Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Instant gratification takes too long--Carrie Fisher

Mary Maxim's latest clearance catalog is filled lots of ZZZZZ frou-frous at discount prices.

Just so you know I keep up with things.

Christmas Gifties
God knows the Knit List denizens et al agonize over their massive Christmas knitting projects to the point of regurgitation.

I don't put myself in a position, knitting or otherwise, where I overbook my time so that it becomes a stressful experience. If I want to knit something as a gift, I do it without informing the recepient, thereby eliminating any kind of obligation.

However, I do knit Christmas gifts for certain people, usually family members and close friends. Last year, shortly after I began seeing John, he mentioned to me that one of his favorite things was his rayon chenille scarf, for which he paid a considerable price.

Yeah, I went right out and bought 4 balls of Touch Me. And it sat on the shelf for more than a year. Now I'm making him a scarf.

It's half done. Now, can you guess what stitch pattern I'm using? Here's a close-up:

It's worming slightly but that will be resolved once it's washed and dried.

The other gift du saison is the Wensleydale for my mother.

There are four skeins in the basket, one plyed bobbin to be put up, and two bobbins of singles that I'll ply on the weekend. This should be plenty for a vest.

She doesn't get the basket.

Vested Interest
I've also been working on the China vest from Cheryl Oberle's Folk Vests. It's pretty simple, until you get to the yoke, which requires a fair amount of mucking around.

It's hard to see in the picture but I've put the fronts on hold and am working the back. The border uses garter stitch quite effectively, with seed stitch sandwiched in between.

I wish the photographs could do this red justice. It's probably the nicest red I have ever seen, a deep true red, more on the blue side. And the Rauma is very nice to work with. Very rustic but knits up beautifully.

After Christmas, John and I will be going to see our friends Em and Mitch, who moved to Maine from Saratoga recently. Should be a rare and handy opportunity to stop at Halcyon Yarns in Bath.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.—Herman Melville

Being yourself is the surest way of preserving your originality and creativity, I believe.

The C Chromosome
Did you inherit your ability to knit and do other such like things?

I brought this up in Joe’s blog comments but I think it’s a rather interesting concept. Certainly, I inherited my bipolar disorder, since my paternal grandmother and aunt were most definitely untreated depressives, at the very least, along with my maternal grandfather, who went for weeks at a time without speaking to anyone.

And that’s about all heredity gave me. Neither of my grandmothers could cook, let alone knit. Both were a strange mix of Victorian mores and modern feminism, since they were both careerwomen but had rather typically turn-of-the-century views on everything else.

Although there is a story my mother tells about Grandma who during WWII decided to get all patriotic and knit for the troops. Her balaclava started on five needles and somehow ended up on two. That finished her off.

My mother learned to knit from their Irish housekeeper. No one in the family other than her did anything remotely creative.

However, since manic-depressives are generally creative people, I suppose I could consider my creativity inherited.

Name That Frou-Frou
Did you ever wonder who names yarn? And what possesses the yarn companies to come up with some of these names?

I mean, why call a yarn “Calmer”?

Does this mean that working with it will make you nod off? Does it mean that the yarn behaves its ass? Calmer than what?

This stuff is 75% cotton, 25% microfiber, made by Rowan. So I can presume that I will be calmer knitting this cotton blend because it won’t sag to the floor after knitting and I will thus avoid going into a rage because I was once again stupid enough to buy cotton? Eh?

Of course, then there’s Distrato, another cotton blend that I might consider buying, since the yarn company is at least appealing to my state of mind.

It does seem to me that the frou-frou yarns have the dopiest names. Eros. Zap. Zen. Fizz. Flirt. So the rule of thumb would be less than five letters so that your customers will be able to remember the name AND include at least one “Z” and optimally one “F.” Of course, adding “FX” to the yarn name really makes it hip.

And if you really want to charge extra, make it sound Italian, which the yarn probably is anyway. Gelato is one of my favorite yarn names.

I once wrote catalog copy for Lion Brand. (Yeah, I sold out. So bite me. They paid.) I’d probably enjoy being paid to come up with exciting, hip, young, identifiers for yarn companies.

Like the incredible new eyelash, Drivvello, a fabulous concoction of 50% recycled hairbrush material, 50% rayon. Comes in four unbelievable shades: YouGotSomeSplaininToDoLucy Red, Hedly Lamarr Brown, Darryl Hannah Yellow, and Goth Black. White flakes not included.

If you’re itching to knit something in a day (and believe me, you’ll be itching), Spazz, 99% regurgitated snakeskin/1% toxoid, works to a speedy 1 stitch per inch. Just think—you’re done before your cast on is finished. Is that fast enough? We thought so, which is why we’re including a free tube pattern with every purchase of Spazz. Tubes are the next hot, hip thing to knit and just think of what you can do with them!

OK, I’ll stop now. Enough is really enough. Besides, I have this feeling that just a few Tontant Weaders might like to add their own.

Danke Schoen
To everyone who has been enormously supportive during my ongoing push-me/pull-you, especially Kathy and Carol, who bring new meaning to the word “supportive.” Just so you know, I’m back on Lithium, although the shrink has determined that I am bipolar I rather than II—a distinctive graduation, I’m sure. Nice to know that you’re even crazier than first suspected.

I promise I’ll have pictures this weekend. I’ve just been too busy to take the time but the vest is coming along nicely, as is a scarf for John (he wants one, I’ll make one).

The rare and handy Roberts Christmas tree is waiting to be bought this weekend. Oh, and don’t forget: The Christmas Crapalong deadline is the 23rd, so get your entries in soon.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.—John Lennon

On December 8th, it will be 24 years since Lennon’s death. John Lennon was a major influence. I started writing in earnest when I was 15 after reading In His Own Write. It was more than just the music, it was the entire philosophy of “Fuck you, I am what I am.”

If U Cn Rd Ths, U Cn B a Blgr
Reading the Knit List is frequently annoying and occasionally funny, as was the case in a recent post from a newbie blogger. Announcing her new blog to the knitting world, she managed to misspell her blog’s URL.

I found it by figuring out what the typo was, no doubt putting into the task more effort than Knit List readers will be wont to do.

Given than said blogger was hardly detail oriented, particularly when sending out a message to 5,000+ people, I wasn’t expecting much from her blog. And I was not disappointed.

I guess that the continuing eruption of KnitDweeb blogging is a direct result of the magazines publicizing knitting blogs (although not this one, you can be sure), with the result being an overload of poorly spelled blogs. We won’t discuss the quality of the writing, since these blogs are what they are—the individual’s journal of knitting, supposedly.

I have been making serious progress on the China vest, although I still haven’t gotten my digital camera back from my daughter Corinne. I’m getting it tomorrow, so I’ll have pictures up Sunday night, especially since I’m having brunch with Kathy that morning. And Kathy always wears some incredible concoction of colors, so I’ll have to take her picture. If Joe, Lisa, and Selma come along, there’ll be pictures of them as well.

And there’s the continuous spinning of the Wensleydale, which is almost finished. I think there’s about 6 ounces left to spin and ply. The rest is plied and skeined, ready for knitting. Mama wants me to design a vest pattern for the Wensleydale, so she’s getting a pretty good deal this Christmas from me.

Short post today—work rears its ugly head and I’ve been sent off to the hinterlands of Princeton for two days a week until the middle of December. Princeton is a lovely place but it’s a 2-hour drive each way, so I’ve been again time-constipated.

And no Christmas shopping or decorating done yet. For me to be on top of the holidays would truly be a rare and handy thing. But that ain’t gonna happen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother's tasted better the day before.—Rita Rudner

My mother is smart—she eats her holiday meals at my house.

God Bless Us, Everyone
Yeah, it’s a bit early for my Tiny Tim routine but I would like to speak to the amazing comments from my last entry before I shift the mood back, as it were, to fiber.

When I wrote that little piece on manic-depression, I did so primarily because I was pissed off once again at the neverending lack of legitimacy accorded mental illness by our half-assed health system.

I’ve never made any bones about being manic-depressive. In fact, I’m almost sure I’ve mentioned my disorder during the two-and-a-half years that I’ve been writing my blog. No, I don’t go around with the Scarlet MD on my chest. I don’t put it on my résumé. But I don’t hide IT (or the fact that I dye my hair blonde either). Bravery has nothing to do with it—I just don’t care whether people think there’s something “wrong” with me or not.

Thank you all for coming forward and writing about your own situations. Cathartic, isn’t it? And a little scary, I’m sure. But not only have you helped me, you’ve helped each other. Every story, every personal experience, is gold to another person. Incidentally, there is an excellent online resource for manic-depression—The Pendulum. I highly recommend it.

And I was truly gratified to see so many lurkers commenting. I wish they would come out of the shadows more often. After all, it’s not all about me writing—it’s about everyone writing. Contrary to popular belief, I welcome comments. As long as the comments aren’t about puling puppies, warshcloths, or any topic that has a KnitDweeb smell to it.

Paper Barf
That’s what Knitter’s is this issue. At least, if you’ve checked out The Gall-ery. I am not buying this issue. In fact, I haven’t bought an issue since the one with the Lavold vest in it, whenever that was. I refuse to put money in the X-men’s pockets. And this may extend to attending Stitches, although Elly so looks forward to it, I don’t have the heart to say no.

Joe will review the issue because the dope plans on buying it. I say, just look at the pictures on line. Since Knitter’s seldom publishes technical articles anymore, I’m not concerned about missing anything. Although I do so miss Alexis’s overblown, hyperbole-laden prose. And Dr. Perry’s droning anecdotes about knitting and whatever.

That’s the kind of writing you see in freshman English 101.

The Crabbies
I may have to start my own awards for the year’s worst design(s) in a magazine. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, there are a number of category possibilities. Yeah, I know. The sock scarf is a clear nominee. And if you have a favorite, feel free to let me know. I don’t read Cast On but I did see the last cover.

More on this in the weekend post. I’ll be setting up categories with nominees and then YOU all will vote. Heh. Could be almost as much fun as the Christmas Crapalong.

Fiber TrashTalk
The fugly wool/hemp gansey remake is out, the China vest from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Vests is in. I’d have a picture for you but my daughter Corinne borrowed my digital camera the other day and hasn’t brought it back.

Elly gave me the yarn for this vest last Christmas—it’s Rauma 3tr Strikkegarn, which she got from Nordic FiberArts. She had already made the vest and raved about the yarn and the incredible color saturation of the red. She’s right. This red is unbelievable.

Spinning continues on the Wensleydale. I have only a half-pound left to spin. The rest is either plied and skeined, plied and sitting on a bobbin, or singles waiting to be plied. Mammy will never know how much fucking work this has been. And I hope she enjoys knitting with it.

Flip Me the Bird, Johnny
John and I are team-cooking on Thursday, Elly and brother Rich are coming to eat. The kids are both out of state to their respective significant other’s parents’ houses.

May you all have a good Thanksgiving. And if you’re from elsewhere, may your Thursday be the day before Friday, which is a rare and handy thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
You're only given a little spark of madness. You musn't lose it. --Robin Williams

Insanity is the Best Defense
Today I am forgoing my usual fiber-related posts to talk about mental illness, specifically manic depression. Feel free to skip this entry. It’s going to be somewhat on the long side.

I am a diagnosed bi-polar II. Or, to use a term I prefer, manic-depressive. It is believed to be a chemical imbalance of the brain, although not conclusively proven. It is also most likely hereditary.

Sounds scary, eh? Believe me, it can be.

The reason that I'm bringing this topic up is because during the course of the past few weeks, my mood swings have become increasingly more troublesome. Not to worry, though. I know well the signs of my illness and I no longer ignore those signs. It's time to go back on medication.

Some of you have family or friends who are bi-polar. Some of you may be bi-polar yourselves. If so, you understand how unbelievably difficult it is to obtain decent, affordable treatment and medication. I had to leave my psychiatrist more than four years ago because she did not accept insurance and I could no longer afford the $180/45 minutes. At least I was lucky to have help for a while. After that, I was dependent upon a primary care physician who knew little about psychiatric illnesses and even less about psychotropic drugs. Not good.

Today I made an appointment with a psychiatrist who takes my insurance. One of the few. Despite my needing to see someone quickly, because bi-polars can go south fast (sorry, couldn’t resist), I was lucky to get an appointment for December 7th. And this doctor is located about 50 miles away from my house.

I will need, at the very least, an antidepressant, which takes 2-3 weeks to kick in, definitely lithium, and probably an anti-convulsant too. So maybe I will feel better by Christmas.

My point? If I had pneumonia, I would be able to see a doctor immediately. If I had broken my leg, the emergency room would take me in an hour or two (or three). Ten years ago, during an acute episode, I was taken to the ER and forced to wait ten hours because mental illness just doesn’t command any medical reaction unless you threaten to kill yourself or harm others. Sadly, people who do reach that point are often ignored by the medical community early on, when they perhaps could have been helped.

The state of mental illness care is a national tragedy. There isn’t anyone in this country who has not been affected by it, whether directly or indirectly. And yet, ten years after my initial diagnosis, I find that nothing has improved. I have little hope that it will, especially under the current administration, which probably views psychiatric care as a tool of the Devil.

However, I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Manic-depressives are usually creative, bright people who have given much to our culture. The list of talented manic-depressives is huge. So I do like my special club.

Someone once asked me if there were a “cure” for manic-depression, would I get the cure? Never. Manic-depression has made me, for better or worse, the person I am. If there were a possibility of losing my creativity, of losing my ability to soar mentally, I’d never risk it.

Nonetheless, manic-depression kills. In fact, it kills all too frequently. Suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse all contribute to the manic-depression death statistics. I’ve been very lucky, insofar as I have a mild version. Many others have not been so fortunate. And many, many people will not discuss their illness because of the stigma that is still attached. Perhaps that is why I also fight against homophobia and discrimination of all types—boy, do I understand.

But ya gotta keep fighting. There’s always another day. I love what Bruce Cockburn says about manic-depression: "Keep kicking against the darkness until it bleeds daylight."

Yeah, what he say.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Only one thing registers on the subconscious mind: repetitive application - practice. What you practice is what you manifest.--Fay Weldon

So, after a disasterous Saturday, wherein my Schacht spinning wheel, never troublesome and always welcoming, decides to have a hissy fit and do all but fall apart in a heap of wood, I have decided that to blog on Sunday is a saner activity overall.

When shit doesn't work, it's because you've fucked up. Simple as that. You are what you eat.

When the drive band slips, it's because you have installed it badly.

When the wheel mysteriously goes the other way and you inadvertantly head south with your singles in a pile of twisted mess, it's because you weren't paying attention.

Once I acknowledged all of this, the wheel settled down.

Two skeins plied, despite the battle. That's OK.

Mairsie Doats and Gansey Doats
I have been reworking the Nasty German's Gansey in Dzined's wool/hemp. After almost 8 inches or so, I'm still not sure I like how it looks. The picture makes it look hideously boring. But I will carry on.

Hard to see any detail, although it shows up much better live. Here's the original a bit further along in the construction.

Damned hard to photograph circularly knit garments while in process.

I'm making some minor design changes in the new version but they are very minimal.

And of course, just so you know, I'm working on the usual pair of socks. I don't count socks as a "project." They're like Kleenex--I make them and toss them in the drawer.

Just my Plain Vanilla sock pattern, which I have memorized and can do at any time, when needed.

Garter Stitch-Covered Hangers--the Perfect Christmas Gift
You know it's the holiday season when the KnitDweebs on the Knit List start talking about their Christmas knitting. Every friggin' year, this topic comes up.

This year, they're talking about what to knit for people you don't know. Hey, what a concept! Rather than inundate your family and friends with useless knitted items, give 'em all to strangers. Of course, this thread started because some poor cluck's husband asked her to knit nine gifts for his coworkers.

Yeah, sure, honey. And let me bring you your paper and pipe. Sheesh.

As far as the goody-goodies on the KL kvetching about those of us who criticize the knitting magazines are concerned, they wouldn't know quality design if it hit them between the eyeballs. These Pollyannas are so filled with the milk of "Christian" kindness that they find any criticism offensive. The criticism, at least mine, is written with the faint hope that these magazines might improve. Not that anyone from these magazines reads my blog or others--most likely, they don't. But their readers do.

When the knitting magazines' youth market boom fades, they'll be scrambling to find the older, experienced knitters market. It may not be there for them. The rest of us have found other resources. I certainly have.

Christmas CrapAlong
Chanukah is a great holiday but just not quite filled with the tackiness that pervades Christmas, although I'd love to see some ecumenical submissions for sure. And in answer to the question posed about materials, no, you need not use frou-frou. Carol's winning submission last year was not frou-frou. I believe it was RH, but Carol will correct me, I'm sure, if I'm wrong.

Another thing: When you send the .jpg, try to make it a reasonably small file, OK? Big files clog e-mail.

Well, time is growing short and the weekend is almost over. I must return to my Rock 'Em Sock 'Em spinning wheel and see if I can get more of my mother's Wensleydale spun. This is turning into a major project, no doubt about it.

But time enough to be rare and handy and get the remaining 3/4 of a pound spun and plied.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day

The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.—Paula Poundstone

There. One more inane cat face for ya.

If she misbehaves, I’m shipping her mangy butt off to Wendy.

Mag Season
By now, perhaps many of you have seen the Vague Knitting Holiday issue.

An absolute abomination.

Just when you thought that Knitter’s had perhaps the worst designs, along comes VK and Trisha Malcolm to triumph over the X-Men in their continuing pilgrimage along the Path of Mediocrity. I have not seen the Winter issue of Knitter’s yet, but the Fall issue, while not as awful as previous ones, was simply boring at best.

Interweave Knits and Piecework are just out on the newsstands and both are well worth buying. These days, my three favorite fiber magazines are IK, Piecework, and Spin-Off. No surprise there—Interweave publishes quality books and magazines.

I’d been worried that IK would be going the way of Knitter’s; however, the past two issues were exceptionally good and I have great hope that Pam Allen will continue the trend. IK blows away the competition.

I’ve mentioned Veronik Avery before but I think she’s outdone herself with her jacket and skirt in this issue. I don’t do embroidery on knits and I think that were I to make this outfit, I would leave it off. However, this is a perfect example of the kind of dressmaking detail that is so sorely missing from today’s designs. Anyone with any body shape could wear the jacket and skirt, the skirt being knit sideways in shortrowed sections. That’s the smart way to make a knitted skirt that won’t droop, you know?

And of course, we go from Avery’s sublime to Patrick’s ridiculous. Joe’s already mentioned the terrible finishing job on the side seam of Mari Lynn Patrick’s latest “Guess What Knitted Garment I Am?” I’m surprised that Pam Allen didn’t ship it back to her and tell her to redo it or forget it.

I buy Piecework because I am also very interested in other needlecraft and have done a lot of embroidery in the past. But not on knits. Piecework always has some knitted designs, and if you are at all interested in the history of needlework, it’s a wonderful read.

Joe’s done a great job reviewing this issue of IK and I agree with his assessment. I might add that I honestly don’t think the men’s ties were much to write home about.

More Wensleydale
I spent Sunday plying the Wensleydale. Here’s an advance look at Mama’s Christmas present.

The Wensleydale is on the right and that hideous teal wool-of-unknown-origin that I spun prior to Rhinebeck is on the left. The bowl is from my blue-and-white collection, although I specialize in Flow Blue. Yet another passion, Victorian porcelain.

Ho, Ho, Ho, Heh
Guess what? It’s that time again. Time for my annual Christmas Crapalong. As you may recall, last year’s winner was Carol S., with her fabulously appointed toilet seat cover, complete with lights. Wow. Can you top that? Can any of us?

So, my charmers, send your .jpegs to me at Deadline will be December 22nd. The prize: Some crap from my stash but I promise it will be high-quality shit.

Please, no willie warmers or tired, overdone marital aids or lingerie, OK? Be original. You know what I like. Tacky is good. Very tacky is even better. Get out that frou-frou you bought in a moment of weakness. It’s gotta be good for something other than a scarf.

Be rare and handy in your creative processes.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I was not lying. I said things that later on seemed to be untrue.--Richard Nixon

Until last Tuesday, RMN arguably held the title of Biggest Presidential Liar in History.

Congratulations, America. You've managed to forget every lesson supposedly learned in the '70s and renewed the contract of a man who doesn't read, let alone understand the lessons of history.
To paraphrase Abby Hoffman, rest his soul: Stay away from needle drugs. George Bush is the only dope worth shooting.

The Microcosm
Here's a theory that I've posed to Loopy and which I believe to be true.

If the Democrats had read the Knit List and read some of the knitting magazines for a year prior to Tuesday's election, they would have completely understood the nature of the average American voter and realized that they would not win unless they spouted THE WORD.

Which is to say, everything must be simple, easy, quick, with no thought behind it, and if you disagree with me, you are not a human being but a worthless piece of ka-ka because you don't go to church every Sunday. If you read the rubbishy comments left by those denizens of the X-World in the entry before the last one, I think you know who and what I mean.

These knitters come to my blog and other blogs to leave their droppings because I and other bloggers challenge their "moral" values by speaking our opinions. Well, hush mah mouth. Not.

To do something well, to fucking think about what you're doing and why, to read and learn and question, to take time and pride in what you do, and to challenge those who take the easy way out--is that so subversive? Apparently so.

My little world is fibercentric. Maybe not so important to most people. But it's what I love the best. And I can't seem to keep my mouth shut when I see sorry representations of knitting that only magnify the creator/wearer's philosophy of mediocrity.

Yeah. Anything worth doing isn't worth doing half-assed. Knitting being besides the point.

But to lighten the mood and get me off my soapbox, here's an excellent piece by Michael Moore sent to me by my sister, The Scrap Curmudgeon. Thanks, Karen. There is arguably a higher ratio of ScrapDweebs to KnitDweebs, according to her. My sister, of course, takes scrapbooking to the highest level. Her books are beautiful.

Rhinebeck After the Fact
Finally, some pictures.

Just one of the many shopping opportunities, although that particular yarn was nicer from a distance than it was up close.

There were two best parts. The shopping and seeing my friends.

From left: Selma the Axe Murderess, Kathy's back, Thaddeus (a man for all seasons but mostly Joe's), Debala aka Yentala, and Joe.

And no tour of Rhinebeck could be complete without a picture of Kathy being chatted up by a sheep.

I thought the sheep costume looked a bit scraggly, myself. And the Hello Kitty-type ribbon was a bit much. But there were a lot of kids there, so I'm sure the Sheep was a big hit with the Under-Fives.

In one building were the prizewinning knitted articles along with fine examples of spun yarn. The entries, by and large, were much higher quality than those generally seen at fairs. I particularly liked the shawl below.

Next stop: Maryland Sheep & Wool next May.

Dinsdale, oh Dinsdale, oh Wensleydale
Sorry, just remembered Monty Python's parody of the Kray brothers. Anyway, one of my purchases at Rhinebeck was the incredible Wensleydale I mentioned in a previous entry, which I'm spinning up as a Christmas present for my mother, who wishes to knit some of my handspun. Hey, handspun only a mother could love, eh?

The singles are 24 wpi, so this should make a nice DK weight when plied up. I bought a pound and a half of this stuff, plenty for her to knit a vest for herself. The Wensleydale spins itself. Unbelievable fiber. This is why I need to forgo any shopping at Stitches and concentrate on MD and Rhinebeck.

Other Fiber Crap
I'm reworking the Nasty German's Gansey in Dzine's wool/hemp for possible publication. Fortunately I had all my design notes filed away, so it's been fairly easy to reconstruct. This was my train knitting while commuting 3 hours each way to NYC. I'll post a picture anon, when I reach the yoke. Right now, there's only about 8 inches done and not terribly interesting 8 inches at that. And I have the requisite sock on the needle, but I don't count socks as projects, per se.

Grammy's Worth Something
Liz, my 12-year-old granddaughter and erstwhile novice knitter, found that Gram's knitting completed her Hallowe'en costume last week. Shawlette in Koigu supplied by Gram's endless supply of costume possibilities.

The cane and dress are not mine. Yet. Ever.

I suppose publishing a picture of one's grandchild is akin to rambling on about one's pets, sort of. But Liz does knit, although whether she'll ever progress to purling hangs on her getting six inches of garter stitch knitted.

I did like the rolled stockings. Nice effect. Making your own costume is rare, handy, and in keeping with family tradition.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people's minds.--Frank Zappa

To my U.S. readers: Vote today. Vote for Kerry if you are interested in keeping our country intact.

Remember, the only real bogeyman on Hallowe'en is Bush. Who, I have decided, is actually much worse than Nixon. And I never thought I would see another like Tricky Dick in my lifetime, and a less accomplished liar at that. At least Nixon understood foreign policy.

Long Time, No Write
My God, I can't believe it's been three weeks since I last posted. Other than one day's respite at Rhinebeck, I've been caught up in a heavy, totally time-consuming work schedule plus family obligations. The good news is, next Wednesday is my last day working as a consultant in NYC. So it shall be back to posting twice a week as of then.

Everyone has long since posted their views and pictures on Rhinebeck but I will nonetheless add my dollah-three-eighty. I enjoyed this show much more than I did MD S&W. For one, the facilities are much nicer. And for another, I felt that there were sufficient vendors, many of whom show at MD also, to satisfy my spinning needs. I'll still try to go to MD next spring because it is excellent. But I'm very happy with Rhinebeck.

I bought a ton of shit, almost entirely to spin. I bought some incredible Wensleydale specifically for my mother, who wishes to knit some of my homespun. The singles that I've spun so far are 24 wpi, which plyed should make a nice DK weight. I'll have pictures up shortly.

And of course, there was the trip to Morehouse Farm, where I bought this laceweight. Don't know yet what I'll do with it. The possibilities are endless.

The best part of the entire day was being with Joe, Thaddeus, Kathy, Selma, and Deb. And meeting some readers. I think what I'll probably do is put these pictures up on a separate page on Saturday, since they are still sitting in my camera.

I did get my little mitt slapped by a snotty woman at Mostly Merino (not the owner but someone who works for her), who for some reason thought I was taking pictures of her precious sweaters to copy, I suppose. She was absolutely and completely rude, and Gestapo-esque in her request that I not photograph their booth, lecturing me as if I were a three-year-old. I was so taken aback that for once I had nothing to say. It's too bad that she didn't bother to ask me WHY I was taking pictures of the booth, since the sweaters were quite beautiful. Now no one who reads my blog will see Mostly Merino's wares. If she had approached me nicely, I would not have thought twice about slamming Mostly Merino in public. The yarn is fabulous. The help is gawd-awful.

I do not do business with rude, ignorant people. There's plenty of fabulous yarn to be bought elsewhere.

I need to keep this entry short, since I'm finishing it right before work. I will have plenty of time now to post, so there will be a fairly large entry over the weekend.

Be rare. Be handy. Get to the polls.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
It is too hideous and nauseating. Owners and owned, they are like the two sides of a ghastly disease. One feels a sort of madness come over one, as if the world had become hell. But it is only superimposed: it is only a temporary disease. It can be cleaned away. --D.H. Lawrence

D.H. was talking about the people who owned "scaly houses" at the seashore.

It's an apt quote for the Gallery of Ghastlies. Hang on, kids. There's a lot of pictures in this entry.

Stitches East 2004
Three hours down. Three hours back. One hundred and sixty-six miles each way, with a detour of 40 miles to pick up my mother. I left at 6:15 a.m. and got home at 6:30 p.m. Was it worth it?

I'm still not sure. It means quality time with my 81-year-old mother, seeing my friends, and buying some stuff. I can do all three without the traveling.

In any case, we got to AC about 9:30 and almost immediately ran into Carol S., who kindly took this picture of me and Mom.

Jesus, don't we all end up looking like our mothers? I should look so good at 81.

My primary goal was to buy sufficient sock yarn for the next 6 months. At the very least, Stitches is good for that because everyone brings sock yarn. However, as is always the case, there's one garment design that catches my eye. This Fair Isle vest, from Shelridge Farm, was a beauty.

Yeah, I bought the kit, even though they will be at Rhinebeck next week.

And here's a picture of the rest of my assorted purchases.

Doesn't seem like much but there's enough Opal, Socka, Socketta, and one lovely skein of Schaefer Anne to drill a fairly large hole in my wallet. The vest kit is on the left.

And of course, it's always good to run into friends--here's Kathy Merrick and Sandy Feinstein.

But enough of this. Now come the pictures you've all been waiting for.


A bumper crop this year. Many, many thanks to Carol for her able assistance and great photos. A baker’s dozen of the finest.

Are you ready?

This wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d left out those white stripes and the tuck rolled thingies. The yarn was actually quite nice. And as someone commented (Carol, I think), no one over 25 should be wearing peplums anyway.


I had to follow this woman around for about 10 minutes before I could get a decent shot. The pink ruffle added immensely to the Ringling Bros. effect.


Bad scarf. Bad color. Bad frou-frou. Far be it from me to comment on anyone’s weight but at least she had the sense not to make a sweater from this shit.


Beautifully made sweater. But this pattern belongs on the bedroom wall, not on someone’s body.


His vest is bad enough (clearly, the missus told him he was not only going to walk around the market carrying her purchases, but to add insult to injury, he’d have to wear this lovely vest AND pay for more drecky yarn) but the thing on the woman taking her order could not classified as a known garment. Perhaps a shawl. Perhaps a schmatteh. I vote for the latter.


Yes. You love purple. So do we. Lose the hair. Lose the shirt. And God help me, the pen was purple.

Carol took one of her too. Great minds, etc.

AND NOW, THE CS COLLECTION. Prints available.


The Revenge of the Schmattehs. As CS says, the worst garments were worn by the vendors.


Ms. Kathy Merrick makes a moue of disgust as she puts maximum distance between herself and the delightfully bedecked frou-frou Mrs. Claus jacket.


What? Why? What happened to the neckline?


Typical frou-frou garment often seen at Stitches. Pattern: Buy 25 balls of assorted junk glitz yarn, cast on a bunch of stitches, knit in stripes until piece goes around your body, sew together. Memo to self: Don’t forget to leave openings for arms. Oh yeah, and leave a hole for head.


CS suggests that this woman should be arrested for unlawful use of Noro.


Once again, Kathy plays photo decoy as unsuspecting modular-knitting, chevron-loving KnitDweeb peruses books.


Just imagine what this cost. The mind boggles.

Did that satisfy?

For all of you who cannot go to Stitches, I will say that there were some very nice garments worn, although they were scarcer than hen's teeth. I did see a very nice Fair Isle vest and several lovely cabled pullovers. But the ponchos, scarves, and glitz sadly overshadow them.

I can only hope that some of these knitters are buying books at Stitches and taking classes so that they can give up their addiction to novelty yarns. Elly thinks that despite the proliferation of crap, we'll be seeing a new crop of dedicated, skilled knitters arise from the "hipness" of knitting. My mother's usually right.

Oh, and one last parting picture, from CS. I leave you with this rare and handy photo of Carol herself and Carol's words from her e-mail to me:

A weavette shot for Joe "I'm too cool for Stitches but not too cool for a Weavette" Wilcox.
NEXT WEEK: Rhinebeck. And more pictures...but I hope not ghastly ones.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The witty woman is a tragic figure in American life. Wit destroys eroticism and eroticism destroys wit, so women must choose between taking lovers and taking no prisoners. --Florence King

Thanks to reader Camille for telling me about this author.

I have a lover AND I take no prisoners. Don't necessarily agree with what she says but the elegance with which she says it is inspirational. Wit is indeed erotic, applied accordingly and with a deft hand. Heh.

Countdown to Fiber-October
I'm looking forward to next Friday, when my mother and I invade Stitches East.

So in preparation, I reviewed my brochure. Which got me to thinking how much I dislike sitting in classes, since I fidget even at the age of 54 and a half.

And some of the classes' topics are a huge stretch. "Fringe Benefits"--three hours of everything you could ever want to learn about fringe. Egad. "Easy Gift Hats"--three hours of learning how to make a hat. I wouldn't last five minutes.

However, for those people who need to learn some stuff, the Stitches classes are probably a godsend. If Stitches had been around when I first began knitting, I would have definitely taken some of the pattern drafting classes, fidgeting or no fidgeting. And nowadays, I would take any class given by Lucy Neatby, Joan Schrouder, Kaffe, and the folks at Habu. I guess I could sit still.

Somehow, though, I find the idea of sitting in a Stitches class with perhaps a large percentage of KnitDweebs highly unappealing.

Billy Gates Knits
Well, he should. I've often used Excel as an ad-hoc charting tool, although I own the fine Stitch Motif Maker 3. If you want to do a little charting on the QT at work, there's nothing better.

I thought I might do a quick tutorial for you all because I know that not everyone is a whiz at Excel. I use it a lot in my work and I've come to appreciate its power as an application. Plus, if you're running a fairly new PC, most likely MS Office came with your computer, so you have it.

Here's how you do it.

1. Open a new workbook in Excel.

2. Now, click on the square between Row 1 and Column A, so that the entire worksheet turns blue. As my friend and Excel mentor PJ Conway always says, "With Excel, blue is the clue." Your screen should look like the one below. Go into Format and set your Row height to 10 and your Column width to 2. You'll get a nice blank knitting graph. (I've tried to make the screenshots as big as I can but they'll still probably look like crap, so don't whinge about them.)

3. Now you're ready to create a design area and place your color palette. I took a random number of cells and just put a border around them so that I could delineate the design area. Now, to the right of the design area, you'll set up your color palette by filling in a single square with each color you wish to use.

The screenshot below shows my finished palette.

4. To create a charted Fair Isle design, you will copy the square of color you wish to place in the design area and then paste it into the correct square, as shown below:

I use the key commands Ctrl-C for Copy and Ctrl-V for Paste--much faster than going in and out of the menu. Just hold down the Control key and then hit either C or V, depending on what you're doing.

But, you say, I want color AND symbols. No problem, chica. Go to Insert>Symbol and a wealth of nifty characters will be yours for the placing.

There's a shitload of them. The ones in the screenshot below are just a sampling.

5. Now, you can place a symbol of your choice in a cell. If you want it nicely centered, go to Format>Cells>Alignment and select Center for both Horizontal and Vertical in Text Alignment.

BUT, you whine, I want symbols AND color. Jesus, this is so easy. Just add a color fill to your symbol cell and you're ready to cut and paste, like I did in the chart below.

6. Once you've finished your design, I would suggest that you place a border around each cell, even though Excel will print out the grid anyway. The border is a lot sharper. This time, highlight only your design area and then select the border that will outline the cell top, bottom, right and left. Got it?

7. And so, you have finished. Actually, doing this little pattern took me all of 10 minutes, if that. Obviously this isn't a real Fair Isle design, just my doodling. But you get the idea. And here's how it should look when you're done.


I have not used Excel to do any complex stitch pattern charting. I use Stitch Motif Maker for that. However, I'm sure you could create your own custom symbols by drawing in the cell, if you wished. Explore and play with it. There may be some usable items in Symbols. Try going through all the Wingdings and Webdings first.

Now I feel wholly righteous and that I've actually taught something online that might be worthwhile. Let me sanctify my efforts by getting a cup of coffee.

Consultant Agonista
I am almost done with my consulting stint in NYC, thank you Jesus. It's been difficult not having enough time to knit. Knitting on the train just puts me to sleep. So I've done almost nothing during the past couple of weeks. However, I have been able to get some spinning and knitting done on the weekends, albeit precious little.

As it goes, I seem to have just enough time to post once a week, on the weekend. I'm hoping that once my NYC business is done, I can get back to a regular twice a week entry, or more perhaps. This is why I've been writing more in each post, so that at least you'll have something once a week that is hopefully worth your time.

And let me just say that I look forward to meeting those of you who show up next Friday at Stitches. If you think it's me, just come up and say hi. I am quite friendly when fed. Besides, my mother will find it amusing.

The Gallery of Ghastlies will be on the blog sometime next weekend. I shudder in anticipation just thinking about all those unrare and definitively unhandy ponchos and ugly intarsia abortions.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I'll take any way to get into the Hall of Fame. If they want a batboy, I'll go in as a batboy.—Phil Rizzuto

Holy Cow.

I got into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday by paying.

Happy Birthday to Johnny H.

The Philosophy of Blog
I think I feel like two singles being excessively plied into overtwist. Busy-ness is not diminishing, nor is my angst at having to work on an excruciatingly difficult project. So going to Cooperstown yesterday with John, his daughter Katy, and Liz was a good respite.

For some reason the other day, John and I got into a conversation about why I write the blog, what I do when I meet people who read it, etc.

It’s interesting to see that blog writing, as a genre, is coming into its own in the media. Blogging, although not especially new any more, has caught the press’s fancy. There have been articles written about knitting blogs in particular, although Joe and I are seldom, if ever, mentioned. I hardly wonder why, since both of us share attitudes that are not the prevailing ones of saccharinicity and E-Z Simple Knitting.

I can’t speak for Joe but I am not interested in self-promotion—in fact, I find it abhorrent, although I understand why others do it. And as I explained to John, I would write the blog if only one person read it. In actuality, I have no idea how many people read The Knitting Curmudgeon regularly. I’m not into counting hits or web stats, neither of which really tell you who’s reading you and why. And why some people are obsessed with their blog stats is totally beyond me. Don’t mean a thing.

That said, when I meet people who read the blog, I feel distinctly uncomfortable. In person, I’m rather retiring upon first meeting, so I may disappoint my readers in person. On the other hand, it’s a bit empowering to have total strangers come up to you and tell you how much they enjoy reading the blog.

So although I will not wear a big sign on my ample bosom at Stitches East, proclaiming my identity, nor will I have an autograph party at the food concession, I do look forward to meeting those of you who are readers and will be attending.

The Asparagus Eggs Benedict Knitting Meetup
Well, that's what Kathy and I had last Sunday when we had brunch with Joe in Lahaska, PA. It's always good to be with those two, although we did miss Lisalisa and Carol S., both of whom had prior engagements.

Joe has already written about our Sunday in the Park with Yarn but I can add my dollah-three-eighty anyway. Two more interesting, stimulating people you won't meet anywhere. After Joe left, Kathy and I stood in the parking lot and chatted for another hour. I wish we could get together more often, but I'll take what I can get. And I wish the picture below showed off Kathy's jacket to better advantage.

Les Enfants Terribles

Knitting? Huh? What Dat?
I did finish Liz’s socks. Huzzah.

And I did chart out her skull for my own satisfaction, since I prefer to do my own thing in the final analysis. Anyone who wants it is welcome to heist it. (When I have time, I will put it on its own page, along with my other freebies that haven't been linked back on.) Now she’s told me that she wants the gloves black, with the skull pink. And perhaps a chain motif in pink around the cuff.

I do dislike knitting with black yarn, but you do anything for your grandchildren, usually.

In the meanwhile, I have resurrected the Queen Anne’s Lace, since the weather is turning cooler. I suppose I will finish it by year’s end.

I’m such a slow-ass knitter and I have absolutely no intention of changing that by altering how I knit. Need for speed is not a top priority, even though it would be nice to crank out more projects per year. When I realized that I have been working on the QAL for almost 3 years, it gave me pause for a nanosecond. And then I figured, what the fuck. In between times, I have churned out any number of socks, a vest, several other sweaters, miscellaneous hats, and one scarf. No necessity for concern about output.

I’ve realized that everything happens in its own time. As far as the book is concerned, I work on it when I can and when it gets done, it gets done. With crushing pressure at work, it would be ludicrous to self-impose more crushing deadlines. I depend upon my job for my income, not knitting. I would like to reverse that and perhaps I will, in the next year. I’m tired of working for other people, for sure. But that time is not now. But soon.

Stitches East and Rhinebeck
I will be at Stitches East on the Friday with Elly. I have not decided if I will make it on Saturday. Perhaps I am disillusioned with Stitches but I have no huge enthusiasm about attending this year. Based on my experience of past years, I am sure that there will be the Koigu/Noro overload, along with frou-frouness abounding. There are a few things that I’d like to buy, sock yarn being one of them. And hopefully I will see some new yarns, books, and tools that will be worth writing about.

Rhinebeck, on the other hand, is going to be great. I’ll be buying a lot of spinning fiber, for sure. And there’s the road trip to Morehouse with Kathy, Joe, and Selma as cruise director. How great will that be?

I promise pictures on the blog of both events. Of course, the Gallery of Ghastlies will be back. Perhaps we should all vote on our favorite Ghastly? What do you think, eh?

There could be some rare and handy lace-and-intarsia schmatteh that is so fugly it will need an award.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
America is just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.—Hunter S. Thompson

That the Assault Rifle Ban was not renewed by Congress is a shameful thing. That Bush did not push them to renew it is not only shameful but also immoral.

Gonzo knitting to the rescue. It may not change the course of world events nor stop the Evil Axis of Bush/Cheney/Rummy but it does make me feel better.

Especially with my AK-47 at my side.

Poncho Villa
You know, the other day while driving home from work I had a philosophical discussion with myself about ponchos and why I hate them.

Me: What is it you dislike so much about them?

ME: Well, any number of things. They’re so ‘70s, for one thing. Usually knit in ugly colors, often in garter stitch AND often fringed beyond belief. And there’s not much shaping, either. The only knitted poncho I’ve ever seen that was attractive was an Aran sampler poncho in Mon Tricot’s Aran issue, which I still have.

Me: That’s pretty damning. And you could apply much of the above criteria to shawls. You like shawls.

ME: True. But the shawls I like are lace and require a certain level of expertise (although I did make that Bell Shawl a few years back and I still use it).

Me: So where do the lacy little ponchos fit into your scheme of things? You know, those cover-up thingies?

ME: They’re OK. In fact, I’ve seen a couple that I liked. But for some reason, I think they’re more for kids. I could see making one in laceweight merino for eveningwear. Not that I’d ever have a reason to own something like that, since my T-shirt collection far outnumbers my collection of ball gowns. As our mother says, “Are you planning on wearing the Forest Path Stole to the opera?”

Me: So what you’re saying is, it’s OK to make a shapeless thing as long as it has a challenging pattern.

ME: Well, no. I am morally opposed to warshcloths. I can’t see doing a complex pattern in a warshcloth, although I’m sure some idiot has done so.

Me: But you’re not morally opposed to bedspreads, which are just huge warshcloths.

ME: Hardly. Bedspreads can be tremendously complex and take years to finish, which is why I’ve never bothered. You’re very argumentative, you know that? Go fuck yourself. I like what I like.

Me: Bite me.

I’m not sure who won. Or if it was even worth discussing.

When you consider that I’ve occasionally had conversations with my dead husband in the car, perhaps I should walk.

I’ve been busily crocheting the Noro Kureyon earflaps hat from the IK Crochet issue.

It's a really goofy hat, in my opinion. But sort of fun. I have another earflap to go and then the edging. I'm thinking instead of tassels hanging down, I may do a Keith Richards deal and suspend voodoo charms from the ends. I may not be caught dead in it. Haven't decided yet.

The pattern has its own issues, I’m afraid to say. The directions were, um, not very well edited. But I digress. I made a diagonally knit scarf from the same Kureyon last winter, so the hat more or less matches. Crocheting is a lot harder on my Carpal Tunneled hands, that’s for sure. But it’s fun nonetheless.

I don’t think I’ve crocheted anything in at least 10 years. No, more. Probably 20. I’m of the school of thought that believes crochet is an extremely useful thing for knitters to learn. For one, cotton sweaters gain much by having their necklines finished in reverse single crochet. And you can do the crochet thing to your steeks. AND if you’re having problems beginning laceweight in the round on 4 or 5 dps, doing a beginning bit in crochet and then picking up your stitches from that is very helpful.

I generally find crocheted garments to be repulsive, primarily because the designer tries to make crocheting into knitting. The most successful crocheted garments don’t do that. I love Kathy Merrick’s crocheted jackets, for example, and for precisely that reason. Kathy understands how to design with crochet stitches so that the finished article doesn’t look like something from Our Lady of the Precious Dripping Heart rummage sale.

One of the most interesting crochet projects I’ve seen in a long time is Kim Salazar’s filet crochet dragon curtain. You have to admire the workmanship and the design—I know my daughter Jenn, the medieval freak and card-carrying SCA member would love it. I could never master crocheting with steel hooks and thread.

Pre-Stitches Stitches
It looks as if we’ll be doing a pre-Stitches get-together down in Lambertville next Sunday. At least, Joe, Kathy and I can make it. Carol’s stuck at home and I don’t know what Janet Reno’s true love has up her lezzie sleeve.

Stitches East is just a few weeks away. As much as I hate putting my money into the X-Men’s pockets, I don’t cut off the old nose.

I fully intend to repeat the Gallery of Ghastlies this year, using Kathy, Carol, and Lisa as shills. Heh. One of them stands near the targeted Ghastly, I take a “souvenir” picture of them at Stitches. After all, I try to be somewhat subtle in my role as Stitches paparazza.

Hey, you wear a fugly sweater in public, you’re fair game for my camera. I can only imagine the plethora of ponchos on display this year.

I will probably buy mostly sock yarn, though. There’s really nothing else that I need or want, unless I see something spectacular. If it’s the same dull overload of Koigu and Noro, as it has been for the past few years, I shall be sorely disappointed.

It would seem that the Rhinebeck show might garner more of my paycheck, since I’m doing a lot more spinning lately.

Sk8or Designs
Now that I’ve finished Liz’s “short” socks, she wants a pair of pink gloves, fingers truncated, as is the fashion, and decorated with black skulls, presumably done as intarsia or perhaps Fair Isle motifs. I think this would be a fun thing to design. In fact, the young woman I work with, Torrie, overheard me discussing these gloves, and she wants a pair. At least neither of them has asked for scarves. Liz can knit her own, anyway.

Once again, Liz has dyed her hair. Having been through her Blue Period, she’s just switched to pink, a color heretofore castigated by her as “too Barbie.” Therefore, all clothing items now must be black and pink, a notable change from her previous wardrobe color scheme of black and red.

I love this kid. She’s getting the gloves as soon as I can sit down and chart the skulls.

I was thinking maybe I should adorn the gloves with little crocheted skulls, but there are those of my friends who might find that scary. And you know who you are.

Skull decorations can be rare and handy but probably only on a 12-year-old punk sk8or rat.