Monday, October 31, 2005

Sing Along with RiffRaff

It's Just a Jump to the Left
I finally managed to get the warp set up so that I could start weaving. And here is the first little bit below.

I have to say, despite my novice bungling, like throwing the shuttle screwy to begin with and missing threads in the shed (that's the open area between the raised threads and unraised threads), I'm pretty pleased with my efforts. This picture was taken about fifteen minutes after I started. The picture below was taken later on, as I began to feel more comfortable.

The selvedges are ratty but they'll even up with practice. Actually, the whole thing is pretty ratty but that's how it goes when you begin.

I'm working my way through Deborah Chandler's book, Learning to Weave, which has been a godsend, along with Loopy, who must take full responsibility as chief cheerleader and mentor. Hey, Cotton Fleece doesn't make half-bad practice yarn for weaving.

It's nice to be a raw beginner again, with lots of interesting things to learn. (That's my public view; my private view is mostly "Fuck.")

And Then a Step to the Right
Several people have asked me to write a bit more about my Woolee Winder that I use on my Schacht Matchless.

Honestly, I debated buying this, and for quite a while. First of all, I never really had an issue with moving my singles from hook to hook on the flyer. I've always been very good about trying to do it so that the yarn feeds onto the bobbin evenly. So did I really need it?

That said, I could use a little help to increase my spinning speed, especially since I have quite a bit of fiber to spin these days, especially post-Rhinebeck. If I didn't have to come to a rolling stop to move the yarn, that would be a good thing.

So I finally bit. And I must say, while it's not a must-have accoutrement, I'm very happy with it. Below are two bobbins: the top one was spun with the Woolee Winder, the bottom spun the regular way.

But besides being neater looking, plying seems to be much smoother, even with just the one bobbin. And faster. There's no question that I am getting more onto a bobbin, be it single or plyed.

Ease of installation? Simple. You replace your old flyer with the Woolee Winder flyer that's customized for your wheel. Put the special bobbin in place, making sure the gears mesh and you're ready to roll.

Now for the cost. This baby ain't cheap. The flyer and one bobbin cost $148 (for all models, and they make Woolee Winders for all the major brands of wheels). However, you have to have a minimum of three bobbins, so you'll need to buy two extra at $25 each. With shipping at $9 for the U.S., you do the math.

A necessity? Hardly. Nice to have? Definitely.

In Another Dimension
I spent so much time fucking around with the loom this weekend that I haven't advanced one iota on the Melanie shawl. And John and I decided to make a trip to the movies to see The Weatherman, mostly because I love both Nick Cage and Michael Caine. While it wasn't award-winning, we both enjoyed it, primarily due to Cage and Caine, not to the story, which I thought did not explore Cage's character nor his relationship to Caine nearly enough. An interesting movie, though, and one worth seeing.

So much for rare and handy reviews. Have a happy and safe Halloween. Liz is going to be a Sumo Ballerina. Don't ask.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
"If homosexuality is a disease, let's all call in queer to work: "Hello. Can't work today, still queer"--Robin Tyler

No particular reason. I just love this quote.

It's taken two cups of coffee this morning just to get this far. Feh.

However, here's a little ditty by Eric Idle that says it all. Thanks to daughter Jenn.

Lacing Along
It's a good thing I swatched the Melanie shawl on heavier yarn. Because the rosette motif is a bugger, with decreases using yarn-overs. Good example of knitted lace. I always have to remind myself that knitted lace means patterning on every row v. lace knitting, which has a plain row in between patterning. I remember these definitions like I remember how to Kitchener stitch--with the aid of the printed word.

The center panel's cast-on is knitted on rather than provisionally cast on. Whe it comes time to pick up along the bottom for the border, you work each cast-on loop rather than a live stitch. I debated whether I would do a provisional cast-on but decided in favor of Sharon Miller's directions.

Incidentally, thanks to Enjay for the info on the Heirloom Knitting list. I joined and I suspect it will be the only list I actually read. This is a strictly run list, thank God.

Starry Night Redux
I finally started plying again, what with at least four bobbins filled with singles. It's time to get more done.

The picture is a bit fuzzy, as was I when I took it. Of course, yesterday I had the battle of the snapping drive band, where my drive band broke as I was merrily plying away at breakneck speed. And naturally, I had no cord in the house with which to replace it.

So, in the car and off I go. First to Linens 'N' Things, where I was going to buy mesh bags to wash my CMV bits (another story for another day). And lo! An entire cone of meat string for $8.99. Enough to make drive bands for at least 10 years. It's a bit heavier than the Schacht band but it seems to work. So far. I'm waiting for the band to jump the track but it hasn't yet.

Not much to write about today. Good discussion in the last comments, I thought.

Here's the thing about me, if you haven't figured it out already. I really don't give a fuck if you agree with me or not. Opinions are like assholes--everyone's got one. However, it's not that difficult to disagree by presenting an intelligent, thought-out argument. That I respect. It's the loonies who occasionally invade the comments and feel it necessary to attack me personally without presenting any reasonable argument whatsoever. That I won't tolerate. Ever.

And now I need to go to the loom. But first, a rare and handy lunch. Of salad. Feh. Why wasn't I born thin like my brother?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The most important thing to a lot of people, is to belong to something that's hip or whatever. To be a part of something that's not society, just a clique.--Ric Ocasek

The so-called schism between older and younger knitters continues to be perpetuated by the knitting magazines.

And that's a crime.

I suspect that in reality, there is less of a schism than we think. Rather, there will always be a group of knitters, regardless of age, who knit crap. And there will always be a group of knitters who are interested in expanding their knitting repertoire.

And perpetuating this nonsense and so as not to let Vague Knitting one-up them, Interweave Knits has come out with KnitScene. You can see the garments on the web site for yourself. There was not one I would make, not even for Liz, who doesn't consider anything knitted but socks and scarves to be "kewl."

I will say this, however: The magazine has some very good features. The size, for one. I like this format very much. Makes it easy to slip into your knitting bag, although if there were complex charts within, it could be a problem. And the layout, as is always the case for Interweave magazines, is well done. And I suppose 44 patterns plus articles for $7.95 is a good deal if you like 2.5 spi garments and fugly crocheted schmattehs.

There was a curious reference to Margaret Thatcher in a section head, I thought.

"Move Over, Margaret Thatcher. Parliament Goes Glam!"

What the fuck does THAT mean? First of all, Maggie's been out of office since 1990--fifteen years ago. I would daresay that most of KnitScene's readers barely remember the Thatcher years. Rather than hold Maggie up as a fashion-don't, which of course she was, I would think that the editors of KnitScene might recall Maggie as the first woman Prime Minister. Like her or hate her, she was one of the most influential women of the 20th century.

This is yet again another "hip to knit" magazine. I didn't bother buying it because I'm just not "hip" these days. Of course, my fashion education began with Mary Quant and Betsey Johnson. So what the fuck do I know?

What I know is that even when I was 22, I would not have knitted anything in KnitScene. But that's me.

But Now I am Six, I'm as Clever as Clever
I hate to do the old person's "When I was young, I walked twenty miles in the snow to get to school" routine. In many ways, I do miss the old knitting magazines.

I got these issues recently on eBay. Some of them are ones that I worked on as assistant Knit/Crochet Editor. The one on the top, in particular, was an incredible issue, with Lola Ehrlich as fashion editor. More than twenty years later, the designs are still fresh. I do have copies of every issue of every magazine I've edited and copies of every article I've ever had published. I just wanted doubles.

To this day, that issue is my very favorite of any publication I had a hand in, no matter how minor my effort.

Loom Strumming
It does remind me of stringing my violin and guitar, years ago. Although on a much different basis.

Finally some progress. I managed to get my sampler warp sleyed. Great word, isn't it? Another obtuse fiberwork term that leaves itself wide open to awful puns.

This photo was taken after I had finished sleying the one color. I've now added the blue and I'll be heddling my way into backache this afternoon. The heddles, for those who are not weavers, are those stringy eyelets attached to the shuttles, through which each warp thread must pass.

All 120 threads, each through four heddles. I'll not complain until I do a much larger warp. This is small stuff. Very small.

Off to do some book writing now. And to await the appearance of my rare and handy elder daughter Jenn, who is 36 today.

Shit, am I that old? I guess so.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans.--George W. Bush

Oh no?

Can you spell "cabal"? I knew you couldn't.

And dyslexia does not excuse incompetence, in my book.

Shrub has pages and pages on, one of my sources for quotations. If you enjoy becoming even more frightened, read some of his pithy sayings.

Hairloom for Corinne
(See? Dyslexia is contagious.)

Every so often, when you have adult children, you still get what I call "Mommy requests." As in, "Mommy, will you make this for me?"

Two weeks ago, as I was idly perusing Heirloom Knitting, Corinne happened to walk by and glance at the screen. "You could make me one of those for my wedding." (She'll be marrying her long-time boyfriend Mike next May in Williamsburg, VA.)

OK. I haven't made Corinne a sweater since she was in high school, so I figured, why not? Here's what Corinne chose, after dismissing the Wedding Ring shawl as looking too much like a tablecloth. The picture below is a bit small, so go to the link for more details.

I got the pattern last week. And let me tell you, it was worth every penny. Not only is it a beautiful shawl but the directions and charts are incredibly well done. Twelve pages. Unbelieveable. Sharon Miller holds your hand throughout the entire project.

This is not to say that it is for novice lace knitters. It is not for the faint of heart or nervous of needles. This is big-time knitting.

After talking Corinne out of stark white, she chose JaggerSpun Zephyr in Ice Blue.

I ordered it from WEBS and it came on Friday. It's actually a bit darker in real life than it appears in the picture. And of course, I started swatching this weekend. Stay tuned for further developments. I'm going to have to work on one of the motifs until I get it.

Like I said, this ain't easy.

Blog News
I rearranged the sidebar last night so that the archives appear last. The whole sidebar thing had been irritating me for some time.

I also added an RSS feed link, for those of you who prefer doing that--click on the Feedburner button. If you don't know what RSS is, read this. And you can now subscribe to this blog via e-mail.

Very rare and handy, this technology. Never let it be said that I don't keep up with the times.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
So cheat your landlord if you can and must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can't fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal. --William S. Burroughs

Kaffe Fassett = Chateaubriand

Mari Lynn Patrick = Taco Bell

The past two days my muse has been busy ordering take-out Chinese and buying clothes at Wal-Mart. She'll be back.

The Troughs of Non-inspiration
So for two days, here's what I have accomplished:

Socks for Liz, that JamaicanMeCrazy kid. Less the dreadlocks, lately she's been in reggae mode, a leftover from her cruise in August to Bermuda. Now it's Bob Marley and Bunny and the Wailers. This was the best Gram could find in the way of sock yarn to complete that Rasta look. The aqua kinda transforms it into Miami Vice.

My creativity operates like a garbage truck. Pick-ups every Monday and Wednesday, recycling on Tuesdays and trips to the dump the other days.

In addition, I just dumped the warp I was using on the loom because I managed to fuck that up. Back to square one. I think I will try warping from front to back rather than back to front, simply because it seems to be easier.

Sometimes, when things don't work, I find myself spinning my wheels until the mental towtruck comes to get me out of the ditch. And it always does. The best way to jump-start myself is to go and sit with the stash. Seriously. And pick up a knitting book to read. Works for me.

You Asked For It
Here it is, in all its glory. I'll put it up under Freebies as well.

Mind you, I have never knitted this. So caveat Freebies. I suppose I should do, if just to prove out the stitch/row proportions.

I'm off to find my muse. I'm sure she's glutted herself sufficiently and is ready to move on. Besides, it's almost the weekend. Time to dump the garbage and get back to work, if I am not interrupted by such petty things as going to the dentist, driving Liz to her friend's house, and supermarket shopping.

Motivation and inspiration. Two rare and handy states-of-being that had better show up. Today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.-- George Carlin

Some flamethrowing today. Does that get your blood up?

The Good, The Bad, The Indifferent
I know you'd love it if I started with the bad but I'm starting with the good today. Because I feel fucking Pollyanna-ish. That's why.

I know I said that I wasn't going to review magazines any more but I'm drawn to them. It's the train-wreck syndrome. And thank God, at least I have something good to report. has published the premier issue of their new online magazine. And a fine effort it is, too. (Even though two of my beloveds, Carol S. and Franklin, have a design and an article, respectively, in this issue, I plead objectivity.)

Good solid designs, clean layout, interesting articles. What more could you ask for? It's about time the guys had their own magazine. Dan and Michael have pulled it off and pulled it off with panache. Here's to many more successful issues.

Now for the bad: Vague Knitting Holiday Issue. Of course, when has VK been good? Not recently. Numerous fugly designs by Joe's favorite designer. I saw exactly two garments that I would bother with: A Fair Isle-yoked Morehouse pullover designed by Charlotte Quiggle and a very pretty lace cardigan by Jenny Atkinson.

I also liked some of the pillows in the back half of the magazine. For once, Maie Landra came up with a good design, albeit modular again. Nonetheless, it's a good project for your Koigu odds and ends, of which I'm sure you have many. Right.

Of course, the large knitted roses, or whatever the fuck they were, didn't exactly titillate. Nor did the rest of the magazine. The big-knit frou-frou rage is so over. Unfortunately, VK hasn't figured that out yet.

Indifferent: Knitty. Not as bad as recent issues and hopefully getting better and growing up. But somehow it seemed to me that half of the designs were lifted from a 1983 Vogue Knitting. The articles are usually very good. And I'm glad to see that they're including book and product reviews, although every review seems a bit too "yummy."

We did all make fun of "Tit Bits," though. Really. Knitty is much too much obsessed with knitting sex crap. Just stoopid.

Rhinebeck Stuff
Yes, I got a new camera. Planned to do so in any case but I hate having to buy something with the proverbial gun to my head.

So here's the Rhinebeck haul, minus the fiber I left in Joe's trunk. I love this camera, a Canon Rebel, which is a true digital SLR. So much better than the Nikon Coolpix. I do take pictures other than for the blog.

Wool/alpaca/llama--Tintagel Farms

Wool and Mohair--Tintagel Farms


Silk Caps--Vendor forgotten, unfortunately

So that's the take, pretty much. I was looking for fiber that had shades of red but that wasn't to be found. An awful lot of blues, purples, greens, etc. but not much in the way of red.

For all your supportive comments on the book. Somehow I don't quite see myself wearing a beaded sweater that spells out "Shut Up, I'm Counting." Or prancing around shows wearing it.

Laura's comment about the Tiny Diva made me laugh. I'm waiting for TD to write Adding Neon to Your Knitting so she can light up the next Stitches. Actually, I'm rather surprised she hasn't added neon tubing to her repertoire.

As for me, my next book will be Explosive Embellishments: Knitro Knitting That's Wired, Baby!

I was very rare and handy in HS Chemistry.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.--C.S. Lewis

In the long run, Rhinebeck was really about getting together with your friends.

And buying fiber.

And losing your digital camera yesterday. Don't ask how I did this.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

All I can say is, I haven't been so pissed off at myself in years. So check out Joe's blog or Franklin's for pictures. Because I ain't got any.

The Real Deal
I'm almost too tired to write about Rhinebeck. But I will because I'm looking at two bags of fiber and remembering how much fun it was.

John and I got up to the hotel late Friday night. It was fucking pouring. A two and a half-hour trip took four hours. And when John dropped me off at the fairgrounds at 10 a.m., it was still coming down.

I hate umbrellas. Hate them. They are encumbrances to the nth degree. However, I do own a small one and I was wearing the Estonian scarf that needed protection (Field of Flowers shawl was safely packed in my bag). So as I stood waiting for Kathy and Selma with umbrella up (who of course went to the other gate just like last year), I was rescued by Joe and Franklin and off we went, soon to find K & S and somewhat later, Lisa and Carol.

This was the first time that we've all been together in one place--Carol and Selma had not met and none of us had met Franklin. Talk about a murder of ravens or a habit of nuns or a bottle of Scotch. What a motley crew. So we shopped and shopped and talked and lost some people and found them again. And the weather cleared up. O happy day.

As soon as I regain the use of a digital camera, I will take pictures of what I bought. But here's the list, since I just sent it to Loopy, along with my slightly edited comments to her:

  • 8 ozs. of cormo for laceweight spinning. Bought this at Skaya, which is Galeva what's-her-name. She's a trip and a half. But has wonderful stuff. I did not buy any of her laceweight. But I want to see if she's on the internet. Gotta get the laceweight whorl and bobbins before I do this so it'll be a while.
  • 2 lbs. of this incredibly dyed 44% wool/44% mohair/12% llama and 2 lbs. dyed wool and alpaca from the same people who did the SN, Tintagel Farm.
  • 1 lb. of Corriedale dyed, from the same people I bought Elly's Wensleydale from last year. They didn't have any Romney or Wensleydale this year. No biggie. It will make a nice vest or possibly weft--I'm kinda thinking weft at this point.
  • 4 ozs. of Merino/tercel to screw around with. I want to see what the big fuss is with the tercel.
  • 5 silk caps, dyed in blue and magenta. Very strange coloring but it might work. The caps were $4 a piece. How could I resist?
  • A pair of curved Ashford carders. Didn't see any others. Didn't buy the combs--they were no-name and I figured I'd wait on the combs.
  • 5 lbs. of the most gorgeous white Lincoln fleece. Just spectacular. Beautiful crimp, very, very clean, no bad cuts. I had to have it. Gulp. Now I'll have to wash all this shit and card it. I'm carding this sucker even if it takes me a year. And it will, at least. Ultimately I want to do some dyeing, which is why I bought so much of the Lincoln. At least 2 lbs. of it will go for dyeing experiments, I figure. The Lincoln was $5/lb. Can't beat that.

So that's the haul.

I'd like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of the readers who stopped me to chat. I was going to take pictures and make a note of names, but forget doing that. That wasn't happening. It's a strange feeling to be recognized. Very strange. But very nice, indeed. And as I said to many people, I appreciate your reading my blog. Always. I have the best readers, hands down.

And Now For Something Completely Different

OK, in a Pythonesque way, I managed to make my announcement at Rhinebeck to everyone but not at the same time, of course. Getting that bunch to shut the fuck up for one minute is a Promethean feat.

So here's the announcement I made to them in fits and starts and that I'm making to you in one swell foop.

My book is becoming a reality. Shut Up, I'm Counting: Commonsense Knitting for Uncommon Knitters. Written by me and illustrated by Franklin Habit. Publication date: March 2006.

I am now halfway through the manuscript. Estimated pages: 120. Each chapter is me talking about a particular facet of knitting, from cast-ons to Fair Isle to books to finishing to fucking up and fixing it to my recipe for apple pie. No, strike the last one. You don't get that recipe.

No designs. I'm saving those for another project, which I am developing concurrently and which I will announce later in the year. However, I am truly thrilled and honored that Franklin has agreed to illustrate the book. We had discussed this in secret prior to meeting this weekend. I knew his drawings were perfect for my writing style. Once I met him in person, there was no question that the two of us will make fabulous collaborators.

How am I doing this? Well, having years of experience in publishing helps a lot. And starting your own publishing company helps even more. In the next few weeks, my publishing company, Ravel'd Sleave Press, will become incorporated. So this venture is not just to publish my own book but hopefully to publish other quality fiber books in the future. And the emphasis will be on quality, for sure. I'm working on the web design for the company now. Another thing I know how to do, thanks to my work at The Chubb Institute.

One of the reasons I had been avoiding writing a book was because there are so many knitting books out there. And I will not write just for the sake of throwing some crap onto a page. If you're going to buy it, it has to have value to you. Not just to me.

It's going to be a good book. I'm very happy with it so far. And I'm my biggest critic. So we'll see, eh?

Writing is a rare and handy thing to do. And I love to do it. See ya, corporate America. Eat shit and die.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Even the Mr. Darcy of Your Dreams looks like the dork in the holiday sweater. --Manolo

I swear on my mother's white head, I have never made a holiday sweater.

And the psychology of holiday sweaters escapes me. Have you ever seen a fetching holiday sweater? My very favorite purveyor of fugly intarsia sweaters, Mary Maxim, doesn't seem to have any on their web site. (However, they are carrying the Tiny Diva's Super Fabulous New York Hip Signature Collection. So much for HYUKs.)

I ask you, what's so wrong with an elegantly knit sweater for any occasion? Must we have large, insipid intarsia Santa faces or fuzzy, cuddly snowmen? And fucking sequins and beads?

Read Manolo's post about holiday sweaters. There's a lot there to make you do the Keyboard Spew.

Christmas Crap-along Inspiration
I am so pleased to be able to show you the 2003 Crap-along winner. Carol S. found the picture. She won hands-down. There was no winner for 2004 because I started the contest a little late last year.

It's a beauty. And one that I would proudly display in my powder room during the holiday season.

You may have noticed that I've set up the expanded rules on the sidebar in .pdf format. Just click on the button. But you knew that because you are a careful reader, right?

Rhinebeck 2004
Haven't touched the loom this week--other things have been pressing and I need John to help me warp, which will have to happen on a weekend, I think. I'm still spinning Starry Night that I bought in 2004. It just seems to go on forever. That might be because I bought 3 pounds of the shit.

My next spinning challenge will be to spin laceweight, for which I need the appropriate whorl and bobbins. Even though I spin fairly fine, my plyed singles generally work out to about 18 spi. I'd like to spin finer than that. I suppose I will bring my Joy wheel with me to Rhinebeck, although whether I will have time to spin is questionable.

Next entry: Rhinebeck. I'm probably going to take the laptop with me, so if I get inspired Saturday night, after dinner with Joe, Franklin, Kathy and Selma, I can flood the internet with mud-spattered photos of us slogging through the sheep dip, dragging bags of fiber and whatnot.

The weather is not supposed to be good--damp and overcast--so I'm thinking that perhaps I may wear the Estonian scarf instead. It's at least warmer and less delicate than the Field of Flowers shawl. In any event, hope to see some of you there.

And now, back to some rare and handy chores and another cup of coffee. See you at Rhinebeck!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.--Tom Stoppard

Combining both skill and imagination is the key.

I don't see myself as a "craftswoman." Nor do I see myself as an "artisan."

Just someone who lives in a fiber-infested world and who is trying to put her imagination and skill to use.

Countdown to Rhinebeck
Time just can't fly fast enough. Whereas I was rather bummed out about the drive down to Atlantic City for Stitches, I can't wait to jump into the car and get to Rhinebeck.

Leaving Friday afternoon around 3, picking up John at work in Union, then on to Kingston, where we're staying for the weekend. It's going to be so good to see Joe, Kathy, Carol, Selma, Lisa and...Franklin.

If you are going to be at Rhinebeck on Saturday, please stop me and say "hello." I truly do love to meet readers and I'm quite the mild-mannered middle-aged skank in person. I'll be wearing black (the uniform of the fashion-challenged), with my Field of Flowers shawl, most likely. I imagine that we'll all hang out at the picnic tables by the food concessions at some point.

Got Wood?
There was discussion about Golding wheels and looms in the last Comments. I thought perhaps those of you who are not familiar with Golding might want to see exactly what we were talking about, so you can check out the link.

Having been married for 32 years to a woodworker and ship modeler par excellance, I have to say honestly that while I would never buy a Golding wheel or loom because I find the decorative value to be nil, the workmanship is extraordinary.

Nonetheless, when I look at Jimmy's work now, almost four years since his death, I am even more inspired in my own. He was certainly one of the top ship modelers in the country and his knowledge about the craft and about maritime and naval history was truly encyclopedic. And sometimes scary. He had more ship-shit stuffed in his brain and God knows how he retained it all.

This is the only model of his that I own, his New Bedford whaleboat. (The others were sold through galleries--there's one in the lobby of the Bank of America in SF.) Made from scratch, strake by strake, plank by plank. All the whaling gear--harpoons, lances, buckets, etc.--he made everything. Except the sail, which I sewed for him from his paper pattern. He just wasn't good with a sewing machine.

Just thought I'd share that with you. He's still awesome in his talent. So although I find the Golding wheels fugly, I surely appreciate the work and talent that goes into their creation.

Knitting Funk
I need to get motivated to do something. I've been spending much too much time writing and haven't really gotten into gear again since I finished the Field of Flowers shawl. Problem is, I have too many ongoing projects--the loom, the spinning, the lace shawl design and the ever-present writing. Even with my self-imposed schedule, I don't seem to be accomplishing much this week.

Maybe an infusion of knitting friends and fiber this weekend will help. Or a rare and handy kick in the ass.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.
--Dr. Seuss

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas.

And something else.

That's right, gang. Christmas is closer than you think. Two and a half scant months away (almost). So once again, it's time to start thinking of shitty knitted gifts.

For those readers who are not familiar with the Christmas Crap-along, every year I have a contest to see who can knit the most disgusting Christmas item. Here are the particulars:

  • Item must be knitted in non-natural fibers in your choice of colors
  • You may add any and all surface decorations that you desire
  • Submit a .jpeg of your knitted crap to me at Make sure the photo is no bigger than 500K.
  • Deadline is Friday, December 23rd. Winning entry will be published on December 24th.
  • And the prize is: Four, count 'em, four skeins of Koigu. Enough to make a nice scarf or something.

You know what I like. And I don't want to see just entries from Carol this year. Now get out that Fun Fur and get to work.

Inspiration Point
I wish I could say that my lace swatching has been fulfilling but it hasn't.

You know how you look at a stitch pattern and you can't wait to get going on it and then when you're knitting it, suddenly you realize's a bore. And you'll never finish it and don't ever want to look at the pattern again.

That happened with this lace pattern that I modified from Susanna Lewis's book.

My design plan was to create a shawl that would be viable in laceweight, fingering and DK. This yarn is Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk--lovely to work with. However, the pattern is much too holey. And a stone bore to knit. So back to the drawing board. I've found something else.

Ultimately this shawl will be knitted with the DB and with Morehouse Farm laceweight in Aquarius. Yes, it will be for publication, which is why I'm showing only the swatch I'm not using.

Looming, Spinning, Feh
Nothing on the loom. Didn't get to the warping this weekend. It rained about 8" on Saturday so we spent some time dredging water from the laundry room. I did get some spinning done on the Starry Night; however, that fucking bag of fiber never seems to get smaller. I've filled up all save one of my bobbins so it's time to get plying. And with Rhinebeck less than a week away and this stuff now a year old, I'm wondering if I need to buy more fiber.

Of course I will. It's inevitable, like death and taxes. Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and more rare and handy fiber.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Fashions have done more harm than revolutions.--Victor Hugo


Is this not everything you ever wanted to knit for that special "manly" man? What an ensemble.

I lost the eBay bid on this book to Robocat75. I really wanted it for my collection (or perhaps to give to Joe for his birthday). It's a "vintage" Columbia-Minerva book, probably from the '70s, although the seller never stated the date of publication.

I guess that makes me "vintage" as well.

However, I have won some very good bids on eBay for vintage knitting books. You may argue that buying on eBay not only diminishes the thrill of the find but also takes business away from antique/collectible dealers. And I would agree with you.

Nonetheless, it's the easiest way to find specific books at reasonable prices. I just bought a lot of fifteen Mon Tricot magazines from the '70s and early '80s for $35.00 to replace those of mine that are MIA. I found an old Spinnerin book from 1972 that I owned when I first started knitting as an adult--wonderful Aran patterns. Cost? $5.00 and that includes the shipping. I got it in two days and it's in great condition. Can't beat eBay for that.

Of course, there's no way I'd pay $200+ for Principles of Knitting. Such an overvalued book.

Just to keep everyone up-to-date on my gyrations with the loom, I finally got the warp chains done. Actually, not a huge deal--yet.

Getting the warp threads into one neat package requires a warping board and a specific method of winding the warp threads so that you can remove the warp from the board keeping all the threads together.

And then tying them in strategic places. Then you pull the warp package from the board and actually make a crocheted chain of it, so that the threads stay put.

Of course, the pesky part is coming--getting the warp onto the loom. Stay tuned.

You Asked
I generally try to answer questions from the Comments there so I don't have to do it here. But wasn't able to do so yesterday. Thanks to everyone who appreciated the shawl and the blocking procedure entry. I will try to put that into a .pdf, as I did the lace tips, so you don't have to Google, ya lazy bums.

So onto the questions. And there were a lot of them this time around.

From JoVE: Your striping yarn came out well. Who is discouraging Joe from trying this?
Not to speak for Joe but probably nothing. Hey, he's in Albany most of the week, away from his wheel. I'm home. That's why, I'm sure.

From Loopy: I know what the ends are for--so you can tie the shawl around your neck! Wha'doI win? Wha'doI win??
My undying gratitude for all your weaving help, ya skank.

From Franklin: Now that you're done, Marilyn, can I interest you in a quick trip to Chicago to hold my sweaty hand while I block my sweater?
I love Chicago. My favorite city, hands down. But we've only got a week, so e-mail me and I'll hold your hand electronically.

From Laura Gayle: Oh, and yes, you left weaving in those ends until last so it wouldn't pop apart... right?
Half right. I wove in the ends prior to blocking and then left them uncut just in case the weaving wasn't sufficient after stretching.

From Katherine Valentine: What is the yarn fiber content?
50% wool, 50% silk.

From Michelene: Mar, when you pin, do you get better tension when you face the point away from the shawl, or into the shawl?
I start the pin as vertically as possible to the shawl. It takes a bit of maneuvering to get the pointed end to grab. I then lever the T back to produce the tension. Hard to describe.

From Purlpower: Meant to ask if you had seen this site:
Many, many times. It's Sharon Miller's site, who is the author of Heirloom Knitting. Great site.

From June: Just curious, why not thread more wire through the teeth and just pin that out?
Because I'm a masochist and flagellate myself every possible opportunity. Seriously, I could have done but I think it's more precise to pin each point individually.

From Isabel: 1) Why Icelandic over silk and wool lace weight yarns?2) What kind of nylon cord for blocking? Would a heavier fishing line work or does it need to be thicker/thiner?3) I wonder what sort of finish needs to be on the blocking wires (or perhaps type of metal used) to avoid rust?
1) Personal preference, because I prefer a slightly heavier shawl. 2) I have not used nylon cord to block but I imagine that a slightly heavier jewelery cord would be OK. Wouldn't use fishing line because I always made a mess of it when I went fishing with the late husband. 3) Stainless steel.

Enough. I have to get back to work. I'm still swatching lace designs but I may have some pictures after the weekend. Designing lace is a trip. I find it easier than designing an Aran, that's for sure. I'll leave you with a picture of the ever-accommodating Liz modeling her new scarf (which she had to give back so I could weave in the ends).

I jokingly suggested that if she were a foot taller, she might consider professional modeling. Aghast, she said, "Never. I have a reputation to maintain."

That's my rare and handy partner-in-crime.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Repetition is the reality and the seriousness of life.--Kierkegaard

Lace edging points. I didn't count them.

But I think there were 80 of them. Each with their very own T-pin.

If you want a seriously tedious chore, other than putting heddles on a loom shaft, you must try blocking a lace shawl. Only the excitement of seeing the finished product will keep you going, particularly when working in an attic whose mean temperature was about 100 degrees.

I had to do it away from the animals. Buddy and Cleo would have used the shawl as a trampoline otherwise.

So here's the final sequence of events, with my observations. I hope this will be of some help to those of you who are interested in lace. Or it could be a deterrant. You must soldier on, when faced with tasks like this one.

Off the Needles
I grafted the last row to the first on Friday night. And here it is in its pre-coital state--small, wrinkled but expandable.

You can see the ends sticking out on the upper lefthand corner. These have been woven in but not yet cut. Anyone want to venture the reason why? Think about it.

Saturday morning I dunked the shawl into tepid water and Eucalan and let it sit for 15 minutes to soak up max water. I then wrapped it in a towel and gently squeezed to remove the excess.

Toys in the Attic
My attic is carpeted. In fact, it would be a great room to use if you could stand up straight anywhere other than in the center. And it has a door. Perfect for getting on your 55-year-old knees and blocking.

I'm nothing if not systematic. First, a large burgundy bath sheet on the carpeting, then the shawl. I began by blocking the center square, using my short wires (these were ultimately replaced by the longer wires--I needed the length).

I threaded the wires through the yo's that edge the square. It's very easy to catch a thread when doing this, so you have to take it slowly. I think it was at this point that I stripped down to my underwear. You may eliminate this step.

Once all four wires were in position, I pinned the intersection of each corner, stretching out the square as much as possible and adding pins to the sides if needed.

The right side was still a bit uneven, so I adjusted it by pulling it out and pinning it. You can't see the pins but they're there.

Here's a good picture of a blocked corner. I had to be very careful to keep the border away from the wires. Very easy for it to double back and get caught.

Now it was time to attack the edging points. So I pinned each corner and immediately discovered I was running out of towel. Tough shit. I was too far into it now. And anyway, the carpet would suffice.

(That right side was still a little off. ) You'll find that if you block a shawl, you will be repositioning pins as you go. I insert the T-pins so that they are as vertical as I can get them, and then using the T, make them into little levers by manipulating the T so that the pins are almost horizontal to the shawl, thus creating tension. Works a treat.

You can see this process pretty clearly. And don't forget, the more tension and pins that are added, the easier the pinning gets. You can expect the points to slide up to the T, as the picture shows in the upper lefthand corner. That's OK. When the pins start to pop out, you've stretched the piece too much.

And here it is, with about 100 T-pins and a gallon of sweat. At this point, I retreated to take a shower and left it for 24 hours. In actuality, it was probably dry within four hours, but I was sick of it and went on to other things.

Done and done.

This was a nice project, pretty easy. Besides learning to design lace on my own, I'm ready to make a larger, more complex shawl. I will say, though, that as much as I like working with wool/silk laceweight, I think I like the Icelandic laceweight better. Loopy said: "Now, for the million dollar question I always ask myself after finishing something like this: Where are you planning to wear it? "

I dunno. The opera? Rhinebeck? Right now it's packed away in my cedar chest. I'll bring it to Rhinebeck and then back it goes.

The Old Color Study
I hadn't forgotten about the lime-navy-peacock yarn I spun. But what to do with it? Liz wanted socks but at 184 yards, there wasn't enough. So she gets a scarf. Next project: Spin more of those colors the same way I did these and knit a hat that can be felted. Which she won't wear. Not kewl enough.

I began the bottom with a double seed stitch, then changed up my mind, as we say in my family, and went with a 2/2 rib. I rather like the flare. Liz doesn't care one way or the other. Kind of weird striping but I guess that's why I like it.

So many rare and handy pictures today. Back to rare and handy snarkiness the next entry.