Saturday, February 24, 2007
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. --Oscar Wilde
These days, Oscar would be holed up at JFK airport, writing on his laptop, and waiting for JetBlue to get their shit together.
I am avoiding the airport and hitting the road at 9:30 tomorrow morning in the trusty Elantra. Hopefully making it to Herndon ahead of the crap weather that's supposed to hit NJ tomorrow night. Supposedly 4-7 inches of snow.
What Every Knitter Must Take On The Road
Or, at least, what I need to take. Besides the suitcase crammed with enough clothes for five days.
A trait that I have passed along to my children is the fear of leaving for a trip and forgetting the one stupid item that suddenly you discover you can't live without. As a child, Corinne would pack all 22 of her Barbies, or it seemed that way.
In my backpack, I shoved my needle kit, my tubes of double-pointed needles, four balls of sock yarn, the three balls of Julia that Kristen gave me, the BBF Red Light merino lace shawl, my tool kit, the new Rowan magazine, sets of directions for two sock designs and a Fair Isle pillbox hat that I did in between writing for work this week, and my calculator.
Am I ready? You'd think I was going to knitting camp rather than going on a business trip. I appreciate readers' suggestions on yarn shopping possibilities but I won't be able to go anywhere other than Reston, where the company's headquarters is located.
A prisoner of corporate America. Feh.
However, I will be posting next week, most likely. The pictures will come from my cellphone camera but hey, WTF do you want?
Rowan Magazine Spring Issue
I went down to Montclair today to see Mumsy and we went over to Modern Yarn so I could pick up the Rowan mag. Whoa. Even better than what I saw online. Sharon Miller's shawl is lovely, Kaffe's stuff looks much nicer up close and personal, although I'd never make an intarsia afghan. A number of things done in Kidsilk Haze, which I love.
Even if you don't actually like the garment, Rowan photographs everything so lushly that you're riveted to the picture. That, and the colors, which were vibrant and enticing. I mean, am I ever going to knit deck chair seats or buntings? Nope, but the photos were so great, I was intrigued, even though the concepts are totally ridiculous.
American magazines, take note.
I imagined my fat can lowered into a knitted cotton deck chair seat. Given the stretch factor combined with the weight factor, ya gotta laugh. Basic physics, people.
The ass hits the ground unceremoniously.
I was gratified to see some of my sistah widders commenting on the last entry. They know I feel their pain and that I'm always here for support.
Time, time, time. That's the mantra. It takes time to reconnect your life. I've had more than five years to do so. Jimmy and I always knew that one would go before the other and that it would most likely be him. We discused it on several occasions. He urged me to find someone else because he did not want me to be alone. He understood, as do I, that everyone has room in their hearts for others. My finding a new love does not diminish what Jim and I had together or make it any less than it was. Nor is this Jimmy redux. This guy is his own man and that's the way it should be. And the way I want it.
I believe I honor Jim's memory by doing what I'm doing. In fact, I think he'd be pretty amazed at how far I've come. Sometimes, I'm amazed. Like driving to Virginia on my own. Never would have done that when Jim was alive. I'm not such a chicken-shit these days.
So, kids, I'll be checking in later in the week. And if you're on the road this week too, don't forget to take at least half of your stash with you.
You never know when a rare and handy opportunity to knit will rear its head.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Soul meets soul on lovers' lips--Percy Bysshe Shelley
I know, that quote is a week late. I had my Valentine's Day this past Monday night.
In life, you are lucky if you have even one great love. And love can sometimes wend its way in strange directions and hit barriers that seem impossible to overcome.
There are two of us who have finally broken through it all. Because he loves me. And I love him. Deeply.
So now I have peace and happiness, at last.
The Kindness of Strangers
If I were an actress, I think I would want to play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Because that's one of my favorite lines.
So, today, I had one of the nicest mornings (and evenings, but I'm not going there) that I've had for quite a while.
Kristin Nicholas came over for coffee.
As you know, there aren't a lot of designers whose work I rave about. Kristin is one, and has been for many years. The funny thing is, Kristin found my blog because someone told her I had written that Classic Elite went down the toilet when she left. So she checked me out. And we've e-mailed back and forth.
Kristin was down from Massachusetts visiting her mother, who lives in the town next to mine. Two Jersey girls sitting in my Wharton living room, just having coffee and talking about knitting, our lives in the business back in the '80s, when I was editing knitting magazines and she got her start at CE, and just stuff in general. I wish she could have stayed longer.
This is no diva. She's funny, outgoing, and the minute I opened the door, it was like an old friend had come to visit. What's surprising is that we've never run into each other, although we know a lot of the same people. No pretension here.
I honored Kristin's plea not to take a picture of her. I can dig it. I hate having my picture taken too. But she gifted me with three balls of her Julia yarn from Nashua Handknits, named after her daughter. Wonderfully soft mix of 50% wool, 25% mohair and 25% alpaca. And the color range is comprised of the colors Kristin uses in her design work.
After whining here about not being motivated to knit and needing bright colors, I got an instant jolt when she handed these balls to me. They're the perfect antidote to a February day. I see a Fair Isle hat here. Have to remember to load Knit Visualizer on the work laptop so that when I go to Virginia on Sunday, I can keep myself occupied in the evenings. I don't know what else there is to do in a hotel in Herndon, but I'm sure someone will tell me otherwise.
So Kristin, the coffeepot's always on whenever you get down to Dover. And if I did a good enough sales job on Rhinebeck, maybe you'll get off the farm and join us next October, eh?
The Tiny Diva ain't having coffee in my living room, that's for shit sure. But then, it's tough being her.
And easy being me. Usually.
I read incessantly but don't often discuss the books on the blog. Carol and Joe do a much better job of that than I. But Ted, my brother-in-needles, sent me an early (very) birthday present the other week--Ruth Reichl's book, Garlic and Sapphires, her memoir of her days as a restaurant critic. Reichl wrote for the New York Times back in the '90s and I read her column religiously, as I did Craig Claiborne before her. She was and is a wonderful writer and her book is exceptional.
My problem? I love food too much. And it's almost sacrilegious to read this book while eating a cream cheese and strawberry jam sandwich, which I admit to doing. Hell, it was on whole wheat bread.
I'm no foodie. I love a good hot dog, especially those found at Hot Dog Johnny's on Rte. 46 in Buttsville, NJ, of all places. However, the book has wonderful recipes scattered throughout. Perhaps it's time to get back into the kitchen and get cooking. The hell with the weight. I'll exercise my fat ass off.
Boy, could I ever tell some tales about the knitting world. Someday I'll have to write about my short-lived tenure at McCall's Needlework & Crafts. The girl from Jersey thrown to the New York publishing wolves. I was out of my league, for sure.
But it did lead to more successful gigs.
Sunday I hit the road at 9:30 a.m. with an expected arrival in VA around 3 or so. In a way, I'm looking forward to meeting the people I work with. In another way, I hate to leave home. But it's only for five days and I will have the laptop with me, so I won't be out of touch, at least not in the evenings.
So I may or may not post on Sunday night. I will certainly try to do so during the week, if time allows. After all, having an indoor pool and Jacuzzi at my disposal is a rare and handy thing.
I wonder if yarn floats. I do. And I can swim underwater quite well.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Note the charmingly tinted braces on my granddaughter's teeth. Liz has gone from dyeing her hair blue, purple, pink or what-have-you to decorating the choppers.
On the other hand, Britney's bald. Must have been that one day in rehab.
OK, girls. You've had your 15 nanoseconds of fame, such as it may be. Now you owe me. Big time. It ain't easy being 14 but it's tougher being almost 57. So Liz, maybe you might empty those boxes of books on the landing, like I asked you to do three months ago?
I loves my Liz because we're more alike than either of us would dare admit.
(And to the Wolverinas, Liz would love to come along on our next get-together, preferably at the Stockton Inn. Because she thinks my friends are kewl.)
Damn, I'm bored with my knitting. Loopy and I both feel relegated to simple shit, like knitting socks. Even Ma is knitting a scarf, although she's also working an Aran. Jeez. I can't even bring myself to do that.
I've been knitting on the BBF Red Light but even lace is making me yawn. I looked through IK and Vague and saw nothing at all that appealed, although I generally don't find squat that I like in Spring issues. I suspect it's some kind of SAD deal here. The yen for bright colors is growing.
On top of which, I'll be going down to Virginia on the 25th for five days on business, which means staying in a nice hotel, complete with indoor pool and Jacuzzi. And the potential for quality evening knitting time. Except that I have nothing right now that's exciting.
This too shall pass.
Other than working my ass off this week, my first week, trying to pull together a configuration manual for a very complex application, I did have a piece of good news. On Tuesday, I'm getting together with a very well-known knit designer, someone who I've admired for many years. I'm not going to spray her name all over the blog, at least not today. Suffice it to say that I'm looking forward to meeting her, very much.
No, it's not the Tiny Diva.
Gone But Not Forgotten
But perhaps they should be. While fiddling around on Google the other day, it occurred to me that some of the yarn brands of my youth have seemingly bit the dust. Columbia-Minerva, Spinnerin, Melrose gone. Bernat, Pingouin, Chat Botte, Scheepjeswol--no longer players, if indeed any of them really still exist in retail, besides Bernat.
Sad to say, Anny Blatt seems to be making a comeback, of sorts. I used to finish garments made with that crap and even just seaming with it gave me psychosomatic hives. Same with most of Melrose's stuff, although Cravenella was about the best yarn with which to knit skirts. The Crav mix, 70% wool, 30% rayon, was made by various companies, Sunray being one of them. Sunray is also history.
All in all, despite the whacked-out fashion yarns that have been littering the retail shops for the past few years, I think that the overall quality has really gone up. More colors, more fiber blends, more possibilities.
Sometimes it's good that the past is past.
This Coming Week
I rather expect that the work pace will continue. Makes no difference whether I'm working from home or in an office, I still have a lot to do, especially learning this suite of applications that ride on top of Microsoft SharePoint, a collaborative platform that gives companies an out-of-the-box intranet/workplace. Courtesy of my employer, I now have a laptop loaded with Office 2007 but gratefully, not with Vista. They're waiting on that one, for which I don't blame them.
The jury's still out on Office 2007. I've been using Word 2007 and I'm still not sure if I like it or not, having been a dedicated Word 2003 power user.
Change management, kids. That's what it's all about. In corporatespeak. In my speak, I'm getting tired of learning new tricks, but what can you do?
Go to bed, that's what. Because staying up until 12:30 on a Saturday night is really not all that rare and handy.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Don't be celebrities, because then you go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, You don't want that, do you?--Jack Black
Who gives a shit about Anna Nicole Smith besides her mother? Who ever did? An Ophelia for our time? I doubt it. The tragic figures of ANS and Lindsey Lohan. Discuss.
What is so Rare as a Day in June?
Not much else if you live in upstate New York these days. But there are tentative signs that spring is getting closer because Rowan's about to put out its Spring magazine. And it looks like one to buy.
Some absolutely beautiful garments therein, particularly in the Secret Garden and Medinas and Minarets sections. Two Kaffes that I might actually make (Marble and Hydrangea). A number of Marie Wallin designs that are spectacular. (Incidentally, Sharon Miller has a shawl in Secret Garden called Anice that is mistakenly credited to Wallin).
The Promenade section, "Inspired by the British seaside of the 1940's and 1950's - a lovely holiday collection with a hint of glamour", according to Rowan's blurb, is as dowdy as you would imagine clothes of that era to have been. Not much "glamour" there. My apologies to my UK friends but let's face it--back in the '40s and '50s, Britain wasn't exactly known as a fashion mecca.
My only gripe is that the pictures in the slide shows can't be enlarged, so the detail on many of the garments is lost. But never mind that. I'm buying this one.
While waiting for my sock blockers and some yarn for my men's sock design to come from Rosie's Yarn Cellar, I had to do something. Can't seem to persuade my inner child to get back to the Arwen hoodie. Inner child wanted to go back to a lace pattern that I found in a rather obscure book that Ma gave me some time ago. I'd recharted it several months ago with an eye to using it at some point.
Carol's merino laceweight in her Red Light colorway seemed just right, as her Black Bunny Fibers always do. In lieu of any kind of possible celebration of Valentine's Day, this seemed like a perfect project. I rather think the motifs look like flames of passion or maybe Cupid's darts.
Nobody ever accused me of not having a fertile imagination.
Speaking of which, Joan McGowan-Michael's new book, Knitting Lingerie Style, will be out April 1. Another must-have, for sure.If you are not familiar with White Lies Designs, get over there. Joan M-M is the only knitting designer whose knitted lingerie I would ever consider making. She knows dressmaking, shaping, and what needs to be done to create truly wearable knitted lingerie, especially for those of us with big tits. And her other garments are nice, too. If you order the book now from her site before March 31, you'll get free shipping, an autographed copy and a coupon for 15% off any WLD stuff. Good deal.
So much for Valentine's Day--may we all get flowers and gobs of chocolate from our significant others.
On the Wheel
Despite my well-intentioned mantra of "Spin a little every day," I must admit that I haven't touched either wheel in quite a while.
My bad. Do as I say, not as I do.
Last night, though, I actually became completely sick of knitting. Heinous blasphemy, I know. So I went back to the Joy and the grape silk/merino. For those of you who have forgotten (and that includes me), here's what's what.
I astounded myself. The minute I had a clump of fiber in my hand and started spinning, I was able to spin consistently as if I had never stopped for two months. So now the goal is to try to fill this bobbin by next week. And start another. I'm itching to see this plyed.
Here's what I've been wondering for a long time. Is it possible to make an attractive garment using the mosaic technique? Barbara Walker's favorite. (Her books are stuffed with perfectly hideous mosaic patterns.)
For those of you who don't know what mosaic knitting is, it's a two-color slip stitch technique in which you work color A in the first row, slipping color B, and then on the second row, work Color B and slip color A. The directions tell you which color to work and which to slip to form the design. Although you can work this on a stockinette background as seen in the Cage Pattern in the picture above, generally both rows are knit so that the finished product is garter stitch.
I've tried it on a swatch and there are numerous issues with this technique. First of all, it takes two rows to complete one row. Second, decreasing for shaping is a bitch. It can be done but it's laborious, in my opinion.
But the biggest problem with this technique is the ensuing design, which is generally unsuitable for a sweater, too garish for a coat and, in the long run, makes a better afghan square, as applied by Walker in her Learn To Knit Afghan Book. I've seen a few mosaic designs in the magazines, none of which I'd ever make.
Nonetheless, I'm tempted to play with some of the smaller designs, perhaps in muted colors, to see if it can actually be made into an attractive garment. Now that's a knitting challenge.
The Arwen hoodie may never be completed if I don't stop having these brilliant ideas.
Today, my last free day before going back to work, albeit in my house, is going to be devoted to finally finishing up the Loom Room arrangement so that it's a truly workable studio/office, get some more done on the Crazy Love shawl and watch Pebble Beach at 3. Because you know I love sports, yes, even golf, which I find relaxing to watch. Someday I'll tell you about my miserable attempts to hack away at a golf ball.
Sports and the KC? Incongruous, I know. However, growing up with a mother whose passion was watching sports of any type did rub off. Childhood summers for brother Rich and me meant pickup baseball games with anyone available in the neighborhood. Baseball is my first love but I enjoy watching almost any sport except basketball.
There's nothing better than sitting in Yankee Stadium on a warm July afternoon with a cold one and my knitting, watching my boys beat the crap out of the opposing team, preferably the Red Sox. And I don't want to hear from any Sox fans in the Comments. Because the Sox suck.
Well, Tontant Weaders, it's time for another cup of coffee. Java be so rare and handy, it makes my brain come to life.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pinheads.--Oliver Wendell Holmes
Throughout the past five years of my writing this blog, I've been asked a lot of questions, from the sublime to the completely ridiculous. And I usually answer them. As long as they don't involve my sex life.
However, the single most frequently asked question has been "What knitting books do you recommend?"
A question that is difficult at best to answer, given people's various needs, skill levels and interests.
Book 'Em, Dano
If you are at all observant, you'll notice that I've added a new feature to the sidebar, a random listing of my books via LibraryThings.com, a newish, web-based utility that allows you to catalog books. Not all my books are there, mind you. Just knitting, spinning, weaving, miscellaneous fiber-related books and the odd crochet book.
I managed to compile a list of 115 books so far, 89 of which are knitting books. And I'm not done yet. Which is completely frightening yet illuminating, I think. Forty-three of the books predate the start of the internet. There are no "Quick 'n' Easy" books. The majority are technique or genre books rather than mere garment compendia. The oldest dates back to 1952, when I was two years old. Heh.
So if you'd like to see what I own, click on the link that says "my library" and you can see exactly what's sitting on my sagging bookshelves. With more to come. Compiling this list has made me all too aware of what's missing.
And boy, I own some weird fucking books. Popeye and Friends by Melinda Coss. Now I know that was a gift but from whom? My guess is the somewhat clueless husband, who saw "knitting" and loved Popeye.
As my mother says, what I'm thinking always shows on my face. I can only imagine how I looked when I received that gem.
I promised Joy I would write about how to knit faster. Well, Joy, I have no quick fixes on that one because I am not exactly Speedy Gonzales myself. Despite all the lovely how-to illustrations that abound, not one actually shows you how to connect brain to hands--all they do is show you where to insert the needle, not how to manipulate your hands and arms to do so. So everyone develops those particular skills differently and that's what constitutes speed or lack thereof.
What I do know, from experience, is that from age 8 to age 33, I knit using the English method (throwing your yarn with your right hand). My mother, although a Continental knitter, had decided that it would be easier for a child to learn how to throw than to pick. God knows why.
Finally, frustrated with the agony of knitting ribbing and knit/purl combinations, I taught myself how to knit Continental by watching my mother. No books that I owned at the time really showed the Continental method. It was extremely difficult to learn a whole new way of knitting but in the long run, I became a faster knitter. I purl much faster than I knit. Go figure. It's extremely helpful to know both methods when knitting Fair Isle patterns, too.
I would say that it's less important to knit quickly than it is to knit accurately and evenly. No matter how pokey you feel you are, in the long run it's more important to enjoy what you're doing than to win any imagined race.
Tech Writer Wannabes
So some readers asked, "How do I become a technical writer?" Well, I transformed myself from a knitting/crafts editor and writer to a technical writer/editor who specializes in end-user software manuals and online help, both careers being closely connected.
Think about the knitting directions that you read when you're knitting and then imagine having to write them either from scratch with only the garment as reference or having to divine what the fuck the designer did from slightly coffee-stained index cards written in longhand. Now that's technical writing.
If you can write cohesive directions that an idiot can understand, u cn b a tknkl wrtr. If you can reverse engineer any process and write about it so that your 83-year-old mother knows what you're saying, you're in.
Most people need to write as part of their jobs and hate it. When I trained corporate suits in Business Writing, it was as if I had a bunch of recalcitrant toddlers as students. However, if you do write as part of your job and you write well, look for opportunities to turn that skill into something that will benefit your company. My first stab at that was back in 1997 when I worked as a documentation specialist for an engineering firm. I wrote down instructions for myself on how to use NASA's materials database, a very user-unfriendly system. When the engineers with whom I worked found out about it, they asked for copies and I was on my way.
That's how you do it. Save copies of what you've written (be careful of this if you've signed a non-disclosure agreement with your company--ask permission to add your work to your portfolio) and then tailor your resume to reflect your business writing skills.
Technical writers work in all businesses, from financial to IT to pharmaceutical/medical to you name it. Hey, somebody's gotta write that manual that came with your Crockpot, no? The one you never read.
Gansey Sock Pics
Thanks to Audrey for her suggestion about putting the socks on blockers. I think that might help and I will try it. As far as sizing the socks for men, you've got it. I will do so, although it will take me longer to get the pattern up on the Knitting Vault. It's nice to know that guys might like the socks too. I've been thinking about a specific sock design just for men, which I may start working up shortly.
Lately, I've been having more fun doing my own thing than following someone else's pattern. The Arwen hoodie lies unworked. I'll get back to it eventually but right now I need to get this manic creative burst out of my system.
Because bursts are rare and handy and quite consuming.
Note to Sissy: Upon further reflection, please stick to scrapbooking. There are sufficient KnitDweebs in this world. You don't need to add to their numbers. If you decide to knit, lose my phone number.
Monday, February 05, 2007
It was a bugger to photograph properly. I think I need to call in brother Rich, the once and perhaps future photographer, to give me some advice on lighting. Getting the patterns to stand out is tough. You want shadows to delineate the raised stitches but not too much.
Here's a detail of the leg:
A bit better. I made yet more minor adjustments to the pattern, in particular the wave design above the heel, which now goes in one direction rather than mirroring itself. So the charts are done, the sizing is done (women's 7-8 and 9-10), and all I need to do is put those elements together as a package, along with a decent photo. Sheesh, you guys, it's a lot of work.
The key to sizing was to keep the two large motifs on the leg and use smaller ones on the instep. The larger motifs could not be properly centered on the instep, given that size 7-8 has 28 stitches on the instep and the motifs are 8-stitch repeats. So the smaller ones, although also 8-stitch repeats, can be stopped after 4 stitches and still look finished, rather than cut off. Capisce?
My brain hurts.
Glad to know that the rash of catalogs has started up again. It may be fucking frigidly cold here in the Northeast but as far as retailers are concerned, it's spring. I live for the trash that I get in my mailbox. Most of it placed in the circular file.
This week, I got Patternworks's Spring catalog, which I found totally uninteresting, and Woodland Woolworks's Spinning and Weaving catalog, which I found completely absorbing. (For some reason this morning, WW's website is inaccessible. So Google it because I don't want to give you a link that doesn't work.)
Woodland Woolworks not only carries virtually everything--wheels, tools, books, fibers--that a spinner could want, including a lot of Chasing Rainbows, but it's packed with very good information for spinners. If you're a novice spinner, you'll appreciate these, not to mention the fun of looking at all the different wheels.
It's my plan to rev up the blog entries from once a week to twice a week. This means shorter entries but WTF. I didn't post yesterday because I was busy doing my income tax return and filling out paperwork for the new job. And then I get an e-mail from Ted asking if I'm OK because I didn't post. Heh. Yeah, I'm fine but I needed to know how much I was getting back. Plenty. Enough to do some damage with, I suppose.
So look for an entry around Thursday. Wednesday I must make a lunchtime trek to see Mammy, with the Queen of Chaos, the one and only Ms. Karen Roth, Sissy Extraordinaire, coming along for maximum fun. Three crabapples, so rare and handy. But Ma trumps us all.