15 February 2011

What's in a Panda's Name?

Today was the day for the panda naming ceremony. The little guy born on the 3rd of November has passed his 100 day mark. The ceremony was scheduled for 8 AM, which is uncharacteristically early, especially when the zoo gates typically open at 9:30 AM. But I got up at 6 AM and faced down the morning commute.

The gathering was probably about equal parts zoo staff, media, and general public. There were a couple groups of adorable school children dressed in panda hoodies. And there were several of us hard core panda fans from last winter's deluxe nightcrawler programs. The ceremony included some delightful Chinese dancing first by two little girls and then by young women using ribbons. And there was also the obligatory puppet dragon with its flirting eyes and wiggling ears, alternately delighting and startling the children. Raymond King, CEO of ZooAtlanta, kindly kicked off the ceremony. Governor Deal said a few words. And a representative from Mayor Reed's office also spoke -- the mayor did not attend because he is in Washington, D.C. today to watch Rep. Lewis receive the Congressional Medal of Freedom.

And then came the big reveal.

The special guest was Jack Black. Kung Fu Panda 2 will be released in theaters on 27 May. As the star is a panda, Dreamworks and ZooAtlanta worked out that our new little guy is named Po, in honor of the main character in the movie. I don't know if he'll develop any awesome kung fu moves, but male pandas do have a tendency towards some pretty enthusiastic rough and tumble play.

ZooAtlanta's Po is still behind the scenes, working on moving beyond scooting to actually walking. Po should be making his debut in late March or early April. In the meantime, daddy Yang Yang and big brother Xi Lan were on exhibit. Jack Black shot a promo for Nickelodeon in front of the exhibit yard. Xi Lan (at right) kindly hit his marks by sitting in the background and munching adorably the entire time. What can I say? I'm biased, but I do think we have the best pandas here.

14 February 2011

Sweet Hubby

Valentine's Day is usually associated with chocolate, dinner, and roses. I like to think that knitters are a little easier to buy for than that. In this particular case, the Cuddly Hubby was kind enough to give me a White Lotus Stole kit. The design is by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer. The kit includes three balls of Colinton 3000 yarn, plenty of beads, the pattern, and a supply of Unicorn fibre wash. The yarn is undyed Australian mohair. It feels softer than it looks, and I suspect it will soften even more with use. I've done a little lace, but this kit is a nice chance to try something a little more complicated without getting into something crazy complex.

08 February 2011

Knit Inn, part 2

I took three classes during the weekend. On Friday afternoon, I took a class with Virginia on how to knit with beads. I've read a few books on the topic, but had never really sat down to try it. Not only did Virginia provide each of us with a spool of wire and some beads, but she also brought other beads to encourage our artistic play. And she says she recycles old necklaces she finds at yard sales and thrift stores. I don't know that I'm going to want to knit much with wire, but it was good to try it. Wire is rather stiff, so the kinesthetic feeling is like you are back in kindergarten and learning to write with a giant pencil.

This 3-row black bracelet was made as follows:
String 57 beads on the wire. (57 = 3 rows x 19 beads per row)
Sliding a bead between each stitch, cast on 20 stitches using backward loop. (Notice you'll use 19 beads, not 20.)
Turn. Do not slide a bead up between the last cast-on stitch and the first stitch of Row 1.
Row 1: Sliding a bead between each stitch, knit 20 stitches.
Turn. Do not slide a bead up between the last stitch of Row 1 and the first stitch of the bind-off row.
Leaving enough tail for a whole row, cut wire.
Sliding a bead between each stitch, bind off using Elizabeth Zimmermann's casting-on casting-off technique.
You should have a piece of wire at each end. Use that wire to attach the findings. Hide the wire ends down inside a bead or two.
I spent Saturday just hanging out. There were many wonderful goodies in the market, and I did show some restraint. I bought a beautiful necklace and pin from Pat at Bird Mountain Creations. I was drawn to the necklace in particular because it features beads in a deep mallard blue shade that is uncommon in jewelry. This is, however, a color I wear and a color that appears frequently in my yarn stash. The David Wright swirl pin was not expensive, and I liked the deep green color. But I didn't buy an interesting helical necklace. Well, I was very excited when later that evening, the necklace was one of the items in the raffle. I put quite a few tickets on it and won it! Glee!

On Sunday I took two classes. In the first, Terry taught us how to make copper shawl pins. These are surprisingly easy!And it was delightful to see how everyone came up with something different. Several of us felt that next year, the shawl pin class should be on Friday so that we could show off our creations all weekend. Lightweight shawl pins like these are also great for delicate shawls. As you can see, I ended up with two. One is very long, for when you want to pin to make a statement. The other is shorter, but I came up with two different types of closures for it.

My last class was on polymer clay buttons and it was taught by Michele from the Eccentric Peasant. She has played a lot with clay. I was a little burned out creatively by that point. Also, I didn't really have an item that needed buttons. I think sometimes I need a problem to solve in order for my creativity to really kick in. But on the up side, I was able to listen and take notes. Michele had many, many great ideas about how to use clay and shape it. For example, she cuts up paper clips to bake in as button shanks. I don't know if I'm really going to get into polymer clay because it isn't food safe, but I do know what to expect now. And who knows, someday I may have that perfect project for which I must make my own perfect buttons!

07 February 2011

Knit Inn

I don't know if I ought to be spilling the secret, but the South Carolina Knitting Guild throws a dang fine shindig!

(T-shirt logo with embroidered yarn from Mimi Makes Memories.)

Over the weekend, I attended the South Carolina Knit Inn. I hadn't been before, but a significant fraction of North Georgia Knitting Guild has been attending over the last couple of years. So, I decided I ought to check it out. The SCKG gets a ballroom for the weekend along with several meeting rooms for classes. Members donate their time to teach classes. Half the ballroom is a large knit-in area, with a nice arrangement of beverages and snack food on tables along one wall. On Saturday afternoon, the other half of the ballroom is used as a market. Participants could order boxed lunches for Saturday and participate in a pizza party that evening. There was a "bring one, take one" area for people to swap books and magazines. There was knitting bingo on Friday night. The guild even got lots of donations for door prizes and a raffle. Kimberly -- aka somebunnyslove, director of social media for XRX, Inc. -- attended with her bunnies and a pile of prizes including t-shirts, market passes, and yarn. All you had to do was bring her chocolate! And, of course, knitters spread out beyond the ballroom and through the hotel, taking over the lobby and the breakfast dining area.

Above is a view of some of the goodies I bought back. There were also a couple coupons for businesses in the Greenville area. Attendees received a plastic project basket, a sample of Miss Babs yarn, a sample of Simply Sock Yarn, a whole skein of Red Heart Heart & Sole sock yarn, and a South Carolina Knitting Guild metal key chain whistle. The book on fabric knitting came from the book exchange. And the STITCHES t-shirt came from somebunnyslove. Many thanks to all the organizations who were so generous, with a special shout out to Coats and Clark for donating an entire ball of yarn for each of us! Also, special thanks to XRX and somebunnyslove for deep supplies of STITCHES South-related prizes!

While I love the larger conventions, I can see the appeal of the Knit Inn. It is a smaller and more intimate venue, attracting about 200 people. You get to know the other attendees. And classes only cost $5, because all the teachers donate their time. While you don't have the overwhelming market, amazing fashion show, autograph opportunities, or chance to learn from top published designers, the weekend is more budget-friendly. And there is something very warm, friendly, and downright hospitable about an event run by a guild. From what I could tell, a large portion of the SCKG contributes their personal time and talents to make the party happen.

Tomorrow: More about the classes.