Monday, January 30, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Good morning! What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand. --Wavy Gravy

We went to Woodstock and we have returned.

(Of course, you know that the Woodstock Festival was actually held in Bethel, NY.)

There's nothing better than a road trip with my beloved Kathy Merrick. Now that I think of it, the two of us in a car talking for two hours straight would be pretty frightening to normal people.
Off we go on Friday to Selma the Axe Murderess's house in Woodstock for a great weekend filled with yarn, incredible cooking by Selma's Stewart, talk, more yarn. It was such a Wolvie weekend, even though we were missing two-thirds of the crew. So here's a few of the weekend highlights:

If you have an opportunity to visit Morehouse Farm's retail shop when you go to Rhinebeck or if you're in the area, do it. One of the most beautiful yarn shops I have ever visited and the yarn is outrageous.

Note Kathy's incredible scarf made from Lantern Moon sari silk.

Selma knits while Mar and Kathy root through the yarn bins

No one chooses colors like Kathy

Selma, Stewart, Kathy and Colly Sible the Bondage Maiden

One of these days someone will take a decent picture of Merrick. Perhaps Franklin. I never seem to be able to keep her from distorting her lovely features.

I managed to get a few ends sewn in and some I-cord knitted for the hoodie. Didn't even dare work on the Melanie because I would have been too distracted. So I bought a simple scarf kit at Morehouse, your basic Old Shale done in one of their great dyed merinos, just so I could have something mindless to knit while we chatted at Selma's kitchen table. As of last night, I had gotten quite a bit done.

While watching Selma finish knitting a really nice but simple pullover for Stewart, a Cabin Fever design called Ridgeway-Lite, I realized that not only do I not own any simple, comfy sweater to wear around with jeans but I will need something simple to knit in between bouts of the Melanie shawl.

Simple does not necessarily equate with "make it in a weekend." At least, not in my book. However, I do like to knit simple garments that drape properly and suit my purposes. Selma turned me onto this Morehouse design, which is elegantly simple.

This design is not yet on their website, so I guess it's pretty new. I tried it on at the shop and really liked the drape and the comfort factor. However, sage is not my color so I bought Aubergine.

And then, since I can never pass up their laceweight, I bought some for a scarf of my own design to be determined.

Now I swear to God I'm done with yarn/fiber purchases until Rhinebeck in October. Hear that, Loop? I've said it in public. You need to do the same in the Comments. We're finished. Done. Over. No more buying of anything fiber related. Only completed projects.

(However, after reading about the Excellent Dyeing Adventures of Carol & Ted, I would so much like to do some myself. That activity is not on the horizon, though.)

Many thanks to Selma and Stewart for such a rare and handy weekend. I will never forget Stewart's Brussels sprouts. Never. What a guy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
As long as I sit in this chair, all future catastrophes will be planned by me.--George W. Bush

Now my knitting, spinning and weaving calendar for the year 2006 is finally filled up, and I'm rested and ready.

Looks like 2006 will be the year of lace, at least for knitting.

Knit Some Shit
I'm quite out of my mind. These projects are enough to make me question my stability. However, with one 2006 knitting project, the JamaicanMeCrayzee, already finished, I have my hopes for a productive year.

Major league projects:

  • The Melanie Shawl

  • The Wedding Ring Shawl

Minor league projects:

  • Self-designed shawl in Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK in the color below:
  • Various pairs of socks from stash yarn

The Wedding Ring shawl, which I have just gotten from Heirloom Knitting, is an amazing pattern. Fifteen pages. And Sharon Miller includes samples of the yarn that may be used for the shawl, enough of each to knit a small swatch.

I might add that the Wedding Ring shawl is a limited edition of 500, so if you want it, you'd better get it. Sharon has already sold nearly half of them. I missed out on the Princess shawl and I was damned if I was going to miss this one. She'll reprint it in 2010. I'm not waiting until I'm 60.

I will be knitting this along with three other people. I'll let them expose themselves, as it were. This will NOT be a public knitalong. However, I'm sure three of the four of us will write about it. And it certainly will not be finished in 2006, since we don't expect to begin it before the summer.

Spin Some Shit
I have three spinning options: the Schacht, the Joy and my Comet handspindle. There's something planned for each.

The Schacht
With Starry Night almost spun up, it's time to plan for more. I have two other big bags of fiber from Tintagel Farm, bought at Rhinebeck last year (unfortunately, they have no web site, yet), so I had to pick one.

This will take the entire year to spin and ply, as did the Starry Night. I have no name for this one yet. Nothing on the bag, nothing in my head. Feel free to suggest. I have to have some tag for it when I write about it.

The Joy
Remember this bombyx silk from my shopping trip with Joe in December? That's next for the Joy. I use the Joy for small projects and sampling, primarily. So there will be other small projects for the Joy, as yet undetermined, once the bombyx is spun.

The Comet
Right now I have some generic blue wool that I'm handspindling. Once I'm done playing with that, I will switch the Cormo from the Joy onto the handspindle. There's plenty of the Cormo for laceweight, God knows.

Weave Some Shit
Since I'm such a rank beginner, I'm barely able to plan projects yet. However, I have two already in my head.

  • Dishtowels in 8/2 cotton that I bought at WEBS in November

I need to get these on the warping board SOON.

  • The 10/2 perle cotton color gamp huck lace sampler that I got last summer, before the loom.

I think I may do this as a baby blanket. Because you never know when you might become a grandmother again, particularly since Corinne and Mike would like to have a child together.

And I'm sure there will be more weaving projects this year.

Now, is that enough shit or what?

I grant you, I'm not as prolific as some people. But then, it's quality and learning opportunities that count, not how many schmattehs you can churn out.

And by the way, for those who did not read the Comments from the last entry all the way through, the answer to the mystery spots was: WD40. Valerie got it right first.

Now it's time to get some writing done on the book--it's coming along very well and Franklin has done some wonderful sketches. However, I'll be glad when it's over. Next book? The Joy of Sox, to be published late 2007 or early 2008. The Diamusee sock is the first design, I think.

A rare and handy weekend begins tomorrow, when Kathy and I go to see Selma the Axe Murderess up in Woodstock. I'm taking the camera. Forewarned is forearmed, girlillas.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Mystery is the wisdom of blockheads--Horace Walpole

Mayhem in the sleepy quasi-historic village of Mine Hill, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians--can it be solved?

Bring out the big guns. After all, this was a crime that surpassed outrage. A heinous deed that boggled the mind and begged the question, "What the FUCK happened here?"

Could it be Buddy the Bodacious Cat, spewing and spraying because his bowl was empty? Or perhaps John re-enacting one of his idol Frank Zappa's songs? Ectoplasm from my late husband, who appears in dreams saying, "Do you really need more yarn, honey?"?

The mystery was solved using Luminol and other advanced forensic techniques such as ballistics and trajectory calculations.

It was fiber related, no question about it. You're so fucking smart, all of you, and now you have the opportunity to prove it. What left this odd, liquid patterning on my living room wall?

JamaicanMeCrayzee--The Penultimate Act
So it is has been written, so it shall be done. I finished knitting the hood last night. A minor roadblock had arisen and was handled fortuitously. More on that later. But first, here's the teen-age funkster modeling her new hoodie.

It was all I could do to keep from calling her "my little Rasta elf."

Here's what I should have known in advance, because I absolutely knew it, and here's what I forgot about ribbing. If you knit 1/1 ribbing vertically, next to stockinette, the purl stitch positioned next to the stockinette acts as a turning stitch and the whole ribbed band will flip to the inside. Duh.

After about two inches of knitting the hood, I was reminded of this. But never mind. Since I had added the ribbing by casting on 5 extra stitches at the beginning and the end of the hood edge, the ribbing then could be used either as a facing or a casing, depending on whether Liz wanted a drawstring or not. So all was salvaged.

Except that she wants a drawstring. So now I have to knit about 3 feet of I-cord, weave in the rest of the ends, wash/block the whole sweater, and then it will be done and ready for the photographs that will go into the pattern sheets. And start sizing the directions so that people other than a size 1 can make it.

Weekend Roundup
I managed to get the hood knitted despite a slight flare-up of my CTS. This CTS originates not from knitting, according to my neurosurgeon, but from mousing for more than 20 years. Clicking and dragging, primarily. So I find spinning easy on my right hand, which holds the fiber. The huge pile of Starry Night has melted into this:

The label on the bag says "230 yds." It dawned on me the other day that 230 yards meant 230 yards of fucking roving. Holy shit. Good thing I didn't figure that out ahead of time. So I plan on starting to swatch Starry Night some time next weekend, while I'm hanging out with Kathy and Selma.

Read This Book Or I'll Shoot This Dog
Anyone who's worked in magazine publishing knows this famous coverline. So here's a book for you all to read or I'll shoot your puppy. I got my copy on Thursday and couldn't put it down.

An astonishing book and one that certainly opened my eyes. You all know Lisa, my dear friend and frequent rabblerouser in my comments. Well, this book was written by her partner, Norah Vincent. Norah spent 18 months posing as "Ned," a swell guy but a lousy bowler, who always seemed to have a bit of a 5 o' clock shadow issue. Ned spent time not only bowling but in strip joints, going out on internet dates (anyone who's done that deal, as I have, will find this chapter most interesting), in a monastery, and even attending a male retreat. Now that takes balls, even if they come pre-packaged. And what Norah discovered about men is revolutionary, in my opinion.

This book just blew me away, shattering a ton of my conceptions about men and how they think and why they think what they do. I grew up in the Gloria Steinem era. I remember when Ms. Magazine launched. I'm a feminist from way back, although I do loves the guys very much and never was interested in bashing them. However, I, as so many women do, had preconceived ideas about men. Read the book with an open mind. And then be prepared to change yours.

(Never mind that I would always support a friend's efforts. I would. However, I sure as shit wouldn't put something on my blog flogging said effort if it weren't completely up to my skanky standards, no matter how good a friend.)

Norah was on 20/20 this past Friday and on Good Morning America this morning. And the Today Show tomorrow morning. A People magazine spread is coming. Her website has all the info for future appearances.

I was thinking that Norah's upcoming appearance on the Conan O'Brien show is almost as rare and handy as her maybe making it to Letterman. Read the book.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If we use common words on a great occasion, they are the more striking, because they are felt at once to have a particular meaning, like old banners, or everyday clothes, hung up in a sacred place.--George Eliot

You may or may not be aware of the attempt by a company called Sew Fast/Sew Easy Inc. (aka SFSE) to assert its trademark rights on the term "Stitch and Bitch." If you have not heard about this, click on the button above to read what's going on.

Yesterday I was reading You Knit What, which is one of my favorite blogs and one that I read every day. I had heard that because of SFSE's claim to the phrase "Stitch and Bitch," a number of Yahoo groups and local knitting meet-ups had been warned to cease and desist using the term "Stitch and Bitch," Stitch & Bitch" or "Stitch 'n' Bitch" in their group names. Yahoo has now forced these groups to delete the term from their names, and other groups throughout the country are in the same boat. Debbie Stoller is trying to stop the trademark registration from going through.

However, I did not realize that it had gotten to the point of duelling attorneys. And this is completely absurd. Punk Rock Knitter and Knittykitty, YKW's bloggers, have set up a CafePress deal to support the legal battle. If you are interested in the legal aspect, read Up The Ante at The Girl From Auntie. Jenna is an attorney and knows her stuff.

The actions taken by SFSE to "enforce" their claim to the phrase are outrageous. And what a poor business move on their part, to alienate so many knitters, particularly since they also sell to knitters (God knows who) and are apparently publishing a knitting book called Rip It.

Whoever SFSE is, and I've been sewing since I was 14 and never heard of them, they can hardly claim any rights to Stitch and Bitch, Stitch 'n' Bitch or however you wish to spell the phrase. It's been used for years, and long before they even conceived of their "Stitch and Bitch Cafe," something that I'd never heard of prior to this flap.

The term "Stitch and/& /'n' Bitch" is one that I've always found kind of silly, but it means a lot to many knitters. And it's exactly that: a phrase. When I was teaching knitting at The Chubb Institute several years ago, one of my students, who had absolutely no prior needlework experience, began calling our Wednesday lunch classes "Stitch and Bitch." This was before Debbie's book was published and before Meet-up existed. She had had no previous exposure to any craft. What does that tell you?

Obviously, if the phrase were clearly unique and one that could be completely identified with SFSE without any question, there would be no conflict. Without any legal knowledge on my part, I would think that "Stitch and Bitch Cafe" might be unique to them and indeed could be a registered trademark. Nobody in the knitting world is trying to keep them from doing business. However, to trademark any form of Stitch and Bitch is tantamount to trying to trademark any number of cutesy phrases seen in knitting. Think about all the similar yarn shop names around the country and then tell me that SFSE has a leg to stand on. For example, there are at least two Yarn Barns that I know about. They both co-exist and both have their loyal customers.

As I said in You Knit What's comments, I propose that all knitting bloggers at the very least put up the CafePress button and publicly voice their displeasure at these ridiculous legal maneuverings by this company. And buy something at CafePress to support the potential legal costs of fighting SFSE. I bought a mug. Buy a sticker or magnet or something. If you can find the money to knit, you can dig up the pennies to support this cause.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Opie, you haven't finished your milk. We can't put it back in the cow, you know.--Aunt Bee

Today it is three weeks since I began the JamaicanMeCrayzee hoodie. And thankyouJesus, I'm on the hood and charging down the home stretch.

So I don't need to worry about putting the wool back on the sheep.

By Friday, I should have pictures of the finished product. And then I have to start doing the sizing for the directions.

Minor Details
As much as possible, I try to think through a project's elements to determine how I am going to handle each. With the hoodie neckline, as I mentioned in an earlier entry, I decided to bind off the back neck stitches and leave the front center stitches on hold.

I wanted some subtle delineation on the back neck that indicated where the hoodie began. I was also figuring that by picking up the back stitches from bound-off stitches, I would achieve a very slight bend in the join between the neck and the hood, allowing the hood to lie a little flatter on the back.

It worked nicely. Here's a picture of the right side of the back:

You can just barely see the slight indentation on the inside of the neck.

Almost indiscernible. But it makes a difference as to how the hood will lie.

I've also made a very minor addition to the hood, where instead of incorporating the ribbed edging into the existing number of stitches, I cast on 5 extra stitches at the beginning and end of the hood for the edging. The ends will be lapped one over the other and stitched into place at the front center, as you would a placket.

Now you may argue, this is just a dropped-shoulder pullover for a kid so why bother with all this detail nonsense?

Because I think through and plan carefully every project I knit or spin, no matter what it is or who it's for. There's much reward in the planning and even greater reward in the finishing.

Gluttony Punishment
I'll be glad to return to the Melanie shawl once the hoodie is finished. I've got five months to get it done. So be prepared for lots of pictures and gnashing of teeth.

But I am a glutton for punishment. Because I've ordered Sharon Miller's Wedding Ring shawl pattern. This is the one that Corinne originally rejected as looking too much like a tablecloth. Dopey kid, what does she know? Actually, I'm rather grateful that she didn't want it because I'd never get it done in time for the wedding.

The Wedding Ring shawl is a limited-edition pattern so I didn't want to miss out like I did with the Princess shawl. Ted Myatt and Katherine Matthews are co-writing a blog, The Princess Diaries, on their knitting experiences with this complex lace shawl. If you're at all interested in the processes behind knitting a major lace piece, this is worth reading.

It's not your father's Knitalong.

Collaborative efforts such as the Princess Diaries do not a knitalong make. Knitalong, to me, equals a large number of people knitting the same thing, whining profusely and asking continually witless questions. With a collaborative effort such as that of Ted and Katherine, you have two talented knitters sitting around talking about the process as each of them works through a very long and difficult piece of knitting.

Blogs such as this one are what's rare and handy these days in the knitting cyber-realm.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Nothing is less instructive than a machine.--Simone Weil

Unless you apply logic to them. I understand computers, most of the time, because I'm pretty logical. I am the mistress of the machine, which is why I get obeyed. The machine seldom wins.

Carriage Days
Once upon a time, in 1979, a friend and I went to look at knitting machines.

And we each bought a Passap DM-80, state of the art at the time. My friend sold hers within three months. I struggled for six months to learn it and finally, after a rather large expenditure of money, much reading and practicing, and many swatches dropped from the needles, became fairly proficient.

So much so that I bought another machine, a Knitking (or Brother, same thing) 910, the first Japanese electronic machine. And got very good at knitting things on that. Then came the Brother 230, a bulky punchcard machine.

So throughout the 1980s and into the early '90s, I machine knit and learned an enormous amount about knitting. Like how to do cut-and-sew necklines, how to block properly, how to mattress-stitch seams, how to rip out a cable and rework it within the fabric, how to fit my knitted garments.

I taught the 910 at seminars. I was the knitting editor for a machine-knitting magazine, long since gone down the tubes. I got to know Susanna Lewis, met Sasha Kagan, John Allen, and yes, even Mr. Big X-man himself, Alexis. I wrote articles about machine knitting for various magazines.

And then I gave it all up and got rid of my machines. Why? Because knitting on a machine, for me, was soulless. There was not much handling of the yarn at all, until you were finished the pieces and sewing them up. I was running a carriage threaded with yarn across a bed of latch hooks and even though it takes a fair amount of skill to do so without dropping every stitch from the hooks, I was never quite satisfied. Skill is not everything, for sure.

You might think that weaving is similar to machine knitting in that there is less handling of the fiber. That's not at all true. I've found that there's plenty of fiber handling, be it in sleying the reed or throwing the shuttle. Weaving truly is hands-on, in every sense of the word. And spinning even more so.

When you combine these three activities--hand knitting, spinning and weaving--you've got the ultimate feel-up. Machine knitting taught me much that I've applied to all of these crafts. But it never left me feeling joyous.

Winter VK
Flipped through it at Barnes & Noble the other day. I really liked Brandon Mably's sweater. That's it. At first glance, I thought the issue might be salvageable, what with all the cabled stuff. But upon closer evaluation, I was underwhelmed. Still, it's a hair better than it has been. A hair. I'm not going to buy it so I guess I'll miss out on the articles.

Other Fiber Stuff
Not much. That's why there are no pictures this time. Almost done with the second hoodie sleeve. Did more Starry Night plying to empty some bobbins. Now it's back to spinning singles again.

I did get a copy of Warping All By Yourself, which is a very good book and if I could remember which reader recommended it, I'd thank them by name. Time to get back to weaving. Loopy's about to weave some chair covers. I'm looking at kitchen towels. Somehow, weaving kitchen towels seems more worthwhile than knitting warshcloths. Certainly a lot more to the set-up.

There's something rare and handy about weaving when it's 17 deg. F outside.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
There is entirely too much charm around, and something must be done to stop it.--Dorothy Parker

Fortunately, there is little charm on this blog.

Bestest Places in the Cybarena
Last night I was making an effort to clean up and organize my bookmarks. I have a bad habit of bookmarking anything that is even vaguely interesting.

And I realized that there are sites I return to frequently. So for your eddy-fuc-ation, I thought I'd give you some of my favorites, one in each category.

  • Knitting
    • Yarndex--I don't know who put this together but it's a fantastic database of most of the yarn companies, their yarns and pertinent data. If you read about a yarn and you want to know what it looks like, suggested gauge, needles, yardage, this is the place with the info.

  • Spinning
    • The Joy of Handspinning--I've mentioned this site before and it deserves another mention. Whether you are just starting or you are an experienced spinner, this is an excellent resource.

  • Weaving
    • than 50,000 weaving drafts, all free. In addition, it now incorporates Ralph Griswold's Digital Archive on Weaving, Textiles, Lace and Related Topics. Griswold and a group of volunteers are collecting and archiving all sorts of arcane publications, scanning them and making them available in .pdf format.

And here's one last place to visit. This is serious business.

Wherein Liz Determines to Ham It Up for the Camera
I finished the cuff last night and got Liz to try it on to make sure the loop on the end of the cuff was the right length. Many thanks to Ted for suggesting this idea. It was the one she liked and it worked perfectly.

Before you ask, yes, I made it longer per Liz's wishes. She wears everything long.

The I-cord loop worked perfectly. I decreased the cuff down to 3 stitches, worked 3 inches of I-cord, attached it to the base and then looped the end around the base, tightened it and wove in the ends. Here's a close-up of the finished loop.

Slipping the first stitch of every cuff row made a neat edging while I was decreasing the 1/1 rib. She's pleased, I'm pleased. A number of these pictures that I've taken will go into the directions for the sweater, which I'll publish via The Knitting Vault.

There will be enough yarn left over for a Rasta hat of some kind, I think. We'll see. I'm truly jonesin' to get back to the Melanie shawl. Because that June wedding will be here before I know it.

Birgit Nilsson
Many of you know that I'm a fan of opera. So I was saddened to read about the death of Birgit Nilsson in the New York Times yesterday. She died on Christmas Day but apparently the news was only just released. She was 87.

Birgit Nilsson was the first opera star I ever saw, singing in the first opera I ever saw, Die Walkure by Richard Wagner (sorry, can't do the umlauts). My parents were members of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and my mother thought that at 8, I was old enough to attend an opera. So she took me out of school and we went to a dress rehearsal. Guild members got free tickets to those, two a year, if memory serves. In 1958, Nilsson was arguably at the height of her career. I never forgot that performance, even though I was probably too young at the time to truly understand much.

Here's an audio clip of her singing Hojotoho, the famous aria from Die Walkure.

And yeah, I do love "What's Opera, Doc" because I also love Looney Tunes. Kill da wabbit.

Looney Tunes and grand opera. Perfectly rare and handy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
One does a whole painting for one peach and people think just the opposite--that particular peach is but a detail--Pablo Picasso

I often become enamored of the mere act and result of decreasing.

There's something about the lined-up pairs of decreases on a sleeve or a raglan armhole that gives me the ultimate rush, more than a successfully executed, complex stitch pattern.

JamaicanMeCrayzee Hoodie--Small Details, Small Rewards

I wasn't going to put up any more pictures of the hoodie until it was finished but last night, as I worked down the first sleeve, I thought about how nice the decreases looked, even though they won't be all that visible when Liz wears the hoodie, particularly since the yarn is black.

This is a very simple sweater, really. Besides the Fair Isle, which constitutes a small percentage of the sweater, the rest of it is stockinette. However, there can be badly done simple sweaters and simple sweaters that require some thought to raise them above the pack.

I did not want merely to decrease one stitch at the beginning and the end of each round. I don't like two decreases right next to each other when shaping a sleeve or an armscye, as a rule. I want a separator stitch or two between them. This makes no difference as to the shape of the sleeve and adds plenty to how it looks.

I also like a place to keep my beginning-of-the- round marker. By starting the decrease round with K1, ssk, I can put the marker after the K1, which will stay constant. Not a big deal until the double-pointed needles are needed.

Directions for simple sweaters rarely tell you how to handle the decreases for the sleeves, the armscye and the neckline. It's usually the ole "dec 1 every other row" routine. I never, ever put a decrease right at the edge of a neckline, either. You've got to have one selvedge stitch to use for pick-up purposes. And I make sure that my decreases slant in the right directions.

So that's where I am with this project. I was hoping to have this completed by next week because I really need to move on to other things. Like that fucking shawl for Corinne. Which has not been touched in weeks.

Here's what really scares me--the new book from XRX. The Knitter's Handbook: Essential Skills and Helpful Hints from Knitter's Magazine.

A lot of info culled, no doubt, from SnitU. I'm not concerned about the competition between this, my book and other books out there. I'm more concerned about the lousy editing that exists in XRX publications.

Mistakes in knitting directions are common. Everyone makes them because knitting directions are very difficult to edit and it's so easy to miss something, even if you are experienced. However, XRX surely has the highest percentage of errors per book in the entire industry. I haven't looked at the book yet but I will. And not buy it.

It's little wonder that there's scant traffic on Knit U. Why bother when you know what you write immediately belongs to the X-men when you hit "Send"? And when you know that the list is censored.

After more than 11 years of mailing lists, most of them ceased to be rare and handy anyway. Blogging has taken over the lists and despite the proliferation of FO! blogs, that's a good thing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
My mother always told me I wouldn't amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, "Just wait."--Judy Tenuta

So sooner or later, I'll get back to weaving. Just wait.

Put a Bag Over It
I could have sent this on to my friends at You Knit What??

But I'm not that altruistic.

I'd say this model's tits are in far worse shape than my 55-year-old pair. Shit, a good bra balances everything out. Or perhaps the one larger tit has been inflamed by the nearness of that engorged shoulder strap. Owie.

And hey, when you're feeling like your knitting just isn't up to par, spend some time at Berroco's website. Their fuckwitted designs will make you feel like a knitting genius.

Dysphoric Dee-lite
There's nothing better than being a many-headed hydra, which is how I've been feeling lately, thanks to my chronic disorder.

That said, I've started another blog devoted to manic-depression, Swing Time.

Do I need to write more? Yep. Particularly regarding this. I've done a considerable amount of thinking about blogging in general and manic-depression in particular. There are few blogs devoted to it, probably because it takes a fair amount of focus to write about anything coherently and cohesively.

Ever since that incident involving the guy on the airplane who was shot and killed (which disappeared from the news, as I suspected it would), I've become more and more interested in mental health advocacy. I've always been pretty upfront about being bipolar. And judging by the comments I receive when I do write about my disorder, it would appear that there are plenty of you out there who either have it or know someone who does, and could use some info as well as some discussion.

Knitting, spinning and fiber art in general are critical components of my life and wellness. However, I think that writing a blog as a manic-depressive can help other people a lot more than simply writing about fiber. Knitting is not exactly a life-threatening disorder.

Well, I take that back. Some knitters should be shot. And you could get a terminal rash from Fun Fur.

I don't whine about being bipolar I. It's what I am and what I live with, every day. Sometimes it sucks. But most of the time, it's doable. I want people to know that. And in the long run, it's good to write about what you know.

JamaicanMeCrayzee in Da 'Hood and Other Mods
Finally, I'm on the first sleeve. Not to the dps yet but soon the circ will not suffice. I'm tempted to start the hood after I finish the one sleeve but I'll restrain myself and get the other sleeve done while I ponder how I want to handle the hood.

As far as neckline decisions were concerned, I could either put the back neck and center front stitches on hold or bind them off or use a combination. I chose to bind off the back neck so that I would have a seam there to add stability to the hood by picking up the hood stitches and put the center front stitches on hold. I never even thought about making a detachable hood. Why? Those things are a nuisance on coats and it would be worse to insert a zipper into the neckline. I shudder.

As I mentioned, there are some ways in which I could finish the hood. The hood stitches are picked up from the center of the neckline around and then worked flat, for those of you who have never done a hood. To modify the hood, I could: A) include a casing so that there would be a drawstring or B) cast on some extra stitches in 1/1 ribbing on either side so that the edge of the hood extends and then overlap the bottom edges when the hood is finished. OR C) I could slip the first and last stitches of the hood and then add an applied I-cord finish.

I'm inclined to do B, simply because I doubt that Liz would find neither I-cord finishing nor a drawstring "kewl."

The other modification that I suggested to Liz that received a "kewl" was to shape the fronts of the sleeve cuffs in a long V that will cover her hand, adding a crocheted loop worked from the last bound-off stitch so that she could slip the loop over her middle finger. I'll keep the V in a 1/1 rib and see how that looks. Kinda like this rather crude sketch I did quickly in Paint.
About an inch of the cuff would be worked in the round, then the back half bound off and the front half decreased every other row.

You do know that decreasing every other row gives you approximately a 45 degree angle, right? No matter what weight and gauge you knit. Because it's all about geometry.

Geometry was the only math course in which I ever received better than a D final grade. Mostly because I wasn't a particularly attentive student, since I was too busy writing notes to my friends.

Now I care. Doesn't that figure?

Overture, Curtain Lights! This is It, We've Hit the Heights
I saw Monty Python's Spamalot on Broadway this afternoon. Amazing show, even without Tim Curry. David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria were spectacular, as was the rest of the cast and the production. The last musical I saw was in 1964 on an 8th grade music class trip. Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing. It was a bore. I'm strictly a Bob Fosse kinda woman. That's it.

But if you get a chance to see this one, do it. Rare, handy and lots of digs at Andrew Lloyd-Webber, a fifth-rate composer if ever there were one.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity--John Adams

Brought to you by the Brothers and Sisters of St. Matthew's Church of Tulsa, OK via the USPS.

Yes, it's the Jesus Prayer Rug, "soaked with the Power of Prayer for you. Use it immediately, then please return it with your Prayer Needs Checked on our letter to you. It must be mailed to a second home that needs a blessing after you use it. Prayer works. Expect God's blessing."

Oh yeah, and don't forget to enclose the check in the SASE.

All the way from Tulsa to Mine Hill, NJ. It's a fucking miracle.

I won't be blessed because the "rug" is going up on the wall by my computer. I can't bear to part with it.

Inspectress Gadget
I once sharpened a broken wooden needle point with a pencil sharpener and then sanded the point smooth. Desperate times require desperate measures. Good tools are everything; gadgets are expendable. There is a difference between the two words, in my opinion.

Gadgets have the connotation of something that has been created to "facilitate" a task that doesn't need it. I don't do gadgets, as a rule, because I find that generally using the gadget is more time-consuming than just doing it the traditional way.

Fortunately, there are few knitting gadgets (pom-pom maker does come to mind) but a fair number of useful tools.

The one gadget I don't use is a PDA. I had one and never used it. I stick to my Franklin-Covey, which I admit may be a bit outre. However, if you do use a PDA, Nancy's KnitKnacks is offering a free trial download of all of their new e-KnitKard PDA software that allows you to keep five of the 14 cards for free, even if you don't buy it.

NKK makes some good stuff. I'll be interested in seeing their forthcoming Andean plying tool.

JamaicanMeCrayzee, Part Deux
I'm now almost to the neckline shaping, so no picture. And I probably won't post a picture until the whole thing is finished. There's nothing more boring than progress pictures that don't show shit. However, I'll continue discussing the design process and I did promise to answer some of Bess's questions, which were quite relevant.

Bess asked: at the risk of sounding like a complete fool--when you knit in the round, how do you deal with arm holes? do you bind off and then add/graft sleeves on? can you recommend a book or article so i can learn--i have knit sweaters in one piece and tank tops in the round but never anything with sleeves.

You can deal with the armholes in two ways: You can steek the armholes if the colorwork is all-over or you can stop at the beginning of the armhole and knit the front and back separately, working flat. I chose the latter, simply because steeking plain stockinette makes no sense, unless you enjoy steeking. The shoulder seams will be joined using a 3-needle bind-off and then the sleeve stitches picked up from the armscye (that's a dressmaking term for "armhole") and knit in the round down to the cuff.

Off the top of my head, I would recommend Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Around and her Knitting Workshop. You'll learn plenty.

However, I was going to discuss the limitations of using sweater design software.

Nothing takes the place of knowing how to draft a pattern, including software. Having a program that will crank out directions for any given standard sweater shape and size is nice; however, if you are working with stitch pattern multiples or want to do some obtuse shaping, the software numbers immediately become obsolete.

This happened in small measure with the hoodie. The two charts were multiples of 10 and 20, respectively. When I plugged in my gauge, the size I needed and the sweater shape I wanted, Sweater Wizard gave me a body stitch number of 176.

That didn't fit my plans. However, fairly easy to rectify, since I would need 180 stitches to accommodate my needs. Working at 5 spi, I figured that an extra 4 stitches on a sweatshirt was not going to cause major fitting problems for a 13-year-old who wears oversized shirts anyway.

But do you see what potential problems using sweater design software can cause? Most of the time, I end up reworking the numbers calculated by the software because there is a design element that gets in the way. What I do like about the software is that it gives me approximate yardage for the project and the file can be exported into Word, where I can do my editing.

So don't expect design software to do the thinking for you. It won't. It's yet another tool that is only as good as the person who uses it. Understanding the math behind sweater design is critical if you want to do your own.

Next entry, I'll talk about how I'm going to handle the neckline for the hood and some decisions that I had to make.

If you want to use your heads, see if you can figure out what those decisions were. Based on the comments from the last entry, I can see you all like a puzzle. And besides, why should I offer you all the answers on a plate? It's all about thinking for yourself, in the long run.

Makes you a rare and handy knitter.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Bring me a bowl of coffee before I turn into a goat.--J.S. Bach

You know the holiday season around the Bach house must have been insane, what with all those kids fighting over whose turn it is to play the clavichord.

I'm with J.S. The coffee is mandatory.

Annus Mirabilis
Made it another year. Blogger tells me this first entry of 2006 is also my 300th. Which is actually not a lot for almost 3.5 years.

However, I maintain that it's quality, not quantity, that counts. In everything.

As I have said, I don't make resolutions simply because it's the New Year. I did, however, reflect on the year past. For about five minutes. Last year was pretty good, by and large, although it was really annoying to have ended 2005 with a nasty cold, which my mother deemed "the flu." It was not. The minute you mention "body aches," she's immediately flu-happy.

JamaicanMeCrayzee, Party of the First Part
Being in the throes of the cold didn't stop me from starting Liz's hoodie last Wednesday. In fact, it meant I sat in my chair with its new shiatsu massager, a present from John, knit away on the hoodie and watched Baseball--A Film by Ken Burns and New York, another wonderful Ken Burns documentary.

So as of this morning, here's where the hoodie is, halfway up the upper back:

I'm pretty well satisfied with the design, as is Liz. This is a no-frills hoodie, drop-shoulder, with the body knit in the round and then the front and back knit flat, since I was not going to do any excessive patterning anywhere else. The Fair Isle patterning ends one round short of the split for the front/back, which is how I planned it.

A few weeks ago, when I first decided to do this, I began with a very basic chart.

Very rarely does the initial chart remain the final one. That's because I use the charting program as a doodle pad to get the ideas out of my head and onto electronic "paper." Doodling this way is a very good habit, since you immediately stop worrying about fucking up, creating the perfect design, etc. It allows you to play. And that's very important.

I needed to include two elements into the design. First were the colors, obviously. Red, green and gold are the colors used by Rastafarians and are those of the Ethiopian flag, symbolizing their belief in Haile Selassie I, King of Ethiopia. And second, a motif that would reflect the Rastafarian religion, so that Liz would at least understand that it's more than just a fashion statement. So rather than a lion, which is the best known Rastafarian symbol, I decided that a Star of David would be an appropriate motif, since Rastafarians consider themselves lost Israelites. And it worked into my Fair Isle plan as well.

The original chart above had one problem that immediately became apparent. I'll let you figure it out.

Here's the final design, up close and personal:

Quite a bit different from the first go-round, eh? While the three colors are still incorporated, they are much more diffusely used than in the first chart.

I wanted a peerie to frame the main motif, so I did a little bouncing wave chart that reminds me of reggae music. A little syncopated.

Once I had all of this down in charted form, I did a circular gauge swatch in both plain stockinette and with the Fair Isle added. Then I loaded that info into Sweater Wizard. In the next entry, I'll discuss the limitations of sweater design programs and how they affected this garment.

In the meanwhile, I'll probably finish the back and the front in the next two days.

Spindly Things
I had never been able to master spindle spinning, until now. Thanks to Ted's recommendation, I bought a 1.1 oz. Comet spindle from Woolly Designs and all I can say is, the right spindle makes all the difference in the world:

I used some domestic wool to fool around with and I was amazed at the balance and the non-stop spinning of this spindle. In fact, I was so successful that I've decided to spin the Cormo on the spindle rather than on the Joy, since I'd like to free it up for the bombyx silk. And I will most certainly use Ted's method of quilling the shaft before I begin the copp. If you don't know about this timesaving technique, go to Ted's blog and read about it.

So that's more than enough to start the New Year. And the loom stands idle but not for long. I'm itching to get back to it and warp me some threads.

Here's what's exciting about 2006--learning new shit that's rare and handy. And writing about it.