Thursday, August 30, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Great is the power of habit. It teaches us to bear fatigue and to despise wounds and pain.--Cicero

Here's to "Curses, It's Persis" Cope, my Latin teacher in high school. She did so love Cicero. And she made her own shoes, too. What a woman. Priscilla Gibson-Roberts looks a great deal like Persis. However, my money'd be on Miss Cope in a declension contest. Hands down.

Travelin' Bitch
Well, in my new capacity as technical trainer (and yeah, I'm still the tech writer too), looks like I'll be hitting the road on and off. Trips to York, PA, and Roanoke, VA are in the process of being planned. Numbnuts Judy, the other trainer, gets the Chicago trip. I'm actually OK with that, although I would have loved to have seen Franklin. But these training jaunts don't give me much time to noodle around. I may make it to The Mannings when in York. Maybe, if I get done at a reasonable hour.

Open Mic Thursday
Yeah, gang, I know. It's Thursday night and I'm only getting to this now. Well, fucking bite me because A) I'm no longer working at home and B) I had to ponder this week's topic. So sharpen your wits.

Do you use the skill designations (Expert, Intermediate, Beginner, et al) to assist you in your choice of projects? Or are they to be ignored and avoided?

How's that for a loaded question? I'm always curious as to whether people pay attention to these qualifiers or whether they just plunge ahead. My first sweater was an Aran. Ignorance can be blissful. I didn't know that Arans were complicated. The pattern wasn't marked as anything, so I plowed through it, made mistakes, learned to fix them, made the sleeves too long, and suffered a few other mishaps. But I just wanted the damned sweater. And I do think that putting a skill level on a project must influence the timid.

Anyway, this is a fast post--I've got some knitting to do yet. Sorry, but sometimes knitting time is far more rare and handy than writing time. You can dig it, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Maybe you've taken some...drugs...which gave you many pretty colors. That freak you out and make you want to die!--Georg Festrunk

Yes, that's me yesterday. Awash in the green of our office. Lime green walls. Lime green carpeting. And a puce kitchen.

Here's Randy, our VP of Sales. I promised him I wouldn't put his face out in public, although he's really cute and a fine Southern gentleman. But the green is a bit much. We all look quite ill during the day.

Ganze Familie
Having left my camera cable at work, maroon that I am, I'm relegated to some pictures that I took on Sunday, when we had Ma's birthday barbecue.

Liz could have a future as the last clown out of the VW bug. I'm not quite sure what the point of these motorized bikes are, other than to cause severe injury, but it belongs to the kid next door. So he can smash his brains out, not her.

Mammy working on her latest Lavold and opening a present simultaneously (I told ya she's good for 84), daughter Jenn looking drugged, and Ian shoving his gut out. What a family.

Coffee Socks
I have to agree with Joe--I'm liking these Kaffe Fassett socks just fine, although he finished his and I'm working mine cuff-down. I would have a picture but it's not happening tonight. Thursday. I must say, I am pleased with the striping, which I thought I would not be. Just shows to go ya that sometimes you just have to knit shit up.

Knitting as Hula Hoop
I thought the comments about knitting popularity were quite interesting. I've seen trends in needlework come and go throughout the years but never such a spike as we've seen recently with knitting.

I do not see crochet having the same impact as knitting has had, for several reasons. First of all, there are few good crochet designers out there. Second, crochet is not as versatile as knitting, in my opinion. Yeah, you can make nice crocheted garments, to a point. But I find crochet to be limiting, simply because of the nature of the different stitch constructions. Unless you work in very fine yarns/threads, crochet inevitably ends up looking clunky.

Felting/fulling? No. I see it as the flavor of the week but as far as any sustained public interest, I'd give it a year, tops. I think that it's a worthwhile adjunctive skill and one that has a lot of potential but I don't see it elevated to the same level as knitting.

Spinning has certainly become more popular, no doubt about it. There seem to be far more spinners out there than there were when I started eight years ago. This may be an illusion, since back then, there were no blogs and nobody was writing regularly about spinning on the internet. I don't think so, though. In fact, blogs may have contributed to its increased popularity.

The core needlearts, knitting, quilting, and sewing, will always have a large group of devotees, particularly quilting. These three crafts have remained constant for a long time. The others have waxed and will wane. Those of us who remember the macrame and crewel crazes of the '70s know this.

As someone who also embroiders, I would love to see a renaissance in that discipline. No matter where the trends go, just give me them sticks and some wool. That's all I need to feel rare and handy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's very late and because I've gone back to work for the Festrunk Brothers, as my bro Rich calls them, I need to go to bed. Nope, no quote. No frills. This is it, gang.

Since I'm completely brain compressed at this point, I have absolutely no idea for a topic this week. Which is why Marcy's suggestion is a blessing, since I'm fucking useless at this point. And 5 a.m. is looming.

Open Mic Thursday

So, here you are. If you don't like the topic, bite me. And Marcy. Heh.

Since the popularity of knitting waxes and wanes, how much longer do you think the current boom will last?

I'll be back this weekend, hopefully rested somewhat. And I did let Joe tempt me into starting a pair of those Regia KF socks. Damn, they are nice. Try casting on 60 stitches on #0 needles on a NJ Transit train. Now that takes skill.

Working at home meant I could get up at 7:30 but not have human contact for most of the day. Now, it's plenty of rare and handy commuting humanity. And if I ever have to sit next to another bimbo who pops her gum throughout the entire 1.5 hour train ride, I'll have four sharp dps to shove down her throat. Or into her eyeball. Yeah, I'm tired.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. --Oscar Wilde

Now, is this a good-looking man, or what?

Mr. Knitted Condomhead. Sublime. Ridiculous.

I love my gay brother and we had such fun together this past Saturday. It was time for a road trip to New Hope, having missed out on going down to see Carol in Cape May due to crummy weather.

The world's best espresso, made by Thaddeus, then lunch at our favorite Thai place in Lambertville, Siam, and then. Twist. What else? (We left Thaddeus at home.)

Deb was on vacation but Steve was there, always witty, always sweet, even when he manages to screw up the shop swift.

Since I'm on a fairly tight budget, it was a sock yarn diet for me. I bought the same Regia KF sock yarn as did Joe. Despite my reservations about the striping, it's still nice yarn. Joe likes the stripes. I dunno. The jury is still out.

What the fuck. They're only socks. Not objets d'art. I do like the colors.

Twist and Stix-n-Stitches are my true local yarn shops, even though they're not exactly local. (Deb needs to get herself a web site.)

Well, I finally gained admittance yesterday to the beta site, so if you're looking for me, I'm Knitcurmudgeon. How fucking original.

Although I won't go to the lengths of listing my stash--that's more work than it's worth--I think this site has a lot of value to knitters, particularly in connectivity. I belong to LinkedIn, a similar type of community for business, where you can network with business associates.

This is the future of the web. For those of you in IT, we know it as Web 2.0. Now, the Luddite part of me says, I just want to be left alone to knit and spin. The techie part of me says, this is incredible technology.

There is so much information floating out there on knitting, I doubt that it can all ever be consolidated. However, that's OK. Ravelry is a step towards this goal and I hope that it may rise above being a repository for KnitDweebish knitting projects. Reading the forums, though, tells me a couple of things.

First, from what I can see, this is a very young crowd. New knitters, mostly. Haranguing against "yarn snobs." Defending knitting with acrylics with the kind of passion that should be directed perhaps at the state of our government, rather than at knitting.

Second, these forums tend to attract the RAOK types that I can't be bothered with, being a cranky old bitch. In fact, I don't ever post to forums. And don't read them either, as a rule.

So I'll use Ravelry to the degree that I need to. But the blog remains my forum. And yours, if you care to comment.

Happy Birthday, Mammy!
Tomorrow, the Senior Knitting Curmudgeon celebrates her 84th birthday.

I love this picture of my mother, knitting in hand, spouting an opinion on some damned thing or other, taken at my sister's last Christmas.

Now, for those of you who follow our Maroon-in-Chief's lead and whine that it's "too hard," this woman has just finished a complicated Jean Frost jacket and is ready to embark on an equally complicated Lavold.

As Ma puts it, she keeps planning projects because as long as she knits, she ain't going to the LYS in the sky. As it is, she's got 2007-2008 mapped out, pretty much. The doctor figures she's good for another 20 years. From his lips, etc.

I've always been fearless but Ma certainly encouraged that quality. Well, as long as I didn't bleed profusely. She hated the blood stuff. I would frequently let a grass cut dribble down my leg until it was sufficiently bloody to upset my mother. In fact, I did many things that sufficiently upset my mother. But as long as it did not include bodily fluids, she was usually cool about it in the long run.

Love ya, Mammy. You're the true rare and handy person in our family.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The fundamentalists have taken the fun out of the mental--Ken Kesey

Will the road trip to FibreNorth be akin to the Merry Pranksters, without the drugs?

Here's to the memory of Ken, and Hunter S. as well. Two writers who, along with Mrs. Parker, taught me that writing needs an edge, if it's going to fly.

Blah, Blah, Blah
No edgy writing this week. Every so often, when I don't have time to write for public consumption, which was the case this week, Ted emails me and asks, "Are you OK?"

Yep. Never better. In fact, I will be going back to work next Monday, back to Slovenia World, which is rapidly turning into a much better place than when I left it last year. And I'll be working for my dear friend Susan, icing on the cake.

As for my little vacation and state of public incommunicado, I was finishing up the writing of my interview with Kristin Nicholas, which culminated in a one-day blitzkrieg trip up to Massachusetts this past Saturday to photograph her, the farmhouse, and some of her new designs from her upcoming book, Kristin Knits. The interview will appear in the Winter issue of IK. I'm pleased with it.

You know that after leaving Kristin to dash on home down I91, I had to stop at WEBS. It was 5 p.m. and I had a half hour. So I bought two skeins of the new Regia Kaffe Fassett sock yarn, Landscape Storm. (Never yarn-shop when you're on your cellphone talking business. It ruins the experience.)

Let me say this about that--I was somewhat underwhelmed by the yarn. WEBS seemed to have them all, both the Landscape and the Mirage types, and I picked through them. I think that what makes this yarn so much less worthy of Kaffe's talents is the gawd-awful striping, not the colors. Somehow, the big ole stripes on the Landscape don't seem to do his colorways justice. Check out the line here and see what you think. In fairness, you must see these yarns in person to get the true colors.

Thank God he's gone. However, it's too late. The damage is done. More time with his family? How nice. How unbelievable.

Watch for a major stock market crash in October. I believe my dear Neal when he says that the time is here. Already, the subprime market is in huge trouble. However, as we all know, the Maroon-in-Chief wouldn't recognize a financial disaster from a natural one. Given the fine display of his leadership abilities during Katrina--you know, the same ones that made him such a success during his tenure with the Rangers--I would expect that on the day of the crash, he'll be clearing brush in Crawford. Or perhaps reading Camus.

Open Mic Thursday
I actually opened up one of my Knit List digests today, after a very long hiatus, and happened to see responses from a few people I recognized. When I do bother to skim the digests, I often just look at the subject. When I see something like "What to do with Fun Fur?", my first inclination is to write "Burn it." Ah, the toxicity of burning Fun Fur. What a concept. Better than asbestos, I would think. Far more damaging, probably.

Here's my topic for this week:

Did the advent of knitting blogs cause the intellectual disintegration of the major knitting lists?

Of course, even back in the halcyon days of the Knit List, there were mindless idiots posting stuff of little consequence, no question. But as a rule, the discussions then were smart, interesting, and often thought-provoking. The smaller, specialized lists still have some value, I believe. Some, but not much.

Campanula Redux
When I was up visiting Kristin this weekend, I told her that I'd had enough of lace for the time being. This is true. When I look back over the past year and a half, other than the Knit Picks Fair Isle vest (a present from Mammy), the Zizzer Zazzer hat, and the Guernsey socks, everything has been lace, starting with the Melanie shawl for Corinne's wedding.

And now, I'm on my last lace project for a while, Jenn's Campanula. I do like Rowan's Cotton Glace very much, though. It's become the cotton of choice for me. The colors are sublime.

Because I posted pictures of my Campanula, I won't be posting progress pictures of this one. The only difference between the two is that I'm shortening this for Jenn--she's 5'3" to my almost 5'7", so one less pattern repeat will be a perfect length for her. When it's done, then there will be a picture.

Cape May Antics
Carol invited me down to Cape May, the tip of NJ, where she and Tom and the kidz are spending a week. So Liz and I will travel down there today for a fun-filled day at the beach, something I haven't done in years. And it will be good to see my Sissyboo Deux--haven't seen her for a while.

No pictures of us in swimsuits. I swear.

The Book
I stopped writing my book some time ago, simply because I refused to put out something that was basically a reinvention of the knitting wheel. Shit, there are too many of those books out there. And although it was suggested by a person high up in the knitting publishing world that I write a book about myself and my life in the knitting world, I nixed that idea completely.

Isn't that what this blog is about, more or less?

However, readers have pestered and I did some pondering. And yes, there is a book up in this cramped cranium but perhaps not the book that everyone might expect. I'm working on the proposal now, so we'll see who bites. I'm not going to self-publish, as I originally intended to do. More trouble than it's worth.

An author doesn't make shit from books, you know. Nor do they from articles. This I know for a fact. So when and if the book proposal is accepted, I will have more to say about it. But not much.

Surprises are rare and handy, dontcha know?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I am sick of reasonable people; they see all the reasons for being lazy and doing nothing--George Bernard Shaw

How can you be unemployed and yet be busy? Easy. Factor in a 10-year-old grandson who is staying with you for the week.

Swimming all week at the lake, last night up to the Sussex County Fair on one of the hottest days we've had. And yes, I ate funnel cake. I mean, who wouldn't want to eat fried dough in 90 degree weather?

Vague Knitting's 25th Anniversary Issue
I bought this without flipping through it first. While I would like to say it is the most wonderfulest issue ever, it's not. Yes, there are a number of interesting things, specifically Norah Gaughan's swing jacket, Deborah Newton's tunic jacket and puff-stitch hoodie, Shirley Paden's diagonal cable pullover, and a few more. Otherwise, it was a modge-podge, with too-dark photos and much weirdness going on. Hairpin lace? Why? Meg's List, to A to Z, with only back issue citations? Very helpful to those new knitters who probably don't own those issues.

First of all, it seemed to me that it was really the Mari Lynn Patrick Anniversary issue. She was all over the issue, with designs in every editorial section. And in the interview with Knitting's Old Guard. I'm sorry but when you put together a group such as Alice Starmore, Kaffe Fassett, and Meg Swansen, and then add Mari Lynn Patrick, it's like an IQ test question where you have to select the shape that doesn't fit. A knitting icon? Not in my book.

I guess it's not who you know, much.

The aforementioned interview was very interesting, though, and I enjoyed reading it. Knitting's New Guard was less interesting, simply because I find the design talents of the Old Guard much more inspiring. However, both interviews were indepth, something that is unusual these days in magazines.

The Top 10 Hits? Did VK really need to remake these? Uh uh. I remember when I first saw Marc Jacobs's Bubble sweater. At the time, it was very expensive to make and looked like crap on people who made it--I knew several people who did, much to their ultimate chagrin. The remake is positively hideous. As is the Map of the World sweater (the original was bad enough) and the Enchanted Forest remake, which completely loses the charm of the original. Awful. The only remake that was half decent was Nicky Epstein's fulled bag.

And the multiple advertorial covers? You now see what I mean about magazines driven by their ad revenue. Suffice it to say that the rate for these "covers" is astronomical, to be sure.

Nonetheless, the issue is probably worth buying, if only for some of the designs and those interviews. I only wish that the magazine layout and photos had more coherency to them. You'd think that a 25th anniversary issue would be more organized with a lighter, brighter feel. This one is positively funereal.

A Moment of Comic Relief
The Punk Princess managed to wangle VIP tickets to Warped Tour last Sunday for herself and doppelganger Daniella. Here's my favorite picture of her and Ms. D with Jeffrey, some drag queen who does a My Space or some such shit.

Liz's take? "Jeez, what a bitch."

Open Mic Thursday
Recently, like last week, I read that an Alice Starmore book, either The Scottish Collection or A Scottish Garland, I forget which, sold on eBay for USD$1,400. I own most of Starmore's books but not either of these. So, my topic for this week's discussion is:

Would you pay a premium price for an out-of-print knitting book? Are there any current books available now that might fetch exorbitant prices down the road when they are out of print?

I can honestly say that I own a number of knitting books, including Principles of Knitting, that would bring in a nice piece of change. But I bought them when they first came out, at the then-current price.

A Friend in Need
So yesterday, I get a message on my cellphone voicemail from a certain male knitter who is on vacation. OK, it was Joe. He's away in Martha's Vineyard with Thaddeus and had offered to shorten a sleeve on his sister-out-law's sweater. And couldn't remember how to Kitchener. With no access at that moment to the internet, he called me.

I was laughing when I called him back (he had since been able to access the internet and got the directions). Why? Because in all the years I've been knitting, all the side-to-side knife-pleat Adolfo skirts whose side seams I grafted, all the sock toes that have been closed up, I'll be damned if I can ever remember by heart those lousy directions.

Which is why I have them taped to the inside of my toolbox, as they have been for many years.

Yes, I do own a pink Chibi. No doubt they have sold on eBay for a very rare and handy price. I'll sell mine if it would pay for a trip to Europe. Or perhaps you'd prefer the Punk Princess dressed in pink? She's much higher maintenance than a Chibi.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours.--Harry S. Truman

Well, you could have knocked my socks off when I got the phone call at 9:30 this morning.

"We're sorry but the Board has decided that due to financial considerations, we have to let you go. But you did a great job and this was a very hard decision to make."

Yeah, well. Big fucking deal. I know I did a great job, I don't need the Senior VP of Products to tell me that as he hands me my hat. And to be truthful, I'm not all that unhappy about getting the boot. I've got enough freelance work going right now (that they didn't know about) to keep me going for a bit, along with the severance and my untaken vacation time, which I never had the time to take. As far as I know, the rest of my team got canned too.

The only real problem is that I lose my health benefits as of midnight tonight. That sucks. Of course, if we had some kind of national health care here, it would not be an issue.

Tech writers are in huge demand. So I'm not particularly concerned. And I did need a vacation badly.

I picked up the IK special on felting/fulling, Felt. It's mostly reprints of projects published in IK and book excerpts, but if you're interested in really learning the different techniques, this is worth buying. I've done a couple of fulling projects and enjoyed them. It's something I'd like to take further than just bags and totes, however.

Felting/fulling is one of those techniques whose outcome can be really neat. Or really ugly. For example, that cover bag is not something I'd want to make, ever. But I'd consider doing fulled pillows rather than just knitted ones.

Felted fabric is much stabler than knitted fabric. For one thing, it's more receptive to surface design. Whereas I would only use certain embroidery stitches on knits, on felts I would feel comfortable adding something like satin stitch, for example. A fulled afghan? I might do that rather than just a knitted one, given that I could add quite a bit, embellishment-wise, that I would not otherwise consider.

I find afghan knitting a stone bore. But it might be interesting to design squares, say intarsia or Fair Isle, full them, and then see what you get, once sewn together. Or even apply fulling to a shawl knit in DK, for example.

Anyway, for what it's worth, Felt is a good reference if you want to give the technique a shot.

Arans and Things Irish
I was very saddened to read that Tommy Makem passed away last week at 74. For those of you who are into Irish folk music, Tommy was a remarkable singer and songwriter, long-time member of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and an all-around great guy. I met Tommy many years ago, after a concert at Carnegie Hall. And his song, Four Green Fields, is a classic.

Jimmy and I shared a love of Irish/Celtic music. My daughter Jenn plays the Celtic harp. And there's not one drop of Irish blood on either side. Go figure. (Yeah, being German means oompah music. Oh, and Beethoven and a few others.)

Watching Joe knit his Aran made me think it was time to get back to my knitting roots. My very first sweater was an Aran, my second-ever design was an Aran, too. However, for quite a few years, I've been concentrating on other projects, with nary an Aran on the list.

One of the books I've been coveting is Janet Szabo's Aran Sweater Design. And I finally bought it.This is an extraordinarily well-written technical guide. If you're looking for a pile of patterns, go elsewhere. If you want to be spoon-fed, don't buy it. If you truly want to learn how to design Arans, you must have it in your library.

I grant you, highly technical books such as this can often cause glazed eyes. But many of the things that I learned the hard way, such as planning your cable row repeats to the same numeric factor, arranging your design motifs carefully, making sure that your center motif ends gracefully at the neckline, and a bunch of other little nits that have to be picked--Janet addresses this all and more, step by step.

In degrees of design difficulty, I still maintain that lace is the most difficult if you are creating a fairly complex design. Arans surely come in second. In many ways, the pitfalls of Aran design are less obvious. Particularly if you choose to shape your garment, rather than opt for the easy way out and do a dropped shoulder.

I also bought Melissa Leapman's Cables Untangled. Not for the designs but for the stitch patterns, of which there are many. I'll be planning a new Aran design in the next few weeks because I'm saturated with lace and need to do something completely different.

Well, I guess I'll be blogging a bit more now. And knitting. The Magenta Diamonds shawl is almost done, except that dope here managed to go 3 rows past where she should have because? I was too poor to pay attention. And I started Jenn's Campanula as well. So at least I can feel a little less stress as I knit by that rare and handy pool in the backyard.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized--Will Durant

I guess that would make me somewhat Neanderthal because I'm writing this entry in a hot NY minute.

No time. No peace. No vacation. Yet. If at all. Jesus.

So welcome to the Quik 'n' EZ KC because it's after midnight and I am into New York City tomorrow early for a workshop that my company is holding. I'm there to audit and to talk to clients. A thrill a minute.

Magenta Diamonds
Despite the insanity of the past two weeks, I've managed to get a huge amount done on this project.
Sorry for the crapola picture but it's still on the needles and I took this around 7 p.m. last night, after jumping into the pool. We're having a heat wave here in NJ this week.

One more pattern repeat and then comes the top edging. And it's done. I should have it finished and hopefully blocked by this weekend.

Amazing how much you can knit during endless conference calls with your new boss, whom I have named Pepe LePew. For reasons I won't explain. He's a fucktard.

Afternoon Deelite
At least yesterday, I had a few hours with Kristin Nicholas, who was down in my (and formerly her) neck of the woods. K brought me a lovely bouquet of flowers from her mother's garden, we sat and drank coffee, and I interviewed her. Well, lots of stuff off the record but we had a great time. The interview will be in the Winter issue of Interweave Knits.

I'm very glad Kristin is back designing. Her influence has been sorely missed. So those of you going to Stitches East this fall can see her because she'll be doing a talk, I believe. And hopefully her new book, Kristin Knits, will be available there.

Open Mic Thursday
Haven't had much time to think about this but I did come up with one topic. The people at the knitting mags do read this blog. I know that to be true. So here's your chance to spout off.

What do the knitting magazines need to do to keep you buying them?

Say what you will. Having been an editor myself, I know that it's important to keep in touch with your readers. However, not always easy to get an honest opinion from them if you meet them face-to-face.

Blog Anniversary
Thank you all for your Happy Anny wishes. I would like to say that only one reader, Victoria, got the question about "rare and handy" correct. It does indeed come from Weebl and Bob, a wonderfully weird animated series done by a British artist, Jonti. Google it because I'm too tired to do the link. However, there are now about 200 episodes, so I would suggest you begin with the first one.

Weebl and Bob are very rare and handy. And so is sleep, so I'm off to bed. More this weekend, I promise.