Saturday, April 30, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage. --Woody Allen

I have high standards for yarn and low standards for food. There is little I won't eat (Brussel sprouts, lima beans) and too much that I will.

One of my favorite places (and Joe's, I might add) is up the road a piece from my house: Hotdog Johnny's. Jersey has a veritable plethora of roadside eateries. I love this place, and not because it's in Buttzville, either. Yes, Buttzville. What do you want from an area that has a road called "Shades of Death" that runs right past Ghost Lake? And towns called Tranquility and Stillwater. The AS Stillwater. This region is a great place to live.

I don't go 55 mph, so I've decided that I won't act 55. By the way, thanks to all for the birthday wishes. Much appreciated--sympathy was just what I needed, especially when Liz pointed out that I am old. Thanks, kid.

Non-Knitting Rant-o-rama
I have no pictures today because Liz has my camera. Why? So that she and her science fair partner Chris can take pictures of them working on their project (a solar oven made from a pizza box, very nifty idea) as proof that their parents did not do the project for them.

What a sorry state of affairs. Guidance is one thing, but parents doing kids' homework and projects for them is totally unacceptable. No wonder the HYUKs can't do much more than scarves. Mummy and Daddy never taught them to figure stuff out by themselves. What a terrible disservice these people are doing to their children. I suppose their kids never learn to wipe their asses on their own, either. They should be shot, or at least reported to DYFS for education abuse.

Birfday Present
My package of stuff came today from KnitPicks. Twenty skeins of Wool of the Andes and a Nancy's Knit Knacks electronic row counter, all courtesy of Ma's birthday check. I'm generally not one for gidgy gadgets but I've been wanting one of these counters for a while. It will retain your row count until the batteries wear out, 7 or 8 months. This is particularly handy for work that I don't touch frequently, like the Starmore Queen Anne's Lace. I've found that no matter how careful I am, the row counter dial tends to shift the numbers. Not good, especially on something like a complex Fair Isle, where it can be difficult to rediscover the correct row. I believe I will call my new counter Raci. Or maybe Rowsi. Woodums.

The Wool of the Andes will be used for an Aran design for the book. I'm going to modify the design of my first Aran (also my first sweater) so that it's a bit more challenging but retains the qualities of the original, which I made for my late uncle. The original was made in bulky Berella. Ye gods.

I thought that it might be of interest to write about my design process on this one. I've designed a number of Arans in the past but haven't done one in about 6 or 7 years, so this should be fun. Of course, I won't give away the pattern--you'll have to buy the book for that--but you'll probably enjoy watching me bumble around with it. Arans are a bugger to design. It takes a lot of planning and forethought, which I'll share with you beginning next week. And no, this will not be a Knitalong. Ever.

But I'll tell you, my fingers are itching to get started. The WOTA is really nice.

Other Knitting/Spinning Shit
Still knitting up the cranberry homespun. I like knitting my own yarn very much. I've finally learned to spin exactly what I enjoy working with. And I'm just about ready to ply my first skein of that Starry Night wool/mohair. Also a pleasure to spin. When I've done the skein, I'll put up a picture. That's presuming I get the camera back soon.

Time to eat pizza for dinner. With anchovies. Of course. Such a rare and handy addition.

Monday, April 25, 2005

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 Elliot, Standing Room Only weblog

Yes, it's double nickels day. Fifty five. Jesus. Born on April 25, 1950 at Lying In Hospital (Cornell MC now) in NYC at 9:36 p.m.

Perhaps I will get valuable discounts. I still don't belong to the AARP.

Other Important Birthdays
The other day, I was thinking about the time when I was editing Dolls magazine and was asked to design a sweater for Muffy VanderBear. Yes, I am admitting this in public, that I designed something for a teddy bear.

Our sister publication, Teddy Bear Review, was having its 10th birthday and Muffy was the cover girl. My copy of the issue is long gone but I did find one for sale on eBay, God knows who would buy it.

If you think it's tough designing for a human, try measuring a little tiny fucking bear. Muffy had no armpits. The sleeves were a bitch.

Other Ruminations on Age
The other day, as I was working on the book, I started thinking back 48 years ago, when Mammy taught me how to knit. The long-gone and oft-lamented 5 and 10 was my personal Wonderland and I remember so clearly how she took me there to buy #8s (Susan Bates aluminum, of course) and the yarn.

Well, in a frenzy of nostalgia (and being at Borders, which is right next to Michaels), I decided to go into that hallowed craft emporium to see if Red Heart still makes my first yarn.

It does. However, the color is now called "Sombrero." But it still looks the same.

A tender re-creation of my first knitting project will be going into the book. Complete with holes, split yarn, gigunda stitches and a step-by-step pattern for garter stitch? Probably not. I do have some pride.

And Finally...
I've been accused a number of times of taking cheap shots at what I consider shoddy knitting, hideous taste and instant-gratification crafting. There's a philosophical reason for this, and it's not just to get a laugh. Nor are the shots cheap.

Somewhere along the line, Americans have lost their can-do attitude. We as a nation have succumbed to the quick, the easy, the simple, the tawdry, and then pat ourselves on our collective national back for a good job well done.

To my dying day, I will insist on excellence. For me, it's a matter of self-worth. Fuzzy flip-flops, silly knitted ponchos made with huge stitches, and knitted cotton bikinis don't begin to signify excellence. All they signify is that the creator managed to make something badly and quickly. Pushing oneself to the edge of the envelope is how we got to the moon, how a cure for polio was discovered, how the computer evolved. Perhaps knitting isn't rocket science but anything is always worth doing well and completely.

People don't push any more. They're satisfied with the mediocre and mundane. As my Grandma Carsten used to say to me, "Parse that sentence until it's right, Marilyn." Thanks, Grandma. I still do.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"--Robin Williams

I'm ready for this...

But not for this...

Just when you thought there were no further moronic uses for Fun Fur, here come the flip-flop covers. Yes indeedy, another fabu use for my personal favorite trash "yarn."

After reading a request on the Twit List for the pattern, I decided to do my own research on this knitting abomination. And lo! DIY Network, home to Knitty Gritty, features a freebie pattern. Of course, you can buy them pre-made at Suzzees Fuzzee Shoozees. If the music doesn't give you the fatal heebee jeebees, the trailing sunflower cursor will, guaranteed. The picture above is one of Suzzee's Fuzzee Shoozees. Yum.

Thank God for the KnitDweebs. I can always depend upon them to trash the craft in a double-wide way.

More Fun Fur Fun

Yes, I admit to owning one ball of this marvelous stuff. And do you know why? Because I know that there is much you can do creatively with it besides knit.

I'm previewing some crafty ideas from my upcoming book, Hip Crap Crafts the Creative Way That You Can Make in 5 Minutes.

First, for all you kittee woodums lovers, the ever-so-chic Boa Catstrictor:

Cleo thinks this reeks and wonders where her catnip treat is for being abused.

Next, for all your suicidal bipolar friends, Bipolar Betty models the latest Fun Fur handy craft.

If you're strung out, get fashionably strung up.

And finally, for those dental hygiene freaks, what could be more alluring and more productive than using a strand of Fun Fur floss that you make yourself.

Scissors and skill not required.

So you see, it's not necessary to know how to knit to create magical accessories from Fun Fur.

Don't pay someone to do it, be rare and handy and come up with your own ideas. And have a fun Fun Fur time!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. --Hunter S. Thompson

It seems like a good day to quote Uncle Duke. Dark and overcast, with a hint of mist.

Gonzo Knitting
I gave the title of my book some thought and decided that it really sucked and did not at all reflect the proposed contents. So in tribute to HST, a writer who has been an enormous influence (along with John Lennon and Dorothy Parker), I've decided to call it Memoirs of a Gonzo Knitter. Works for me.

It's great to be able to write something totally egocentric, no? I've already drafted many glowing reviews in my head, not to mention what I will say on Knitty Gritty. Heh. As if they'd have me.

IK et Al
I finally picked up the Spring issue of IK, while only flipping through VK and Knitter's. It seems that I always buy IK, even if there is nothing in the issue that appeals. I suppose it's because I like the layout and the articles, and the unpretentiousness of the models. At least they look real. The other two stay on the shelf, always. Both so unmemorable I couldn't tell you what was in them.

Slip Kid
Finally got the cranberry merino wound and measured. That counter from Nancy's KnitKnacks works a treat, let me tell you. Got 305 yards out of the merino. Not enough for anything much but I decided to play with it anyway.

I began with an eyelet pattern and quickly discovered that this yarn was not made to be holey. It's much too homespun. Hard to see the eyelet holes, since I ripped it out after maybe 5 rows. Trust me, it doesn't work well.

So I found a good pattern in Barbara Walker's First Treasury, a double rib slip pattern. Very easy and shows off the yarn to advantage.

In case you're interested, the pattern is a multiple of 4 + 2 and goes like this:
Row 1: k2, *with yarn forward, sl 2, k2, repeat from * across, end k2.
Row 2: P across.

Not a brain bender but a nice pattern that knits up quickly. I cast on enough so that this could be a small scarf, if there's sufficient yarn. I'll edge it with reverse single crochet.

Freek on a Leesh
Gushing and bragging. Must be catching from Joe's blog, eh? Anyway, I am gushingly proud to announce that there is another blogger in the family. My curmudgeon-in-training, Liz, granddaughter and punk sk8or dudette.

Her blog, Freek on a Leesh, hosted by Xanga, is exquisitely designed in black and red, with selected punk music blaring constantly. I did enjoy her profile, which lists "being my odd self" as one of her interests. Liz is a real original. And flesh of my flesh, for sure. Don't let her know if you visit her blog. She'd die of embarrassment, no doubt.

She wants to come along to one of our rare and handy knitting get-togethers. I think I will indulge her.

Oh, and one more thing.