Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.--Oscar Wilde

You won't find any lists of New Year's resolutions here. Or special 2006 lists of any kind. Unless you'd enjoy my grocery list.

Making New Year's Resolutions is an occupation akin to explaining the Keynesian School of economic theory to a 3-year-old.

A total waste of time.

I resolve to do stuff year-round. And then I either do it or I don't. If I don't, there is no self-flagellation. If I do, that's good.

Post-Christmas Perambulations
After being in the house for three days, I decided on Tuesday to get the fuck out of Dodge and join Joe for lunch down in Lambertville, a nice old town on the Jersey side of the Delaware River, and to check out a new yarn shop in New Hope, PA.

It's always fun to get together with my gay brother. However, we are a badass shopping duo. The two of us descending upon a new place has to be scary for the owner because we tend to be a bit rowdy and probably a bit loud. No matter. We buy shit.

The new yarn shop, Twist Knitting and Spinning, is on Rte. 202, right outside of the main business district, and is run by the lovely and charming Deborah Brady, who is also a spinner and a weaver, much to my delight. Lots of good stuff here, for spinning and knitting. Naturally, I bought something.

Nice hand-dyed bombyx top by Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks. OK, I've still not detangled the last silk spinning project (that gets done in fits and starts) but I couldn't resist buying this. So many colorways to choose from. However, these two--Juniper Berry and Carlyn's Nosegay--were so color-intense, I had to have them.

It was a struggle to keep Joe's little mitts away from them. However, he bought some Manos and some Chasing Rainbows silk too. And we both sat and spun a little on one of Deborah's wheels, a Kromski double-treadle. I'll keep my Schacht. The Kromski's treadles were too small for my big feet.

More Plying
The neverending Starry Night keeps getting spun and plied. I'm finding that using the Woolee Winder on my wheels has absolutely increased my bobbin capacity. So for the hell of it, I took pictures yesterday after I skeined a bobbin of plyed singles. Note that I've gone back to my large wood swift, ignoring the Japanese crap swift entirely.

One of the reasons I love this house is because of that little mini-sink attached to the main kitchen sink. Perfect for soaking skeins.

I rarely set my twist by steaming, primarily because I know that I'll burn myself, klutz that I am. I make the water as hot as I can, add the Eucalan and then gently push the skein into the mix and let it soak until the water temperature is tepid. Then I remove as much excess water as possible without damaging the fiber and hang from the patio door handle.

There's possibly less than a pound left of the Starry Night. I now have seven very large skeins of it, which I guestimate each as being more than 500 yards.

Whine and You'll Get
See. I whined in my December 12th entry about non-knitters never buying you those arcane fiber gifts and look what my sister gave me for Christmas.

A packet of each one of these beaded markers. Nice. I had shied away from beaded markers because most of the ones I have seen were a bit too heavy. Not these. She bought them on eBay but couldn't remember the name of the vendor except that the person was a knitter.

Rasta Time, Mon
I've swatched for Liz's JamaicanMeCrayzee hoodie (we decided that was a good name for it), did the directions and the revised chart, and I'm almost done with the ribbing. I think it would be a good idea to take you through my design process with this one, since it involved going from the original chart (which I almost immediately chucked as being undoable for circular knitting) to a redesigned one. For those of you who have not yet designed your own, perhaps it will be enlightening.

This will be my last entry for 2005. To all of you who read this blog, thanks. You give me so much more than I give to you, and I am in your debt.

Have a rare and handy New Year. I'll leave you with this mysterious picture that somehow ended up on my expensive camera that someone is NOT supposed to use without permission. If she weren't out skateboarding, she'd be hearing about it.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And God bless us, everyone. Now gimme my presents.

The Christmas Crap-along Winner
Outstanding entries, all. However, the panel has voted and the winner is:

The Snowman Chair Cover by Shelley Monitor
"I was inspired by a bad mail order catalog that sold holiday chair covers and by the trend to link snowmen to the Christian holiday of Christmas and specifically to Jesus. I am baffled - was there a snowman in Bethlehem that I did not know about (a miracle indeed)? I like snowmen and they are a fun wintertime decoration. I just don't understand the need to slap a Jesus on it to make it more Christmas-like. Maybe it's an alarming trend of the Christians taking over Pagan holiday symbols - ha ha ha.

This should fit your requirements - it is made of wonderful Christmas Carons, fun fur and other crappy fibers obtained off of Ebay. I will admit I did have some of the yarns from an unfortunate scarf kit that I acquired but never knit."

Congratulations, Shelley--send me your snail mail address and I'll get your four skeins of Koigu out to you asap.

And now for the runners-up:

Ms. Schmatteh Claus by Michelene Russell
Fast, Fabulous, Fun and Frugal, Mrs. Schmatteh Claus showcases the yummy yarn goodness of Wal-Mart. Ten dollars and tinsel turn heads, and reflect headlights, in this frothy bit of holiday happiness!
Designed and photographed by Michelene Russell, modelled by Briana Russell.

Jingle Thong by Diane Shantz
Here's a little number I whipped up for the bosses' gag gift exchange. It is of 100% ack, with drapery trim and jingle bell embellishment. Yarn choice was important, as the nearly bulky, fuzzy, itchy yarn makes a nice component of the overall thongness of the thing. And let us not forget the wonderful glitter of the ack fur! The pattern came from the Knitty underwear issue, which I NEVER thought I would actually knit from. Go figure. My granddaughter was gracious enough to model for the photo, as none of the males in my house want anything to do with the darn thing. Anyway, it got lots of giggles while under construction, especially on the morning communter bus. (Now they *know* I'm certifiable!) I think the boss is chickening out of putting this fine piece of dreck in the gift exchange, but it was still worth the fun of knitting and laughing over it.

Christmas Stockings by Sara Hinz-Bridger

The stockings are made out of PURE Red Heart yarn.
Happy Holidays!!!

I thought these all were just the best. Full of smarmy yarny goodness, no? And getting your kid/granddaughter to model? I would have easily talked Liz into it, myself.

Thanks to all for their hard work and inspiration. It takes a lot of fortitude to knit with "yarns" such as these. Technically, a knit-along requires that everyone make the same thing. However, I can't see the Christmas Crap-along ever becoming quite that structured.

Silky Presents
My friend Ted Myatt, aka KnitterGuy, sent me these two absolutely beautiful silk wrist distaffs that he made from bombyx and mawata.

I can't tell you how touched and pleased I am with these. And I will use them while I bumble around with my spindle. Ted's gonna have to babysit me with spindle spinning, I think. But he is my spindle hero. And he Navajo-plyed these babies too. Jesus. Will I ever spin as fine as Ted?

And so, I need to get back to turning the rare and handy sauerbraten that's marinating in the fridge for tomorrow's dinner. We're having a real German dinner, as befits our heritage. So to all of you, from me and my whacked-out family,

(God, what an awful song that was)




Did I forget anyone? Where's O'Reilly when you need him? Hey, Bill. Taking your fucking Christmas balls and have a happy holiday. Never mind. That was just sarcastic wit on my part.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I bet one legend that keeps recurring throughout history, in every culture, is the story of Popeye.--Jack Handy

If Poopdeck Pappy was Popeye's father, who was his mother? Mizzenmast Mammy?

That's all I can stands, 'cause I can't stands no more!
On the rare occasion that I read the Knit List in its now excruciatingly moderated form, there are still some Nuggets of Informed Ignorance that shine through. Like this one from the latest digest, no doubt written by an expert in her own mind:

I explained to my husband that knitting was actually originated with men, explained about fishermen and how they would knit they're family logo into sweaters so if their bodies were found while at sea they could be identified. (Morbid thought I know however nonetheless true.)

I'm totally enamored of the phrase "knitting was originated with men," wording that so completely murders the English language to the point that it's an indictable offense. The only fishing family known to have had a "logo" is perhaps the Macy family.

But I can't believe that this old chestnut about Aran knitting, so completely disproved by Richard Rutt, is still making the rounds.

Talk about an urban knitting legend. This one surely dies a slow, agonizing death.

I've written about Heinz Kiewe before. Kiewe started this nonsense and Rutt ended it. Richard Rutt should be required reading for all new knitters who plan to advance beyond Fun Fur scarves.

It would be hoped that someone would post an explanation to this moron that no, the patterns have nothing to do with dead fisherman. Of course, you'll never read it on the Knit List, thanks to the equally moronic List Moms.

Grateful Dead
If you read my archived entry on Heinz Kiewe, you'll be happy to know, as I was, that the X-men and their staff certainly do not read this blog. The Knitter's Pro List is still asking dear dead Heinz to submit a short bio. He's just as dead as he was in February 2004, when I pointed this out. Now, it might be nice if Heinz rose from the grave, Lazaruslike, and submitted a bio. Just sayin'.

(Oh, and Ted, they're looking for a short bio from you too. And I know you're itching to submit one. Because you're not dead.)

There are a few other dead knitting writers/designers on this list. Can you find 'em all, kids?

I'll Trade Ya One Nicky Epstein for Two EZs
You know, when I was a kid and growing up in an all-boy neighborhood, I chewed a lot of bubblegum and saved those dopey baseball cards that are now probably worth more than I care to imagine.

So, since we all know the KnitDweebs buy anything that says "Yarn" or "Knitting" or both on the label, I've come up with a really neat product and I pity the fool who steals this copyrighted idea.

Knitting designer trading cards.

You know you want 'em.

Think I went all soft on you in the last entry? Think again.

Mama Said There'll Be Days Like This
Don't forget, tomorrow is the deadline for the Christmas Crap-along. That esteemed panel of judges, the Wolverinas, is going to cast their ballots, as will I. The winner and runners-up will be published on Saturday, along with their very own words about their creations.

So be rare, be handy and get your submissions in.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain. --Martin Mull

When your sister has not one but two children born at Christmas time, you are guaranteed not one but two chaotic celebrations.

Die Familie und Geburtstags
You would think that because we're of German descent (first gen, actually), our family get-togethers would be calm, sober and stuffy.

Not bloody likely. It was Nick and Alex's joint birthday party yesterday. Noise abounded.

I rarely devote a blog entry to my family. In fact, I don't believe I have ever done so. However, today I'm breaking that rule and writing exclusively about them.

I have a brother, Rich, and my sister Karen, who occasionally comments here. Rich is 51, Karen is possibly 43; however, her chronological age versus her emotional age is still up for debate. I'm the oldest.

Corinne and Rich

I have two girls, Corinne and Jenn. My sister has two boys, Alex and Nicholas. Corinne and Jenn are 33 and 36; Alex and Nick are 9 and 12. And they're first cousins. Liz is technically the boys' second cousin but we don't confuse the issue. Cousins are cousins.

Nick and the scary albino rabbit Lucky

And then of course, there's my mother, who has graced the pages of this blog frequently enough.

What would a family get-together be without Mom and Mar knitting? (My nephew Nick has decided that for Christmas he will buy me a knitting needle. We do not know why he wishes to purchase only one. Perhaps his grandmother will get the other.)

My mother is knitting a vest from the Wensleydale I spun for her last Christmas. She's finally gotten around to it. And I supplied the pattern, which, against my better judgement, included a cable pattern that she insisted upon having.

As I suspected, the cable doesn't show up well against the yarn. But she's pleased with it so what the fuck.

Christmas is not an emotionally easy holiday for me. It's not an easy holiday for many people who've lost loved ones. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three friends who are in the same boat. However, it gets immediately easier when I spend an hour or so with my grandchild helping her to decorate herself like a Christmas tree so I can take a picture for her to use as a Christmas card.

When I fool around with Liz, all the bad things go away.

You'd knit this kid a Rasta hoodie, wouldn't you?

Thanks for suffering my maudlin family entry. But they are some rare and handy people and I love them dearly.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily. "So it is." "And freezing." "Is it?" "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately.--A.A. Milne

And today it's 45 degrees F. After several frigid days of sub-30 weather.

My friends in Oz may laugh. Or perhaps regale us with stories about their summer.

Trudging Away
Maybe I'm bored with knitting because I'm knitting boring crap. Nine days to go and I've managed to complete one Touch Me scraf (with ends yet to be woven in and the whole magilla washed):

And a half a sock

After knitting socks for too many years, I've come to the conclusion that the sock yarn I most enjoy knitting is Trekking XXL. I've done the rest and while I enjoy the colorways of Opal, Trekking is a much more pleasant yarn with which to knit.

Most important, though--I'm sick of knitting socks. The words "socks" and "stimulus" do not go hand in hand.

Drecky Little Knitted Things
While decorating the tree the other day, Corinne pulled this out of her ornament box:

I admit to making this for her about 15 years ago when she still lived at home. So that would be, um, around 1990. I couldn't believe she still had it.

We put it on the tree, along with this gem:

I remember making this. Probably circa 1995, right after I made my first pair of socks. Note the unKitchenered toe and the gaping hole at the gusset. Everyone has to start somewhere. But it's on the tree, despite (or perhaps because) of its flaws.

IK Out
I got my issue the other day and while I wasn't ecstatic, there were two terrific jackets, a very good interview with Veronik Avery, one of my favorite designers, and yet another article revisiting shortrowing. Always a good idea, since people don't seem to understand it's simply making wedges. I grant you, my own mother has trouble understanding shortrowing. But if you think of doorstop shapes or pie pieces, the concept becomes easier to grasp.

I really liked the Pearl Buck swing jacket by Kate Gilbert; however, the shape isn't for me. And looking at the knit-in front bands in the picture, I noticed that they appeared to be curling back. When I gave the directions a quick skim, it appeared that there are no facings to help tame that curling. Hmmm. A caveat for this one, perhaps.

The other one that I liked a lot was the Di Gilpin Winter Star Jacket. Now that one I would make.

I looked at Knitter's No. 81 on the newsstand. The less said, the better. The X-men manage to raise the bar for obnoxious, ugly garbage with each issue. Even VK's Glam Slam issue was better than this--barely.

When it comes right down to it, the only fiber publications that I read these days come from Interweave. The rest are junk.

From SnitU
A letter from a disgruntled Knitter's reader threatening to cancel her subscription unless the magazine got better (that actually got past Antie Gail's censorious eyeball) included a very good link to Garnstudio Drops free patterns. The writer complained that she saw more unique designs on this free web site than she does in most of the mags. She's right. There are some very nice designs on this site, particularly kids' knits.

Even their ponchos look better designed than the ones I've seen in the magazines. Which is not saying much, I realize.

The New Poncho
Watch out. Pompoms are back. Ted wrote me the other day to tell me he had read someone on the GLBT-knit list talking about pompoms being the next knitting fad. I believe this to be true since A) IK had a ghastly pompom Christmas tree pattern and B) it's all about 1975 redux.

First person who designs a pompom poncho wins the Christmas Crap-along, whether it's seasonal or not.

Speaking of Which
One week to the Christmas Crap-along deadline. Entries have been coming in and I have to say, it's going to be a very tough contest to judge. What brilliant crap! Inspired.

I should be so inspired. Although I've already knit my rare and handy Christmas crap ornaments back in the '90s, when I should have known better.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows.--Frank Zappa

Here are my eyebrows.

Some people have snowmen on their trees. I have a collection of nutcrackers. Grimacing nutcrackers.

Lost in the Shuffle
While the Shrub continues his oblivious hike down the Highway of Hubris, I've been pondering a troublesome news story and wondering if it will be swept under the carpet.

The sad story of Rigoberto Alpizar, the bipolar man who was shot to death in Miami last week, has seemingly disappeared from the news this week.

I've done a lot of thinking about this guy. He stopped taking his medication. He and his wife were in Quitos, on their way back to their home near Orlando. I can picture the scenario: He's been off his medication for a week or so--a common thing for us bipolars to do because we think we're "well"-- when he becomes increasingly agitated, paranoid and miserable. His wife, rather than hospitalize him in Quitos, gets his ass onto a plane, figuring that heading for home is the smartest thing to do.

On the plane, he has even more time to become agitated, anxious and paranoid. And certainly frightened. She manages to keep him calmed down until they land but at that point, his mind is so out of control that he thinks the only way he'll get off the plane is to say he has a bomb. And runs out with his carry-on and onto the jetway. Do anything and say anything to escape his mania and his fear. Where he is shot by air marshals as he reaches into his bag. Extreme behavior on Rigoberto's part? Absolutely. However, it's not surprising for a bipolar I.

I don't know if the air marshals were right or wrong to shoot. They may not have received the proper training to deal with the emotionally disturbed. Could they have not used a Tazer to subdue him? From their viewpoint, they honestly thought he had a bomb and weren't going to take the time to find out up close and personal. I don't know if his wife was right to put him on that plane or whether she should have kept him in Quitos and sought help there. My instinct would have been hers--get his ass out of here and back to his own doctor.

What I think I understand is Rigoberto's thought processes. I've been there, although perhaps not as out of control. But the agitation, the paranoia, the anxiety and the frantic need to escape a situation that I've perceived as harmful have all happened to me.

The difference between me and Rigoberto is that I am alive and he is not. And that does not bode well for manic depressives in extremis.

Well, not exactly. I finished John's Touch Me scraf, thank you Jesus. I'm working on finishing socks. I have no interesting or boring pictures of any work in progress. I've managed to spend about two hours a day spinning both the Cormo and the Starry Night but if I took pictures of either, it would be deja vu all over again, with apologies to the Yog.

I have nothing particularly pithy to say about knitting except that lately, there isn't much interesting knitting going on and that's OK.

Sometimes knitting can be a stone bore. And I'm ready to toss it and just read or do something utterly dumb, like watch judge shows on TV.

I'm actually writing this in advance of tomorrow (or today, whatever) because I'm out the door early for Christmas shopping with my sister, the Queen of the Malls, and my mother, who will hopefully give Karen the hairy eyeball should she decide to turn a simple shopping trip into chaos. So I decided to forgo Boston Law for this evening. Which is why the posting time is 12 midnight. No time tomorrow.

See what I do to write this thing? Give up Shatner. There's nothing more rare or handy than watching that old ham do his thing. Pure genius.

ADDENDUM: If you've viewed December's Bizarro link, you may be as astonished as I was to find out that the film is of the actual house and music, not some Flash movie done as a joke. I saw an interview on the Today show last week with the guy who owns the house--he's a "IT professional"--and the house and music are real. It's in Mason, Ohio, if anyone lives near there and wants to see it for real.

If he were my neighbor, I'd have to kill him.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.--George Carlin

Santa will find me, I hope.

My Christmas List
I can always count on my mother to give me something that I really want. This year, she's giving me A Handweaver's Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. This is a book that for weavers is comparable to the Barbara Walker Treasuries for knitters.

OK, so I told her what I wanted and she bought it for me at Stitches. We both know that our favorite gifts are fiber-related and we know what the other is talking about.

That is most certainly not true of the rest of the family and I've had odd conversations with people when I've tried to explain that what I really would like is some more silk roving to spin. Try explaining a niddy-noddy to John, for example. I could use a new one. My description ended up like this: "It's that wooden thing that I wind yarn onto after it's all spun. You know, the thing whose top keeps falling off?"

If I get this, it will be a miracle. He now knows what it is but it will be easier for him to get me something else, I suspect.

I suggested to Corinne that she get me a gift certificate to WEBS. "Oh, but I've already got an idea for you, if I end up doing it."

Hmmm. I'm sure I'll like whatever it is, if she ends up doing it.

Here's my real Christmas list and what I will probably actually get:
  • New niddy noddy (earrings)
  • Silk roving (perfume)
  • Skein reeler (new book on the Beatles)
  • Some of those beaded markers (more earrings)
  • Carrying case for the Joy wheel (gift certificates to Borders)

Don't get me wrong, I have never gotten a present from any family member that I didn't love or use--they're very good at picking out stuff for me. And I don't really expect them to understand my hobby or buy anything for it.

But I've given up trying to explain what a niddy-noddy is, you know?

Marley's Ghost
So oddly enough, when Liz returned from her Bermuda cruise last August, suddenly she was hooked on Rasta clothing, Bob Marley and Frank Sinatra. And red, green, yellow and black became the preferred colors to wear.

How Sinatra figures into all of this, I have no idea.

I've been knitting Liz socks almost continually but no sweaters since she was around nine because she wouldn't wear them. Not cool. Now, for the first time, she wants a hoodie. And not a Wallaby, either. A real hoodie of Grammy design, with Rasta colors. So I ordered black, red, green and yellow Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks and I've thrown together two charts for her approval because Grammy don't do just stripes.

I've done the hoodie directions already. It will be knit in the round. This is the motif that will go above the ribbing on the sleeves and the body.

For a larger motif, I did a stylized Star of David.

I won't get started on the knitting until after Christmas and I most definitely want to swatch both of these motifs. The Star of David may come out looking not quite right and I may have to adjust it when I see the knitted version. Just my gut feeling. I'll have to add two more stitches to this motif to make it an even 20 stitches wide, so that it works with the 10-stitch repeat of the first motif.

I'm calling it the I-and-I Hoodie. She uses JamaicanMeCrayzee as one of her screen names but I thought it should have a more Rasta flavor. What do you think?

Naturally, Liz hadn't a clue as to the Rastafarian religion, so I sent her off to Wikipedia so she knows what the fuck she's talking about. Fortunately she's hugely anti-drugs, thanks to DARE and the sad downfall of one of her classmates. So I don't worry too much about the weed aspect. Or the dreadlock aspect either. For Liz, it's a fashion statement more than anything else. An opportunity to be different and unique, as she puts it.

I still have more socks to make, and I finally found the other ball of Diamusee in one of my knitting bags so I will finish that sock as well.

If this hoodie comes out the way I visualize it, I'll put the pattern up for sale on The Knitting Vault.

Knittyspin and More
I took a quick look at the patterns in the new Knitty but didn't investigate the articles until Loop advised me that there were two about spinning silk by Amy Singer and one on hand plying by Lorraine Smith. All three were very good, except that they pertain to spindle spinning, which I don't do. They are well written and informative, though.

However, the best of all was the link included in one of Amy Singer's articles to HJS Studio, owned by Michigan fiberist Holly Shaltz. Her tutorials are outstanding. Spinning, weaving, fiber prep, the old WWII Red Cross patterns and a bunch of freebie knitting patterns. Well worth checking out.

Holly includes a tutorial by Carol Weymar on spinning from a silk cap that is much more indepth than the Knittyspin article. After reading it, I think I'll be happy to stick to spinning silk from roving, though.

And I'm still untangling that silk. However, the Christmas tree is up and straightened. All it needs now are some rare and handy ornaments.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.--Alice Walker

In my living room, this doesn't exactly hold true.

It's a sad truism that the older I get, the less I am able to manipulate Christmas trees by myself. Small wooden sticks I can twiddle. Large wooden trunks I cannot.

Christmas Crap-Along Cometh Along
Two weeks until the deadline. I've gotten some really amazing entries so far. This is going to be a tough one to judge.

With that in mind, I have asked the Wolverinas' assistance: Joe, Franklin, Carol, Kathy, Loopy, Selma, Liza and Lisa.

Tough judges? Absolutely. These people know crap when they see it. And I think they'll be impressed with the high quality of the garbage that has been constructed by the contestants.

Meme, Nono
You really want to piss me off? Then do a Tag-You're It meme in my comments.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you should know that I don't go with the bloggy flow.

  • No memes
  • No chain letters
  • No -alongs (except for the Christmas Crap-along, which is, as you may suspect, slightly satiric)
  • No maps showing me where you live
  • No maps showing you where I live
  • No wishlists
  • No slideshows

I'd rather spend my time writing than junk up my blog any more than it's already junked up.

Somehow, the Gematriculator disappeared, though. I thought that had real value. I ran the rating recently on the Homokaasu website and I'm down to 22% evil. Read into that what you will.

I suppose I should put back my list of blogs that I read. I don't mind the buttons, actually. They have some kind of iconic esthetics that can be pleasing.

Obligatory Knitting Shit (with spinning and weaving cameos)
I wish I could say that I've been flailing away with the needles, getting large gobs of work done on the Melanie shawl. I have not. Nor have I even gotten around to warping the loom for that sampler. Some spinning on the Cormo and Starry Night, and that's it.

Here's what I am knitting at the moment. A pair of insipidly colored socks.

It's the fate of a mother such as I to be blessed with a child who was walking, talking cotton candy. Corinne was that child.

Pink and baby blue--her favorite colors then, her favorite colors now. This was the child of mine who loved Barbie and owned 22 of them at one time, along with the Dreamhouse, the Barbie boat and the car.

Corinne, the mother of Liz. Liz, who wears black and poison green, dyes her hair blue on occasion and has a marked preference for Rastafarian colors a la Bob Marley. I'd say that paybacks are a bitch. So Corinne gets the insipid socks because I'm a good Mommy who still respects her kids' color choices.

Those bamboo needles do curve with use, don't they?

Unabashed Friend Promotion
The Cast-On podcast featuring the lovely and multi-talented Franklin Habit is now available. Please go and listen. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be thrilled. Very funny and very true stuff has my boy written.

Off to straighten the Christmas tree, if I can get John away from his rare and handy online poker game. We have way too many computers in this house.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day

I'm not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I've always been a freak. So I've been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I'm one of those people.--John Lennon

If you are a person of a certain age, as I am, you can almost certainly remember exactly what you were doing when JFK was shot. And when John Lennon was shot, 25 years ago today.

In December 1980, I was 30 years old, married with two small children and working the night shift at the Essex County Hospital Center, a large psychiatric institution where I was employed as a psychiatric technician. After seven years of working maximum security wards, med-surg wards, and crisis intervention wards, I had finally gotten transferred to the geriatric area, where I and four other people cared for 108 incontinent, senile patients. Hard work but very rewarding.

Once the patients were all changed, vital signs taken and charts written, we sat in chairs, read, knit and crocheted, and listened to the radio. At 12:30 a.m., one of my co-workers said, "Hey, that John Lennon got shot!" I didn't believe her. Who would shoot John Lennon?

I soon found out. Some lunatic named Mark David Chapman. Shot John in cold blood in front of his apartment house, The Dakota. Somehow, nothing was quite the same after that.

John Lennon has been the single largest influence on my writing, my attitudes and my beliefs. When John said, "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ," he wasn't wrong.

Picture a fourteen-year-old girl, geeky, wearing glasses, studying violin and writing poetry that she never shows a soul except to her one close friend, another like-minded geeky girl named Dotti.

Everyone in junior high school tortures the two of them because they are different. Weird. Freaks.

That was me, then. Painfully shy, no self-confidence and never going to be accepted by other kids.

And then came The Beatles. And Dotti and I were hooked. Not only on the music but on John. He was funny, he was outrageous, he was intelligent, he was everything we admired.

When John published In His Own Write, we both bought copies immediately. And it was then that I realized that my writing and Dotti's drawings were worth something. If John could write silly, whimsical pieces and illustrate them, so could we. And we did.

I was so inspired by John's writing that I muscled up my courage and started showing other people my short stories and my poetry. I had a piece published in the school literary magazine and in the local newspaper. I added classical and folk guitar to my music studies because I loved the music John and Paul wrote. And Dotti kept on drawing. Now it didn't matter if the kids teased us.

And oddly enough, once my stories were published, people shut up. And I grew less shy and more confident.

By the time Dotti and I hit high school, we had found other, kindred freak souls. There weren't a lot of us but enough so that the "popular" kids ceased to exist in the schemes of our lives. Dotti and I, originally Mods who wore knock-off Mary Quant miniskirts, now threw away our fashion-following personas and wore and said what the fuck we wanted. I never looked back.

Throughout the years, I've gone back to In His Own Write often for inspiration, as well as his music. John Lennon contributed greatly to my development as an adult. He helped me understand that it doesn't matter what other people think, that you do what you do and fuck 'em all if they can't take a joke. John cared deeply about peace, about the insanity of the world and about doing what you can to make the world a better place.

I'm grateful to John Lennon for helping one kid finding her way out of her shell and making the most of what she had.

Today, as on every December 8th, I remember John. Because he was good. And even though we never met, he was my friend.

I'd like to end this with one of John's poems, the one that Dotti and I used to recite from memory:

I sat belonely
I sat belonely down a tree, humbled fat and small.
A little lady sing to me I couldn't see at all.
I'm looking up and at the sky, to find such wondrous voice.
Puzzly puzzle, wonder why, I hear but have no choice.
'Speak up, come forth, you ravel me', I potty menthol shout.
'I know you hiddy by this tree'. But still she won't come out.
Such softly singing lulled me sleep, an hour or two or so
I wakeny slow and took a peep and still no lady show.
Then suddy on a little twig I thought I see a sight,
A tiny little tiny pig, that sing with all its might.
'I thought you were a lady'. I giggle, - well I may,
To my suprise the lady, got up - and flew away.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
We do have a zeal for laughter in most situations, give or take a dentist.--Joseph Heller

Thanks, Dr. Sinisi. Now I'm laughing. Really.

Glad that's over. I'm back.

And you can chalk the next item up to either gross stupidity or a surgical daze. I'm going with the first.

Anatomy of a Nightmare
When I fuck up, I fuck up big. And let's not get into "mistakes are learning experiences."

There are honest mistakes and then there are fuck-ups. Fuck-ups being when you know better and go ahead and do something dicey anyway with the full knowledge that you are treading dangerously.

I did that with the plied silk yesterday. I should have known not to try to wind it onto that cheap fucking Japanese swift. (Notice how I am already blaming the swift.)

All went well the first 300 yards. And then, this.

I had thought about using the niddy-noddy but no. I wanted to measure it while I skeined it. Then I thought about the big wood standing swift but I was too lazy to get it from the living room.

Then I thought, "This shit's gonna maybe slide off of this lousy little swift." And then proceeded to further delude myself by thinking, "Nah, it'll be fine."

Even worse, when I tried to set the swift up sideways to eliminate slippage, the clamp wasn't deep enough to do so. And with all that, I went ahead anyway. I should be shot.

So the great rewind began. Now you know the difference between a mistake and a fuck-up. And so do I. I had better options and I didn't take them. Now I pay.

Diminishing Returns
On a happier note, with the silk off the Joy and because I never stop pushing the envelope even after I've fucked up, I decided to be intrepid and attempt to spin laceweight with the Cormo I bought at Rhinebeck.

Unfortunately, the angle at which this picture was shot doesn't really show how fine I managed to get the Cormo. It's a thread, literally. Exactly what I wanted. This is some beautiful stuff, let me tell you. (The blue at the top of the bobbin is the leader--I had already spun for more than an hour, so you can see it took awhile to get even this far.)

I was amazed at how quickly my drafting settled down into the groove it needed. No tension, fairly fast treadling and letting the twist build up before releasing were key. After one false start where the twist was insufficient and the thread disintegrated, I had no further problems.

Ted Myatt is my laceweight guru. He's done absolutely wonderful writing on his blog, Knitterguy, about spinning laceweight. As Franklin can attest, his laceweight is spectacular. I actually hadn't read his laceweight info prior to spinning the Cormo; however, it was somewhat affirming that I do pretty much as he suggests.

With all the knitting crap blogs out there, it's good to know that people like Ted are sharing their expertise. More and more I see blogs where that's happening. Lately, I've been reading more blogs and enjoying and learning. Let's hope this is a trend.

Podcast Cometh with the Iceman
My audio essay on Brenda Dayne's Cast-On podcast show is going to be aired sometime in January. Brenda felt (and I concur) that it is not appropriate for the holiday season due to its subject matter. Plus I have to re-record it, since the sound was too low.

Without giving anything away regarding the topic, which is about knitting (of course), I have to say that both writing and recording this piece was one of the most difficult, emotionally trying things I have ever done. The essay, April 25, was actually written about a year and a half ago. Only Loopy has read it. And now Brenda. It's arguably the best writing I've ever done.

The winter issues of fiber mags are starting to appear. I got Spin-Off yesterday. Other than the tablerunner, I was not exactly thrilled with the issue. It wasn't terrible; just nothing appealed. I am looking forward to seeing Interweave Knits, however. There's an article about Veronik Avery, one of my favorite designers, and two designs by Shirley Paden that make me hopeful.

I shudder to think what's going to be in Knitter's. I've already shuddered aplenty at VK's "Glam Slam" issue.

OK, this is enough to make up for five days vacation. Time to get the house cleaned, the book written, the silk untangled and the tree in its stand. Perhaps by Friday the silk will be presentable. I don't even dare think about doing any weaving right now, even though Janice from GA sent me a lovely Schacht boat shuttle so that I can do two weft colors easily.

I leave you with a rare and handy picture of my backyard. Snow. Just dee-lightful.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Hear no evil, speak no evil - and you'll never be invited to a party--Oscar Wilde

'Tis the season to party. I love a good party and I've got a few on the holiday calendar.

However, I'm so sorry that I won't be invited to this one.

I just don't have the right outfit.

Loose Ends
Yesterday I figured it was about time to finish a couple of things, like Liz's socks, which had been fermenting on the needles.

One pair down, several more to go. I have a feeling that making socks for gifts will take up most of my knitting time until Christmas.

Rummaging in the attic for more sock yarn was a bad idea. While going through the stash, I found this:

Tussah silk. Bought at the Fiber Studio this summer while on vacation in New Hampshire. Two ounces of this and two ounces of a slightly different albeit complementary colorway. Four ounces total. It had to be spun immediately.

Talk about shine. My hair should look as good.

I must admit, I was a bit anxious about spinning silk. Hadn't done it and didn't want to fuck it up. To my amazement, it spun like a charm on the Joy.

My first right move was using the Joy. I find that I can spin tricky fibers like merino much easier on the Joy. Spinning fine yarn has less to do with tension and a lot more to do with treadling at the right speed and managing the take-in. There was virtually no tension set when spinning the silk.

Here's the thing about spinning silk, as I discovered. You lose control of your drafting and you're fucked. It's a lot harder to correct a big honkin' lump of fiber if it's silk. And the other thing that I did, which may or may not be smart, was to spin dangerously close to overtwist.

The proof of the pudding will be in the plying. I finished the two ounces of this colorway this morning. By this weekend, I should have the other two ounces spun and the whole lot plyed up and washed.

Depending upon the finished yardage, this will most likely end up as a lacy scarf, maybe even a Christmas gift for someone.

Home Sweet Hmmm
My need to create comfortable work cocoons is paramount to my accomplishing anything, be it writing, knitting, weaving, spinning or paying bills. This house has a very strange layout, wherein the dining room is separated from the kitchen by a rather large hallway. Clearly, when we first moved here, this was going to be my work space. I now have it as I want it. Cluttered.

This is where I spend a good part of each day. Note the ubiquitous coffee cup and cat treats on the desk and the bottled water on the floor--survival necessities. When company comes for dinner, the loom is folded up, the warping board goes into the closet and the winding station gets moved against the patio door.

Now, if it all weren't so damned close to the fridge, it would be most perfect.

Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill
Feh. I probably won't be posting anything on Monday due to some heavy-duty dental surgery. Perhaps Tuesday. I can only hope that Dr. Sinisi will offer up some good Percocet for his favorite patient.

You know, writing on Percocet could possibly be the next rare and handy remedy to writer's block. It could happen.