Monday, July 25, 2005

My first post ever was actually on July 25, 2002. However, I've chosen this entry from July 30 to reprint in honor of my 3rd anniversary because it remains my core philosophy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

The Knitting Multiverse
My late husband, Jimmy, was as involved in his craft of shipmodeling and naval/maritime history as I was and am in my knitting. Jimmy didn't often like to move from our home...he was a creature of habit in every sense of the word...but when we went afield, it was usually to shipmodeling conferences. I could be found either knitting in the hotel lobby or off on my own searching for the local yarn shops. (No, he did NOT go to Stitches East.) And it often struck me, while listening to Jimmy and his modeling cronies talk, that there were modelers and there were Modelers, just as there are in knitting and probably every other hobby.

I take my hobby seriously to a point. I've been knitting for 45 years, I guess I'm a so-called expert knitter, and I own an extensive library of knitting books, from how to knit Shetland lace to knitting history. But the hobby too often takes itself so seriously that it affords me the opportunity to poke some fun at it. Hence this blog and the site that I ran before this, The Knitting Curmudgeon. I'm not really so curmudgeonly...but I don't suffer fools gladly.

The Knitting Universe.
And those of you who knit, know the genesis of those words. Well, I find that concept offensive. Yes, it's true. I am offended. While I wouldn't put it in the same league as abuse of women and children, discrimination, instruments of mass destruction and other things that offend a great many of us, I still find the term odious. Why? Well, without risking a lawsuit, let me say that it takes big brass ones for one magazine to define The Knitting Universe as it pertains to the editorial staff and its bombastic, out-of-control publisher. Yeah, I know. I'll never work for them after this little essay. Ask me if I care.

The reality of The Knitting Universe is that it's truly The Knitting Multiverse. (If anyone has read "Timeline" recently, I freely admit to swiping this from Michael Crichton...but I love the concept.) Rather than explain the quantum mechanics/physics of it, let me simply say that I've figured out that there are a number of Knitting Multiverses...and perhaps all knitters are knitting multiverses unto themselves.

My favorite Knitting Multiverse...and the one that I love to tease, jab, what-have-you, is the world that Chris Erickson and I have christened The KnitDweebs. I rail against the KnitDweebs continually. They are the dimbulbs (or fuckwits, if you will, to use an earthier expression) that own every knitting book published, buy every stupid knitting tschatske, spend thousands every year on cheap yarn and needles...and never master much of anything except garter stitch. And are forever populating the lists asking questions whose answers can be found in the list FAQ or at the back of any knitting magazine. My favorite all-time best KnitDweeb question was one posed a couple of years ago on the Knit List: "How do you make a slip knot?" Talk about back to basics with a vengeance...and something that I personally learned how to make in the Girl Scouts when I was 8.

Another knitting multiverse is that of The Knitting Novices. I love these people...and there are lots of them. I wish I had had the resources offered to them via the internet when I was learning about knitting as a craft 30 years ago. Just recently on the Socknitters list a woman asked, "what does k2tbl mean?" I answered her very briefly..."It means knit 2 together through the back loops." But silly me. She really didn't understand the difference between the front loops and the back loops. And I remember having to figure that out on my own in 1974. I rather suspect that these people are not included much in The Knitting Universe...but no matter. They have their own multiverse.

My multiverse? I don't know what that is. I know that there are a few knitters who I can count on to get where I'm coming from...and our multiverses frequently mesh. I'm not sure that I have or will ever mesh with The Knitting Universe...any club that would have me as a member...And Jimmy Joe, if you're out there in the greatest multiverse of them all, I'm still here busting chops and writing.

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog for their support. This will probably be my last entry prior to my move. I am hoping to be able to post from New England while on vacation. So don't get your knickers in a twist if you don't see much in the next few weeks. Be rare and be handy.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. --Oscar Wilde

And exactly why I shrug off negative comments.

FO! FO! FO! Oh Shut the Fuck Up.
Jeez, I really despise those stupid abbreviations and acronyms. The Estonian scarf is finished, according to Nancy Bush's directions.

This is the actual finished size of the scarf if you do it as designed. As you can see, I have plenty more yarn. So it continues until the yarn runs out.

Despite the initial mistakes in the chart's key and my discovery that the left selvedge is not as firm and distinct as I'd like it to be, I'm having a good time with this.

And getting the opportunity to help some people with the pattern, too.

Here's the deal with knitting lace in general, based on some egregious mistakes that I've made in the past:
  • Don't forget one single yarn-over or you're fucked.
  • If you plan on ripping out, make sure that you've had a hefty dose of your preferred controlled substance.
  • If you've never knitted a lace pattern before, do a swatch on heavier yarn so you can learn the ins and outs there, not on the actual piece.

Working the scarf has inspired me to consider doing my own lace shawl design. I have another quad skein and it might be fun to give it a shot. Lace is the one genre I've never attempted to design. However, I'm now re-committed to finishing the Forest Path Stole.

Incidentally, I am an excellent lace mistake-fudger. I'd have to show you in person but I can fix a forgotten yarn-over if necessary. Anything to avoid ripping.

Editing Patterns--A Job for the Emotionally Challenged
I really don't mind that there are errors in knitting magazine patterns. Probably because I understand completely what it takes to edit directions. It's a bitch. These days, most magazines have strict guidelines as to how the designer must write up the directions. Even so, the editor must check and recheck the directions and charts. Think about it. You miss one "yo" in a lace pattern and you're screwed. The directions are wrong.

I will now admit publicly for the first time the most hideous mistake I ever made as a knitting editor. Even after almost 23 years, it galls me.

When I was assistant knit/crochet editor at McCall's Needlework & Crafts, back in 1983, one of my responsibilities was to put together some of the special issues, like the afghan special, the Christmas special, and Fashion Bazaar. Since McCall's bought all rights to designs and had a tight relationship with Phildar, who was happy to supply us with freebie patterns, I would collect around 20-25 designs from our stock, edit the directions, and ship the whole package off to the art department for production.

I'm putting together a Fashion Bazaar and for the cover, I chose a beautiful Aran, sized for men and women. The photo was perfect. Of course, while I'm doing this, I'm also editing the knitting patterns for the regular magazine (Gena Rhodes, the editor and my boss, was a crocheter and didn't like editing the knitting stuff). Add to this mix my inexperience with magazine production and wah-la. Major fuck-up looming.

When Fashion Bazaar came back from the printer, I found the senior editor, a New York fashion bitch if ever I met one, standing in the doorway with the magazine in her hand and a foul look on her face. "Look through this and tell me what's wrong with it." I knew I was in deep shit. So I sat there while she tapped her foot and I found the mistake.

I had forgotten the directions for the cover Aran.

I still have that issue. I keep it to remind me that publishing requires focus. And that's why I am forgiving of most magazine errors.

Starry Night
You'd think that with all the moving activities going on in the house, I wouldn't have time to do anything else.

But if you get up at 5:30 a.m. every day, you can fit stuff in. I managed to get two more bobbins of Starry Night finished, with a third on the wheel almost complete. I love this stuff. The mohair that appears in the wool like the filling in a Twinkie makes spinning this a real challenge.

In the top bobbin to the right, you can see the faint pink of the mohair. In the bottom bobbin to the left, you can see the pale yellow mohair. And sometimes, the mohair is white.

I'm spinning this single using a worsted draft. This helps keep the fibers from lofting up excessively. Once it's plyed and washed, there's plenty of loft. The wpi is 31, for those who want to know.

Well, enough procrastination. I still have to pack the yarn and the knitting books. Wednesday is the day. On Monday, July 25th, I will have a special anniversary post.

Three years of a rare and handy activity. I wonder if I'll blog for 48 years. That's how long I've been knitting. Feets don't fail me now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
No balls, no blue chips--James J. Roberts

One of the reasons why my late husband was so very dear. And far more curmudgeonly than I. This was one of his favorite sayings to me whenever I dithered.

Elitist Yarn Bitch
Having read Joe's entry today about the snitblogger who bashed him back in May, I simply had to go and read her entry for myself. As Joe noted, her band of merry morons were far more amusing to read than the blogger's rant about Joe's fiber snobbery.

Hear this: There is absolutely NO reason whatsoever to use shit yarn, especially now that KnitPicks offers good stuff at low prices. If you can't afford decent yarn, try plastic canvas needlework. Why bother putting hours of work using materials that are crummy and will fall apart after a year? I never did see the rationale behind this and I guess I really don't care to understand it either.

I am an elitist knitter and I've never made any bones about it. Bite me.

On a Roll
I'm feeling particularly petulant today, I suppose from the stress of moving. However, I finally picked up the latest Interweave Knits at Borders, after flipping through the other bad and hideous knitting magazines. Besides a batch of feh-to-fugly designs in IK, I really did love the felted intarsia carpetbag. Absolutely the best felted bag I've ever seen, and God knows there's a shitload of mediocre ones out there. I'm sorely tempted to make this, even though I don't care for intarsia. The article on shiburi was interesting, as was Deborah Newton's article on edgings (although I didn't always agree with her). Which leads me to another burr that's been irritating me.

Knitting Does NOT Act Like Cloth Fabric
While going through the knitting magazines at Borders the other day, it struck me that more and more designers are trying to force knitted fabric to act as woven fabric. Square or sweetheart necklines? Never in knitting. Instant failure. Knitted applied pockets? Watch it, they may be too heavy and clunky for the lines of the design (see the aforementioned Deborah Newton's jacket in IK for a fine example of this).

You want to re-create a Chanel suit? Do it in cloth. Coco knew what she was doing.

Le Mess

Ten days to go before we move. I hate the disorder but at least I truly understand that it's finite.

The blue bag, a birthday present from Joe last year, holds the ripped-out Slainte. The Flow Blue porcelain formerly in the china cabinet is all packed.

However, you can see at the lower right some skeins of yarn.

Stubborn to the last minute. I have no doubt the new owners will find errant skeins that were stuffed in small spaces. Nice housewarming giftie, eh?

Still spinning, though. Another two full bobbins of the Starry Night done, with plying done on the QT this weekend during breaks from packing. And the Estonian scarf/shawl has been an excellent stress reliever. I'm looking forward to Nancy Bush's new book on Estonian knitting.

Now THAT's elitist knitting for ya, in a good way. Estonian knitting. These Fun-Fur babes don't know how rare and handy knitting can be. Too bad for them.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled. --P.G. Wodehouse

There's nothing more disgruntling than moving. However, all will be done in less than two weeks. And then, it's a vacation to New England for a week to see friends, eat lobster and otherwise relax.

Then I will be truly and fully gruntled.

Knitting for Moving Times
I can't help but think that I was smart to choose Nancy Bush's Estonian scarf as knitting while I move. I've made steady progress on it and I've just about reached the point in the pattern where it should be finished. But I plan on knitting until the yarn is done. My guess is that it will be a big scarf or a small shawl.

Take your pick.

Here it is as of 7 a.m. this morning.
Literally the only chance I have to knit right now is in the car on the way to work (John drives, bless him), very early in the morning or very late at night.

I have had some really great correspondence with Jeane Hutchins, the editor of PieceWork, plus a very nice e-mail from Nancy Bush herself, both thanking me for helping them with the corrections on the key.

I realize that I keep touting this magazine incessantly but honest to God, it is one of my favorites. You may not be interested in the historical aspects of needlework but I find them fascinating. And if nothing else, there is always a knitting pattern or two within.

My lousy eyesight is something that I deal with every day and have been since I was five. A visit to the eye doctor is looming once again because I can't see shit. So I've finally broken down and started using this LoRan pattern holder.

I like the magnifying bar. And the magnets are strong enough to keep the pattern in place without slipping.

It's possibly the only thing worth buying at Michaels.

I don't hear as well as I used to, either. Probably too many years of going to concerts and standing too close to Marshall amps.

Box or Bag?
OK, John wants to pack all of my yarn and books for me and I'm resisting strongly. First, because I hate to see my stuff packed up and second, because I don't mind spending a few hours rediscovering my shit, thereby avoiding packing and throwing away.

However, John wants to dump all of my yarn into plastic bags.

No. Never.

I realize that it's a short trip to the new house and the yarn will be fine but I have a horror of plastic bag usage with fiber. I envision ends tangled, yarn weights in different bags and a huge chore of reorganizing everything.

Am I being too anal with this? Doesn't matter because the yarn will get packed properly and fuck John. (His answer to that being, "Not without a note from your mother.")

The Long Goodbye
So I will be posting when I can. Between August 1 and 8, I will be in New England and offline entirely, I suspect. However, with some interesting trips planned, including one to the museums in Lowell, I should have some tales to tell and pictures to publish.

And now I must do some rare and handy cleaning because the buyer's house inspection is at noon. A necessary evil, at best.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Genius is born--not paid. --Oscar Wilde

The quote is apropos of nothing in today's entry. It's simply true.

The Fugly Fugue
Thanks to reader Cathy for sending this along:

Forever Hip. Forever Fugly. A symphony of shite. A concerto of crap. Ye gods. I'm so glad I had not eaten this morning prior to viewing this picture.

What's incredibly sad about this picture is that Berroco used to be a leading yarn company. I always disliked their yarn, though, especially after a tragic episode in the late '70s of knitting pullovers with their ghastly boucle on #3s. I was doing it for the money, for a designer who sold her expensive crap in Madison Avenue boutiques. Hey, I had two kids and needed the extra cash.

Even worse, Margery Winter, who used to be the editor of VK, is their creative director.

When you think about the work that went into designing and knitting these lovelies, you have to wonder what the motivation could be. It certainly isn't the money.

Would someone please send me links of extravagantly beautiful knitting so I can publish something on the other end of the spectrum? Or have we seen most of it already?

The Non-Mag
After considerable thought and discussion with friends knitting and non-knitting, I have decided that I am not going to put my financial ass on the line and do a magazine. And this is strictly a financial decision. It's all very nice for readers to say, "Oh please, do it! We'll buy it!" However, most of my readers have no concept of what's entailed. So perhaps I may do a newsletter at some point but for the time being, I think writing the blog is sufficient.

In fact, I am putting the book on hold as well, since I'm not sure that I wish to contribute yet another flaccid tome to the legions already out there. What I may do is take all of the blog entries, format them into a .pdf and edit them. That is, if I can find time while learning how to weave, spinning and knitting.

Knitting and Spinning and Looms, Oh MY!

Liza insists that I put my Bernina to good use and do some quilt piecing. Just what I need, one more fun hobby. I decided years ago that if I got into quilting, my fabric collection would have to have its own residence because I'd buy every color imaginable so that I'd have a total palette. Far worse than collecting yarn. And unfortunately, I do know how to piece, applique and quilt, so it would be so easy to segue into quilting.

However, the weaving thing continues to itch like a bad case of poison ivy. Loopy has been extraordinarily helpful in guiding me towards the right loom, the right books, and the right accessories to buy.

And the Bernina would come in handy for making clothes from my woven fabric, if I ever get that proficient at weaving.

Some more progress on the Estonian scarf/shawl and the spinning of Starry Night:

In my opinion, this is more of an eyelet pattern than a true lace pattern. For some reason, Cleo, who is never interested in fucking around with my yarn, decided to take a stroll over the shawl as I was photographing it this morning.

I don't recall if I published a picture of the plyed Starry Night but here it is, complete with black safety ties. I use sock reinforcing yarn for that since I never use it for socks.

As I was spinning this morning at 5:30 (yep, I do get up early), it occurred to me that I haven't the foggiest idea of what this will knit into when it's done. Sounds like I may need to swatch.

It's always good to have a plan.

Blog Changes

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded the Comments, which means no more ads for you and easier deletion/editing of comments for me. Not that I edit the comments nor do I often delete them. But I thought it would be nice to support Haloscan.

Off to pack china. I will be most happy when the move is over. John wants to pack my knitting books and yarn today. That's the worst of it all. Limits the rareness and handiness considerably.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Year

Having a holiday weekend without a family member felt like putting on a sweater that had an extra arm--Pamela Ribon, "Why Girls Are Weird"

Need I say more? What a good weekend this was.

Yes, this is my family. Or part of it. From left, daugher Corinne, Jenn's boyfriend Norm, daughter Jenn, the ever punkish Liz, Corinne's boyfriend Mike, and Johnny listening to the Yankees lose. Vacant chair is mine. I take the pictures. However, the knitting bag is definitely a blood relative. We left the cats at home. No doubt they had their own party.

I decided on Saturday, after I had posted a picture of my suri alpaca attempt at the Estonian scarf from Pieceworks, that the suri just wasn't quite right for this pattern stitch. So a quick rummage in the stash, I found some of the Morehouse that I had bought last year at Rhinebeck.

This is a rather bold lace pattern, geometric to the nth degree. Diamonds a go-go. The Morehouse colors are also bold and suited the pattern much better, dontcha think?

Please, no comments about the Red Hat Society of idiots. The picture does not do the colors justice--therein are also shades of orange, lavender, mauve. Besides, I've been combining red and purple for years. What's so fucking revolutionary about that anyway? Not to go off on a side rant, but these women who are members of this so-called club presumably grew up when I did, during the '60s, when color went on a trip Leary-style. And now it's a big deal to wear purple and red?

Anyhow, the pattern stitch is a good basic lace--16 row rep and you've pretty much got it memorized after two repeats. As my sainted mother would say, "Good baseball knitting." Or good TV knitting, if you're not into baseball.

I've got a quad skein of this, for those of you familiar with Morehouse's put-up. (Kathy? Selma? I'm lazy, what's the yardage?) So this may make it to shawlhood. There's no finishing other than the selvedges.

More EST
Totally off topic, but how big a fucking dope is Tom Cruise? Never one of my favorite actors. Too many teeth and that crazy-eyed look. I was completely outraged at his comments about psychiatry and very glad that Brooke Shield wrote a dignified rebuttal for the New York Times Op-Ed page the other day.

His comments to Matt Lauer were so incredibly irresponsible, it was frightening. Here's hoping that he appeared crazy enough so that nobody who needs psychiatric help would even consider what he said. "I know the history of psychiatry" indeed. Walk a mile in my shoes, asshole, along with the rest of us who suffer from mental illness. Cruise might benefit from a little humility but I doubt that all the EST in the world would provide him with a dose of that.

What a crap issue. Really. Where were the male designers? One doesn't cut it. And what gawd-awful designs. The guys I know who knit (yeah, I'm talking to you Joe, Franklin, Antonio-the-Unfinished, Sean, James, Peter, Tricky) are so incredibly talented and yet Knitty seemingly chose to ignore the Men Who Knit. More sappy cuteness about knitting for their guys. Spew time.

Frankly, Knitty missed the boat big time on this. I'm just waiting to see what the guys have to say about the issue. Just a lame magazine, in general (although the techical articles are at least worthwhile sometimes). And I had such high hopes for it when it first started. Now it's a HYUK-fest, Stitch 'n' Bitch Jamboree. Maybe I should start a magazine for the rest of us. I'm tempted.

Three Weeks and Counting
Busy collecting boxes and trying to get my act together to move. I'm feeling a bit sad about selling the townhouse but there was no other option. Nonetheless, there's lots of things to look forward to: A new house, a new loom, Rhinebeck, maybe a new job if I'm lucky. All sorts of opportunities.

Every day is rare and handy.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This month marks the 3rd year of The Knitting Curmudgeon blog. On July 25, 2002, I began writing into the void, little realizing what I was getting into. Heh.

From 1998 to 1999, I had a website through my AOL membership, also called The Knitting Curmudgeon. It was a patchwork of essays and a couple of patterns. But it was much too static for my taste and difficult, at best, to update. These were the early days of HTML editors and although I was pretty good at writing my own code, it was a major endeavor to add new pages.

In July 2002, I was six months a new widow, still grieving, and looking for an activity upon which to focus. Somehow, I don't recall how, I stumbled onto And The Knitting Curmudgeon rose from the ashes. A fitting resurrection for someone who had been struggling with the death of their best friend. Jimmy would have loved this and no doubt would have been a frequent commenter. He always fully supported my fiberwork and my writing because he too was a craftsman and a writer. There was no hiding of yarn in this relationship. I think of him often when I write because in death, he was the true catalyst of this blog.

My inital intent was not to publish a day-to-day journal of what I was knitting but to write down my thoughts about knitting in general, be it the state of knitting magazines or a new product that I'd found or just a technique that needed clarification. Without mincing words.

Along the way, I acquired readers. From where, I don't know. Some were readers from the old website, some were Googlers who found me. Whoever you are, know that I am amazed and thrilled that you read my blog. It means a lot. You give to me far more than I could ever give to you.

Estonian Scarf
All I can say is that Nancy Bush must be a tad annoyed to see that the stitch legend to her Estonian scarf in the latest issue of Piecework is totally fucked up. When I picked up the pattern to read it, the mistakes were so egregious that they hit me right between the eyes. The chart itself is correct but God help you if you're a beginning knitter. You'd be lost by the time you hit Row 3. So here is the corrected legend. I did write Interweave to alert them of the mistake, but it will take them time to publish a correction.

The graphic is a little skanky. I did the symbols in Stitch Motif, exported the file to Paint, added the text and then shipped it over to Photoshop, where I cropped it. Looks like I lost the top line on the first symbol box, but what the fuck. You can read it.

I'm using Cherry Tree Hill suri alpaca on bamboo needles, which fiber is about as close to Nirvana as I've been.

I've started it on #1 dps, which seems to me to be the easiest way to handle the acrobatics.

If you've knitted lace, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, try it. Not much here to show but I'm enjoying it. And ignoring Slainte, which I may fix this weekend.

Loom Enablement
Loopy is a true friend. She's sent along her thoughts about how I should absolutely go for the beeg enchilada instead of screwing around with a rigid heddle loom. Loop has the Schacht Mighty Wolf and recommends it. I can see why, at least from a storage point of view, and it's probably the one I will buy. I love my Schacht Matchless double-treadle, so I'm sure I can't go wrong with the brand.

Going East
And I need to consider storage, since Corinne and I have found a house for all of us, in Mine Hill, NJ. That's about 15 miles east of where I live now. I'll start moving stuff over beginning July 15 and we'll be permanently domiciled by August 1. At which point, John and I will take off for a few days in New England, where I plan on visiting The Fiber Studio and Halcyon, not to mention our friends Em and Mitch. As a rule, I don't plan my vacations around yarn shops but these two are special. I'd like to make it to Harrisville but that may be a bit of a stretch.

And now it's time for coffee. The deck may or may not be dry from last night's rain but a towel under the fat can will suffice to soak up the damp. Three days off. How fucking rare and handy. Happy Fourth to all us Amurricans!