Monday, July 26, 2004

How's this for an obnoxious animated graphic? Bouncing balls.

Yeah, baby.

Best Quote I Heard All Day

Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.—Oscar Wilde

It suddenly occurred to me on the weekend that the blog is officially two years old at the end of this month—this week, in fact. I wish I could resurrect the old archives but they seem to have been lost when I changed web hosts in February. However, as near as I can recollect, I started the blog around July 27th. At least, that was a Saturday and I know I did this blogging thing on the last weekend of July.

2002 was my “annus horribilis.” I lost my beloved husband, Jimmy, to acute myelogenous leukemia in January. His death was very sudden, one day after his diagnosis: read into that what you will. We had been married almost 33 years and then ::poof:: he was gone. Somehow, you manage. You rise past the grief, past the tears, past the void, and you carry on. And so I did, although not without many, many bumps along the way.

When the fog began to lift, around the end of July, I needed an outlet, something to keep me focused and happier.  I had heard about this new online publishing deal, blogging. I don’t even remember how I found Blogger. But once I did, I was off and running and blogging. I’d had a web site between 1997 and 1998, also called The Knitting Curmudgeon, but it was fairly static, with links to snarky essays about knitting that I’d written and pictures of my projects. The web site was my reaction to the suffocating nonsense that was beginning to infiltrate the Knit List. However, blogging appealed far more—it was fluid, immediate, and eminently easy to do. Writing the blog became more than simply grief therapy; it gave me the opportunity to combine my two loves, knitting and writing. And sounding off. Sorry, that makes three. Heh.

You, my readers, have been there for me. You’ve given me support when I got torpedoed by erstwhile boyfriends. (Who can forget Achim? Um, me.) You’ve listened to me opine about the state of knitting, rant about warshcloths and KnitDweebs, and kick the Purling Puppies (God and Allah be willing, may they never come here again). And finally, you were there when I met John last year, my döppelgänger, my Johnny Action.

If I didn’t have readers, would I continue writing? No doubt about it. I could no more stop writing than I could stop knitting. I know many of you just read, silently, and continue on your journey without leaving a comment. That’s fine. However, I’m always glad to hear from the Great Unspoken, you know.

Thanks, gang. It’s been a great two years. And there’ll be many more.

How I Blog
I thought you’d like to know how I put each blog entry together. Very carefully, although you might not realize it. Now you will.

Often, ideas for the blog come to me in the car. I have no idea why. Probably because it’s the one time I can think without interruption—unless, of course, my cell phone rings. Sometimes something I read or see on the internet prompts an entry segment. Sometimes I’ll be knitting and doing a particular technique and want to write about it. Sometimes Loopy will send me something from the lists that she’s found particularly egregious and wants to share.

Once I have a vague idea of what I will write, I generally do an initial post on Word, editing as I go. I do this as a precaution, having written a whole post on Blogger only to lose it to the vagaries of the publishing app they use. While I’m writing on Word, I will double-check any references, such as book titles, name spellings, etc. for accuracy.

Then the whole shebang is copied and pasted into the Blogger post window. I do any linking and photo downloading there. The blog is actually on my web site—Blogger simply provides the publishing tool. Once the initial draft is published, I fine-tune it by reading and re-editing until it suits my purposes.

The entire process can take up to two hours or more, from start to finish. The actual writing goes fast once I know what I want to write about—it’s the other crap that takes time. (And naturally, tonight I screwed up the text color, so what can I say?)
IK In Hand
Finally got my copy at Borders on the way home tonight. Joe's already done an excellent review of this issue, so I can only add my dollah-three-eighty to what he's already said.

My two favorite designs are most definitely Annie's Spencer jacket and Veronik Avery's Three-Penny Pullover. And no, I don't like Annie's stuff just because she's my friend. My friends who design, Annie and Joe and Kathy, are all first-rate designers.  The issue, as a whole, is much more appealing than previous issues.  I can definitely see doing the Three-Penny PO in Cashmereno.

However, the Touch-Me Cardigan, also by Avery? Has anyone costed that sucker out? Besides having no desire to knit a Touch-Me anything (although I do have 4 balls of it for a scarf for Johnny because he wants one--shoot me now), I'm not willing to sell the ranch. At $14.50US a ball, I'd have to spend $333.00 to make the 44.5" size. I don't think so. This jacket will go over big with the AC Moore crowd, no doubt.  Anyone want to figure out the price in Lion Brand?

The photography in IK is still abysmal.  Besides the hideous picture of Annie's jacket, the Tartan Jacket photo is blurry. Or my eyes are shot to shit. Printing on matte paper will always cost you color clarity but damn! too many of these pictures are dark. IK pictures are almost always too dark. 

I’ve managed to play catch-up with my list digests, although Knit U seems to be down again with a virus (not surprising, since they clearly don’t have a clue as to how to protect their server—this is at least the second and possibly the third time they’ve been hit).

The Knit List’s “Moms” (what an awful title—I didn’t ask anyone else to be my “Mom” other than Elly) see fit to censor indiscriminately, as does Knit U, so that they can avoid any “unpleasantness.” I don’t post to the Knit List for that reason and others too numerous to discuss. Of course, I am sure that in their eyes I would be most “unpleasant.” And according to their definition, they’d be right. There are few large lists that don’t blossom into bogs of sweetness and light, general inanities, and long discussions about personal topics such as hubby’s fractured hip that masquerade as Obligatory Knitting Content. (“I took DH to the doctor’s and knit while we waited for the results of his MRI.”)

Someone on the KF list suggested that perhaps some of the KnitDweebs might take their trash to Blogdom. I, for one, think that's a swell idea, although I don't harbor any hopes of the Knit List returning to its 1997 self. But at least some of these knuckleheads will entertain their friends on their blogs and perhaps the list will become quasi-useful again. Perhaps.

I mean, I really don’t see where a knitted frou-frou poncho is rare and handy. I really don’t.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Most women's magazines simply try to mold women into bigger and better consumers.—Gloria Steinem

Can this not also be said about the knitting magazines these days?

Be a frou-frou yarn consumer—join the sisterhood.

I’m not excluding the guys, by the way.

Big Boy Knitting
I have to say that, as a reader of MenWhoKnit, a friend of Joe’s, and cyberfriend to other knitter-dudes, I think that these guys who knit generally do projects that are far more attractive and better thought-out than a lot of crap generated by women knitters.

Of course, women knitters probably outnumber men by 500 to 1. Statistics would indicate that there’s a far greater likelihood that some broad somewhere has knit something tacky and nasty than a guy. (And we know this to be true.) I truly have not yet seen a guy knit something ghastly, although if any of you know of a male counterpart to some of the Knit List ladies who do Dazzleaire warshcloths, let me know.

The knitting world needs more male designers (hint to Joe, Antonio, Rob, et al to get busy—and a hint to the X-Dragon to get out of the business). Years ago, when I worked for McCall’s Needlework & Crafts, we had a couple of guys who were incredibly talented. Sadly, one of the best, Donald Grover, who designed the best men’s sweaters I’ve ever seen, died of AIDS in the late ‘80s. Such a terrible loss. 

Speaking of McCall’s N&C
I was Googling around looking for used magazines when I discovered the cover to one of the issues I worked on when I was Assistant Knit/Crochet Editor.

This was arguably the finest issue of McCall’s N&C ever. And believe me, that’s not because I worked on it. It was primarily due to the extraordinary Fashion Editor, Lola Ehrlich, who went on to edit Vogue Knitting. I remember that even as I struggled to edit the knitting patterns (Gena Rhoades, the knitting/crochet editor and my boss, was primarily a crochet whiz and was happy to unload all of the knitting patterns on me), I was blown away by the quality and freshness of the designs. You can buy this issue used. I found it at, from where I also swiped the picture of the cover above. At $2CAD, its cost is a little less than the 1983 price $2.50. By the way, I still have my issue...and I still have nightmares about editing that goose sweater on the cover. Heh. 

Sneak Peek at IK
I spent yet another great weekend in Saratoga staying with Em and Mitch. John and I went up there for the Hargreaves Family Reunion. Shit, there’s a lot of them Hargreaves. But I had a great time and enjoyed meeting John’s Dad, cousins, aunts, and assorted relatives, and hanging out with the Hargreave brothers, Ken and Bob. I love my Johnny Action. He should have been a professional baseball announcer. (Sotto voce: GO YANKEES! The Curse of the Bambino continues.)

The point of all of this is that Em had the Fall edition of Interweave Knits. And you know what? It looks very good, at least from what I could see doing a quick flip-through. Annie Modesitt’s got a neat jacket in this issue. I didn’t study everything closely but at least IK is moving towards a good place, I think. Em has a subscription, so I suppose it will be several weeks yet before it’s out on the newsstands.

I checked out the covers for the next Knitter’s. I always go to Vote for the Cover to get a sense of the upcoming issue. The three sweaters weren’t bad but nothing to write home about. I rather liked #1 but I need to see a better quality picture first.

And besides, I’m not planning on making anything from any magazine right now, so it’s moot. 

Knitting Ennui Continues
Perhaps I need to refresh myself by doing something else. I did start a pair of socks on the Saratoga weekend, only to find myself bored with those too.

I’ve been reading heavily, which may account for my lack of interest in picking up the needles. I highly recommend the Jon Krakauer book, Under the Banner of Heaven, a fascinating look at Mormonism in the light of a murder committed by two fundamentalist LDS. (Of course, if you’ve never read his Into Thin Air, start with that—great adventure book about climbing Mt. Everest.) And then there’s Stiff, which I believe Carol S. has also read, about what happens to your body when you’re dead. It’s totally absorbing and often funny in its grotesquerie.

If anyone has any rare and handy books they’d like to recommend, I’m open.

Out of the Closet
I can’t say that I knit in public all that frequently because I seem to be either stuck in the office or home or at friends.  However, John’s family reunion seemed like the perfect place to work on a pair of socks while chatting with his family. And lo! Out of the woodwork comes John’s cousin Joanna, who was working on this wonderful braided rug. 

Here's a detail shot.

She’s from Massachusetts and has access to fabrics from the mills, which sadly, according to her, are going out of business. She’s been snatching up fabric as quickly as she can.

Funny how we have patience for knitting but not for other, equally challenging crafts. There’s no way I would have the patience to braid a rug.  Or do needlepoint.  And often, when I tell people of other craft persuasions just that, their response is almost always, “I wouldn’t have the patience to knit.”

You do what you do.

List Snooze
If it weren’t for Loopy sending me cherce bits from the lists, I honestly wouldn’t have the slightest notion as to what’s going on. And no loss that is, either.  Apparently there has been a bit of a to-do over the dumbing-down of knitting.

Have I been writing about that for two years or what? So this is news?

The only list I check out on a semi-regular basis these days is KnitFlame and even that I skim.

Out of Circ
The laptop has been out of circulation due to hideous adware/spyware infestation. My beloved daughter Corinne, wise in all ways technical because of her infinite smarts and a Network Tech diploma from The Chubb Institute, offered to take it while I was away last weekend, strip it down, and install spyware monitoring software. I just got it back the day before yesterday; hence, my tardiness in posting this week.  I rather suspect things will even out at work so that I can post twice a week again. 

Time to post this and get ready for AnnMarie’s annual barbecue, which, if we are at all lucky in rain-sodden NJ, will remain dry under cloudy skies and horrible humidity.

Ah, summer. It really is a rare and handy season.    

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Some rainy winter Sundays when there's a little boredom, you should always carry a gun. Not to shoot yourself, but to know exactly that you're always making a choice. --Lina Wertmuller

Perhaps I should just shoot my knitting.

(Maybe I should change this to Best Quote I Heard All Week, since I started writing this four days ago. It would be lovely if had some jobs for Pro Bloggers that paid handsomely. That way perhaps I could cease my employment as an Ops manager and write full-time.)

Hand Jive
I tend not to complain about various minor ailments, for the simple fact that once one reaches a certain age, life is fraught with aches, pains, and occasional indigestion, all of which are well worth ignoring.

But damn, my right hand hurts. Since Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been done to a crisp on the list, suffice it to say that I know how to deal with it. That doesn’t make it easier to knit. I’m working a row, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down. I’m finding the Taos to be harder on my hands to knit that I thought it might be, probably because it’s not terribly resilient due to its 44% cotton content.

Generally, the thinner the yarn and smaller the needles, the easier it is for me to knit. Besides finer yarn being a personal preference, I think that big yarn and big needles can wreak total havoc on one’s wrists and hands.

So the Taos, with the back completed and the front half done, is being set aside for a week or so. I may go back to the Forest Path Stole, which is half done and languishing in a bag.

Incidentally, before you ask, the orthopedist says that my CTS definitely comes from using the mouse, not from knitting. Unfortunately, I can’t give the mouse a rest, like I can knitting.

Welcome Back My Friends, to the Show That Never Ends
It’s getting to be that time of year when the promotion for Stitches East goes into high gear. I’ve already decided that I’m going—there was never any question of that. However, this year I am taking a totally different approach to how I do the market.

First of all, Elly and I discussed the fact that we both raced through the market last year. Well, she did. I was happy to noodle around but when my mother goes shopping, she functions like an ICBM—strategic strikes only. So she has promised me that we will pay more attention to the vendors listed and more attention to the smaller booths.

I find buying yarn at Stitches a pain in the ass, to be honest. The lighting is far better in AC than it was in Valley Forge but I still like to look at colors in natural light. Not that I don’t end up buying some yarn but in the main, I go for books, tools, and sock yarn. I always need something from all of those categories. If you’re the kind of person who buys yarn for yarn’s sake, you can spend a fortune. I am very project-oriented and seldom buy anything unless I know exactly I’m going to do with it—even if it’s an ephemeral design concept that will solidify later.

The Holy Shit Trinity
That’s what I stick to—3 projects. I seldom pick “quick/easy/simple,” although at the rate I’m completing anything these days, I could almost (“almost” being the operative word) go for something that knits up fast. Considering that two of my three projects are complex AND knit on small needles, I suppose that I might want to start counting socks as projects so that I can fool myself into thinking that I’m getting shit done.

I’m not. I’m a slow-ass knitter to begin with. And with a maximum of two hours a day in which to knit, I suppose I can’t expect much more of myself.

I’m so focused, it’s beginning to make me crazy. I absolutely will not start another thing unless I have finished something. The Trinity stays constant that way. However, one of the three is a project for the book and I need to keep that ratio, if not increase it, if I ever hope to finish the book and get it published. In fact, once I’ve finished the other two, they will get supplanted by book designs.

Don’t expect to see this book before the fall of 2005. I’ve decided that I will fob off some of the knitting designs to be knit by test knitters, whom I’ve already picked, but I really prefer to do most of the knitting myself.

And I still have that Koigu jacket that’s been designed in my musty brain and will be the next project I knit for the book. It’s one I can’t wait to start—but I have to finish the Taos first.

Guillotine Scarves
I’ve been reading this strange little mystery that is set in the London of 1794, about émigrés from the French Revolution. And one of the fashions in Paris at that time was the wearing of little red bands around the neck, which were supposedly symbolic of the guillotine’s cut.

I’m thinking that knitting a guillotine scarf, perhaps from some French frou-frou yarn, would be just the ticket for the book—or perhaps to sell to well-heeled idiots at craft shows. The marketing alone would be amusing, n’est-ce pas? You're welcome to contribute your marketing savvy. I somehow envision Wednesday Addams knitting a guillotine scarf for her doll.

And with that, this former French major says, a bien-tot. French is a rare and handy language but I don’t want to encourage Kathy, you know?

Monday, July 05, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.--Abbie Hoffman

Happy 4th of July. Now, can we get out of Iraq and get rid of Dubya? I think that's putting the cart before the horse, though.

Woodstock may be over, but some of us remember the sentiments of the era.

Non-knitting Holiday
I can't tell you how uninspired I've been the past week. I suppose it's due to my new job but I seem to be treading water with the Taos pullover. If I got 10 rows done this week, that's a lot. And during the three-day weekend, I played cards, played softball at our little family picnic yesterday, went swimming, went shopping, shaved my legs. And barely knit at all.

Everyone goes through stages, I guess. I've been going around and around with three projects for so long, my knitting tastebuds are dulled beyond belief. But I refuse to give into my itch to start something new.

My rule of thumb is: No more than three projects going at the same time. Ask Loopy. She knows that I stick to this religiously. It's the only way I get anything done. Therefore I am committed to finishing the Taos and then moving onto the next book project, which will be the tastefully beaded socks.

Sexed-Up Knitty
I have to say, I thought this past issue of Knitty was really trying much too hard to be "hip." And you know how much I hate "hipchic." The projects, other than Joan M-M's, were simply dull and stultifying. In other words, not exciting. Really, sex doesn't sell, not in this issue. However, no one, but no one, does knitted lingerie as exquisitely as Joan. She's a genius with the details that are so necessary when applying knitting to a garment genre like that.

This time around, most of the articles were a waste of time--meandering, and in the long run, boring. The only technical article was on grafting--and if you want to learn, it's a good one. And although in need of some good editing (as in, cut it to half its length), I thought the Knitters Against Bush article was mildly interesting. Not that you can really take this "movement" terribly seriously but it seems to me that there's quite a few of us needle freaks who'd like to trash Dubya in November. (As a sidebar, I wonder if warshcloth and toilet-paper cover knitters tend to be Republicans. I mean, stupid is as stupid does.)

As knitting magazines go, Knitty seems to be going the way of the rest of them, unfortunately. I certainly understand Amy's need to include advertisers and that's a good thing. I like reading knitting ads. But for the past few issues, the content's quality has been so uneven, both in the designs and the articles.

Having been an editor myself, I understand the difficulty Amy probably has in getting quality material. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the magazine has become a watered-down version of its former self. Initially, I supported Knitty because I felt it would give the knitting magazines a run for their collective money. I'm not so sure that it will. There have been too many mindless, silly projects, and not just in this issue, either. Knitty needs to start getting serious about knitting instead of fucking around.

Yeah, I never put up pictures of my family because frankly, who cares other than me? But since I do occasionally mention the various and sundry characters of the Roberts clan, here's a picture from yesterday's 4th of July picnic, during which Liz attempted to coat herself entirely in mud. It was great fun...for her. She was wise enough to leave the adults out of it and include only her friends.

This was nothing compared to the end of the mudslinging.

And here's my charming family with their significant others.

From the bottom, working clockwise, it's the grandson Ian, my Johnnyboy, my daughter Jenn with sister Corinne in back of her, Liz and her friends Bethany and Megan, and Norm, Jenn's boyfriend. Corinne's boyfriend Mike was off-camera somewhere.

I, of course, had the camera in my hand.

Next week, my rare and handy friends Joe, Kathy, Lisa, and Carol come to my house for a knitting pool party. Let's see what kind of interesting pictures I get from that day.

I will accept payoffs ahead of time.