Sunday, October 29, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Politics... have always been the systematic organization of hatreds.--Henry Brooks Adams

(Thanks to Neal for getting my blood up on the following topics--not that I need any encouragement.)

Fat-mouthed, conslobative Rush Limbaugh, besides making the usual and ubitquitous ass out of himself by shamelessly attacking Michael J. Fox last week (Rush, I'm sure that being over-medicated is a condition that you at best dimly remember), has also taken it upon himself to go after the Women Voices, WomenVote organization, backed by the National Women's Law Center, which is trying to get the 20 million single women who didn't vote in 2004 out to the voting booths for the 2006 election.

Rush whines: Some further digging reveals that WVWV is directly promoting leftist politics.

Yeah. They are directly promoting the following "leftist politics":
  • Better education
  • Better health care
  • Control of our reproductive rights
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Protection of Social Security and other programs that directly affect single mothers
Boy, those pushy lesbian Commie broads are really asking for a lot. No wonder nobody wants to marry them, eh?

Ladies, whether you are married or not, get out there and vote on Election Day. We have the power. Let's wield it.

I did find humorous Rush's "mea culpa" to MJF, though: So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act.

IF I am wrong? Nothing like a qualifier to make an apology sincere.

Fiberous Stultification
Despite a brief buying flurry last weekend at Rhinebeck, I'm still working on the same things, more or less.

Perhaps that's good. At least I'm focused. And I do have more time these days to knit, spin, and, um, maybe weave.

The F 'n' F shawl, enhanced by an additional quint skein bought last week at Morehouse Farm, continues its plodding way.

However, I did finally get my ass in gear and work out a feasible design for the lovely Black Bunny Fiber merino sock yarn in Berry that Carol gave me for my birthday. Of course, as Ted opined, whether these socks would stand up to any abrasion is questionable. Still, I think the pattern is quite nice, easy, and very suitable for hand-dyed yarn.

I'll give the pattern to Carol--perhaps she can flog it with her sock yarn and make a few bucks. I call it Berried Treasure. Apt name, I think. (Fredda, don't worry--I'm working on the Leaves of Grass socks, which will be finished next week.)

And then there's the Curmudgeon sock yarn blend (superwash, mohair and nylon) that I'm test-driving for Carol and spinning to a sock weight when plyed. Joe's also spinning it in a different colorway.

We both agree that it isn't really for beginning spinners. I believe it's because of the mohair, a tricky fiber to spin, at best. Mohair loves to clump and takes a good deal of pre-drafting and manipulation before it willingly works nicely into the twist. Even then, it's just not smooth enough for socks, in my opinion.

IK: Winter, Yes. Gifties, No.
The Winter issue isn't out on the newsstands until Nov. 14, but if the cover is any indication, I think this will be a good one. The cover jacket by Norah Gaughan looked very nice, complete with godets, a design feature that I like on jackets. Two of my favorite designers--Veronik Avery and Shirley Paden--have garments therein, which I look forward to seeing. And a couple of the worst designers out there have some items, too. But we'll just relegate them to ignominy, where they belong, by not mentioning names.

I did get a look at the IK Gift issue. Feh. Please. The cover alone was enough to give me knitted heartburn. If you knit some fruit-like objects and give them as a Christmas present to some unsuspecting schmuck, then to paraphrase Dickens, you should be boiled with your own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through your heart. Otherwise, there were some OK socks and hats and things but nothing that excited me enough to plunk down some money for this one.

Besides, you all know my stand on Christmas knitting. I don't do it. Waste of time and I had enough this year knitting to a deadline with the Melanie shawl.

Spinning Q&A
I enjoyed sitting and spinning on the Joy at Rhinebeck. And particularly enjoyed the questions, which I'd like to address here, for those of you who either are just starting or thinking about it.

What wheel should I buy?
Well, this question has been asked on fiber lists many, many times. The truth is, there is no right answer. I could hardly spin when I bought my first wheel, which was the Schacht Matchless that I still use. I bought it because I liked the way it looked. That's a hell of a way to buy a wheel. My advice? Don't do as I did. Go to a shop that sells wheels, if there is one near you, and try the wheels, even if you can't spin. Most likely the shop owner will give you a quickie lesson to get you going. Or maybe you have a friend who spins. And you can also see if there's a local spinning guild that could provide guidance and possibly people with wheels that you can try.

If you can't test a wheel out or can't afford one, buy yourself a spindle and play with that. Or you can go out and buy a wheel in ignorance. Most likely you'll love it, because it is your first. I would recommend Louet, Schacht or Lendrum, based on what I've used and what other spinners I know have owned. I spun on a Kromski and didn't like it at all. I don't like Ashfords, as a rule, although I do like the Joy very much. But wheels are highly personal, so don't go by what I say.

It's like buying makeup, you know? You may like Estee Lauder foundation--my face does just fine with Revlon.

What fiber should I start with?
Romney is good, as is Corriedale or just plain ole domestic wool. It's more a question of what you shouldn't start with.

Do NOT learn to spin with:
  • Merino
  • Silk
  • Cotton
  • Mohair
  • Angora
  • Any combination of the above
Ask me how I know this. I bought some white merino/silk/angora and tried to spin it when I first got the Matchless. It damned near drove me crazy and I almost gave up on spinning completely until in a moment of enlightenment, I grabbed some domestic wool and gave that a try. As we say in my family, Topeka!

What's pre-drafting?
Pre-drafting is the process of opening up the fibers so that they flow into the twist more easily. Basically, you take a piece of roving and spread it apart with your fingers so that it becomes light and airy. I have found that combed fibers need less pre-drafting. For example, the grape silk/merino that I am spinning right now needs no pre-drafting at all. It just flows easily. If the fibers are fairly compacted, you'll want to pre-draft.

And don't make the novice's mistake of clutching the fiber in your hand. The tighter you hold the fiber, the harder it will be to release it into the twist. Remember that all you want to do is support the fiber while you let it enter the twist. If you are using a worsted draft (aka short draw), you'll control the twist with the thumb and index finger of your other hand.

Anyhoo, enough for the time being. I'm hoping to at least get a warp chain done with the Morehouse and perhaps warp the loom back to front for the first time at some point this week. Loopy has warned me that I need to be careful warping with the Morehouse laceweight and cautioned, "What I'd prefer is that you use a stronger cotton towel warp for your first attempt at b2f, but I know you won't listen. "

She's right. I won't. Because the shawl I saw at Morehouse was warped with the laceweight and I think using towel warp would totally ruin the look. So I'll be careful. And I promise not to whine if I break a warp thread.

Because breaking and repairing a warp thread is one that I've already had. Feh.

Blogger Blows*
As many of you also blog and use Blogger, you will know that the system has had numerous serious outages this week, culminating with the Saturday-Sunday non-publishing issue, along with a bizarre error message. Never mind the photo publishing problem that the Blogger team can't or won't address. I'm not affected by that since I have my own domain.

This post was originally written and ready to publish Saturday evening. It's now Sunday morning and I still can't get it online. So I'm past annoyed, as I'm sure legions of Blogger users are too.

In the past, I've considered moving this whole blog to another publisher but doing that takes time, plus I'm lazy. Now I think I may be motivated. Yes, I know what the options are. I'll do the research and see if I get unlazy.

Because with the new-old rare and handy job, I do have more time.

*For geeks only

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.--Woody Allen

We did an awful lot of laughing yesterday at Rhinebeck. But nobody drank any milk. We did, however, eat a lot of fried pickles. Don't ask.

Mably we should have. I'll let Ted and Lars explain that on their blogs.

O Frabjous Day!
The weather couldn't have been better. A perfect autumn day in upstate New York. Are you ready for all the pictures and the narrative?

Get a cup of coffee. Here we go.

So being the anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive German that I am, I got to the fairgrounds at 9 a.m., only to discover that they weren't opening the gates until 10. No matter. I sat on a damp fence and knit.

That rail to the right was quite moist. As were my pants, after sitting there knitting for 45 minutes.

The plan was to meet at the concession stands at 10. Kathy, Selma and Lisa were there first, with Lars and Ted right behind them.

From left: Lisa, Lars, Selma, Kathy, and Ted

Getting the Wolverinas and associates to shut up and stand still for one large picture is impossible. So I had to make do with this:

Foreground from left: Thaddeus, Ted, Kathy. Background: Fredda and Selma with backs to camera, Joe, Lisa with face hidden

Before we started shopping seriously, Joe pulled out his Celestine shawl.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty

It's quite gorgeous and the picture in no way does justice to the color, which is sublime.

You absolutely cannot shop as a group of ten or more. So Joe, Thaddeus and I took off for a couple of places that Joe and I wanted to visit--Brooks Farm and Skaska, to be precise. The rest split up in groups of twos: Lars and Ted, Kathy and Selma, Carol and Lisa. Despite the lack of cell phone signal for some of us, we figured that we'd find each other in our travels.

Not really. For some reason, the only person Joe and I kept running into consistently was Stephanie.

For some weird reason, we kept running into Steph and Juno constantly while looking for Lars and Ted. Did we find Lars and Ted? No. Perhaps the Canadian god of lost friends was playing a mean joke on us.

I was sure when I went to the ladies' room that Stephanie would be in the stall next to mine.

I probably just missed her.

So onward we trudged, as the crowds started to amass and Joe started to whine about how this is absolutely the last time he's going to Rhinebeck. Please. He lies. Yeah, it was crowded but I still love going.

I bought very little, for me. Besides the inarguable fact that I have more yarn and fiber than could be used in any given lifetime, I really wanted to buy some silk to replace the lovely stuff I bought last year at Rhinebeck, spun and then terminally tangled when it fell from the swift.

Remember that?

So here's what I bought:

The top two bags are silk roving. The best buy was the ball of laceweight from Skaska at $29 for 1400 yards. Can't beat that. And then there are the two quint skeins of laceweight merino from Morehouse, one of which is shown at left. I saw an absolutely incredible woven twill shawl there and that's what I'll use these two skeins for.

And then there was the Russian embroidered pin from Skaska that I couldn't resist. Quite folklorique, I thought.

Anyway, back to the Rhinebeck Ramble. The weather was so glorious and the leaves were at peak color. I had to take this picture of Thaddeus, Joe's partner, standing under a maple.

I've never made it a secret that I adore Thaddeus and I'm not alone, that's for sure.

Around 2, we managed to find a picnic table that was relatively empty and some of us parked our tired asses down. I had the Joy and gave a spinning demo for those interested. More on that in the next entry because various people raised some interesting questions that are worth answering for everyone.

And then there was Fredda Peritz. You know Fredda. She runs The Knitting Vault, where you should go to buy patterns and Lucy Neatby's new DVDs, Knitting Essentials 1 and 2 (Lucy Neatby publishes patterns there too, if you need some kind of knitting goodness certification).

Have you ever met someone for the first time and known immediately that the person was just wonderful? I've had that experience quite a few times, fortunately, and Fredda is the latest. (Fredda, when I get good at PhotoShop, I promise us both that I will give us each primo chin lifts. I swear.)

Besides meeting Fredda for the first time, I also met Ted for the first time, even though we correspond regularly and talk on the phone every so often. But that wasn't really meeting him, if you know what I mean. He's my bestest Canadian boy. And then, on top of all these first meetings, I met Lee Ann of Fuzzy Logic fame, someone whose blog I read regularly and who I've been very much wanting to meet. Here's the two fine Canadians admiring Ted's Orenburg shawl purchase.

But this is a much better picture of Lee Ann, with head intact, thank God.

And while I'm publishing pictures of people that may or may not embarrass them, here's one of Lisa and my other Sissyboo, Carol. (Karen, you must meet Carol. You were separated at birth, hence her honorary SB title.)

Gads, this has run on and on already. One last picture and then I promise you, I'm done. One nice one of Lars, Ted and Fredda.

I do want to say, before I finish this Rhinebeck entry, that I greatly enjoyed meeting all the readers who came up to me for Rhinebeck Bingo, including those lurkers. Listen, lurkers. You're more than welcome to write whatever in the Comments. Don't be afraid.

Finally, Lars, Ted and I took a trip to Morehouse, as witnessed by my purchase shown above. The place was a madhouse, since there was to be a "Knitting Stars" book signing with Melanie Falick, Amy Singer, Debbie Stoller and someone else whose name escapes me at the moment. Since the three of us had no particular interest in buying these authors' books, we made our purchases and escaped back to the Kingston Holiday Inn, where we met up with Carol and her friend Jim. It was off to a diner for dinner and then the 100+ mile drive home for me.

I'm beat today. But let me tell you, it was a very, very rare and handy day and one that I wouldn't miss for the world.

But Ted, darling, please don't tell my mother that I have a New Jersey accent. She'd be so disappointed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
She wears her clothes as if they are thrown on with a pitchfork--Jonathan Swift

It is with no sadness that I will be missing Stitches East in Baltimore this year. This is the first time in years that I am not bothering to go.

I will miss all those pitch-forked schmattehs on the backs of the attendees. But since photography is banned now and I can no longer do the Gallery of Ghastlies, I'm happy to leave it to you to peruse Knitter's for some of the best fuglies around.

Except, of course, this one, which I found somewhere on the internet:

Hey, kids! Do you love modular knitting AND fashion glitz crap? And pink? Then you'll love this one.

It's rash-making.

Thanks, everyone, for all your kind get-well wishes and congrats on the new job. I am so finished with the Slovenians at this point. The new/old job just landed in my lap, despite an interview during my pneumoniac worst, which I managed to ace somehow. I worked for this company from 1997-99, so it's going to be nice to go back.

Yes, I will be at Rhinebeck, with a surprise mystery guest. I'll be staying at the Quality Inn in Kingston--couldn't get into the Holiday Inn. My plans are to get to the hotel by 3 or 4 Friday afternoon, get settled, and then we'll see. Seems to me that I recall Mel is staying there also. Anyone else?

Now, I'll be wearing my Rhinebeck Bingo Square button on Saturday and Sunday. You've seen my picture in a previous entry so I'm not reprinting it. I have no idea what I'll be wearing. Probably jeans. Probably not a knitted thing, since last year it got much too warm by midday.

I don't know why it has to be a prerequisite to wear your handknits to these things anyway. Why is it that people wear Lopi ski sweaters when it's 75 degrees out? How fucking stupid is that? Suffer for your "art"? Or is that swelter for your ego?

I just bring the knitting bag when it's warm out. That suffices.

Oh yeah, and I will be bringing the Joy with me. For those of you who are interested, I will do an impromptu spinning clinic Saturday at 3 p.m. by the concession stands, if I can get a seat at one of the picnic tables. Please join me--bring your spindles, your wheels, whatever. Or just yourself.

Also, please don't hesitate to come up to me and say Hi. Meeting readers is great fun and I really am much nicer than Joe in person. He's the one who says that, not me.

So I want to see a roll call in the Comments--let me know if you're going to be there.

I will have my camera with me, so beware. I'll be doing a complete Rhinebeck photo essay for the blog.

You Asked, I'm Tellin'
So in lieu of any real fiber work this week, I'm falling back on the old answer-the-reader-questions route.

Yeah, it's a cop-out.

Kelly asks, When you say "tech writing position" what exactly is it that you do?

Besides drink a lot of coffee, well, a lot of stuff. In my current position, I edit badly written user manuals from Slovenia, rewrite marketing copy, handle print production. I was responsible for reviewing every document, whether written by Americans or Slovenians. In my new position, I will be writing Acceptance Test Procedures, Quality Test Procedures, As-Built Configurations and other valve-related beauties. Technical writers generally put into simplified English for end users what engineers and developers spew out in their documentation or release notes.

Like writing concise, accurate knitting directions--that's tech writing, OK?

LaurieM asks, So what are your criteria for a designer?

I think a true designer must have both engineering skills and artistic talent. Few do. As I have often posited here, I believe that most so-called designers are either engineers or artistic but not both. These days, I would nominate perhaps Veronik Avery, Shirley Paden and a few others who have both. Although that rather excludes Kaffe but he doesn't need to be a knitting engineer. His artistry is a rare exception.

I do call myself a Knitting Bionical insofar as I am good at plugging color and pattern together into a classic shape but not good at figuring out obfuscated knitting acrobatics. By and large, with perhaps EZ's Baby Surprise Jacket excluded, these knitting acrobatics generally result in a garment that you might gift Quasimodo with.

Topic for everyone: Who should avoid raglans and why? Discuss.

Well, time to get some laundry done. And then I'm off to see The Departed with JT. Such a rare and handy movie companion. Heh.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A quickie...

I've been quite ill with pneumonia, hence the lack of weekend writing. But the good news is, I'm leaving the Slovenians and taking a tech writing position for an engineering design firm, where I worked from 97-99, along with Jimmy. It's a 20-minute drive from my house, so more time to knit, spin, weave and blog. Getting home at 5 p.m. beats the crap out of getting home after 7.

So hang tight, gang. I'll be back as soon as I feel up to writing.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.--D.H. Lawrence

There's nothing like a nasty case of bronchitis to bring out the bitch in me.

Especially when I heard on the news that we now have to request over-the-counter cold medication that contains ephedrine from our pharmacist, who keeps it behind the counter, not over it. Then you can buy it if you sign a form with your name and address. I don't mind having to ask for it, if it helps prevent methamphetamine production.

I do mind giving my name and address.

Thank Bush and the Patriot Act for this one. So I hear.

Slowly She Moved
Too damned slowly. I'm not getting shit done. Well, being sick doesn't help, either. Except that I found spinning to be just the thing. Easy to stop and blow your nose, I guess.

So first I messed around with the spindle and the BBF Atlantic. That was certainly slow enough. I'm really not liking my spindling at all. Too inconsistent. I just need to be patient.

But it was perfect for couch-potato fiber activity.

Then today, I was ready to complete some plying that I had started prior to the move. (Imagine moving the wheel with attached Lazy Kate. And not breaking the singles, either.)

Two big skeins of this are going to Selma the Axe Murderess. To refresh your memory, this is the Emerald City.

I really had to get this plyed up because we have a new denizen in the house [canti a catoccu]:

Did we need another fucking cat in the house? I didn't think so. However, I was overruled.

Now, don't go ooohhing and ahhhing and "how cute"sing because he (Buster) is a pain in my ass. The other three cats don't care about my fiber, my yarn, my wheels.

Buster believes that the Matchless is a feline amusement park placed in the living room expressly for his pleasure.

This is war and I'm not kidding. His kitten ass is going to get spritzed every time I see him near anything remotely related to my fiber activity.

Things Buster Better Stay Away From
I'm making some small progress on the F 'n' F shawl but not so much that I think I'll be done by Rhinebeck. Oh well.

(Nice artsy-fartsy shot, ala Joe)

I'll Pick Whoopi for the X and the Win
So those of you who'll be playing Rhinebeck Bingo in three weeks can expect to see me wearing a Square button, that will look like this:

Franklin did such a great job on this, did he not?

For those of you who have not met me and have no clue as to what I look like, here I am.

Yeah, it's blonde from a bottle. But hey, it works for me.

Don't be afraid to approach me. I don't bite, in person. Unless, of course, you feverishly accost me and bounce around like an idiot.

I'll be talking more about Rhinebeck in the next two weeks.

Talking Heads

I have a few thoughts in my shaken-not-stirred brain that may culminate in a podcast or two, specifically interviews with other bloggers in a My Dinner with Andre scenario.

I don't foresee podcasting as a permanent feature, just something that would be an interesting experiment. And no, I am not interviewing bloggers who get more than 200 comments per entry. They've been overdone already. We've heard enough from them. I'll be choosing the chosen ones. And I guarantee they'll be interesting people.

What Sucks
Knitter's. Still. And always. Michelene is exactly right--A batwing poncho. In magenta. So your boobs look like you're on Jupiter. Knitter's never fails to disappoint.

I did like Candace Eisner Strick's socks. I always like her stuff. But the rest of it? Ask yourself this, in the name of conservation: How many fucking trees died to make this run of Knitter's?

Save a tree--don't buy the magazine.

Thinking back, the last knitting project I made from any commercial pattern was the Melanie shawl. These days, I'm content to spin my own yarn, do my own socks, buy designs directly from the designers, if possible, or do my own designing.

And here's another thing: How many of these so-called designers deserve that title? I would call myself a "constructor," not a "designer." I construct garments by plugging a stitch pattern into my garment calculations. The stitch pattern usually comes from one of my reference books.

So that makes me a designer? I don't think so. Sometimes, as in Fair Isle, I do create my own patterns. And I'm sure that if I had the time, I would be able to experiment more with stitch patterns. But I don't. Therefore, I am a true knitting Bionical. I take bits and pieces and put them together.

Of course, given what I've seen lately of the work knitting designers have been doing in the magazines, I'm rather glad that I make my own crap.

Because being a knitting constructor is good enough and certainly rare and handy.

Post Scriptum: The wonderful, doughty Jean Miles has broken her arm. Go to her blog and leave her a get-well message. Short of amputation, there's nothing worse that could happen to a knitter, particularly one in Jean's league.