Friday, August 28, 2009

Fire season once again

Until I moved up to Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, I didn't really understand that there was such thing as a "fire season" in Southern Cali. I remember searching for renter's insurance circa 2002 and scoffing at the fact we couldn't get it in the area we were living in as it's a brush fire zone. It wasn't until the Barham/Griffith Park fires in 2007 that it became a reality to me as I watched it unfold in close-up. I never thought I would be one to chase down a brush fire with my camera in hand, looking to document the sheer awe that it inspires, but if I were able to do it safely, I realize that I would.

Once again, this year in California, there are several fires burning right now. Smog and ash, mixed with record temperatures, are all making the L.A. basin look like (what some of us have started referring to as) the "armpit of hell". I snapped a quick shot outside my building on the way into work @ 8:30 this morning and you can see how that nickname makes sense, despite being several miles away from the nearest fire.Here's hoping everybody stays safe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Knitting for hire

One of the reasons that I've been so quiet on here recently is my recent second-career is a knitter for hire. When I started creating my own knit designs, I would knit up the samples for photos myself and try to come up with creative ways of taking pictures of my own feet (although my husband did an excellent job with my last sock pics). It didn't really occur to me until I saw a posting for somebody needing a sample knitter that designers didn't always knit up their own stuff.

In the last few months, I've become involved in a couple of sample knitting projects - one for an independent publication, and also for a larger yarn company. They send me the yarn and the pattern, I knit it up and send it back. While that sounds ridiculously easy, I've discovered that there's a lot more to it. If you happen across an opportunity to knit for hire, here's a few things to keep in mind.

- You are providing the final image. Generally, when you're working from a pattern you have a photo to give you a general idea of what the item is supposed to look like. My first sample knitting project, I kept on looking for that photo to give me guidelines...and then I'd realize that I was knitting the photo. The whole knitting "blind" thing is a total trip and leads to nerves that you will accidentally create a knitwear Quasimodo of sorts.
- You have to pay a lot of attention to what the designer may have missed or miscalculated. They haven't necessarily knit up the piece, or it may not have been tech edited yet. Sometimes the math doesn't add up, or they forgot to put in a step. If you're not sure, ask! I'd rather stop knitting for a couple hours and wait for confirmation than have to rip back something later. The designer is relying on you to help them release the best pattern possible.
- You're on a deadline. I'm a serious offender when it comes to half knit items hanging around the house in a variety of bags. Sometimes I lose interest, sometimes I forget about it completely. Either way, there is no "I'll get to that later" when it comes to sample knitting. If they need it for a photo shoot on whatever date, you have to get it there on time!
- You don't get to keep it. You may have to put aside personal projects for a while (see aforementioned point, I'm good at that anyway) to get the samples done and no matter how much you love whatever it is you just made, you have to send it away never to be seen again. OK, well I should say that it will be seen again when the pattern is released, and then there will be the pride and excitement that accompanies that.
- You may develop callouses on your pinkie finger. That's just a fact that I had to share seeing as my right hand is currently sporting one.

I realize that doesn't all sound super fun but I have had several knitters say to me since I started doing this "that sounds like a blast" and don't get me wrong, I'm really enjoying it. There's always the other side of the coin though and sample knitting is a serious business that does take a good amount of dedication. On the upside, it's a great opportunity to try out and discover new yarns that you may not have come across before! Of the 3 things I've knit up, there's 2 yarns that I would definitely use again (will post more once the patterns are released) and one that I loved in the hank but really didn't enjoy knitting with. If nothing else, I'm getting the aspirations to be a designer that can have others knit up my visions when I grow up!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One snip and it's gone...Round II

Way back in the day, I blogged about my mentee, Jeanette, chopping off her exceedingly long tresses and donating them to Locks Of Love. My own hair has been getting really long recently. Not as long as Jeanette's was prior to getting the chop, but the consistent comments from people to the effect of "wow, your hair is getting really long" were becoming more and more frequent. So, I went online to check out my options for where to possibly donate my hair. I found that Pantene Beautiful Lengths works with the American Cancer Society to make wigs for cancer victims, then there's Locks Of Love who assist kids with alopecia in getting wigs, and also Wigs For Kids (although they needed 12" of hair minimum, which was just a little too much for me). I actually really wanted to donate to the Beautiful Lengths program, but they cannot take hair that's had permanent dye in it - and although I've only dyed my hair the once, in a somewhat successful attempt to dye the grey, it was a permanent dye and hence put me out of the running for that one.

Anyway, research - check. Time to measure my hair. I had my handy husband take the tape measure to it and assure me that there was indeed 10" of hair to spare, although that would take it to my chin which is a place my hair hasn't been since I was about 5 years old. Originally, the decision was to wait another month or so and let it grow an inch, then lop it off. The problem is that once the decision was in my head to do it, there wasn't any waiting! I'm a pretty patient person, but sometimes you just gotta run with it...and off I ran to the salon, ponytail appropriately marking the spot and ready to go.
After she evened out my rather lop-sided "post-ponytail-chopping" do, it was probably an inch or so shorter than I was expecting and I was sitting there, staring at the length of hair sitting at her station but no longer attached to my head. It's now been 2 weeks and I'm still not 100% used to the lack of hair covering the back of my neck, the fact I don't need to tie it back to get into the shower, or the fact I need to put a little product in it to get it to behave (rather than the quick brushing that it used to get). I've had some people tell me that I look older and more sophisticated, while others have informed me that I look even younger - as if I didn't already get carded for everything. Either way, I'm enjoying playing with my new hair and even if I decide I want it long again, it will grow back! That's an opportunity not granted to the kids with alopecia that need these wigs.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So You Think You Can Dance?

I am a not so secret lover of the show "So You Think You Can Dance". I've been watching since about half way through Season 1 and I'm totally addicted. This has way surpassed my addiction to Top Model, but probably because the dancers on this show have TALENT.

I was a ballet dancer for 12 years through the Royal Academy Of Dance in the UK, and also did tap dancing for a few years in among that as well. My claim to fame being presented a silver tap dancing certificate by Errol "I Believe In Miracles" Brown of Hot Chocolate. I've done the excruciatingly painful ballet en pointe, had my picture taken for the local paper in my leotard (which still haunts me to this day), and found out that it takes approximately 230 bobby pins and 2 cans of hairspray to get my hair sufficiently up in a bun for examinations. Essentially, I understand the dedication that it takes to dance. Even with all that though, I can't get close to the standard of brilliant that I see with the dancers on this show.

Last night, I was honored to go to the finale taping for Season 5. My office is responsible for a lot of the music licensing that ends up on that show (including the song for my favorite dance of the season above) so my co-worker pulled a few strings and managed to get me tickets. I was giddy all week at the prospect of seeing the action live and I certainly wasn't disappointed. What's even better is that given it was the finale, they performed some of the best dances from the entire season and the top 20 finalists did group numbers together. It was like buying a best-of compilation CD!
I manage to snap this pic with my little Blackberry camera right after the winner was announced and they released the confetti (which also prompted me to feel really sorry for the cleaning crew)! I'm really happy that the win went to Jeanine last night. She's an amazing dancer - fiery, fun and classy all at the same time. Rock on girl!