Saturday, June 30, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.—Shana Alexander

So if that’s the case, and I believe it is, let’s get over being nervous about finishing, OK?
Because if ever there is a part of knitting that demands excellence, it’s right there. In the end game.

I gave commenter Lynne’s suggestion about a 4-part series on finishing some thought. OK, I’ll do it. But it’ll cost ya a dollah-three-eighty. Heh.

Now, get inspired. Here’s a picture for those who need visual aids. Sewing up one of the Campanula's side seams.
We'll get to the seaming in another entry. Just remember this: I couldn't sew shit to begin with and it took me torturous sewing classes in junior high school, sewing clothes for me and my kids, and learning machine knitting before I understood the importance of finishing, in all aspects of needlework.

Part I—The Beginning of the End
[The End by the Doors playing in the background is a prerequisite for reading this. Or perhaps People Are Strange. Your choice.]

Getting into finishing a sweater is perhaps akin to steeling yourself for a long stint in the dentist’s chair à la Marathon Man. At least, it seems to be that way for many knitters. As it was for me, at one time. Until I got fucking Finishing Religion. Because finishing is a a religious experience.

Before you begin to think about finishing, you need to get yourself into a positive state of mind about it. Which means not “terriblizing” it.

Here are my 10 Rules for a Healthy Finishing ‘Tude, which include many absolutes:
  1. Always look at finishing as part of the process as a whole.
  2. Never consider starting another project until you’ve finished the garment that’s lying in pieces in your knitting basket/bag. (This is arguably the hardest thing to do.)

  3. Think about all the time you’ve put into knitting those pieces. Then think about rushing through the finishing, doing a shitty job, and how those pieces will end up looking like a church bazaar reject.

  4. Always do your finishing work when your brain is its sharpest. And your eyes.

  5. Never drink coffee, tea, cola, beer, or Jello shots when finishing. This I tell you from sad experience.

  6. Lock up your cat(s). Cats like dangly bits, such as ends of yarn. And sitting on blocked pieces as they are drying. Dogs seem to have more control.

  7. Lock up your kid(s) under 12. Or in lieu of that, if you are concerned about your local Child Welfare Board, palm them off on their Dad, doting grandmother, neighbor, daycare, whatever. The kids have got to go.

  8. Ponder the beauty of sewing things together so that they look impeccable. Translate that splendiferous feeling into your soul, if you still have one at this point.

  9. Make sure you have all your tools together before you start. Then use your measuring tape as a Rosary, because you’ll be praying to Our Lady of the Perpetual Piece.
  10. Keep this in mind: How would Jesus finish this?

You’ve got three major components to finishing: blocking, picking up and knitting edgings, and sewing seams. Now, obviously, a lot of people like to knit in the round because it decreases the finishing tasks. I’m certainly one of them. However, whether you knit flat or in the round, you’re going to have to do something to polish up your knitting. And there’s going to come a time when you see a design you love that’s loaded with finishing.

Finishing actually starts the minute you determine what garment you’re going to make. If you are working from someone else’s design, you can only hope that the designer has incorporated certain elements that will be critical to successful finishing. Read the instructions carefully and look for the following:

  • If not worked in the round, are selvedge stitches included? If not, add ‘em to the pattern. Immediately.

  • How are the decreases for the armholes and neckline handled? Are they decreased right on the edge? Make sure you don’t do that. Move decs in one stitch, at least. You’ll need a selvedge here too, for sleeve set-in and neckline pickup, if you have to do those.

  • What other potential finishing pitfalls are there? Zippers, ties, snaps, buttons? Will you bind off the shoulders or leave the stitches live for grafting? You don’t need to do any special preparation ahead of time for those, but be aware that they will demand certain decisions at the end. Like changing the way the buttonhole is constructed, that sort of thing. And if the fabric you’re knitting will have a lot of drape, you may or may not want to seam the shoulders to give it some structure. Ditto for phony seams. If you’re going to use them, you’ve got to decide NOW.

Once you have a basic game plan as to how you will be finishing—and of course, you’ve been notating your instructions, right?—you can start knitting, incorporating any finishing adjustments.

I am presuming that you have swatched. Swatching, besides for gauge, can be used to work out stitch patterns and potential finishing concerns. For example, if you want to see how an edging will work when picked up on a bound-off edge or along a side, do it on the swatch. You can resolve a lot of potential issues by working them out ahead of time.

Written like the tech writer I am, no? Except the readers of my manuals don’t get the benefit of humor. Although sometimes, I’m tempted to write something like:
  1. Enter your sort parameters.

  2. Separate each entry with a comma. Example: Albino Midgets, Address, Zip Code

  3. Click OK.

Knitting right off the needles seldom looks good enough for public viewing. So it has to be blocked. Read Blocking for Blockheads in the sidebar. That’ll do ya until Part II.

More Entries, Less Dead Air
Seeing as how I’m on vacation this week, I’ll be working on a couple of bloggish projects. One will be this series. The other, my bloggiversary spectacular.

I was very impressed with the quality of the responses to this week’s Open Mic topic. It’s good to get serious once in a while and truly think things over. So if you have a topic you’d like to see, give me a shout. My e-mail address is in my profile but for those too lazy to click, it’s If you submit a topic, please put TOPIC in your subject so that I can filter it into a folder.

I’m posting this today because tomorrow is our annual family barbecue extravaganza. So being lazy this morning, drinking coffee and writing this, I need to get off my can and get to the supermarket with Corinne. Two weeks of intensive manual writing now means I can float in the pool.

I’ll leave you with one picture. I’m not one for gratuitous kute kitty pictures but I swear, Buster is such a bizarre animal, this one’s worth putting up.

This is Buster’s house. An empty shrink-wrap that once contained water bottles. He truly believes he is invisible in his Fortress of Solitude. All the better to attack Buddy or Boo (Cleo doesn’t come downstairs, so he gets her where she lives, on my bed).

So don’t be buying those expensive kitty kondos. Shrink-wrap works just as well. And it’s not at all rare and handy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel.--Homer Simpson

Well, there are times when I'd like to weasel out of folding laundry, changing the cat litter, shaving my legs and pits, cleaning the toilet, and picking up hairballs.

I never weasel out of finishing work. After all, why knit all those pieces and leave 'em lying around? Besides, I find finishing to be a completely different activity and just as enjoyable as knitting the whole thing.

Call me masochistic. But at one time, I did finishing professionally for all of those who couldn't be bothered. Bought my babies clothes, toys, and other good stuff. So to me, finishing is the finer moment of knitting, in many ways.

Here's the Campanula, with front/neck band done and one sleeve set in. I'm not rushing it. That's death to finishing.

The true test of good finishing is this: The garment should look as neat on the wrong side as it does on the right side. That goes for most needlework, actually.

My answer to last week's topic: I would embroider. I spent a lot of years doing embroidery at the same time I honed my knitting skills. I love doing it and haven't done any in a long time. So maybe that's why I like finishing.

Open Mic Thursday
OK, once again I'm cheating and in fact writing this Tuesday night. Tomorrow, I'm mucho busy so I gotta grab the time when I can.

Joe is running a Blog Contest to benefit Year Up, a Philadelphia educational charity that supports inner-city kids. Blogs are powerful fundraising tools.

So this week's topic is:

There's been a lot of talk about readers donating money to bloggers who are asking for financial help. How do you feel about it?

I know that I never have and never will ask for a cent from my readers, not for broadband, not for anything personal, other than a charity, as Joe has done. However, each blogger has their own story, I suppose. Let's not turn this into a flame-o-rama, but discuss it intelligently. Like adults. Be forewarned, I won't tolerate any namecalling. I believe it's a topic that bears some consideration.

Fibrefest 2007
Ya know how hard it is for me to type "fibre"? Anyway, in keeping with my flogging the public domain for my friends, here's an event to consider.

Ted Myatt, aka Knitterguy, has been organizing Fibrefest 2007, to be held September 28-30 in Wiarton, Ontario. You can get all the details here.

Gang, this is a weekend retreat that is very, very reasonably priced, and it looks to be a great time with some very interesting fiber peeps. Knitters, spinners, weavers, crocheters, whatever you do, this will be an ecumenical get-together and an opportunity for us Amurricans to traipse over the border and meet our Canadian friends.

That is, of course, if our dipshit State Department doesn't continue to fuck up the passport situation. I have visions of being stuck at the Canadian border coming back. Forever. I'll be keeping an eye on the situation but as of now, I plan to go.

Because if Ted's running it, it will definitely be a rare and handy event.

Ed. note: Yeah, I'm cheating again and publishing this in advance of Thursday. I need my beauty sleep.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The Ninety-Ninety Rule of Project Schedules: The first ninety percent of the task takes ninety percent of the time, and the last ten percent takes the other ninety percent--Arthur Bloch

This weekend was exceptionally gorgeous. Much time spent on the deck, in a bathing suit, working on the Campanula's final piece, the second sleeve.
Those two pieces hanging over the railing are dry. I just stuck them there for lack of a better place.
Besides, it made a close-up easier.
The Other Ninety Percent
So now I've finished all the pieces to the Campanula cardigan and now you can see why you must make the effort to block your work.

To the right is an unblocked sleeve, to the left, a blocked front. Don't need to say anything else. As I write this, the shoulder seams are done and I'm about halfway done picking up the front/neckband edging, 337 stitches. The sleeves always go in last, unless it's a raglan, because I don't need the extra weight as I work the band.
Knitting Daily
Don't know if any of you have tapped into this, but Interweave has just started a new bloglike creation, with access to free patterns, many of which were freebies for subscribers via their website or from older issues, I think. Sandi Wiseheart writes it, and although it's certainly a running ad for IK subs, it has a lot of good stuff. Nicely designed web site, too.
The Barbara Walker Chart Project
I've completed several of these transposed chart and now the question is, how am I going to archive them so they will be easily catalogued and downloaded? I have several options, one of which is to put links to them on their own blog, which I may do. The original files will be on my FTP area, which means that you will be able to download the original file. If I just put the chart right on the blog, the size would be too small.
My hosting service offers free MySQL, which is a database, for those who don't know. However, as these charts will be saved as .png files, I'm not yet sure whether I want to go the database route.
It amazes me that some people hate charts. For one thing, they allow magazines to publish much more complex designs than they could if the directions were written out. Plus, they decrease the margin of error enormously. If you look at a 40-row lace pattern written out against its charted version, it's not hard to understand why. And if you train your eye to read them, you'll find that they ultimately make your work much easier.
My own sainted mother fought against learning how to read charts for years. And finally, several years ago, she gave in. Now she hates working without them because she is very visually oriented. So if a woman who's going to be 84 in two months can use charts, what's your excuse?
Upcoming Events
One of the best things about a Sunday morning is often a phone call from Ted. We talk about once a month or so and although I'm not much for chatting on the phone, damn! Ted and I can talk for hours. Just to keep you in the loop, if you read Ted's blog, you'll know he's planning a knitters retreat the last weekend of September. I am going. I'll make the drive from NJ to Canada, absolutely. Because this will be worthwhile.
And then there's Rhinebeck, aka NYS Sheep & Wool Festival. This year, it's October 20-21. I'll be there too, along with a bunch of Wolvies. I can't imagine what I could possibly buy, having taken a keen look at my fiber stash this morning. I'm still feeding from stuff I bought at Rhinebeck two years ago.
However, it's a ways off until the autumn. So I'll continue my rare and handy swimming, and start on a shawl for daughter Jenn. "Because, Moooommmm, you made Corinne a shawl for her wedding last year, what about ME?" No, Jenn's not getting married. But ya gotta make your kids happy. So that's next.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The mosquito is the state bird of New Jersey--Andy Warhol

It's the first day of summer, so the birds will be rising from the swamps of Jersey, to paraphrase the Boss.

A list of things I love about my state:

  • The aforementioned Bruce, plus Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
  • Going down the shore, as we say here
  • Stokes State Forest
  • Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Bruce Willis, and just a few other folks from hereabouts
  • The back roads of Sussex and Warren counties, where the Garden State still exists
  • NJ Transit trains, when they run on time and don't break down
  • The view of New York City and the harbor from Jersey City
  • Tricky trays
It's too bad that it's so fucking expensive to live here, I will at some point have to move out of state. To where, I don't know. But it's getting to the point where the cost of living is ridiculous.

And I know there are plenty of Jersey folks who read this blog and are nodding in agreement. I see those towns in my stats: Randolph, Parsippany, Linden, the Oranges, Montclair, Bayonne, Jersey City, Whitehouse Station, Mt. Laurel, Princeton, Mendham. And plenty of other towns I know well.

Open Mic Thursday
Well, despite one commenter's rather uninformed thought that all the Michaels in the world need to abandon the nickname "Mike" for "Mic", I will repeat: "Mic" is short for microphone.

Got it yet?

Having had my hand somewhat slapped this week did not prompt this week's topic. I've got my right hand back in its brace, due to my apparently progressing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. And having had surgery on my left arm, which rendered my left hand partially numb and weak in perpetuity, I was thinking to myself, what would I do if I can no longer knit? The CTS will get worse, this I know from the doctor. I can't crochet any more, will knitting be far behind?

So I pose to you this:

If you could not knit ever again, with what activity/craft would you replace it?

I know how I would handle it because I've thought about it. Have you?

Coming soon and I need it, bad. I'm tired of writing about complex technology and its doings. Web 2.0, mashups, roll-ups (please, don't ask about the hyphenizations--I've already been through that at work), XML, XSL, CAML, and all the rest of that crap. Nobody, neither family nor friends, has the vaguest idea of what I write about for the paycheck.

At this point, I don't know myself. All I can say is, the vacation will be taken in the backyard pool, with perhaps a day trip to see Carol and Kathy down in Philly, and maybe some other fun social doings.

Liz has one more final exam and then she's done with her first year of high school. So she'll be hanging with her Gangsta Gram and the rest of her little hoodlum girlfriends.

Summer. Rare and handy, whether you're 15 or 57.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Jealousy is the greatest of all evils, and the one which arouses the least pity in the person who causes it--François de la Rochefoucauld

Evidently, last week's Open Mic topic has caused a commenter by the name of Lesley to point me in the direction of Stephanie's blog, where she has expounded upon blogs being communities, public places not unlike neighborhood parties. And that you shouldn't make nasty comments about your guests.

Well, if this was directed at me, and it may have well been, I feel this way: If you are putting something out there in public, you are always open to criticism. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, or what your life philosophy may be. This is the way it is. And that includes my being open to criticism, which I fully accept. After all, if you give it, you have to take it.

I save my barbs primarily for the magazines and the yarn companies, not for other bloggers. As I said in the Open Mic comments:

I will say one thing, in defense of bloggers who write books. It's not easy. I write for a living--it's what pays my bills. In my lifetime, I've certainly written what amounts to many books. And I try to write this blog twice a week. That said, even though I do not read Stephanie, Wendy, et al, I will say this: It's easy to criticize bloggers but unless you write yourself, you have no idea how much work goes into writing a good blog. I'm not talking about the mass blogs, I'm talking about the ones that have decent readerships.

I don't have a lot of time to read blogs. It's enough that I'm taking time to write this when I have two manuals due on the 28th.

One thing I generally don't do is censor my commenters IF their comment is well written and thought out. They are entitled to voice their opinions, especially on Open Mic day. I would far rather have readers who use their brains than 600 sycophants kissing my ass.

And truthfully, perhaps the market is now glutted with these anecdotal knitting books; otherwise, why would the topic have been submitted to me? I honestly don't care who writes what and who buys it. What pleases me are all the books that have been published that increase the knowledge of the craft. If nothing else, with all the lousy knitting books out there, there have also been some great ones published as well. So there's plenty for everyone.

I would say this to people like Leslie: If you think I'm going to go for Steph's throat, that will never happen. I respect her for her accomplishments, I've met her several times and I like her, so that's really more than I need to say.

If Stephanie feels that the Open Mic topic was directed at her, well, that I can't say, since I did not write the topic. I'm sure, based on what she wrote, that if she did, she would say as much to me directly. Ya think? Listen, I don't go to TNNA, I don't go to book signings, I don't go to any knitting things other than Rhinebeck, I have about 10 free minutes a day to read blogs, so I'm not really particularly bothered by any blogger who writes books and discusses their doings. Hey, I think it's great when I get to meet my readers, so why not them?

So enough on this topic. I'm done. Besides, I got some knitting to squeeze into today. And guys, that's more important than anything on today's schedule, pretty much.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If somebody makes me laugh, I'm his slave for life.--Bette Midler

Ain't that the truth?

Give me a man who can make me laugh uncontrollably. Not that I'm generally in control, anyways.

A Slight Change in Schedule
Due to the fact that A) it's summer, B) work continues to pile up, and C) my social life seems to
have suddenly lighted a fire under its sorry ass, I'm going to move Open Mic Tuesday to Thursdays, just so's the blog gets balanced out with entries. And then try to get an entry posted either Saturday or Sunday.

OK, so I spent a good part of today in the water, lake and pool. Fucking bite me. I could have started writing an entry earlier than 11 p.m. But it was hot and sunny outside here in NJ, and I was hot and sunny. So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Sounds like an Italian dessert, doesn't it? "Oh garcon, bring me a slice of that swell Campanula,
heavy on the whipped cream." Well, despite my busy schedule, I've managed to complete a big chunk of the Campanula cardi. Back, one front, one sleeve--done. Here's the back:

Not a great picture, simply because it was almost 11 when I took it, plus I was out being rowdy tonight and had a couple of drinks. My bad. But this has been a terrific knit, pretty easy but kinda like a good book--you can't wait to get to the end, you're turning the pages and reading it at 2 a.m., and then when you've reached the last page, you feel bad because it's over.

Suffice it to say that it ain't over yet but I would expect I will have it done by next weekend or so.

Having seen the preview of the new Knitter's on their gawd-awful morass of a website, I have to say that this Spring issue was definitely Dragonboy on 'ludes. Or something. Because the Summer issues sucks, big time. With three of his absolutely revolting schmattehs (one on the cover, of course), plus more from that hapless crowd of Anonny Mouses known as the Knitter's Design Team (is burning at the stake too good a punishment for lousy designs?), I'd say that the X-Men are back to their usual low standards. If there were not a roll of toilet paper left on the planet, I'd wipe my ass with leaves rather than use the Summer issue of Knitter's.

OK, I feel better now.

The Bloggyversary
July 25 marks the 5th anniversary of this blog. Hard to believe that I started writing this as grief therapy and it ended up where it has (not quite sure where that is, but what the fuck).

I've decided to do a very special project to mark that occasion. It's going to be something completely different from anything I've ever done. I'll be working on it during my vacation, which blessedly starts on June 30 and runs until July 8. So stay tuned.

And a New Project
Not that I have much else to do but one of the things that's been on my mind is the transposition of Barbara Walker's stitch patterns to charts, using Knit Foundry's Knit Visualizer. (Read my review of this outstanding charting software in the sidebar.) I will, of course, give full credit to Knit Foundry and Nancy. (Incidentally, she's working on an upgrade that will include not only color capability but other enhancements and bug fixes.)

I forget which of my readers mentioned this possibility but it's been one that I've been mulling over and have decided to do. The beauty of Knit Visualizer is that it has been programmed to accept BW's abbreviations and will parse them into symbols.

So beginning this week, I will start transposing. Now, how I'm going to archive these charts is an IT issue that I have to work out. Clearly, a database is needed and being the techie that I am, I do have some solutions. That said, I will make these charts available to you guys from this blog, probably via a link.

So, you ask, what made you decide to do this? Well, for one thing, I feel the need to contribute more to the general knowledge base. And as I stated in the last entry's comments, I have abandoned the book idea simply because I am not willing to write a book about myself. I don't have any cute anecdotes about knitting. Sorry, but there's nothing cutesy about me or my knitting, other than the fact that I did knit in Carnegie Hall last night during the intermission of a piano recital.

I will start with the first volume, probably with the lace patterns and then on to the cables. As far as other textured stitches are concerned, I will save those for the last, since they are the ones that least need charting, in my opinion. Obviously, this is going to take me a hell of a long time but I think it will be more than worthwhile, for me and for the rest of you.

After all, when I think about editing written-out lace patterns back in the '80s, charts are more than rare and handy. They are now indispensable.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I really don't think, I just walk--Paris Hilton

Have we yet had enough of these bimbos? Paris, Lindsay, Britney. Now that Anna Nicole is gone, I guess the media needs to focus on other idiots, rather than more important things.

Open Mic Tuesday
I haven't forgotten that it's Tuesday. Yeah, it's late Tuesday. OK, work gets in the way again. What can I say?

I stand corrected on the spelling of "mic" by my dear Selma and Lisa-Lisa, who know. Short for microphone. The editor needs editing, too. And this week's Open Mic topic was contributed by a certain Wolvie who shall remain incognito, unless she wishes to make herself known. And no, it's not Merrick.

Is anybody else sick unto death of the various oh-so-veddy-cool bloggers who are all coming out with new (probably mostly unreadable) books and their entirely too self-congratulatory entries about all the Famous Knitters they hobnobbed with at TNNA and the book expo?

OK, gang, have fun. More this weekend, when I will work in an entry about the oh-so-veddy-cool, rare and handy Campanula lace jacket, which is actually almost half done. Shit, the last time I was cool was in 1967.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Soon I will be an old, white-haired lady, into whose lap someone places a baby, saying, "Smile, Grandma!" I, who myself so recently was photographed on my grandmother's lap--Liv Ullmann

I said I would write about my knitting inspiration.

Many of you mentioned your grandmother as your knitting inspiration. Well, for me, it sure as shit wasn't either of my grandmothers. Neither could cook, knit, sew, quilt, bake cookies, or do much of anything domestic. Grandma was a teacher, Oma was a businesswoman. Both always had housekeepers.

Oma, my father's mother, was a dour, neurotic German who spent her life trying to control her husband, her son, and her daughter, and attached strings to everything that she unwillingly gave. She didn't relate to kids at all--her idea of playing with me was to chase me around a tree, brandishing a stick and screaming that she was a witch and was going to eat me.

Shades of Hansel und Gretel. Hardly an inspiration. More of a giant pain in the ass. As far as she was concerned, I was a hopeless hoyden, an out-of-control child who never sat still and behaved, therefore rendering me useless to society. To pay her back and to prove her right, when I was with her, I would throw histrionic temper tantrums in public, right on the streets of Manhattan, which I never did with anyone else. Of course, she lived until she was 96. And much to my chagrin, I look a lot like her.

Grandma, on the other hand, always has been my inspiration for everything that I do. Her passion for excellence, her love for teaching, and her unwillingness to suffer fools gladly were priceless childhood lessons. To her, I was her supremely talented Dolly, her first grandchild, and one that received her unconditional love. She taught me to love parsing sentences. Now, that's some teacher!

Grandma taught for more than 40 years in the Staten Island, NY school system. She taught immigrant children, many of whose parents spoke no English. She brooked no nonsense in her classroom and expected her students to excel, my mother being one of them (Ma says that was the worst school year she ever had, having her mother as a teacher). Often, when I would be staying with her and Grandpa and we were out shopping or having dinner, a former student would come up to her, hug her, and thank her for everything she had done. She always remembered the student's name. That made a big impression on me as a child.

The original curmudgeon of the family, Grandma never minced words. When Oma complained to her that grass wouldn't grow on my father's grave, Grandma's answer to that was: "Oh for God's sake, Elisabeth, just move the body somewhere else and be done with it."

My mother tells this story about Grandma's one venture into knitting during WWII. In a fit of patriotic passion, Grandma went to the Red Cross, got yarn, and decided to knit a cap, probably this one. It was a hopeless mess. Somehow, she went from four needles down to one. Ma, who had learned to knit from their Irish housekeeper, Katherine, managed to salvage the cap. Grandma's knitting career was done. She decided that playing the piano at the local USO was a better wartime contribution.

After Grandma had a mastectomy in 1962, one of her arms enlarged due to lymphedema and became enormous. With no treatment back then, she was stuck with the condition. Finding clothes that would accommodate the arm became a big problem. But she managed, being a diligent shopper. However, she loved cardigans and liked to wear them around the house, but had a hard time finding one that fit. My very first knitting design was for her, a drop-shoulder cardigan, with one sleeve sized for her enlarged arm. My mother knit it from red acrylic, since Grandma wanted something she could throw in the washer and dryer. She was thrilled. "Oh, you girls are so talented with your knitting!"

So, in an obtuse way, Grandma was a knitting inspiration. But far more than that, she taught me to speak well, write correctly and coherently, to be the best I could be, to make words from the letters on license plates, and to sing "Baa Baa Black Sheep." She has been gone 22 years. I think of her every day.

Grandma is why I learned to inspire myself. Because she taught me that there was nothing I couldn't learn and execute successfully in life as long as I did my best. One rare and handy woman, who will live on in all that I do. I never would have become a writer if it had not been for her love and encouragement.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course, superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.--Elizabeth Zimmermann

Who would have ever thought that when needles and Red Heart yarn were placed in my hands at age 8, I would have found an unending, lifetime fascination that beggars explanation.

So, for this week, let's ponder this:

Open Mike Tuesday

Who, other than Elizabeth Zimmermann, has been your greatest knitting inspiration? And that person need not be famous.

Tell your stories. And then I will tell you mine.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The word "user" is used by the computer professional when they mean "idiot."--Dave Barry

The whole key to writing successful user manuals is targeting the material to those who may or may not understand the concept of the electrical plug and the "On" button.

Long week of inserting edited text into .xml code. For those of you who know, I need not say more.

For those of you who don't, the proper analogy would be forced knitting of 200 yards of stockinette. In laceweight on size 000s. With my glasses off.

I feel like Lili von Shtupp. Tired. But if ever there were a role I was born to play, it's Lili. With the exception of the thousands of men, again and again.

Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Codeheads
A break was needed from IT BS. I decided last week that it was too hot to work on the Lavold, with just one sleeve left to go. So I put that aside and started Celeste's Campanula lace jacket from this issue of Knitter's, in the Rowan Cotton Glace that I had bought for the Ophelia pullover in the last Rowan mag.

I have been of a mind that pullovers really do make me look excessively tit-o-licious, so I'm rather into jackets and cardis these days. And this has been a very satisfying knit, I must say. Celeste, you've outdone yourself. Bravo for the fitted sleeves.

I will say that given the weight of the Cotton Glace, which is borderline fingering and probably a bit closer to DK, that this is a relatively hefty piece of work. Nonetheless, it's doable. I have not knitted with cotton in a number of years and this is exceptionally nice yarn.

As far as the ties for the front are concerned, I may work my way around that, simply because as someone mentioned, ties are "fiddly." Indeed. I'll keep the ties on the sleeves, though, because they're relatively unobtrusive.

Spinnin' Thin
OK, so I finally got my plyed BBF alpaca on the winder. This first batch was 319 yds. and I'm not done yet, by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm happy with it.

I did promise to write about my thoughts re: spinning thin. So here they are:
  • Use a fiber that lends itself to fine spinning: merino, silk, alpaca. Any of these three blended work a treat. See my piece on spinning merino in the sidebar for more information on that fiber.
  • Use a short/worsted draw. Better control.
  • The thinner you spin, the more magnified any drafting inconsistencies become. And don't think that plying will hide them. The size of the inconsistency will determine whether or not it will disappear in the plying. So it had better be tiny.
  • You do not have to use a special high-speed whorl, for which you pay extra, to spin laceweight. Use the highest ratio you have. You may have to treadle somewhat faster but not that much.
  • Keep tension to a minimum. Have just enough so that the single winds onto the bobbin easily.
  • Remember that the most minute amount of fiber will stay together if it has enough twist.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Put on the high-ratio whorl. Begin spinning as you normally would, and then immediately start introducing less and less fiber into the twist. Adjust your treadling accordingly. You will find at first that you are probably not putting enough twist into the fiber and it will drift apart. At least, that's what happened to me. Too much twist and the single will snap, like a balloon popping. Surprise.
Using a spinning wheel is much akin to driving a car. Use your treadling, not your tension, to help control your single, as you would when you drive and use the brake/gas. If you run into drafting trouble, slow the fuck down! Or stop, remove the drafting mess you probably made and start again.

And don't put the death grip on the fiber. Your hand is there only to support and guide it lightly and if you clamp down on it, you not only won't draft smoothly but you will make a nasty fibrous blob.

Much of the above info applies to spinning in general. It's always a case of your control over the equipment, not vicey versy.

One of the things that absolutely amazes me is the amount of horrible spinning that people are doing and then having the nerve to sell online for $30+ a skein as "novelty" yarn. Well, in fact, who would know if they were trying to spin thick-and-thin on purpose or just flogging their badly spun wares to the uneducated public?

Since there's a plethora of crappy handspun out there that is labeled "novelty" yarn, my guess is that it's the latter, rather than the former.

Have a Nice Cup of STFU
One of the things that I do in my job is to create Flash tutorials, using Camtasia. Of course, it's not all that exciting, recording the fucking cursor go here, there, and everywhere on the application that my company produces; however, it did give me the idea to do some audio for the blog at some point.

I'm not talking about podcasting. I don't want to be bothered with that. However, I rather thought it would be fun at some point to do the blog as an audio file, rather than a typed one. Just a thought. I promise I will say "cawfee" at least once.

Summer Sluggishness
There's nothing more relaxing than sitting on the deck, knitting amidst my geraniums. I love them and I have the full sun all day for them, too.

Of course, when the Punk Princess and her jabbering girlfriends hit the pool, the serenity comes to a shrieking halt. Fortunately, all the friends also have pools, so yesterday, they made like Burt Lancaster in "The Swimmer" and did the tour.

It must be great to be almost 15, have the whole summer ahead of you, and be able to look good in a bikini. I remember those days, 42 years ago, when I went to Montclair Beach Club with my friends and lay out tanning (no sunscreen, of course), with the jukebox in the snack bar blasting "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys, which was #1 today on June 3, 1965.

Even at 57, summer is a rare and handy time of year.