ulcer as main cause of abdominal pain). Our family talked about the gall bladder removal and we convinced her that it's better to have it done now than when she's older and heals slower. We opted for a laparoscopic cholecystectomy instead of a standard big incision. The "lap-chole" involves making 3 or 4 small holes through which the surgeon inserts a tiny camera and various robotic surgical tools. At least that's how I imagine it would be; I remember seeing something like this on the Discovery Channel. The small holes ought to heal faster than the big incision, with less post-operative pain. We expect she'll be right as rain after 3 or 4 days. We're not too worried, because this procedure has been done successfully in the Philippines for the past 7 years. The surgeon she's been assigned to has done a prominent local figure or two.

I figure by the time Nanay is fully healed this hooded cardie will be DONE! Will post pix as soon as it's assembled and decorated. This project actually has a few fans among the nurses already. They've been coming in every 3 or 4 hours to check my mom's -- and the project's -- vital signs!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Catching the Crochet Bug from Kindergarten

You can catch all sorts of bugs from preschool.

Early this year, hubby & I brought our daughter to Waldorf School for parent-toddler classes. It was a great experience for all of us. My daughter learned to bake bread, wash her cup & saucer, play with all-natural toys (read: no plastic, no cartoons). Her daddy... well, he learned how to make a pom-pom out of yarn & was mighty relieved he didn't have to do more. And me--I'll tell you now: working at corporate speed & efficiency isn't necessarily the best way to crochet a caterpillar.

At the end of the term, all the other parents had crocheted practically an entire nature diorama. Meanwhile, my sorry excuse for an invertebrate was still undergoing countless resurrections (2 weeks!). Then I had to grudgingly hand the caterpillar & the rest of the materials back to my daughter's teacher ('there, there...,' she murmured soothingly, prising the hook from my angsty grip...) Humbled, I was determined, henceforth, to create an entire forest of yarn creatures for my little girl. That's how I caught crochet bug.

That was 6 months ago. The forest of creatures hasn't materialized. Along the way, though, I've somehow finished 3 amigurumi, 6 easter eggs & cozies, 2 hook cases, 3 bags, 2 hats and a baby blanket. I taught myself Tunisian stitch, and how to read patterns from foreign books. Crochet calms me. That's the upside. The downside: some days, I get so engrossed I forget to be hungry, thirsty or sleepy. If it weren't for darlings hubby and baby, I'd probably crochet myself into a stupor.

Even worse: because of YAS, PAS & HAS/NAS (fellow addicts would understand) I somehow now own more hooks, books and yarn than I would openly admit to my hubby. Sometime ago he suggested we use my yarn stash as a baby bed instead of buying a new one. At which point my sister, Gravelcat, suggested I legalize my addiction at Ravelry. I think it's a good idea. I could use a new outfit, not more yarn, or more books, or more hooks.

But tell that to the marines, because the truth is out there: YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH, AND EVEN THEN YOU NEED EXTRA.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

WIP: Pavel's Olive Merino Socks

Yesterday was a national holiday, Eid al'Fitr (the start of Ramadan). I managed to finish the first sock. I really enjoy knitting with merino! So relaxing, much more so than with cotton. After knitting with cotton I need to stretch my fingers every once in a while.

Here are some pictures I took with my ASUS V80 phone, while waiting for my dad at the dentist's (he likes to have me around for "molar" support, hehehe). The first two pix don't use flash, I manipulated the brightness and midtones to make the cable details pop out. The last one used flash. It doesn't look so bad, except for the lopsided flashing (2mpx cellphone camera, but one day I'll do better). All photos use macro mode for better close-up detail.

I'm using 2.75mm / US size 2 needles, as recommended by Ann Budd. Knitpicks! (The Addis are on the tv knitting.) The size here is for a child's medium with a 6.5-7" foot measured from toe to heel. Pavel is 4 years old but has big feet. I'll see what I can use to block it with. Maybe the nifty corrugated plastic I saw at the bookstore (in office supplies), cut to shape.

One day I'll get me some sock blockers, the nice wooden ones like they have in Ravelry. They don't have to be fancy. They just have to be the right size. Or... I'll ask our friendly furniture repairman (the one who made Incredible Joie's nostepinne from a chair leg).