January FO: Molly Knit Hat

After all those hours on garter stitch, my hands were itching to knit something with more variety. I found this lovely textured knit hat pattern called Molly … for free!

Molly Knit Hat Front

I dug into my stash and found this lovely Tosh DK in the gauge called for in the pattern. I loved the interplay of the lights and darks in the hand-dyed yarn. I rolled the three skeins into center pull balls but ended up only needing one for the hat.

Tosh DK Center Pull Balls

Here it is in progress. It was the perfect little project after the large blanket.

Molly Knit Hat in progress

Remember those Made in China project bags from the giveaway? Well, I kept one for me! It was just the right size for the yarn, notions and needles. The pattern stayed within easy reach tucked into the outer pocket.

My China Knitting Bag

I love the texture created by the color variations of the yarn combined with the pattern. The cabling is easy and I really like how it tapers down as you decrease.

Molly Knit Hat Back

There may be enough yarn left for a cowl or small scarf. I may reuse the cabling and textured pattern in the hat and whip up a matching scarf …

We have two winners!!

The response to the “Made in China” giveaway was so amazing that one winner just didn’t seem to be enough. In looking through my China stash, I had enough goodies for two care packages so we have two winners!

Double Giveaway

If you will recall, any of the following actions entered you into the drawing:

  • Follow Agujas blog
  • Reblog this post or blog about this giveaway with a link back to Agujas
  • Follow Agujas on Twitter
  • Like Agujas on Facebook
  • Follow Agujas on Tumblr
  • Like this post
  • Comment on this post

The original drawing included “passive” entries or followers of Agujas on any venue who did not necessarily comment or retweet or reblog, etc.; but also included multiple entries for those who did. Using a handy random number generator from the web, the first care package goes to:

hipoptimist

Hipoptimist has been following Agujas for almost a year and half! Thank you and I hope you enjoy your goodies.

For the second drawing, entries only included those who actively promoted the “Made in China” giveaway either by liking the post, commenting, retweeting, reblogging, liking on Facebook, etc. As in the first drawing, multiple actions earned multiple entries and you were included in both drawings. Using the same random number generator, the second care package goes to:

idiosyncratic eye

Idiosyncratic eye had multiple entries and one of those did the trick! Thank you for being part of the Agujas family.

Please contact me at veronica (@) agujasblog (dot) com and provide me with your preferred mailing address. If you are outside of the United States, I will probably use an overnight carrier and may need your phone number as well. (Don’t worry, I will not share it and will promptly delete the information once you confirm receipt).

This has been so much fun!

A Made in China Giveaway

One of my favorite pastimes in China was shopping in local markets. The chaotic aisles and aggressive salespeople in the touristy markets got old after a while. The local markets were much calmer. They were still busy but mostly filled with locals who needed basic household items. While haggling was still expected, the starting prices were usually much more reasonable.

As I wandered the aisles, I found these bags that I thought would be perfect for knitting projects. There were all sorts of patterns and color schemes. The size is just right for 4-5 balls of yarn and a small project, like a hat or scarf.

China Knitting Bag

I love the drawstring top and inside zippered catchall pocket.

China Knitting Bag Drawstring
China Knitting Bag Interior

It’s easy to clean – just wipe with a damp cloth. It has this nifty side pocket for needles or a pattern.

China Knitting Bag Outside Pocket

Then I came across these tin pencil boxes. Some had hinged lids and others like this one a zippered closure. I thought they were perfect for crochet hooks and other notions.

China Notions Box Zippered

China Notions Box Zippered Samples

My next finds were these pill boxes. Some were clearly for medicines with their standard labels for each day of the week. But others were just for small stuff.

China Pill/Notions Boxes

For a knitter, crocheter or seamstress, they’re the right size for stitch markers, safety pins, buttons, sequins and whatnot.

China Pill/Notions Boxes Yellow

China Pill/Notions Boxes Compartments

Lastly, I was in need of stitch markers and had not seen any in the yarn stores I located, so I had to improvise. Every market had bins full of these little charms. There were lucky cats, teapots, and colorful beads. They were very light and made the cutest stitch markers.

China RePurposed Stitch Markers

China Charms/Stitch Markers

To celebrate the end of an amazing overseas experience, I am having a “Made in China” giveaway. I will send a care package of various items like the ones above (plus some yarn and a few surprises) to one winner selected at random.

Any of the following actions will enter you into the drawing:

  • Follow Agujas blog (if you are already a follower, you are already entered!)
  • Reblog this post or blog about this giveaway with a link back to Agujas
  • Follow Agujas on Twitter
  • Like Agujas on Facebook
  • Follow Agujas on Tumblr
  • Like this post
  • Comment on this post

Multiple entries are okay! I will ship the package to you anywhere in the world. Thank you for reading and good luck!

A Totally Frivolous Post

It was time for a manicure so I walked into a nail salon near the apartment. The place was tiny. It only had room for 5 seats and they were always occupied.

What drew me in was the clientele – all young ladies mostly in their twenties. The manicurists were laughing and talking as they bent over their intricate work. Every now and then they argued. Their voices grew louder and more demanding. Scowls were all too common. One of the younger girls was a bit clumsy, always managing to trip over someone’s foot or bumping someone’s arm just as they were about to paint a nail. She got the brunt of it.

At first, all I wanted was a new color. Then I started paying attention to the other customers. The colors went far beyond those of the rainbow. One lady was carefully applying bright purple sequins on someone’s nail with a toothpick. Another sprinkled glitter from a brush. Yet another painted tiny designs on each nail guided by a picture in a book. They were like artists mixing nail colors together, consulting with each other, choosing just the right sequin or ornament from trays and trays of shiny baubles. I was hooked.

I had fun trying new designs. Like putting on a new persona in a faraway land. Besides, I like the look of pretty nails while hands are clicking away on knitting needles.

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The Stars Above

It was my last weekend in Beijing. There were only a couple of sights left on my list and this was my last opportunity. Unfortunately, the air quality was not in my favor. The AQI had vacillated between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” since Friday. One could almost touch the air, it was so thick.

Azimuth Theodolite

On the daily commute, we would pass by the star-gazing equipment at the Ancient Observatory. This was my destination.

According to the brochure, the Beijing Ancient Observatory was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty.

Sextant

As I walked around the grounds, I felt both sadness and anticipation. I would miss this city.

Sundial - Detail

I would miss its history and its splendor, but most of all I would miss my new colleagues and friends.

During those last two weeks, every time I said good-bye to someone, it was with the knowledge that I might never see them again.

Chinese Moondial

Even though my sadness was tempered with the anticipation of being home with my family and friends, it would be hard leaving.

Armilla Sphere Replica - Dragon Detail (facing right)

My only comfort was that the stars above would somehow guide us back together someday.

Armillary

Zaìjiàn. 在见。

A few days in Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong and Kowloon skylines from Victoria Peak at 428 meters above sea level.

By day.
Hong Kong by Day

By night.
Hong Kong by Night

Flowers along Mount Austin Road at 554 meters above sea level.
Mount Austin Road

At the Chi Lin Nunnery. The wooden buildings are constructed using an interlocking system without nails.
Chi Lin Nunnery 1

Peaceful ponds with floating water lilies calm the soul.
Chi Lin Nunnery 2
Chi Lin Nunnery 3

Near the monastery is the immaculately landscaped Nan Lian Garden.
Nan Lian Garden Pavilion of Absolute Perfection
Nan Lian Garden Pavilion Bridge

Despite a fear of heights, I took the Ngong Ping cable car to Lantau Island.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

The first of 240 steps.
Tian Tan Buddha 1

The Tian Tan Buddha on a lotus throne.
Tian Tan Buddha 2

Bodhisattvas making offerings.
The Offering of the Six Devas 1
The Offering of the Six Devas 2

The Wisdom Path is shaped in a figure eight representing infinity.
Wisdom Path

Burning incense at Po Lin Monastery at the base of the Buddha.
Po Lin Monastery Incense

About Flowers, Birds and Yarn

China just celebrated a national holiday, the founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949. Our offices were closed so I took the opportunity to visit Hong Kong. There are 7 million people living on a land mass of 426 square miles. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and I believe it.

I stayed at a cozy little apartment in Kowloon. The apartment had a small living area and bedroom just large enough for a double bed. The kitchen took up one short wall of the living room and had 1 burner, a sink, and a washing machine under the counter. The dorm sized fridge served as a tv stand in the living room. Overall it was roughly 14×16 feet, including three feet of counter space. However tiny, it was cozy, clean, safe, located in the heart of Tsim Sua Tsui, and close to the Jordan MTR station.

Mong Kok Flower Market 1

While I made it to some of the popular tourist markets, I also explored local markets to get a feel for everyday life. One of my favorites was the Mong Kok Flower Market. There were several streets lined with fresh flower stalls.

Mong Kok Flower Market 5

Orchids of all shapes and sizes were blooming.

Mong Kok Flower Market 2

The cacti reminded me of home.

Mong Kok Flower Market 3

I would have loved to get some plants or an orchid.

Mong Kok Flower Market 4

Mong Kok Flower Market 6

Immediately next to the Flower Market was the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. The garden was a little oasis in the middle of the city.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden 1

Old men walked along with their song birds in wooden cages. I did feel a little sad about all those caged birds. Then I spotted this bird freely sitting at a stall. He was lunching on that cardboard box.

Yuen Po Street Bird Garden 2

After enjoying the smells and sounds of the flowers and birds, it was time to exercise the sense of touch. I had mapped out several yarn stores near the markets. All were within walking distance of each other.

Double Knit Yarn & Co. is located at 179-181 Fa Yuen Street on the 1st Floor (which means you go up to the first floor from the ground floor). It’s near the Mong Kok MTR. The shop had wall to wall wools and some synthetic yarns from Italy, France and Japan. The staff spoke little English but were very helpful.

As my favorite color is purple, I picked up three balls of this 100% extra fine merino superwash by Zara Chinè.

Double Knit Yarn & Co.

My next find was Filo Kilo located on the ground floor at 167 Sai Yee Street. The shop is very nicely laid out, all the yarn is neatly labelled, and the staff was very helpful. They even had a sale! I took five balls of this exquisite Cashmere Queen yarn. The fiber contents are 35% cashmere, 45% merino wool, and 20% silk. Scrumptious!

Filo Kilo 1

Filo Kilo 2

The two shades of green perk up the smooth beige.

Filo Kilo 5

I also had to have this wispy orangey-yellow mohair. The brand is BBB and is made in Italy. It’s 70% kid mohair, 30% polyamide.

Filo Kilo 6

My last stop was Knitting World located in the Prosper Commercial Building at 9 Yin Chong Street, 3rd floor. There is a fresh food market on Yin Chong which distracted me with salted and fresh fish, meats, and vegetables.

Dried and Fresh Fish

The shop is rather small and has a limited selection but I liked that two customers were sitting there knitting. Thankfully, one of them spoke English and helped me communicate with the sales lady. Since I had already purchased yarn at the two other shops, I only took these two balls for a hat.

The solid is Cashmere Soft by Lana Liza. It’s 65% Cashmere, 35% bamboo and made in Turkey. The multicolor ball is Bambu Color by Nako with the same fiber content.

Knitting World

Below are snapshots of the business cards: top left is Double Knit Yarn & Co., the vertical card is Filo Kilo, the bottom left is Knitting World.

HK Yarn Store Business Cards

These blog posts from fellow fiber enthusiasts were of great help in locating these yarn stores:

Weaving in Ancient China

After a three-month stint in Beijing, I went home for a month. It’s funny how being away makes you appreciate every little thing. Of course there is family – my husband, sons, my mom, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. Then there are blue skies, clean air, the sound of quiet, driving my car, air conditioning, clean bathrooms, ice …

A month later, I am back in Beijing. It’s different this time. While it is still a fabulous adventure, it was much tougher leaving home. The first time, there was the mystery of Asia and the challenge of the new business venture. We still have challenging work to do but I miss the rhythms of home.

While here, I continue to explore the city. My first free day, I went to the Summer Palace. It is 20 subway stops from where I stay and took almost an hour to get there.

Summer Palace 1

The property is huge like most everything else here. It covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers (720 acres), most of which are bodies of water. It is kept immaculately groomed and landscaped. I walked for five hours straight that day, up and down steep stairs and around the lake.

Summer Palace 2

I enjoyed …
The walk.
Being out in the fresh air on a cool day.
The rich vegetation of the gardens.
The earthy smell of the pine trees.
Seeing families camping on the grounds, having picnics and taking naps.
Watching ladies dancing under gazebos.
Listening to an old man playing his flute by the lake.

Summer Palace 4

Summer Palace 5

Summer Palace 8

Summer Palace 6

Summer Palace 7

Along the corridor of the Studio of the Jade River (Yuhe Zhai), there was a series of stone carvings. According to the placard, the original scenes were painted on woven silk by the painter Cheng Qi during the Yuan Dynasty (mid-1700s). The scenes portray men farming and women weaving in ancient China. I selected the ones showing women’s work.

The stone carvings were framed and the bright day cast reflections on the glass.

Farming and Weaving 1
Farming and Weaving 2

Farming and Weaving 3

Farming and Weaving 4

Farming and Weaving 5

Farming and Weaving 6

Farming and Weaving 7

Farming and Weaving 8

Farming and Weaving 9

Farming and Weaving 10

It was a beautiful day but there is still no place like home.

Zàijiàn Beijing

The cacophony of car horns

Curled tongues at the end of every word

Clearing the throat of phlegm … followed by the inevitable sound of spitting … on the street … next to your foot

Where an AQI over 200 means take shallow breaths

The inviting sound of rain signaling a clear tomorrow

Toddlers peeing by the sidewalk

Grown men peeing by the sidewalk

Men baring their bellies to cool off

Old men walking their birds in the park

Animated card games

Grandmothers dancing in the park

Graceful tai chi movements

Inventing your very own form of sign language with exaggerated gestures

The joy of being understood

The frustration at understanding only every five words spoken

The din of motor bikes

Dui, dui, dui, dui, dui, dui

Sidewalk barber shops, a pile of hair neatly swept to the side

Music blaring from the mobile boot-legged CD vendor

Selling anything from the trunk of a car

Where a cloth on the floor and a few knick-knacks means you’re an entrepreneur

Avoiding going blind from looking into the green laser lights for sale at busy intersections

Fearing for your life from pedi-cabs passing by

The constant ringing of bike bells

Coming home with bruised arms from everyone who bumped into you

Carrying a small towel everywhere you go to wipe the grime from your face

Forcing your way onto the subway train

Forcing your way out of the subway train

The rancid smell of bodies huddled together on the train

Blaring unending car horns … that everyone ignores

Being accosted at the market … Lady, lady, you want a bag?

Bargaining as if your life depended on it

Wondering if it’s silk or polyester

Never feeling you got the better part of the bargain

Long distance phone calls that never connect

Carrying tissue with you at all times

Squatting and praying you don’t slip

Avoiding looking at the trash can in the ladies’ room

The joy of ice cubes

Ten dollar foot massages

Sweating in the back seat of un-air conditioned taxis

Not knowing whether its best to open the window to let air in or close the window to keep pollution out

Undistinguishable odors emanating from food vendor stalls

Contemplating ordering the jelly-like mass on the menu but deciding against it

The best soup dumplings ever

Craving sautéed bitter greens and bamboo shoots

Funky nail art

A mountain of shaved ice under condensed milk and slices of mango

~~ * ~~

Zàijiàn doesn’t mean goodbye … it means see you again

在见 北京