Sunday, August 29, 2004

Best Quote I heard All Day
Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist—Alvin Dark, former baseball coach

There’s nothing like knitting at Yankee Stadium on a beautiful August Sunday.

The Yanks v. the Angels. It was quite the humdrum game. Yanks lost, 4-3.

About all I feel like doing lately is spinning. So I’ve finished plying all the Romney/unknown domestic. I’m fairly pleased with the results, although the finished product is not exactly what I was hoping to get.

During this process, I learned how to spin much finer than I have been in the past. So I went back to the merino/silk/angora last night and although it’s still tricky to spin, I am much happier with my technique.

I’ve ditched the idea of spinning singles that will ply double to a fingering weight, for the time being. If I can do a DK, I’ll be more than happy.

Potential Knitty Cover Girl

Thanks to my good friend Pat Conway, who sent me this picture in an e-mail entitled “Texas Whore.” Loopy made a comment about this picture that included a reference to Laura Bush. I doubt Laura has shoes like these.

I kinda feel sorry for the poor sheep. It certainly looks long-suffering.

Would You Buy Yarn From This Woman?
Kim Salazar, of wiseNeedle fame, started a very interesting thread on Knit Flame the other day. Should a rank beginner work in a yarn shop, where presumably s/he would need to help others possibly as rank as s/he?

Despite my frequent ranting about KnitDweebs and clueless scarf-knitters, I have known a few talented beginners who most certainly were quick studies. One woman who I taught to knit years ago picked a Fair Isle cardigan as her first sweater, leapt into the project with huge enthusiasm, and made a garment that anyone would have been proud of.

If you piddle around knitting scarves forever, you don’t learn squat. Some people are just naturally gifted. A job in a yarn shop, preferably with an owner who knows something, is the perfect apprenticeship.

I had the great good fortune, when I was learning to be a grown-up knitter, of working part-time for a shop in Fort Lee, NJ, doing the finishing work and learning how to design. The owner was an impossible bitch but willing to teach me what she knew. I learned how to deal with the public, where to get them answers, and when I was in over my head.

Of course, practically all the shop sold was Cravenella, a 70% wool/30% rayon fingering weight yarn distributed by Melrose, Sunray Yarns, Plymouth, and other companies, in a zillion colors. (I don't believe it is available any longer, at least to handknitters.) And the owner did all of the designing. No pattern books, you had to buy one of hers.

It was a tremendous learning experience for me. And I like to think that I helped a lot of people, as inexperienced as I was.

It’s a fine weekend here in northwest NJ. Time to get ready for a rare (and quite handy) day at the lake.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook—Julia Child

Even if you are not a fan of cooking shows, Julia’s was the best. Even if you’re not a fan of French cooking, you can appreciate her dedication to the art.

And her philosophy of excellence in what she did can so easily be translated to knitting and beyond. Below is an excerpt from an editorial column in yesterday’s NY Times by her grandnephew by marriage, Alex Prud’homme:

One didn't simply whip up a homemade baguette or champignons à la grecque any old way; one must make them the "right" way. Julia's method was to spend hours on "scientific" research, learning how master chefs approached a recipe. When she found an approach she liked, she'd "submit it to the empirical test." By this, Julia meant: "Find out if a recipe is any good by doing it. If the mayonnaise doesn't 'catch' properly, then try it again until you get it all right - the temperature of the bowl, the type of oil, the vinegar, the speed at which you whisk it all together. A little extra effort shows your guests that you care about the food. It's always worth it."

A little extra effort is always worth it, no matter what you’re making or doing.

NYC Fashionistas Eschew Ponchos
That’s right, gang. I’ve been working two days a week up on Lexington Ave. and 43rd St. and I have seen exactly one pink poncho. Worn by a young girl who was clearly not a New Yorker. Or perhaps recently arrived from another state.

Ponchos are not “in.” Well, at least not in the Big Apple. Further proof of this came to me when I picked up the latest New York Magazine, their annual Fall Fashion issue.

No ponchos to be found there, either. However, there was a beautiful handknit cabled cardigan/coat modeled by Brooke Shields (yeah, she’s still around).

Your cost? $2,725. The Hermès bag that accessorizes it? $5,600. No fiber content noted on the coat.

I’ll wait for the Target knock-off. Or one could lift the pattern easily from the photo.

Knit List Newz
:: How Much is That Doggie In The Window With the Tibetan Silk Chewtoy?

I’m really loving the Knit List these days, wherein a KLister posted about being asked to leave her dog out of a knitting store. In high “dungeon” the aforementioned knitter declared that she’d never return to the yarn shop again.

Such a pity. Every yarn shop needs a dog visitor. Besides the leaving of dog-hair tufts, the liability issue of dog biting scarf-knitting customer is one that’s just so easily ignored.

Yay knitting. Yay dog in knitting shop.

:: For the Love of Numfar
“Secular” Knitting
Have you read the posts about this one?

I’m just mentioning it because all I want to say is: Just have a nice cup of shut-the-fuck-up.

Knit U Newz
None, as usual. Except that once again, a virus has struck down the message portal of the Knitting Universe. I guess in that universe, the server stands unprotected. Good thing I get it in digest form, I suppose. And good thing I delete said digest after skimming the uninspiring table of contents.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Where’s the Spun Gold Already?
I did what Loopy suggested and plied the domestic with the Romney. It’s OK, I can live with it. When I get it skeined off of the bobbin today, I’ll take a picture of it.

I’m working on finishing the Taos. Knitting on the train to NYC helps. This may actually be finished in time for Stitches.

Happy Birthday, Eleanor
Today is my mother’s 81st birthday. Here’s to the original knitting curmudgeon, who taught me more than I can ever thank her for, including how to knit. She’s my best knitting pal, my shoulder to cry on, and my personal role model.

So I want to apologize to her publicly for being such a bratty kid. Sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to take the old lady in the wheelchair for a ride down the hill. I didn’t mean to wander off on the SS United States when Grandma was leaving for Europe, thus holding up the ship’s departure while everyone looked for me. I didn’t mean to break the candy dish when I was watching “Hopalong Cassidy.” I didn’t mean to ride no-hands down the middle of Valley Rd. while you were driving in back of me (I didn’t see you, I really didn’t). I didn’t mean to throw temper tantrums on the pavement in New York while Aunt Helga was babysitting me. I didn’t mean to let that grass cut bleed down my leg so that I could walk into the kitchen nonchalantly, red running from knee to ankle, knowing you hated the sight of blood.

My mother is an amazing woman, no doubt about it.

I mean, who else would have said to me at age 5, “Shut up, I’m counting”? I love her more than I could ever say.

She’s the most rare and handy person I know, a breast cancer survivor, survivor triumphant over life's tough times. May she have many, many more years of knitting and opining.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Good morning! What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000. –Wavy Gravy at Woodstock

For those who remember, Woodstock was actually held at Max Yasgur’s Pig Farm in Bethel, NY. They’re having a 35th reunion next weekend at the Pig Farm, by the way. Thirty-five years. My God.

However, the town of Woodstock makes all sorts of financial hay to this day from an event the town didn’t host. These days, it's more or less your archetypical artsy-fartsy tourist hole, filled with people who clearly don't know that Woodstock is over, as they say. Overpriced crafts, incense burning, horrible tie-dyed t-shirts. You get the picture.

We did enjoy walking about the town. It's quite pretty and there's a beautiful stream that runs through it, a bit hidden from view.

I didn’t go to the '69 Festival—I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter Jenn and even at 19, a relatively sensible person. So I’d never been to the town—been near it but never there. However, John and I went up yesterday just for something to do.

Somehow, if the spirit of Woodstock lives on, it sure as shit doesn’t live on in the town’s two yarn shops. Feh.

However, there was a quilting shop that might have lived up to my expectations, were I a serious quilter. Another potential needlework pitfall that I must avoid, although I know how to quilt. The visions of a fabric stash along with the yarn stash and not enough time for either is monumentally frightening.

I'm happy to say that I continue to be more or less the same hippy chick I was 35 years ago, with some minor lifestyle alterations and attitude adjustments. But not many.

The Imaginary Yarn Shop
I almost never think about going to yarn shops when I’m off and running to an unknown city, state or country. Why?

First, because I don’t plan trips around yarn shopping. Ah, sacrilege to the ears of thousands of Knit List and Knit U members who wantonly post their requests for “LYS in Tierra del Fuego, OH” without doing a search.

Second, it has been my experience, with one or two exceptions, that when I do get around to checking out local yarn shops in my travels, they are inevitably filled with crap I’ve seen plenty of times before. In other words, intrepid travelers, if you go to a local yarn shop almost anywhere, you will most likely see the same old shit you’ve seen in your town.

We all have this imaginary yarn shop in our heads, which is staffed by lovely, knowledgeable people and filled to the brim with the kind of yarn we love to knit with but have never before seen. Unless you live miles from any yarn shop, this is unlikely to happen. But knitters persist in deluding themselves. Myself included.

I’ve found several shops, The Fiber Studio in Henniker, NH, about which I’ve talked before, The Yarn Shop in Laconia, NH, and Aunt Jean’s, in Clinton, NJ, which did not disappoint.

And my first trip to Patternworks’s Poughkeepsie warehouse years ago, which was probably the closest to yarn Nirvana that I’ll ever see. (I have not been to the new shop in Center Harbor, NH.)

So I’ll keep stopping and looking at yarn shops in my travels. But I know that I’ll probably see an abundance of frou-frou and very little in the way of something new and exciting.

Working the Yarn
I’m about to go off to my spinning wheel and ply up some of the Romney I showed you last week. Spun a bobbinful of the “domestic” stuff, as well. Loopy suggested that I ply one strand of the Romney with one of the domestic to see if they work. I will do. But I’m not hopeful.

Knitting has slowed to a crawl. With two days a week working in NYC as a consultant, along with my other duties as Ops Manager the other three days at Eagle Rock, it’s been a trial to wedge in some knitting. Doing it on the train helps, if I don’t fall asleep.

I’m back to finishing up the Taos, since it’s simple and will be going into the book. I’ve started a chart for some purple, lavender, and green Fair Isle socks. I know, the colors sound vile, but trust me, they work. And I’ve been doing a few yards of spinning here and there. So I suppose you could call these little half-assed efforts knitting accomplishments of some sort.

Freebie Patterns
I will be republishing That Rude German’s Socks when I get a free minute to do some work on the blog. I’ll probably put up the Wilbury sock pattern too, simply because it’s a good basic sock pattern. Not terribly exciting but it’s my tried-and-true generic fingering weight sock design that I use over and over again, with variations on the theme.

So now, on this grimly dank Sunday in NJ, where the weather has sucked continuously, I guess I’ll see if I can be domestic and get some laundry done.

And do some increasingly rare knitting and spinning. How handy.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.--Dave Barry

At least I get invites--two parties this weekend, one yesterday, one in about 3 hours.

I don't argue at parties.

The Archives
They're back. I finally begged Blogger to help me, after months of tearing my hair out trying in vain to get the links to work. Geeks are good, you know?

I just want to say, Steve from Blogger not only got the job done in less than 12 hours, he sent me an e-mail immediately to tell me that they were all back.

So then I had the non-pleasure of going back and reading some of my early blogs. Ye Gods. You should never read shit you wrote 2 years ago.

Pathetic. Really. But I do think I've improved.

Do the Twist
The above heading will ring some aged bells in some aged heads, no doubt. I could rename my living room The Peppermint Lounge. (Anyone who comments about this will immediately reveal their age to be 50+.)

As I have said, I have QJ to thank for getting me back into spinning. I finished up the Romney yesterday, although in my wretched novicehood, it dawned on me that I have neither spun it finely enough to give me a fingering weight when plied double nor do I probably have enough of said yarn to knit a pair of socks. But it did come out quite nicely, I thought.

There's a bit more of the magenta hidden, but the dye is predominantly shades of blue. It will be interesting to see it plied up.

I did have some other handpainted roving; however, this wool (marked "domestic" on the tag) has a bit of mauvish-brown in it. I had thought to ply it with the Romney. Now I'm not sure.

I also have 4 ounces of this. Loopy, my spinning mentor, who knows far more than I, agreed with me when I wrote her saying I thought that the 4 ozs. of Romney should have spun up to more than a bobbin and a half. I have a McMorran scale somewhere that I need to dig out so I can get an idea of the yardage.

In the meanwhile, there's a nifty gadget from Nancy's Knick Knacks that I think I'll get ASAP. It's a yarn meter, and while it does not measure yards, just feet, I don't find that a problem. NKK also makes a fine WPI tool that looks worth having.

Why a Knitted Bikini Bra Looks Like Shit on Most People
You know why.

The greater question, and one that was more or less asked in the Comments from the last entry, is what looks good on what body type. (Dana asked a very good question, which I'll get to in the next entry: How do you decide which size of a design to make? That is, how do you guess how much ease a pattern designer intended a garment to have, and/or what will look flattering?)

David wanted to know about raglans. Only if you're reasonably thin. I presume that David doesn't have the bustiness issue. I do. I don't knit raglans for myself, although I enjoy making them. Liz, my rail-thin granddaughter, is just the person in my family who can wear raglans. My brother, who never wears sweaters, much to my mother's chagrin, is thin and could wear them.

Garment type for body type is a topic that is worth discussing in some length. However, I'll save that for the book. Nonetheless, although thin people have "issues" with certain garment styles, knitted garments, much like the TV camera, tend to add heft to your girlish/boyish figure, thus we well-built peeples need to think about what looks good on us.

Drop-shoulder sweaters, while easy to do and ubiquitous in magazines and pattern books, have a bad habit of bunching at the non-shaped armholes. And that's why. There's no shaping to the armholes. Of course, I'm just as guilty as the next Chubster of wearing them on occasion.

But no one, no matter what the body type, can go wrong with a fully shaped garment. And by that, I mean fully-fashioned sleeves and their accompanying shaped armscyes. Most people's fitting problems begin at the chest. That's a given.

In short, this is why I've been touting Veronik Avery's Threepenny Pullover from this issue of IK. It's beautifully shaped, with vertical lines (yes, horizontal lines will make you look heavier, no matter what you think).

Loop is insistent that I once again do the Gallery of Ghastlies when I return from Stitches East in October. I will. It would seem that many people do have a severe problem in knitting something that flatters their body type.

Of course, you can make a sweater whose shape looks fine on you...but whose huge intarsia pattern of a cat draped over the shoulder, with 3-D tail waving in the wind, diminishes the overall fashionable effect, ya know, hey?

Just because you can knit it doesn't mean that you should wear it.

I've got just enough time to do some quick spinning and then it's off to see and be seen at the next party.

Being rare and handy means not arguing at parties. Here's hoping that this is not a Republican crowd.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Best Quote I Heard All Day
My socks DO match. They're the same thickness.—Steven Wright

I am in sock mode. This in response to my knitting ennui. When bored, knit socks.

Spin, You Fool, Spin
I have my dear Joseph to thank for inspiring me to spin again. There’s times when I read other people’s blogs to get my juices cranking again, and Joe’s new Louet and his lovely handspun was just the thing to get me back to my Schacht double treadle. (Jesus, they've gotten pricy!)

After endlessly (and not very happily) spinning a pile of merino/silk/angora, I plied what I had on two bobbins this morning at 8 a.m., changed my drive band, and finally picked up this incredible handpainted Romney that I bought three years ago at The Fiber Studio in Henniker, NH. Sometimes it’s good to shitcan what you’re not happy with. The m/s/a will have to be dyed—it’s snow white—and I simply don’t know where I’m going to do that. Crockpot dyeing seems to be the only answer and I’m not in the mood. Perhaps when the weather gets cooler.

I’m spinning the Romney finely enough so that as 2-ply, it should work perfectly for my usual 7spi socks. This is something that I’m thinking of adding to the book’s chapter on socks—socks made in commercial and handspun yarns. I don’t want to get into spinning heavily but I do think that quite a few people spin for socks.

When daughter Corinne returns my digital camera, I’ll have pictures of the Romney. It should be quite interesting to see how it plies up, since the large color areas run from midnight blue to magenta.

More on IK
Although Elly has decided that she will not knit the Threepenny Pullover because, as she says, it’s too complex for her if she wants to watch TV, I think I’ll probably knit it in the fall, after Stitches.

This pullover is a perfect example of outstanding detail and shaping, plus stitch patterns that are guaranteed to keep you interested. If you really want to stretch your knitting skills AND your finishing skills, you can’t beat this design. I spent a half-hour last night really reading through the directions and they appear to be quite good. I find that IK’s directions are A) usually very complete and well written and B) they don’t jump to a page in the back, thank God.

After considering Cashmereno as a substitute, I may well use the original yarn. Why? Because the sweater is worked in double-strand Lana Gatto VIP, but the seaming is done using a single strand. There’s a bit of band attachment here and rather than find matching crewel or needlepoint yarn with which to do the sewing, it makes sense to me to use what’s called for.

I’d love to make Annie Modesitt’s Spencer jacket but since the large cables run horizontally, I’m way too busty to wear something like that.

Oldies And Not-So-Oldies
After I’ve pawed through any knitting magazine, I read the ads. All of them. And I was glad to see Penny Straker is back in business, though I’m not quite sure she ever really went away. I cut my knitting teeth on those patterns 28 years ago. They always had excellent written directions with a lot of extra information—good for the beginner—with classic designs that have stood the passage of time.

One of my favorite websites and another regular IK advertiser, is Fiddlesticks Knitting. Incredible lace shawls and lace scarves. Ya wanna make a scarf? These are scarves worth making, in my opinion. If I ever finish the Forest Path Stole, which is, by the way, half finished, I will make Fiddlesticks’s Garden Shawl. It's a bit busy but I very much enjoy the challenge of doing lace.

Sheesh, a lot of links this time.

Ya Know, Hey?
John and I say that a lot. It's all in the intonation.

The point being, I get a fair amount of e-mail from Tontant Weaders asking questions. So here's my challenge to you. Write me if you've got some interesting knitting questions that need answering and I'll publish the best ones with my answers, complete with your name, if you'd like. (Make sure you put Blog Question in the subject, otherwise I might miss it.) And please don't send me questions like, "How do I do Kitchener Stitch" and other Google-able questions. Send thoughtful ones that might benefit everyone, including me. I learn from your questions, you know.

I'm always ready, willing, and usually able to help people, if they're interested in improving their knitting.

Anyway, enough of this. Back to my goal of finishing a bobbinful of Romney. And then it’s back to socks. The Yankees are on. The ever so rare and handy Big Unit is not coming to NY. Ah well.