Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Jaunt to San Fran

I got to go to San Francisco for a conference this weekend.  I'm not sure if you knew this, but SF is friggin' freezing even in July.  This is what the Golden Gate Bridge looked like when I was there.
Wait for it...

Wait for it...
 Ah, there it is!

Sort of....
On Friday I got to do all the touristy things and eat some really good food (Burma Superstar: I will forever dream of your Rainbow Salad).  And to be jealous of how well bikers are treated in the city.  There are designated bike spaces on the subway, trenches on the stairs so you can roll your bike down instead of having to take the elevator, and this:
The fanciest indoor bike parking.  Love it.

Saturday and Sunday I attended the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute.  I am chairing the Emory Law Chapter this year and went to meet with all the other chapters from around the country.  It was very inspiring.

After the conference, I did what every self-respecting knitter would do with some free time in a new city: I checked out a couple of yarn stores.

Art Fibers is in Downtown SF.  They own their own line of fibers, most of which are either novelty yarns or made of exotic, yummy fibers. There is a swatch for every type of yarn (usually in multiple colors) but all the yarn itself is in cones.  You buy it by the yard, so you can get exactly the amount you want or need.  What a fantastic idea!  Annnnnd you can order online!

See the swatches in the foreground?  And the cones at the back on the "yarn tasting" wall?  I only tasted.  No purchasing here.
 And, of course, their entrance was completely nondescript and hard to find, just like School Products in NYC. 

What is it about yarn stores and their modest signage?

My conference was at Berkeley law school, so I got to explore that area as well.  I got on the wrong bus and accidentally found Good Vibrations (no pictures, sorry) which was funny because I was still wearing my repro justice t-shirt.

I also found Discount Fabrics which was full of....

Yup, discount fabrics!  A LOT of fabrics.  It was really good that I had no room in my bag, 'cause I was ---->this<---- close to buying a few yards of 5mm neoprene, some gold lamee and ALL of their wool.  It was paradise in there.

I walked and walked and walked and ended up at A Verb For Keeping Warm.  These folks were lovely.  I was immediately greeted by Miss Rebekah P. who was nice enough to stash my heavy bag for me while I looked around they store and to explain all their local offerings (mostly from small farms in Oregon).  They have many yarns they dye themselves on the back porch of the store.  And they have squishy spinning fibre (baby camel, wool, cashmere and other deliciousness), also dyed on location.  And fabric.  And a sunny open space for knitting. 


I fell hard for some fibre and a skein of something wonderful that I will show you later if my plans for it go...well...as planned.

Overall, a very good trip.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

This is the second piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The orginal post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.

It is also cross-posted here.

The last session of the weekend, called “Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice,” challenged all of us to think about the history of the reproductive justice community, to analyze our successes and, more importantly, the bad habits we have formed, and to think critically about how to move the conversation forward.

One of the speakers was Ms. Sujatha Jesudason, the Director of CoreAlign Initiative. CoreAlign did a study to analyze what was working and what needed to be improved in the RJ community. They found that the movement was extremely well-funded, but that we lack cohesive messaging, inspiring leaders and goals, and actions that are proactive rather than reactive. Instead of looking at the issues of rights, justice, and health as separate issues to be addressed by different experts, we needed to find ways to make connections, share resources, and to focus on RJ heroes rather than victims.

I thought back to an exercise we did the first day where we were asked to design a program around a reproductive justice topic. Many of us who were well-versed on abortion-bans, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and vaginal ultrasounds struggled with the assignment because we had never thought about some of the other RJ issues out there. Even those who had thought about them, had never before considered out to communicate them to a broader audience and in a way that included the voices of those RJ impacts the most.

I also thought about the session I attended on chapter strategic planning. I attended but was skeptical that a campus club like mine would benefit much from a strategic plan; it seemed too formal for what we were. But after hearing Ms. Jesudason talk about how the RJ movement is doomed to stagnation and repetition of bad habits without close self-examination and a plan for success, I am a convert.

I pledge (and I challenge you to pledge) to examine how my organization is doing RJ work. Do we sacrifice a broader message in the name of an easy event? Could we reach a more diverse group of people by spending more time coalition building on campus and in the community? Can we acknowledge the successes of those who came before us while doing something different, better, more successful?

I am so excited to get back to campus this fall to get started on our strategic plan. I wish you good luck on yours!

Doula-ing The Movement Forward

This is a piece I wrote about the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute I attended this weekend.  The original post can be found at the Repossess Reproductive Justice Blog.  Also cross-posted here.

During the first day at the Leadership Institute, we discussed how the reproductive justice model differs from other frameworks for reproductive rights or social justice.

It made me think back to when I was working as a labor doula before law school.  A labor doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a woman before, during and just after birth.  A doula learns that she is there to help the woman have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the laboring woman from her choices, nor to project their own values and goals onto her.

As a doula, I was required to listen more than I talked.  I learned to encourage women to ask questions and get information rather than doing it for her.  I learned that I couldn’t possibly understand all the circumstance of another woman’s life that drive her to make the decisions she does, but that I should do everything in my power to hear her and help her achieve those choices.  I learned to work behind the scenes, providing valuable skills and resources when needed, but never taking the spotlight away from those who really mattered: the woman, her family, and supporters.  Outside of the birthing room, I advocated for changes in a complex system of institutions, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for women to have the birth they knew was best for them.

What I heard during the RJ 101 session made me think hard about the role of an RJ lawyer.  In law school we learn how to be the interpreter of the law and the one who gives advice.  We are taught to stand up in front and speak confidently.  We are taught to be, or at least act like, the experts our education prepares us to be.

But the reproductive justice framework asks us to focus on the intersections of race, class, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, immigration status, and ability and how they impact access, agency, and autonomy in shaping one’s reproductive destiny.   It shifts our role from achieving a right or winning a case for someone to one that requires us to listen and to act only once we attempt to understand those we serve.  It asks us to work with communities as allies, strategists, and advisers to overcome the complex systems, laws, and circumstances that make it difficult for people to have the reproductive destiny they know is best for them.

We must be doulas in the reproductive justice movement.

I am incredibly honored to be at the L I with so many soon-to-be lawyers who will continue to doula this movement, and those it affects, forward with compassion, grace, and integrity.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Slouchy Cabled Hat

I don't really wear hats.  Even in the winter, I am much more likely to pull up my hood or throw my scarf over my head babushka style than wear a hat.  But when it comes to knitting, I love me a hat.  Something basic with a little flair for interest.  The fatter the yarn, the better.  Bright colors preferred.  And then I just crank them out.

This one is called Quick Cabled Slouch by Azure.

I didn't take the instructions with me so ended up doing it completely wrong.  There are only supposed to be six cables instead of twelve, with intervening sections of socking stitch.

The the top I just made up, since having too many cables meant that I didn't have a graceful place to put my deacreases.

I do like it though.  The right amount of slouch.  The yarn is more pink in person.  Made from KnitPicks Swish bulky, so the yarn is smooth with a little bit of silk in it. 

This one is going in the gift bin as well.  Perhaps with matching mitts?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Luxury Hobo Hat

I took my wee skein of luxury yarn and immediately wound it into a ball.
I have had Jane Richmond's Pasha pattern laying around for a while, so I whipped up a hat.  It was supposed to be in DK weight yarn, but I didn't let that stop me.
The yarn was hand-dyed, and apparently still had a lot of dye in it.  It turned my fingers blue.  But, it created this fascinating spiral on the hat.  I kept watching it grow and grow.
It is a little bit slouchy.  I did an extra couple repeats of the pattern to compensate for the fingering yarn.  DK really would create a better slouch (rather than the mere flop I have going on here), but I like it all the same.  This is before I blocked it, so the lace will be more pronounced.

 And it only sort of makes me look like a hobo.

 A cheerful hobo with a spirally, hand knit hat.  This is probably going in the Christmas present pile.  Who wants it (aka who wants to make me something in return for an awesome cashmere hobo hat)?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

NYC Yarn Crawl: School Products Yarn

The last store I went to in my NYC Yarn Crawl was called School Products Yarn.  I almost didn't go.

When I looked it up online, it had terrible reviews.  People said that the selection was limited to only one yarn line and some expensive imports.  The yarn cost too much.  The owners were gruff and unhelpful.  Jeesh, why would I want to go there?

But I was walking to Penn Station from the Lion Brand Studio.  I had a little time before I needed to be on the train and it was sort of on my way.  I found the location on my phone.  I went to the address.  I didn't see a sign.  I looked and looked and finally, as I was about to give up, I decided to ask the front desk clerk of an office building where the address was.  He said, "second floor" in a way that made it sound like he had daily requests for yarn stores.  I took the rickety elevator to the second floor.  I stepped out into a dark hallway across from a door labeled School Products.  It was dark inside and no one was there.  The door was locked and I rang the door bell.

Suddenly, the lights sprang on inside and a man, wiping lunch from his chin, bounded to the door to let me in.

He explained what was on the walls.  There was every kind of karabella yarn ever made.  There were cones of yarn and weaving tools.  And then....there were piles and piles of imported, hand-dyed Italian yarn.  There was Merino and camel and alpaca.  And ohhhhh the cashmere.  Each little ball cost more than everything I had purchased at Lion Brand combined.

The shop owner asked me in an unidentifiable accent what I planned to make.  I explained to him that I mostly like yarn for its innate awesomeness and didn't have any particular project in mind.  (I refrained from asking him if I could bunch all his soft yarns on the floor like a pile of leaves and roll around naked in them).  I explained to him that I couldn't afford a whole project's worth of anyone of his beautiful, but expensive, yarns.

He nodded knowingly.  "Then you will just get one."

And so...I just got one.

It was skeined when I got it.  I just couldn't wait to use it, though.

250 yarns of hand-dyed fingering  cashmere.  So soft, I want to put it in my mouth or sleep with it like a teddy bear or stuff it in my bra and wear it to work.
I didn't do any of those things, though.  Just thought I would be clear.

As I went to pay for it, I noticed a copy of Runway Knits next to the register.  I mentioned that I had knit the leaf tank out of it.

"That is my wife's book," he said.

"But the writer of that book founded Karabella Yarns."

"Yes, that is why we only stock Karabella Yarns.  She was designing for runway designers and companies like Gap and wanted her own source of yarn.  So she started Karabella and this store."

"You should put a sign out front to advertise this cool fact!"

"Everyone who needs to know we are here already does."

Now that is what I call an amazing yarn find.  How could all these people online missed the coolness of this place.  It does have limited selection, in the way that the Lion Brand Studio only carries Lion Brand yarn.  It is expensive, because, um, cashmere is expensive.  He is gruff because he is tired of people telling him he has a limited selection of expensive yarns.

I am still giddy thinking about this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

NYC Yarn Crawl: Lion Brand Studio

The second stop on my NYC Yarn Crawl (don't worry, there were only three) was at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.  Lion Brand has been important to me since the beginning, because they were the first yarn I knit with and continue to be a staple for when I just need something basic (or machine washable).  You can get their yarn in almost any craft store (though not in most local yarn shops) or online, but they also have a dedicated shop in NYC.

This shop is known for its amazing window displays reflecting the season or some cultural event.  I am not sure what it is now, but when I went it was famous pieces of art replicated in knitting.  For example:

Van Gogh's Vase with 12 Sunflowers.  There are actually a number of versions of this painting.

Knitted.  With a picture through the window...sorry....

Picasso's Woman Asleep in an Armchair

Knitted version...with knitting, obviously.  And without the nip slip Picasso so thoughtfully added.

The inside of the store is equally cool.

The shop has lots of airy, open space and tables for people to sit and work at.

There are rows and rows of yarn stacked against the walls.
And there is a sampling wall where you can reel off a little yarn and see how it works up before making a purchase.

I made a purchase.  I loved working with Fisherman Wool when I made my Speckled Shrug (the one that never ended).  And I have been hankering to design my own sweater ever since I took the design class at Stitches South.

So I got three GIANT balls of Fisherman's Wool in Oatmeal.  I will wait until I am back in Atlanta to get started on this one (it is way too hot to deal with a sweater's worth of wool fabric at the moment), but I think it is gonna be good.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Yarn Crawl: Purl Soho

Back in June (I'm a slow poster, obvi) I did a yarn crawl in NYC.  I only had a short time in the city, so I just hit up three places.  The first was Purl Soho.

I've followed their blog for a while and really liked the suggested projects they post.  They also have a mix of knitting, sewing and stitch-craft, which I thought would be fun to check out.
I was not disappointed.  They have a wide range of mostly high end yarns, but also a lot of Cascade for the budget customers (I think I count as a budget customer...my overall yarn consumption is high, but each ball is relatively inexpensive).  A lot of the brands, I had never heard of before...I always think that maybe I should keep a journal of yarns so I would know what I like or don't like for the future.  But then I think about what I like best (solid colored, worsted, long-lasting wool) and realize that I am not ever going to be the girl that buys fancy yarn, so it doesn't really matter.

I especially liked that they had LOTS of large samples knit up in many of their yarns.  You could thumb through the table of them like wallpaper samples.  A nice way to see what they fabric would be like.
See the samples on the table in the front?

What I really wanted from them was ginormous Big Stitch yarn, but it is alpaca and ended up being WAY more than I wanted to pay for it.  (I am still trying to come up with a good idea for spinning uber-fat yarn that does not look too much like roving....many plies maybe?)

Instead I asked if they had anything local.  Since sheep aren't very common in the city, I expected something from local dyers or spinners or maybe an upstate NY brand.  Instead they directed me to Jared Flood's Brooklyn Tweed Loft (Fingering Weight).  I got some.

I hate it.

I shouldn't hate it.  It is American sourced wool.  Jared Flood is an amazing designer.  I like men who knit.  But the colors are not bright enough, the yarn breaks too easily (I'm kind of a tight knitter, so this causes problems for me) and it kind of looks and feels like dryer lint.

However, I am hopeful for the finished product, so I am going to knit a shawl with it for the Revellenic Games (formerly the Ravelympics).  We shall see.