Thursday, April 29, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he's supposed to be doing at that moment.—Robert Benchley

I can knit untold rows while the laundry languishes, the dirty floors fester, and the inside of the fridge auditions for a George Romero movie.

Spreadsheet as Design Subterfuge
And while my Excel reports fester, here’s what I know: If you’re working in an office and you get the urge to create, there’s nothing better than using Excel as a charting tool.

A window rapidly hidden when the boss pops in. You can put a dummy worksheet in front of your charting page, click on the tab, and your 40-row repeat chart is immediately whisked away from prying eyes.

Joe and I were talking about using Excel this past weekend. He used it to chart his Fashion of the Christ Fair Isle. It truly is a good charting tool, especially if you don’t want to spend money on the charting software that’s out there. You can color and size the squares, the rows are automatically numbered, if you like, you can stick symbols into the squares if you prefer, you can even draw in the squares if you want to do your own cabling symbols. I set up a palette of squares first and then cut and paste what I want from that.

I’m thinking about including directions on how to use Excel to chart in my book. Many people aren’t comfortable with Excel or haven’t used it at all. It’s probably one of the most powerful MS applications available to the great unwashed and yet at its simplest, it can do very elegant functions.

If you’ve got Billy Gates’s Office, you’ve got Excel, if you didn’t know that.

I’m in a D. Parker Mood
As I always say, Dorothy Parker’s my inspiration, although I’m not nearly as depressed. Joe was asking me where Tontant Weader comes from. To refresh your collective memories, DP had a column in New Yorker magazine called Constant Reader, wherein she reviewed books. Her famous one-line review of AA Milne’s House at Pooh Corner: "Tontant Weader frowed-up."

If you’re interested in Ms. Parker (and you should be, she was a wit of the first water), check out Dorothy Parker’s New York. And read Marion Meade’s bio, What Fresh Hell is This? All of Dorothy Parker's poems are located online here.

Somewhat coincidentally, DP was also a prolific knitter. Perhaps she was truly the original Knitting Curmudgeon. I’ll leave you with one of her rare and handy poems, one which I think addresses aging far better than some moronic red hat.

The Little Old Lady in Lavender Silk
I was seventy-seven, come August,
I shall shortly be losing my bloom;
I've experienced zephyr and raw gust
And (symbolical) flood and simoom.

When you come to this time of abatement,
To this passing from Summer to Fall,
It is manners to issue a statement
As to what you got out of it all.

So I'll say, though reflection unnerves me
And pronouncements I dodge as I can,
That I think (if my memory serves me)
There was nothing more fun than a man!

In my youth, when the crescent was too wan
To embarrass with beams from above,
By the aid of some local Don Juan
I fell into the habit of love.

And I learned how to kiss and be merry- an
Education left better unsung.
My neglect of the waters Pierian
Was a scandal, when Grandma was young.

Though the shabby unbalanced the splendid,
And the bitter outmeasured the sweet,
I should certainly do as I then did,
Were I given the chance to repeat.

For contrition is hollow and wraithful,
And regret is no part of my plan,
And I think (if my memory's faithful)
There was nothing more fun than a man!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Personally I think birthdays and anniversaries are like menstrual cramps, a regular pain in the ass that’s somehow connected to birth.--Hugh Elliott

At least I don’t have to worry about cramps any more.

Thanks to all Tontant Weaders who sent birthday wishes, via the Comments and otherwise. You rock [insert irony here]. No, you're good readers. Now sit. Beg. Good readers.

And the Birthday Beat Goes On
I just celebrated my birthday all fucking weekend long. Despite the fact that I turned 54, which I find to be endlessly depressing, I figured that I would just sort of forget it and have a good time. And I did.

Saturday I met my sister Karen, Elly, and nephew Nicholas at Sally Lunn’s Teahouse in Chester, NJ, a very charming place run by Brits who know how to make tea, scones, and clotted cream. Then Elly and I went up to The Yarn Loft, my local yarn shop, to see what Renee had that was new. (In fact, I was looking for the new Lavold colors, which Renee didn’t have.)

While I was wandering around, Renee introduced me to Norah, who teaches for her. Evidently, both Renee and Norah read the blog regularly. It’s always nice to meet readers. Norah was teaching her more advanced group of knitting students while I was there, who are not knitting scarves but working on actual garments.

But the best was yet to come: Hanging out with Joe, Kathy Merrick, and Carol S. on Sunday. We started at Simply Knit in Lambertville, NJ, and then walked over to New Hope, PA, on the other side of the Delaware River.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Lambertville/New Hope is a most artsy-fartsy mélange of overpriced antique shops, wonderful restaurants, great art galleries, and lovely Victorian architecture. Yeah, it’s a bit touristy but the Delaware is so pretty, especially in the spring.

As Joe says, meeting people like this is an excellent reason to blog. If nothing else, you come away with some great friends. And despite my clearly saying “No gifties,” of course they gave me gifties. Joe’s was a big royal blue beach tote, a perfect carrier for all my knitting needs (he knows I’m a bag hag), Kathy’s gift was a petite but wonderful bag made of recycled materials that she got in Italy and stuffed with 4 skeins of Koigu; Carol brought me Lisa Myer’s book, The Joy of Knitting, which I’m finding to be very well-written and interesting and not at all Knitting-As-Zen. Besides, I’ve briefly met Lisa and she’s a sane human being with not a fluffy bone in her body, so it’s exactly what I would expect her to write.

Despite the craziness in my life, I’m so glad that I spent time on Sunday with them. It did my soul much good.

Kwazy Koigu
I brought my 8 skeins of Koigu for my jacket design along with me on Sunday so that the Arbiters of Good Taste minus One (Lisa couldn’t make it) could opine on my color choices. I knew I could depend on them for their undiluted opinions.

There are absolutely no decent patterns for Koigu. I am not a fan of Maie Landra’s designs at all. Love the yarn, hate the patterns. Handpainted yarns have limited uses. Basically, if you prefer the yarn to do the work for you, handpainted yarns are great. If you prefer to use your knitting skills, you won’t find much to do with them.

And it’s difficult to design with these yarns because of that. Plain stockinette just doesn’t cut it. I’ve found those stitch patterns that will visually “interrupt” the color blotches work the best: seed stitch, double moss, slip-stitch patterns, etc. Even reverse stockinette is better than nothing. Kathy wore a Koigu jacket on Sunday that used blocks of stitches patterns to just this effect.

As I mentioned previously, I’ll be using linen stitch for the jacket I’m designing. Hopefully, I’ll get the website up and running within the next few weeks so that I can publish some pictures.

Off I go. Crystal Reports is rearing its ugly head.

Winning the Lottery and retiring would be rare and handy. If I bought fucking tickets.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.—Ellen DeGeneres

I must be very normal. Perhaps writing this blog is the only abnormal thing I do.

I’ve been in a totally crabby, depressed mood, functioning in survivor mode just to get through the day. Thank God for Johnny H. He’s been my comfort.

The good news is, I bought a new car. A cheap car (Hyundai Elantra) but a new one, nonetheless. Don’t want huge car payments right now.

The Blog Redesign
I wish I could say that this is Priority #1 in my life. It isn’t. As long as I can make entries, right now that has to be sufficient.

Was I pissed off about the comment on the blog’s lack of design? For sure. Let’s get one thing straight—I don’t lack the ability to redesign the blog nor do I lack the technical know-how. It’s the time factor. Oddly, I seem to think that on the weekend the house should be cleaned, the laundry washed, the shopping done, the book written, and the current project knitted upon, which activities preclude my spending huge amounts of time at the laptop reworking the blog.

That’s not to say it doesn’t need it. It’s a mess. At this point, I may be able to spend a weekend on it when I return from Florida in May. I miss being able to put up my photos, at the very least. I could run the blog from while I work on MovableType. That way, I could put my graphics back up and publish some of my pictures. Maybe I should. What do you guys think?

Yer Birthday
So my dear friend QueerJoe, in a lame effort to be amusing, suggested to his readers that they all come over here and remind me about how old I will be this Sunday, April 25th.

I’ll be 54. There, I said it. I don’t fucking believe it, however.

I somehow have this picture of myself being ageless. I mean, what does being 54 mean? Here’s some qualities I have that fit into the AARP picture:

:: A widow
:: A grandmother
:: White-haired (yeah, I dye it blonde, so bite me)
:: Comfortable shoes are beginning to appeal

Here’s a few that don’t fit:

:: I love rock
:: I still find Caddyshack hysterically funny
:: My blood pressure is perfect
:: I still say “fuck” all the time
:: I have no sense of decorum
:: I think the Red Hats are assholes

Will this list stand the test of time and continue to be valid in ten years? More than likely.

I am not an AARP member…but John is. Heh. Next year, when I turn double nickels, I plan on taking every fucking senior citizen discount I can. Elly and my Grandma Carsten have set fine examples of what older women can be. I’m sure I’ll be as irascible as my mother when I’m 80. Grandma threw the doctors out of her room two days before she died and told them to leave her alone, she was dying. She was the best.

I hate the cult of "crone," by the way. That's even stupider than the Red Hat nonsense.

Sock Season
With about 1/3 of the last Ran sleeve to go, I put it down to start some socks. I always knit a pile of socks in the summer. In fact, there’s usually a sock on the needles at any given time no matter what the season. I never count socks as Projects. Socks are like Kleenex, kinda. Disposable. You make them, you wear them out, you make more. I have any number of pairs in varying degrees of decomposition, the oldest pair being about 5 years old.

I almost always make them from fingering weight sock yarn, I always use the same basic plain vanilla pattern of 60 sts, I sometimes put different stitch patterns into the instep, but by and large, they’re pretty simpleminded.

Socks never bore me, for some reason. I suppose it’s because they’re action-filled, knittingwise. Other than socks (and endless Wallabys for Liz when she was little because she loved them and I could never say no to her), I never knit the same thing twice.

Maryland Sheep & Wool (and Spinning as an Ancillary to Knitting)
This festival is looming and I still haven’t decided whether I’ll go. I probably won’t, since I just blew a ton of cash on the car, but I would encourage anyone who can to do so. It is absolutely wonderful, particularly if you are interested in spinning. I bought my Schacht double-treadle wheel there five years ago.

I’m forever spinning this merino/silk/angora, it seems. There’s still piles of it in my spinning basket and I’m going to have to A) figure out what I want to use the finished yarn for; and B) what color I will dye it, since it’s white.

I have done very little spinning the past year but when I do it, I remember just how much I love it. I sat down at the wheel the other day for about 20 minutes, set up a new drive band, oiled the wheel, and spun a few odd yards. Then I pulled out my high-whorl spindle and fucked around with that. For some reason, I have never really been able to use spindles to my satisfaction. I own three, including a lovely Hatchtown low-whorl. But I do agree with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts—high-whorl is the way to go. If you are interested in learning, her book is superlative.

Lately, it seems that I’ve bought overall more in the way of spinning books than knitting books. I recently bought Alden Amos’s Big Book of Handspinning to round out my spinning library. It’s the ultimate compendium, although probably not for a beginner. Might be a bit overwhelming. I’ve been reading bits and pieces of it, and learning a lot.

And now to spin myself back into the reality of my rare and handy work day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. --Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in New Jersey. Nine to ten hours a day of work. And knit those rows when you can, under the desk but not in the car. I’m writing this early in the morning in my office, just so’s I can actually get something up on the blog. Hey, it beats doing the Student Support Satisfaction Survey report.

Cotton Deadlies
I’ve barely had enough time to read the collective mags with their preponderance of heavy cotton objets but it’s no loss, based on the photos I’ve seen. I did not buy Knitter’s. In fact, I don’t think I’ve purchased a copy in a year.

I have an abhorrence to putting my money in the X-men’s pockets, you know?

Actually, this issue’s cover was the best they’ve had in a long time; however, I can’t say much for the garments within. Very blah, as usual. Have you noticed that other than Kathy Zimmerman, most of the designers are relatively unknown? I wonder how much the Drag-goon has pissed off the famous designers? No Tiny Diva in this issue, haven’t seen Meg’s name in ages, nothing from Deborah Newton or Kristin Nicholas. Even the ubiquitous Nicky Epstein and Norah Gaughan are missing in action.

Very Odds and Ends
The Ran tunic is almost done and with that, I leave the world of other people’s designs and head into my own fresh design hell. I figure I need to do some designs for the book, based on my outline. One of my planned projects is a fitted short jacket, knit in linen stitch, which will use about 8 shades of Koigu, from light to dark, in varying shades of light blue to darker blue to magenta. You have to see the shades to get the picture. Since Kathy has all the KPPPM numbers memorized, perhaps I can just give those to you and she can say yea or nay. Heh.

One chapter will be devoted to an anatomy of a sweater’s creation, and I think this will be the one to document it.

There will be no warshcloths or felted bottle covers in the book. Forewarned is forearmed.

Annie’s Book
I got Annie Modesitt’s book, Knitting Heretic, last week and it’s been a good read. There’s some really good info in it besides the combined knitting—excellent sections on the use of I-cord, cabling without needles, etc. I personally have not been inclined to learn combined knitting because I’m perfectly happy with the way I knit; however, it’s always good to know about it. There may come a time when I might want to use it.

It’s really hard to criticize a friend’s work. I love Annie dearly. However, I would hope she will view my book with her eagle eye when it comes out, too. The book format needs to be larger than digest size and the type needs to be larger because I’m fucking blind. Those are my two main criticisms of the book.

I also hope there aren’t as many people who think they knit incorrectly as Annie seems to think there are. Jesus. Telling someone they hold their needles incorrectly and create their stitches wrong is like telling them they aren’t using proper sexual techniques. Everyone does both in their own way.

Hey, if you make the fabric, you’re knitting correctly, eh? I wouldn’t deign to tell you if you’re having sex correctly. I hope you are.

And with that, I must publish this to the blog, get myself some caffeine, and hie me to the conference room by 9 a.m.

Ah, this corporate life I live. So rare and so fucking unhandy. But it pays the bills.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Yoo hoo! To all my adoring fans, I just want to say that I’ve had quite enough of this bitch Marilyn Roberts making fun of me and calling me the Tiny Diva—of course, what would you expect from a woman who lives in New Jersey? I may be short of stature but I’m sure big on ME, and I live in Manhattan. When you’ve got talent, you shouldn’t let anyone hold you back. And remember, any publicity is good publicity.

I had one of my dear, dear, dear fans who’s a HYUK techie (and Julie, you KNOW who you are! Kisses to you, so sorry I didn’t have the time to chat at my last Reversible Garter Stitch seminar) fix it so I could take over her hated blog and just let you ALL know what a great time I’m having here in Irkutsk, teaching these darling little women how to make quick-crochet babushkas for those long Siberian summers. And of course, sitting here by Lake Baikal with a hot cup of Russian tea does wonders for one’s complexion! Dashing around the streets of Irkutsk City, waving to all the natives, such fun! I sure can recommend the local yarn—bring plenty of rubles, dear ones.

Jetting back to the States shortly so I can make some of my wonderful TV appearances that I’m sure you won’t want to miss—here’s a list of just a few (my goodness, I just can’t seem to make EVERYONE happy, wish I could be in 20 places at once!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Don’t forget to stay up really, really late or get up really, really early!

::April 12 5:30 a.m. Akron, OH Ch. 21 Public Access: Akron in the Morning: I’ll be teaching the anchor guy how to knit—isn’t that cool???!!!!

::April 20 1:24 a.m. Interferon, PA Ch. 54: Scrumbling with Sarah—I love to work with people who are kind of unsophisticated, you know?

::April 25 6:30 a.m. Watchyertoochee, OK, Ch. 3: Native American News Hour—Crocheted Bikini Tops in 2 minutes. Just the right funky thing to wear on the reservation!!!

And don’t forget, my new book will be out just in time for Stitches East—buy your advance copies now, so I’ll have lots of money to go yarn shopping with when I jet off to the Aleutian Islands next month. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about because I know you’ll buy tons of copies anyway but I will let you in on a little secret…on the cover, I’m dressed up like Barbie, wearing a costume I knitted myself out of Fun Fur and it’s (you guessed it!) PINK!!!!!!!!!! Whee!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s about all I have time for…gotta run. Marc Jacobs just called to see if I’d clean the bathrooms at his atelier. Anything for Marc! Just kidding, he’s asked me if I’d knit up a few savory swatches in my favorite pink yarn that he can use for design ideas. That Marc, he tries soooo hard and I really think that he’s picked up quite a few pointers from me.

Love you all! Kisskisskisskisskiss!!!!!! Don’t forget, buy the book. Oh yes, I forgot. It’s called “Fabulous Fast Fashions for the Fabulous Fashion You.” There’s no design that takes more than 10 minutes to create. Isn’t that fabulous? Aren’t I?