Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jingle Bell-o-rama

Best Quote I Heard All Day

Christmas to a child is the first terrible proof that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive.--Stephen Fry

I was just thinking the other day about the incredible Christmases I had as a child.

Picture this: Grandparents, who buy all of your toys at FAO Schwarz, show up on Christmas Day with an endless parade of presents. A veritable plethora of packages. My brother Rich and I had combed through the the FAO catalog (which my mother always tried to hide from us, quite unsuccessfully) and made up our equally endless lists for Santa.

You know, my dears, that Santa did all of his finest work at FAO.

However, our toy language consisted of Mattel, Remco, Marx, Topper, Kenner, Ideal, Wham-O. These companies were the gold standard, although I never quite caught the major disconnect between them and Santa's workshop.

My greatest desire when I was 8, was the Remco Firebird dashboard. No, not dolls. Not little teasets. No girly shit. I wanted that fucking dashboard so badly that I would have sold my little 2nd grade soul for it.

Yes, it is the 1958 Firebird 99. It had an ignition key, the horn beeped and the wiper blades worked, ran on batteries.

So on Christmas Day, 1958, I became the proud owner of my first car, as it were. I loved that toy more than anything else I got, which is why I remember it so well. I don't recall experiencing that kind of want again.

And yes, I did own a Daisy Air Rifle, which I also got when I was 8, either for my birthday or for Christmas. God knows why, because my mother was ever the proponent of that fine maxim, "You'll show your eye out." Somehow, I think Daddy may have overridden her vote on that one.

Rich, of course, loved monsters. I'm almost sure he owned the Great Garloo. I'll have to ask him tomorrow.

This toy orgy occurred well before my sister was born in 1962, although I think she does remember some of the Oma and Opa largesse.

These days, I think that the Schacht Ladybug comes close to the Firebird dashboard, in a way. But no adult emotion equals the pure greed of an 8-year-old toy-hungry child with a rapacious appetite.

Do you remember a toy that you wanted so badly you would have eaten dirt to get it? Dirt with worms, of course.

Tomorrow, when we all get together--Rich, Mom, Karen, and me--I know the talk will turn to those magical Christmases. Only we can relate to those times. However, I know Jenn will recall her drool fest over the remote-controlled R2D2. She was nine years old when it came out in 1978 and she wanted that as I had wanted my Firebird.

Did she get it? You bet. Even though Mommy and Daddy had to drive all over fucking New Jersey to find one, since it was the hot toy that year.

It's time for me to get my act together, finish wrapping presents, and then scurry down to North Arlington, NJ to spend Christmas Eve at Jerry's sister Pat's house. Tomorrow, we'll head up to Wharton for Christmas dinner with my family. This will be Jerry's first time meeting them. I'm sure he'll be just fine. He can more than hold his own with anyone, especially me. I've finally found my match.

May you all have a wonderful Christmas or Hannukah, Winter Solstice, Kwaanza, or whatever the fuck you celebrate. No matter what, this is the rarest and handiest season I know, if you make it that way. I just wish the weather would make up its mind. I've had it with snow--ya know what I mean?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let's Play Shoe Toss!

Best Quote I Heard All Day
On Christmas day you can't get sore,
Your fellow man you must adore,
There's time to cheat him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty-four--Tom Lehrer

I'm not that cynical. But it seems to me that lately, we're all getting fucked over.

However, I almost wet my panties when I saw Junior duck the shoes. Here's my brilliant thought, something that would be most enjoyable to see for the holidays.

How about getting a shitload of people together, have them bring a pair of their old stinkin' sneakers to the White House, and just lob 'em over the fence? Can you imagine thousands of old shoes on the White House lawn? If that isn't a great parting shot, I don't know what is.

Road trip to DC, anyone? Or shall we wait until the Bush Presidential Port-a-Potty opens in Dallas, since I have realized that a Presidential library must contain books. And that ain't happening with the soon-to-be Dallas Dope.

Evening Quickie Entry
A bit tired tonight--did 8 hours straight at work today so I could get my ass out of there at 4. But I'm still loving it.

Besides spending a bit of time on the phone with Jerry tonight, I managed to eat dinner and knit a few rows on the cardigan. I've sent Jer the URL for this blog. He's already got my number so I doubt he'll be terribly shocked. So be kind to him, if he decides to comment. It's frightening how much alike we are. He'll say the same thing.

I've been scraping the bottom of the barrel moneywise the past few weeks but I think that once the cash starts rolling in, besides stowing a lot of it in the bank, I may get around to buying that Schacht Ladybug. And if not that, I certainly need a new ball winder. I've been ruminating on whether to buy the Nancy's KnitKnacks or Strauch winder. Anyone have a thought on which is better? I have always been happy with the products I've bought from each company but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Baby Jesus Town
So Scrappy and I took off yesterday for Bethlehem, PA, to go to the Christmas Market. What a blast we had, along with the two nephews, Nick and Alex, who managed not to become excessively bored with their mother and Auntie Marilyn's doings.

If you live in the area, it's worth the trip. Real German Christmas shit. Karen and I were doing our pidgin German routine, which would probably make real Germans vomit. Ja, es schmecht sehr gut! I bought an Advent calendar. A bit late but what the fuck. And we OD'd on potato pancakes and applesauce, too.

And doesn't Karen find a booth run by a woman who was sitting and knitting. She grabs me, drags me into the booth, and the knitter and I had a long chat. She was knitting a hat for felting and we started talking about spinning, something she'd like to do. I gave her the Interweave URL and told her to check out Spin-Off.

And there was a vendor there selling some yarn. I wasn't going for it. Too much like Candide. Anyone remember Candide? The Brillo yarn that makes Philosopher's Wool seem like cashmere?

So, this is really a quick entry. I did have a question to pose for Open Mic Thursday but in my senility, have forgotten what the fuck I wanted to ask. It'll come back to me, I suppose. In the meanwhile, that rare and handy cat, the Divine Miss Cleo, is snoring on the bed. So I'm joining her now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whew! Thank you Jeezus!

Best Quote I Heard All Day
A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. --Jane Austen

Well, yeah. It helps. And so does the new job, with the large salary and the kind of tech writing I love to do. To quote Loopy, "Yay puppies!"

I've gotten back into the swing of work things. I have to say that I am thrilled to have dumped that hideous Slovenian House of Horrors company. Now that I'm working as a consultant for a truly decent company, it's little wonder that I rather fell apart.

I'm good now. Fucking good. I love the new job. And...I have a new partner in crime, a wonderful man who's loving, funny, attentive, and a total piece of work. Jeremiah, aka Jerry. He's my Irish God. We've been seeing each other for a while now--it actually began in September but really got going a month ago. Heh. Suddenly, everything fell into place.

So don't worry. I'm actually feeling better than I have in eons. And if you really need to know what I'm up to, I've finally gotten up to speed on Facebook, which I find is a quick and easy way to let my friends and family know where I'm at. I think I'm going to upload my Rhinebeck pictures there. For some reason, I've not had any interest in going on Ravelry. Partly because I had been so busy and partly because I'd rather spend my free time actually knitting rather than fucking around online.

Obligatory Knitting Shit
Yeah, I've been doing it. No, not that "it." Well, maybe. "It" can mean whatever. I've been making some decent progress on the Mari Dembrow Cables and Twists cardigan. Finished the back, working on the left front.

I like Dembrow's designs. They're interesting classics and nicely shaped. Mammy turned me onto this one from Yarn Barn's catalog, so I decided to bite. As it turned out, Loop had bought the same pattern awhile back. I charted the cables on KnitVisualizer.

Pawing through my bookcases, I found Dembrow's book, Better Sweaters, which was first published back in 1986. It's a useful little book, well written with a sense of humor. Not that you may need another how-to book, but if you come across it, add it to your library.

There's something to be said about Dembrow's method of knitting somewhat tighter than normal. I find that I like it. Her cabled designs are all gauged for tighter work. On this cardigan, I hit her gauge for the worsted weight on #5s. This gives the cables even better definition but does not make the fabric board-like.

My next project was going to be the Gansey shawl. It may still be, although I'm tempted to design Jerry an Aran, despite the stoopid boyfriend crap. (Although that did happen to me years ago, when I designed a gansey for the Nasty German and he dumped me before I had a chance to give it to him.) Whether it's the shawl or the Aran, I'm going to tighten up the gauge a la Dembrow.

Presents for the Knitting Me

Well, I already got Franklin's book at Rhinebeck. Did you know that all the Wolvies are in the book? What a fabulous tribute! You'll find each of our names in the book. Mine is a bit tricky, so see if you can find it. I gave a copy to my mother, who loved it and laughed her ass off. I can't wait to see his next book. Snap it up, boy.

One of my favorite Christmas knitting presents was the bunch of stitch markers that Scrappy gave me two years ago. I use them all the time. There's something nice about having quasi-jewelry hanging from your needles.

What I'd really like Santa to bring this year is the Schacht Ladybug. But that ain't happening.


Not really. I adore Christmas, always have and always will. But I have this dinky little artificial tree on my coffeetable and that's the best I can do this year. This sucks big time. I want a damned big honking real tree. But that will be remedied.

I'm going back to Jersey next spring. I need a larger place, plus my new job may be moving to Mt. Olive, where I used to live when Jimmy was alive. That's where I had planned to go before I got the new job. Now, it's definite. I just can't get used to Pennsyltucky. I miss my old 'hood. Besides, my friend BJ lives in the same complex where I'd like to live.

I need room for my loom, room for my dining room set, room for a damned couch in a decent-sized livingroom. Having the loom folded up in my bedroom here is a fucking pain in the ass. I'm sick of moving but maybe this will do it. I've been floating around since Jimmy died and that's almost seven years ago. It's time for this will o' the wisp to settle down. And continue her rare and handy life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Back from the Misty World

My God, it's been almost a month since I posted.

To everyone who wrote me, thanks so much for caring. Yes, I was in the depths, seriously. A few days after Rhinebeck, I could tell I was diving deep. Triggered by my insane schedule. I was warned this would happen by my doctor but it's the paycheck that kept me going, until I could go no more.

That said, I'm back. And much better. I never give up fighting the good fight. And there's some really excellent news. From all things bad, comes good. I will no longer be doing what I have been doing. I'm going to a new tech writing job, one that pays a ton more money and is much saner. No more travel, no whacky Europeans, no fucked-up non-processes. A very well-known pharmaceutical company. The nightmare is over.

Sedated Knitting
So yeah, while I've been out on medical leave, I pretty much sat and knit this incredibly boring worsted-weight shawl. All seed stitch. Loopy couldn't imagine me doing this. But then, she wasn't taking a shitload of drugs, either. This is a Kathy Zimmerman design from the Vogue On the Go Shawl book 2. I just took the pattern and used it with a pile of leftover Morehouse 3-ply I had in the stash. I wanted something heavier, that would go well with jeans.

Then there are the Noro socks I took to the doctor's office, so that I didn't have to read a 3-month old edition of People.

The other is on the needles. Cuz I ain't done with waiting rooms.

But I knew I was repaired yesterday when I started this Mari Dembrow sweater.

Swatched, hit gauge on the first try, and started the back.

When I say that knitting keeps me together, it's very true. If I ever stop, just dig a hole for me.

And I did finish the Princess cardigan in time for Rhinebeck.

Me and my peeps. And me in the cardigan. I did take a lot of pictures at Rhinebeck, of everyone and everything, which I'll eventually stick into a PowerPoint slide show.

The Giftie Mags
I admit, I buy these, even though I have absolutely no intention of knitting gifts for Christmas presents. I rarely knit gifts, although I've done socks for the family on occasion. Working myself into a frazzle over knitting some stoopid scarf for a gift is not something I care to do.

I must say, both IK and Vague gift issues were uninteresting, with the exception of a Brandon Mably jacket and Deborah Newton cardigan in VK. However, in the winter issue of IK, due out shortly, there is a lovely cardigan by Laura Grutzeck, co-author of Knit So Fine, called Ropes and Picots. I particularly like the saddle shoulder shaping.

Cardigan and Finishing Fixations
I've pretty much let my lace knitting go for the time being, simply because I miss making garments. And I find that cardigans suit my lifestyle and figure much better than pullovers. How many airy-fairy shawls do I need?

I love the whole finishing process of a garment. Many years ago, I did finishing work for local yarn shops to earn extra money. And there's no question that my sewing background helped.

But more than that, long before hand knitters were using mattress stitching, 3-needle bind-offs, and other finishing techniques, machine knitters were doing all of these, as well as "cut and sew" on cardigan fronts, necklines, etc. From 1981 until the early '90s, I was a dedicated machine knitter, with two Brother machines, plus a Passap Duomatic 80.

I learned much about finishing from the machine knitting books, especially how to block properly. When you take a piece off of the knitting machine, it has to be blocked, due to the stress on the fabric from the weights and the stretching over the needle bed.

I believe that the finishing process is an act psychologically separate from knitting and shaping the fabric. And one that gives me enormous satisfaction. There's nothing better than a nicely finished garment. Otherwise, what's the fucking point?

Liz Update
My girl is starting to look at colleges. Can you believe it? I can't. Shit, she's a junior in high school now, headed for art college. Still doing the marching band thing. I went to see her band compete a few weeks ago in the Northeast Regional competition. They came in fourth, pretty damned good. Liz is playing the quints this year, those five little drums. And she's the shortest kid in the band, so you can easily find her in the crowd. I love seeing her in that uniform. She looks like a little tin soldier.

She's still my Punk Princess. Yes, there is a ring in her lip and a stud in her nose. And the bandana is a nice touch. When I see her, I'm always reminded of myself at that age. Musical, artsy, rebel. Take no prisoners. One rare and handy kid, forever my love.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rock On to Rhinebeck

Best Quote I Heard All Day
A friend is one before whom I may think aloud--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I suppose I have a lot of friends because I frequently think out loud in front of an awful lot of people.

Certainly, this blog is an exercise in thinking out loud.

So, it's late, I've been traveling, working, and ready to get my ass to Rhinebeck. There's been little opportunity in the past two weeks to write anything other than technical shit, as well as a Request for Proposal, some ad copy, and bug reports because our software sucks.

I have little patience for people who have a fucking la-di-da attitude about their work.

But the sun is rising on my little world. I'm going to see my Wolvies on Saturday! I last saw Carol and Franklin in April, at Franklin's photo shoot down in Kennett Square, PA. Haven't seen Joe since last November. And Lisa McNulty, the unsung but fabulous Wolvie, will be there too.

Then there's my beloved Ted, Lars the best Norsky Bear in the World, Dr. Mel and his David, and a host of other people I know, like B.J., Alice, Fredda, and others about whom I'm having a Florida moment.

The one person I will truly miss this year will be Lee Ann. She's not coming, much to my great sadness. Dude, you'll be in my thoughts.

Now hear this (former Navy wife talking): Do not be afraid to come up to me and say hello. It saddens me when readers get all weirded out about approaching me. What, do you think I'm going to have you for breakfast? Nah, I love meeting you guys. Just yell out my name and I'll respond. With a smile. Promise. In case you've forgotten what I look like, here's my mug.

This was taken last year at Rhinebeck (that's Mel with his arm around me).

See you all Saturday. And for those who can't make it, I'll be putting up plenty of pictures Sunday night.

Yes, I did finish the Princess jacket. Pictures of that forthcoming, too. The sleeves were very rare and not particularly handy but I made them work. You'll see.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sarah Palin Crapalong

Best Quote I Heard All Day
As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?--Sarah Palin

I can't help myself. I haven't had this much fun during a presidential campaign, ever. Glued to the news at night. And tonight's the big comedy show, too!

OK, I'm no PhotoShop pro--I leave that to the Punk Princess. But she does look well in Camo, dontcha think?

Open Mic Thursday

I'm thinking it's time for a Crapalong. Haven't done one of those in a long time. I rather like the idea of fugly knitting a la Palin, but I could do a lot with this. Rather than scratch my brain, though, I'll put it out for you all in this week's topic:

What kind of a political Crapalong would you like to see?

It would start this Friday, end on Election Day. I'll give the winner something. If you have ideas, be sure to be as specific as possible. I'll choose the best one on Friday and post their name and their concept. Unless I decide I like mine the best.

It's good to be a petty dictator.

Obligatory Knitting Shit

Not much, other than beating the Princess jacket to death. I've been working on that steadily, in the hopes of having it finished by Rhinebeck. I'll make it--the final front is almost done, with a sleeve and the collar to knit. And then the finishing, which is only seaming. That's no BFD.

I will put up a picture of the finished garment. I find WIP pictures somewhat boring. Same shit, different day department.

The KC's Fiber Kids Challenge

I want to thank those of you who have donated to this cause. I have given to each one, since I chose them. Thanks to Jennifer, Elizabeth, and Stefanie for their generosity! Every little bit helps, so if you haven't donated, please do. Of course, we have the entire month of October, so I know that sometimes ya gotta wait until payday. I sure do, most of the time.

Well, it's now October and I'm jonesin' for my fiber festivals. I still haven't made up my mind about going to B'more for Stitches. I find SOAR and Rhinebeck infinitely handy and certainly rare, since they come once a year, like Christmas. (I get that same rush of excitement going to these events as I did at Christmas as a kid.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Kids Are Alright!

Best Quote I Heard All Day
When a teacher calls a boy by his entire name, it means trouble--Mark Twain

This picture is on my desk, always. It's one of my very favorites and although I think I've put it up on the blog before, it's especially appropriate for today's entry. God knows when Grandma called my entire name, I was in deep shit.

My beloved Grandma, Constance Carsten, or Connie, as she was known to all and sundry, taught in the Staten Island, NY school system for 45 years. (Much to Grandma's disappointment, I did not want to become a teacher. Somehow, I ended up as an editor and then a writer and trainer. So maybe she's not disappointed now.) Grandma died in 1985, a few weeks short of her 90th birthday. At her funeral, tons of her former students showed up. An amazing tribute to an amazing woman, who was an enormous influence on me and so many others.

Recently, I was contacted by, an organization that raises money for teachers who want to give their kids something more. They're sponsoring Blogger Challenge '08, which begins today and runs through the end of October. I agreed to participate because I remember my grandmother doing whatever she could for her students. And I love kids.

So what's the deal? I've chosen six different teachers and their projects, all wanting to teach their students how to weave. Four of the six teach in high poverty areas. If you go here, you can read about Blogger Challenge '08. Fortune Magazine just ran an article about it.

This is the first time I've ever asked readers to contribute money. I would not support something bogus, as you well know. This is a very worthwhile cause. Look around and if you see any other worthwhile projects that I may have missed, e-mail me.

I'm asking you all to dig in your pockets, even if it's just a dollar or two. I don't think that there's any question that the arts in schools have gotten the short end of the stick. I remember that I did some weaving back in grade school, on a very simple student loom. But I came from a wealthy community.

So what's the payoff for you? Here's what I'll do. If each of my Giving Groups reach $100 or more, I will buy some Red Heart Camo, make a really fugly hat, and have Super Jeenyus photograph me wearing it.

Now THAT'S a fucking sacrifice. I'm willing to make a total ass outta myself for kids. And why not? Who better?

Given that we've trashed Caribou Barbie, I think that the Camo is apropos. A lot of you mentioned it in the last entry's comments. Yuck. The mere thought of knitting with that crap gives me metaphysical hives.

So look at the sidebar and you'll see the ad for The KC's Fiber Kids Challenge. Click and give. And thanks to you rare and handy readers. Most of whom have kids themselves, no doubt.

And thank you, Grandma. And all the teachers out there. (Except for Mrs. Schmidt, my 6th grade teacher, who was a witch. Dottie shared in my torture.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Palin Drone

Best Quote I Heard All Day
"We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities."--Bill Maher

I'll leave my thoughts about this week's economic morass to Super Jeenyus, if he gets off his ass and writes something for our blog. Otherwise, I may be forced to spew.

Palinesque Open Mic Thursday
I must admit, I was amused at Joe's post comparing me and Carol to Caribou Barbie:

I know it's odd, but I've always liked strong, opinionated women who are well-spoken and a bit sarcastic. I mean really, aren't Carol and Marilyn a little like Sarah? "

Sure. Very little. I do seek out the facts before I open my mouth and proclaim my words the Gospel truth. And I would argue that Sarah ain't quite as well spoken as we two are. After all, I've had plenty of experience with public speaking. When you are a technical trainer, you're on stage in front of strangers. You'd fucking better have the answers to their questions as well. God knows Carol can hold her own, too. You don't want to get into a pissing contest with her, either. After all, she does hold a law degree from the University of Michigan, right C?

The sarcasm of this half-baked Alaskan soccer mom is grist for my mill.

I see Caribou Barbie as the worst sort of KnitDweeb ever. I really hope to God she doesn't knit. If she does, I'd sure love to see some of her stuff.

So, my skanks, use your imagination.

What would Sarah Palin knit?

It's almost as good as WWJK, dontcha think? I'm sure there are plenty of KnitDweeb-worthy projects out there that you can find or conjure up. I see her using LB Homespun, that fine, folksy ackrilic crap. You know, faux wool. Just as she's faux almost everything.

By the way, I simply can't vote for someone who consistently ends her sentences with prepositions. As in her unintelligible interview tonight with Katie Couric, where she babbled:

I see our country being able to represent those things that can be looked to … as that leadership, that light needed across the world.


Obligatory Knitting Shit
This week, it's been work as usual--manuals, manuals, manuals. And a reasonable amount of knitting done. Three pieces to the Princess jacket finished, on the right front, with a sleeve to go. And some minor spinning activity. That's about it.

When I have a chance, possibly this weekend, I'll take some pictures of the Loden Mist Jacket, which is finished. I'm happy with the fit, although I'm a bit concerned about wearing it here and there, since it's a mite fragile.

Still biting away at Rock Sox, plus the autobiography. It seems that the ratio of writing to knitting is 10:1, or so. In many ways, it's easier to sit at the computer and write, especially if I've been doing it most of the day, anyway.

But the books are moving along. Maybe they'll be done in time for my 60th birthday, which Ellie takes great delight in reminding me that it's only a year and a half away. Fortunately, at the doctor's yesterday, he made the wonderful mistake of asking me if I had any premenapausal problems. This dialogue followed:

Me: Um, no, Dr. B.
Dr. B.: Why not?
Me: Because I'm five years into menopause.
Dr. B: Oh, I thought you were 46. Let me check your chart. Ah, 1950. My, you don't look your age at all.
Me: Thanks! It's always good to fool your doctor.

It's one thing when your friends tell you that you look great. But a doctor? That's creditable.

Close Encounters of the Weird Kind
I was down in Lambertville/New Hope last Sunday on a lunch date with a very lovely man. We had a fabulous time. As he walked me to my car later in the afternoon, someone called out my name and I turned around. There were two women and two men standing to my right. One of the women said, "Hi Marilyn! I read your blog all the time. I didn't want to bother you in the restaurant but I really wanted to say hi." Well, I was quite taken aback but truly thrilled. Hey, Susan from Roxbury, it was so nice to meet you! I always enjoy meeting readers and I can't wait for Rhinebeck. Please, hit me on the head and say hello.

I only bite assholes. Really.

I've been pining for my loom, which remains folded up in my bedroom. There's no likelihood that I can unfold it to warp it, either. So my fix is this: I'm going to buy a rigid heddle loom, hopefully at Rhinebeck. Any recommendations? I'm looking closely at the Kromski Harp, but would like the weavers among you to give me your opinions.

I need to do some weaving and it's driving me nuts that I can't. Super Jeenyus suggested that I put the Mighty Wolf out on the back porch, where I'd have more room. Sure, that's bright. Let the elements have their way with it. He can be rare and handy, when his mind doesn't trip over his shoelaces. Christ.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Three's a Charm?

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.--Gloria Steinem

Well, often when I'm writing for work, I feel like I should be mopping the kitchen floor.

Otherwise, I don't give a rat's ass about anything else in the proverbial queue when I'm writing for me. Including the kitchen floor.

Recently I threatened to bring Super Jeenyus into the blogging world. It's a done deal now and I may have opened a major Pandora's Box. Yes, Super Jeenyus & Wabbette is up and running. I wrote the first entry yesterday and Neal was hot on my heels, after I showed him how to use Blogger.

My boy has a lot to say and frankly, I hear it every night. Now it's your turn. We are admitted news junkies. News time is sacred. No phones are answered. But it's always the Super Jeenyus and Wabbette running commentary, the flavor of which has been translated into a blog. I daresay that Neal is a fine writer, and I've been up his ass for a long time about putting his mouth on cyber paper. (Of course, he can't spell to save his life but then, he's an audio guy, so cut him some slack.)

So come on over and feel free to scourge the budding blogger. Or me. As it is here, we welcome intelligent comments and debate. He's as opinionated as I am. If not worse. But he's already beat me up about my use of profanity in print. Like he doesn't say those words, ever. Hmph. Fuck you.

Gansey Star
Jeez, you never know who you'll run into when you're shopping in E'burg. Last Saturday, I spent a few hours running around doing some shopping in preparation for my trip to Iowa. I needed #6 circs because my KnitPicks pair kept coming unscrewed on the Princess cardigan and it was driving me nuts.

One block from my apartment is Mountain Knits and Pearls, a lovely little yarn shop and the only one in the Poconos. So I stopped in to grab my needles. And who was there, teaching?

Beth Brown-Reisel. Whoa. The shop owner, Joanne, graciously invited me into the class and I finally got to meet Beth. When I designed the Nasty German's Gansey, almost six years ago, it was Beth's book that kept me on track.

One of my next planned projects is to design a Gansey-patterned shawl in Harrisville Shetland 2-ply. I want a heavier weight shawl and it had occurred to me that doing a Gansey shawl would not only be a challenge but something that would work great with jeans, my usual preferred outfit. I threw this past Beth and she thought it was a great idea. And gave me some advice, too. Which I will take, with many thanks.

So you just never know who in the knitting world might be lurking about your town on any given Saturday.

Open Mic Thursday
I do a hell of a lot of knitting when traveling, be it on plane or train. On Monday, I flew from Allentown to Chicago to Des Moines on business and the knitting was constant. Inevitably, a flight attendant will make a comment, as will fellow travelers. Nine times out of ten, the comment ends with "That's beautiful but I'd NEVER have the patience to do that."

My theory is that not having "patience" to do something often equates to fear of trying something new. Or simply not wanting to be bothered. Many years ago, when I was in junior high school, I felt that way about sewing. Once I gave it a shot because I wanted to have a greater choice in the clothes I wore, I learned to be patient and follow all the steps. Like pressing open seams, something that I found a complete bore at 14 but learned to do at 16.

There are still crafts for which I will claim I have no patience. Or interest. Specifically, needlepoint, which I have done and found uninteresting. My sister does scrapbooking. I couldn't be bothered. I don't have the "patience."

For what craft or needlework do you not have patience?

(I really don't like ending sentences with prepositions, if I can help it. So forgive the formal wording.)

I'm probably never going to do candlewicking, either.

Rhinebeck Cometh
I need this so badly. I haven't seen anyone since Franklin's 1000 Knitters photo shoot last April, when I got to see him and Carol.

So, who all of you are going? I'll do the Rhinebeck Bingo again this year. It's fun to meet readers. As Joe always says, I'm much nicer in person than he is and he's much nicer in print than I am. This is true. I wouldn't argue with my gay brother. Much. And I'm thrilled that Knitterguy Ted is coming again. That makes it all the more special. I know Mel will be there, with David. I'm aiming to be their first customer again this year.

October is Fiber Month for me. The Garden State Sheep Breeder show October 3-4, then the SOAR market the following Saturday at Pocono Manor (can't do the workshop/retreat this year, maybe next), and then Rhinebeck.

Some rare and handy events. But no Stitches. I'm very done with that. Don't even know when it is this year. And don't care.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Blood, Smoke, and Tears

Best Quote I Heard All Day
A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.--Martin Luther King

A soft-minded man has led us down the primrose path. Seven years ago today, as we wept for the lost souls of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Flights 127, 11, and 93, we were all as one, waiting for the leadership that never materialized from a man who spoke loud words of hope and unity that day and then wasted our faith and togetherness as a country. May God forgive him. I don't know that I can. We must regain that faith in ourselves as a country united.

For the past few years, I've written a September 11th entry. It will forever be a day of mourning and remembrance for me, as it should be for all Americans. As I walk by the Hudson River on my way to my Jersey City office, I can never again view the New York skyline with innocent eyes. The eyes of a little girl who was born in New York City, who loved to watch the great liners sail down the Hudson to the sea, danced up and down the sidewalks while her grandmother remonstrated, who stared up at the skyscrapers in total amazement, and who ran the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, looking for the mummies. The city of my birth and my childhood happinesses.

I was thinking about that day in 2001 yesterday on my way to work in JC. And remembering it exactly. Because after all, in my life, there have been too many of these times that have been forever burned into my brain, each with its own cerebral minute-by-minute video. The assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, John Lennon. And the horrifying deaths of 2,974 people on that sunny, magnificent September day.

My day started out like everyone else's, probably. Got up, showered, kissed Jimmy good-bye, and off we both went to work. I was working at the corporate offices of The Chubb Institute at the time, a proprietary computer school system headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, a scant 27 miles from Manhattan. Jimmy had recently started a new job as a marine designer at an engineering firm in Scotch Plains, a fair distance from Parsippany.

My boss, Pat, and I had a very early conference call with a vendor in Baltimore that morning--8:30. We locked ourselves up in his office and started the call. Suddenly, about a half hour into the call, one of our vendor's employees said, "Oh my God, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center." Jesus! I ran out to my desk, where the phone was ringing. It was the wife of my previous boss there, looking for him. She had been watching TV and told me that it looked as if it was an attack, not an accident. Could I find her husband for her and have him call her?

I found her husband glued to a computer, looking at the dreadful first images on the internet. Everyone was wandering around, dazed, frightened, confused. And then the internet was jammed up. When the second tower was hit and then the Pentagon, we were told to leave the building immediately and go home.

The local state highway was jammed with people desperate to get home. I tried to call Jimmy on my cellphone and couldn't get through. I had no idea where he was, whether the attacks were going to continue, and if we were all going to die. The cellphone lines were jammed, too.

When I got home, I called my children, made sure they were safe, and then turned on the TV. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy walked through the door. I cried tears of relief and we sat down together to watch the horror.

In the days after, I watched the widows and bled for them and their children, little realizing that it would be a scant four months before I joined their ranks. To lose a husband was unimaginable. To lose a beloved son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, who had gone to work as innocently as I had that morning, in an inferno that was caused by hatred-driven fanatics, was beyond anyone's comprehension. And still is. At least Jimmy died far more easily. I take comfort from that. Those who lost someone on September 11, 2001, cannot.

So since it is Open Mic Thursday, let's do this:

Share your remembrances and thoughts of September 11, 2001.

Write as much as you'd like. Some days, knitting just doesn't count for much in the scheme of life.

No matter what your beliefs may be, today is a day to speak to your higher power and remember the lost and their families. The politicization of this sacred day by the Republican Party is anathema. As Keith Olbermann said last night in his Special Comment: 9/11 TM. The disgusting video shown at the RNC, calculated to inculcate fear and terror, is indicative of their shabby, opportunistic, Rovian methods. Let's be the Can-Do nation again and rise up against tactics of fear, as a tribute to the dead of 9/11, if nothing else.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Best Quote I Heard All Day
If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism. --Hunter S. Thompson

Other than Keith Olbermann, I'm convinced that most journalists have lost the ability to do true investigative reporting. Media-crity rules.

The truth is, there's a lot more to learn about Caribou Barbie, methinks. Will the media end its fixation on her pregnant daughter and start thumping away at the real issues?
I no longer have hopes that the media will return to its long-ago level of competence. Why? Super Jeenyus, in his ellipsical way, said it perfectly and passionately in an e-mail to someone who wrote a long treatise to him on the sorry shape of the media. And I quote verbatim, ellipses, e-mail shouting, and all:

There is an even MORE important reason for the lack of depth in current media, particularly TV and Radio. I worked in Radio and network Television for almost 30 years starting in the mid 70's. In 1976, you were only allowed to own 7 of each AM, FM and TV stations nation wide and NO MORE than one newspaper in any city that you had those 3 already.

Ownership regulations for these outlets has been removed allowing the current configuration of corporate ownership...that ALL the 5 major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN as well as just about all others and most of the radio stations in the US are owned, operated or controlled economically by 3 corporate conglomorates, Time/Warner, Disney and News Corp. Think about who has been responsible for the gutting of those regulations...and who has profited???

There's been some discussion about doing a Super Jeenyus and Wabbette political blog, Wabbette being me. Yes, there is a Looney Tunes connection.

We'll see. Lately, I've been consumed by my obsession with politics. But with the little free time I have, I don't know that I could add a third blog to my palette. Tough enough to write for the two I have.
Outrageous Copyright Infringement
[Note: This has now been resolved. And I publicly admit that I over-reacted. I have removed this piece and apologized to Cass. However, her readers, who have slobbered all over the comments, are not welcome.]

So WTF Have I Been Doing?
I wish less work-related writing. I thought I was done with travel. No. And that's OK. After all, they do give me money every two weeks. The week after next, I'll be spending three days in Des Moines. Next week, possibly a run to Connecticut. I yearn for the day when I can spend all of my time writing about what matters to me: fiberart, mental health issues, and politics.

However, I have gotten a fair amount of important shit done, like finishing the Loden Mist jacket, one sleeve, two side seams to go.

I'm close to finishing the back to the Princess jacket. The color is a bit off--it's a much richer burgundy and not so much a barn red.

Having made the corrections to the directions, fixed the one chart that was wrong, and redoing all of the hand-drawn charts on Knit Visualizer, I'm probably going to give them to Kraemer Yarns when I have a chance. I've already sent the charts to a couple of readers who have expressed interest. Shoot me an e-mail if you want them.


The classic George Carlin routine, always worth watching. Simply substitute the word "yarn" for "stuff" when you watch. It works for me.

So living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment now, do I need more stuff? Sure. There's a fabulous antique market in Stroudsburg, the Olde Engine Works Market Place, where I went the other week to sniff out old buttons and old knitting pamphlets or magazines. Topeka.

The white buttons are of course plastic. But I thought very nice. The metal buttons above did not photograph as well. They are actually silver, not the weird mult-color that the flash produced.

But this booklet was a real find, published in 1939 by The Spool Cotton Company. A little Googling determined who this company was.

I'm making those gloves, even though I've had problems crocheting with the ole CTS. Never mind, I want them. Too fucking funky.

Flogging the Public Domain

Yikes, I've been asked to produce Knitting Curmudgeon quotes on shit. As you all know, I have in the past eschewed doing stuff like that. But WTF. So I'll do the Cafe Press thing, I suppose. Watch this space for info. "Shut Up, I'm Counting" will definitely be one quote.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hippo Bird-day to You, Mater

Best Quote I Ever Heard
Be quiet, Marilyn! I'm counting!--Eleanor Meyer
Yes, I have many things for which to thank my mother. This is one of them, although Mammy never said, "Shut up, I'm counting!" She hated "shut up" when I was a kid. I wasn't quite as circumspect with my own children, however.

So today marks my mother's 85th birthday. I sent her flowers. She spent the day running around, picking up her prescriptions, going to the municipal building to pay a parking ticket, and then over to the eye doctor to pick up her new glasses.
And she's swatching for yet another lace shawl. So what's your excuse, skanks? This is probably my favorite picture of her, taken Christmas 2006 at Scrappy's, the pose that is the Essence of Ellie (which, incidentally, my sister informs me, is how she spells it--who knew?)

Happy Birthday, Ma. I love you muchly and I treasure our time together knitting and talking yarn and patterns. Thanks for teaching me the proper way to grouch and to knit, usually simultaneously. And if you think she and I are pros, you would have loved Grandma, who was the ultimate in cantankery. But loved me, her Dolly. Awhile back, I did a Curmudgeon family tree. I think it's time to republish it. The women were all cranky. And I suppose my sister will now beg to be added. (When you hit 50, Karen. That's the coming of age for all curmudgeonly women, I believe.)

Kraemer vs. Kraemer
Sorry, I couldn't resist. Last week I took a quick trip to Nazareth, PA (or Baby Jesus Town, as Super Jeenyus calls it). Kraemer Yarns has been there for more than 100 years. I'd been there before, maybe 15 years ago. But now that the Loden Mist Jacket pieces are finished and awaiting blocking this weekend, I decided that I rather liked Kathy Zimmerman's Princess Jacket and drove down Rte. 33 to check out the yarn and the jacket in person.

It was in the last P'works catalog, done in Kraemer's Summit Hill, a lush 100% merino worsted weight that is almost orgasmic to knit. The model is done in a French blue, a little darker in real life than in the picture. I'm doing it in a nice burgundy. Because the blue was just too insipid for me. (Those sleeves do look horrifically long, do they not?)

The pattern is free from Kraemer's. This link is to the .pdf. However, there is a huge caveat. The charts are hand drawn and difficult to read. I redid the large charts. No big deal using Knit Visualizer. But as I cast on for the back and started reading the directions, I immediately found four glaring errors without having knit a stitch.

This does not bode well. So I immediately marked up my copy and I will let the nice folks at Kraemer's know about these and any other screwups that I find. And give them my charts so they can replace them. This is too nice a garment to be ruined by errors. If you plan on making this, let me know and I'll be happy to send you the charts too.

In any case, they are making very nice yarns. Great colors, quality fibers, lots of different weights. For all you Pennsyltuckians in the area, it's worth a trip. Stop by and say hi to Eileen. She's a sweetheart and very helpful.

Open Mic Thursday

To recap last week's Open Mic, I'd say that Magic Loop got majorly trashed. I tried it and it's on my list, too. However, having said that, I suppose it could be of some use for circular sleeves if you leave your dps at home. I don't do that. I'm very careful to pack what knitting crap I need when I leave home, including shit I probably don't need. Plus, if you learned how to manipulate dps, chances are you're perfectly happy with them. If it ain't broke.

I also eschew double knitting. Total waste of time in my book. As I always say, try it once and know that it exists as a possibility. Then leave it alone. Your knitting life will not necessarily be enriched by torturing yourself.

Well, this week, I have Joe's latest post to thank because it got me thinking more deeply about something that's always been very apparent to me. As one of his readers, Andy's Crafts, so deftly put it, the sexualization of crafts.

I have a lot of male friends who knit and spin: Joe, Ted, Franklin, Lars, Mel, James, to name a few. (Guys, I'm not linking to your blogs because I'm really tired tonight and don't want to fuck around with URLs.) Yes, they are all gay men. However, we all became friends because we're knitters, first and foremost. How they use their other equipment don't make no never-mind to me.

The sexual typecasting that seems to surround certain crafts always astonishes me. Why is it that weaving is "OK" for straight guys and knitting is not? Is weaving more "manly"? I guess bobbin lace is out for straight guys too. Oh yeah, don't forget that Rosey Grier made needlepoint "OK" too. Sheesh.

So, I'd like you to opine about this, be you straight, gay, or an alien from Plan 9 from Outer Space.

What are your thoughts on the sexualizing of crafts?

This is a broad topic, admittedly. But an important one because it leeches into society in general. Or perhaps it's the other way around. No matter. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from my lezzie friends too, although I don't believe this affects women, other than in their acceptance of men who knit.

I'm sure that those of you who have read Richard Rutt know that men only were allowed into the medieval knitting guilds. Knitting was a serious business, particularly when Elizabeth I started buying knitted silk stockings and helped fund the rise of the knitting loom. Once knitting became mechanized, hand knitting reverted into a domestic craft done primarily by women.

Read Joe's blog. And the comments. It's very interesting stuff.

Punk Princess Driving Miz Grammy

Update. Didn't happen. She can't drive with me because I'm not a NJ driver anymore. So she was a bit disappointed. However, Gram did buy her a shocking pink bass guitar with amp for her 16th birthday.

And Gram bought herself a guitar. Yes, I did. Because I did once play and I'm amazed at how much I do remember. After all, I did so want to be Chrissie Hynde. Truly. It's perfectly OK to rock on when you're 58. Rare and handy? Perhaps. Adolescent? Certainly. But girls just wanna have fu-un.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vacated, Vacant, Vacuous?

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?--Mark Twain

Because I have five days off. That's it for this summer, other than Labor Day weekend.

So I'm makin' it short and sweet. Bulletpoints. Bite me.

Da Mags

  • The new VK is out and it's one of the best in a long time. Why? Because it's loaded with Canadians. Between the Canadians and the Brits, there's a shitload of talent. (That's not to say there aren't any Americans on my list--but that list seems to be dwindling.) And here's something quite excellent that's on VK's site. A video showing a number of the garments. This is a brilliant idea and something that should be de rigeur for all of the magazines.

  • The new IK should be in the hands of subscribers now. Loopy got hers and said that it was OK, a few good designs (once again, Veronik Avery, naturellement). I have seen it online and honestly, I think VK wins this one.

  • Knitters'? The X-Men have truly created a cyber-morass. In the impossibly fucked-up web site they call "The Knitting Universe," that Gordian knot of links, subpages, and miscellanous dead ends, the Gallery for issue 92 is broken. What else would you expect? Clearly, someone started to set it up and then, oh whoops, forgot to put the images into the right directory. Links don't work, boneheads. Pictures ain't loading. I guess they got lost in the Universe. IT Rule of Thumb: It don't go live if it's fucked up. (Unless, of course, you work with Slovenian developers.) Would you buy a magazine whose staff can't even design a decent web site, let alone a functional one? Rhetorical question, purely.

Open Mic Thursday

Well, since I'm mentally on vacation, I had to think this one over. It seems to me that with all the nightmare crap on the news, knitting has become more and more a focal point for me. Hey, nobody's stabbed anyone recently with a #1 dp, have they? Or did I miss that on CNN? Or Faux News? (You have to love Olbermann for that one, along with "Ann Coultergeist," "The Comedian Rush Limbaugh," "Billow," and "Murdoch St. Journal." Brilliant man.)

Anyway, with knitting being more important than anything (ask any KnitDweeb), recently Loopy and I had this conversation about how many methods of casting on are truly necessary. We both agreed that we use the same four: long-tail, provisional (crocheted), cable, and knitted-on aka lace cast-on. This topic was a segue from the uselessness of POK and other tomes that offer you more crap than you'll ever need to know.

So ponder this:

What technique/method have you attempted that you found to be a total waste of time?

I can name at least two that I've mucked around with and wished I hadn't, but I'll let you go for it.

If you belong to the Knit It Because You Can School of Thought, I'm sure you won't have anything to say.

Anyway, skanks, I'm off to bed. I have gotten a bit done on the Loden Mist jacket. In fact, I'm on the final piece, the second sleeve. Then it's block 'n' sew. Should be done next week. I will say this: The directions were ghastly. And there was a glaring error in them, too. Caveat Knitter's. The pattern was marked Experienced. Yes. Experienced in figuring out shit that Knitter's fucks up. Rare and handy is an accolade they'll never get from me.

P.S. The Punk Princess just got her learner's permit and had her first driving lesson today. She reassured me that "I did REAL good, Gram. No matter what ANYONE says." I'm taking her shopping tomorrow for her belated birthday present, a starter bass guitar. She wants to drive my car. I'm going to let her do it. Because I'm her Gangsta Gram. Be afraid of very tiny blonde punk chicks behind the wheel. And a slightly anxious bottle blonde grandmother sitting next to her.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Best Quote I Heard All Day
A good groove releases adrenaline in your body. You feel uplifted, you feel centered, you feel calm, you feel powerful. You feel that energy. That's what good drumming is all about.--Mickey Hart

It's been a week of deep music immersion. Those who know me well know that music is an integral part of my life, arguably more than knitting, although I doubt I could live without either. As a former musician (violin and classical/folk guitar), there's nothing I love more than live music.

The Music Men
Right here in River City. Once a year, Bethlehem, PA, is the site of one of America's largest music festivals, Musikfest, which runs for 10 days, this year from August 1-10. I've been twice already and due to go again on Saturday with the Punk Princess in tow. You name the music, it's played. Free admission for most acts.

Cast In Bronze is a remarkable experience. A movable carillon, the only one in existence. What's a carillon? A musical instrument with a minimum of 23 cast-bronze bells. This is no sissy instrument. And Frank DellaPenna, the master carilloneur behind Cast In Bronze, is a sight to behold. I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Frank and talking to him. But Frank lets his music speak for itself. I'm hooked. Go to his web site and be gobsmacked. Although you'd be more blown away if you had the chance to hear this live.

And there's something else afoot. My new acquaintance with Frank's sound engineer, who is also a drummer. Someone who knows much more about classical music than I do. That alone makes me tremble. In a good way.

Let's put it this way--you'll be hearing more about this guy from me. Yes, I realize that many people think that Super Jeenyus and I are a "couple." Not true. Close, beloved friends and neighbors, yes. And always will be. But as much as I love my pal Super Jeenyus, there is now someone really special who has appeared on the scene. His name is Chris but you'll get to know him as Decibelcat. It's a long story as to how we met and I'll bore you with that some other time. But he and Super Jeenyus worked together way back when as sound engineers in Philly.

Small fucking world.

Open Mic Thursday
Well, one of the Wolvies, whom I will not out, came up with this week's topic. It would seem that the Wolvie in question has a white-trash family branch that occasionally drops babies sans fathers. And is torn between making the latest new arrival a baby outfit (blue baby Encore was mentioned) or palming the chore off on another friend.

Due to the fact that I made a sweater for a cousin's unplanned baby on my father's side of the family last summer, I am morally obligated due to interfamilial politics to make one for this summer's unplanned baby on my mother's side of the family.

So our Wolvie suggested this question:

Have you ever been tempted to pass off someone else's handknitting as your own?

I'll let you guess as to what the dénouement was.

Whether you pass off someone else's knitting as yours or whether your knitting is passed off as someone else's, this is no fucking win-win deal (pardon the corporate jargon). I shudder at the potential bullshit arising from either juxtaposition.

Obligatory Knitting Shit
Still working on the Kidsilk Haze jacket but with the back, a sleeve, and the left front done, I can see the light of day now. I'm half done with the other front and the final sleeve is a quickie. Then it's the finishing, probably two hours worth, and I'm done. Pictures perhaps on Sunday.

While I'm coaching my mother in the intricacies of the Spanish Lace pattern so that she can swatch for a stole whose cast-on I'll calculate based on that swatch, I'm leaning heavily back towards garments.

Heresy alert: I'm fucking sick of making shawls. Got it?

Once this KSH jacket is done, I'm going to make another jacket/cardigan for myself. I really don't want any pullovers. I want something I can wear to the office, wear with jeans, and remove, if needs be. And as I said in the last post, I love to do finishing, the knitting equivalent of being waterboarded.

Finishing nicely is a rare and handy talent. Many a well-knitted garment turned into a schmateh due to shoddy seaming and heinous neckline pickups. If you learn anything well, learn finishing. And learn to view it as another segment of the garmentmaking process. Or else you'll crash and burn, holding an unwearable rag in your smoldering hand. (Ah, the imagery.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I Won't Grow Up

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.--Randy Pausch

For many years, when I would persist and persist and persist to achieve one goal or another, my late husband Jimmy would say to me, "Stop BANGING your head against a brick wall."

As much as I loved and adored him, this was something that I don't think he quite understood about me.

If you have not yet heard about Randy Pausch or seen his remarkable "Last Lecture" on YouTube, shame on you. It is a remarkable legacy and one that I have found moving, funny, and wonderfully snarky. If you're lazy, I have the entire video up on Swing Time. It runs more than an hour but worth ever second.

One of the things that Randy discusses in his lecture is "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams."

I was a dreamer as a child. My parents never set limits on what I could do, so I honestly believed that I could do anything. What were my childhood dreams?

  1. I wanted to be an archaeologist specializing in Egyptology and wanted to make a discovery greater than Howard Carter's King Tut.
  2. I wanted to be a great writer and poet.
  3. I wanted to sing and play guitar in a rock band (Chrissie Hynde has always been my girl. We sing in the same range. Chrissie had the guts to do what I didn't.)
  4. I wanted to go to London.
  5. I wanted to be a clothing designer.
I was a strange kid, granted. But to this day, I still have dreams. As should we all. Did I achieve any of my childhood dreams? Well, I'm a writer. Not a great one, for sure, but a writer nonetheless. I've been to London twice. I design my own sweaters and such when I don't get lazy and use someone else's pattern. Never sang with a rock band. Archaeology is still an interest but not a career. Never got to go on a dig.

So. Here's the Open Mic Thursday question:

What were your childhood dreams and which of them did you achieve?

I find this a fascinating question, one that gives you pause to review your life. Randy Pausch truly did give new meaning to carpe diem. He led a rare and handy life. So should we all, no matter how old we are. And I will not grow up. I still have those childhood dreams.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

16 on Monday? NOOOOOOO!! Yes.

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I washed a sock. Then I put it in the dryer. When I took it out, it was gone.--Steven Wright

I think that the solution to this universal problem is to buy enough sock yarn to make three socks. Well, perhaps that's just insanity rather than a solution.

Yes, the Punk Princess turns sweet 16 next Monday, the 28th. Jesus. If anything could make me feel reeeaallly old, it's that. But as Liz says, "You're NOT old, Gram." No, I suppose not. I'll always be her Gangsta Gram. As the Who said, "Hope I die before I get old."

This was Liz at 2. And here's my pal now, with one of her friends, swiped from her Facebook. She's a talented artist, a drummer (who's going to learn how to play bass), and an all-around funky kid. Blood tells, for sure.

So, Dizzy Ms. Lizzy, Happy Birthday. For the past six years, you've been making cameo appearances on my blog. So fercrissakes, start your own, will ya?

Life in General
I've been busy finishing up the Las Vegas Brights scarf and then rummaging around for something to take its place. Unfortunately, I have not had any time to spin, so I guess I won't win the Maillot Jaune this year. I got the scarf blocked out on the porch. Just yanked it out and shaped it rather than trying to pin it. That would have been sheer madness.

I was flipping through last summer's Knitter's, one of the scant decent issues, the one that had Celeste's Campanula. And found a lace jacket thingie by Nancy Marchant that appealed, Loden Mist. I discovered five balls of Dewberry Kidsilk Haze in the stash. I'll be damned if I remember why the fuck I bought them. But they work for the jacket. This piece is finished and the left front is almost done.

Sometimes you just get sick of making shawls and it's time to go back to garments. I love to do the finishing on sweaters. Yeah. Sick. But to me, it's a different process with its own rewards. I still have that Lavold pullover to finish, the one from last fall. So that's next. The Cobweb Crepe shawl is on hold. I need to stitch me some clothing together.

Open Mic Thursday

Well, I kinda missed last week but it seems as if the last topic had a life of its own. This past week, while digging in the stash for the Kidsilk Haze, I was ruminating on how much I love to work with it. A lot of people don't, simply because it's a bitch to rip out. Rowan yarns are some of my very favorites, along with the magazines and the incredible designs.

However, there are a few yarns that I will never, ever work with again. One is Wildefoote sock yarn. It split so badly that I ended up throwing the shit out. That's one.

Of course, I won't work with crap. It's the stuff that you presume isn't shit but turns out to be awful--that's what I'm talking about.

So here ya are:

What yarn will you never, ever work with again?

Yeah, caveat emptor. So make like Consumer Reports and give everyone your sob story.

Gulp. Six Years Tomorrow.
Christ, it really has been six years. I started this mess on July 25, 2002. I figured it would amuse me for about three months. It certainly took my focus away from my troubles, which at the time were legion. A dead husband, a mortgage I was barely able to pay, two adult children back home with their kids, and a job that was on its way out.

But there was always knitting. And writing. And so it shall remain, always. Knitting is the lover that never disappoints, that always gives back in kind. Whenever I feel alone, sad, and unmotivated, all I have to do is pick up them sticks and start focusing on the fabric I'm making.

The same goes for writing. As I've always said, this blog is my main self-indulgence. I write for me. Only me. If somebody reads it, great. If nobody reads it, hey, it's a legacy for my kids.

Liz and I often talk about my family history, which she seems to find fascinating. So for her and Ian, this blog and the books I'm currently writing, are reason enough to keep on keeping on. Because if nothing else, it's been a rare and occasionally handy life.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Who IS Keyser Soze?

Best Quote I Heard All Day
You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And poof. Just like that, he's gone.--Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey), "The Usual Suspects"

And poof. Just like that, I'm here. God, I love this movie. Just finished watching it on TV and I never get tired of it.

So, this will be a down and dirty entry. I've been working from home all week and amazingly, been quite busy. But it beats the shit outta going anywhere. I had this idea that I would write today's bit this afternoon but lo! A document arrives from the wilds of Slovenia, 49 deeliteful pages to be edited between today and tomorrow.

Oh well. Here I am, and it's late.

But it's still Thursday, so hang on.

Open Mic Thursday
Besides eating a bowl of butter pecan ice cream today, which I had no business shoving down my trachea, I spent a little time doing something clandestine.

Yeah, I have these guilty pleasures that no one would ever think I would do. Besides eating ice cream, which habit is quite well known to those near and dear to me. Particularly one Super Jeenyus next door, who frequently cons me into walking to the store down the block for various flavors. Such as cherry vanilla, his favorite. With Hershey's chocolate sauce. Shit, he calls ME an enabler.

So what are my true guilty pleasures? Here they are, not necessarily in order of preference:

  1. Vanity Fair and People magazines
  2. Playing cards and other dopey games on
  3. A real New York egg cream (if you have to ask, then you're clearly from another country)
  4. S'mores
  5. Super Jeenyus (es schmecht sehr gut)
OK, dish.

What are your guilty pleasures?

They need not be of the knitting variety. You will note that I do not consider knitting a guilty pleasure.

Tour de Fleece
I'm doing it. Every day. Spinning a silk roving called Grape Harvest. Quite lovely, I'm enjoying it. I do love to spin silk. So here's the proof in the pudding, as it were, for the past few days.

July 5

July 6

July 7

July 8

I'm really surprised at how much I've managed to spin as of today. Here's a picture of the roving spread out. The red arrow marks the middle of the roving. I always divide rovings in half and mark that point with some white cotton yarn, so that I can balance out the two bobbins more or less.
I took a day off from spinning today because I wanted to get back to knitting the Cobweb Crepe shawl, now that the Las Vegas Brights scarf is finished. I'll block that next weekend and then ship it off to Susan.

So much lace to knit, so little time. I'm contemplating knitting a lace curtain for my one living room window. A pattern from one of the Kinzel books has caught my eye and I have plenty of coned 8/2 cotton lying around.

Wrist Wrought
Well, I knew this was coming and I'm not overly surprised. The carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist has finally gotten to the point where I may no longer ignore it. A trip last week to my wonderful orthopedist, Dr. Rubman (great name, is it not?), kinda brought me back to reality. It's looking more and more like there will be surgery in the near future. I am most definitely losing strength in my thumb and index finger, as well as having increased discomfort.

I can still knit--the way I use my needles does not involve twisting my wrist. And Dr. Rubman blames the computer and mousing, not knitting, as the cause of the CTS.

So, now what? He says the surgery isn't so bad. He doesn't knit. Or type and mouse to make his living. I will have to make a decision on the 29th, when I go back to see him. I'm wearing my brace religiously, using a topical anti-inflammatory, and nothing's working.

I figure, I'll still be able to spin and if I can't knit, I'll pull out the embroidery and do that, since I draft and hand-sew with my left hand.

Being ambidextrous is a rare and handy thing. I will not be inactive. Fuck surgery. Just gimme some good drugs and I'll keep on keepin' on.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No Red, White, and Blue Ackrilic Knitted Objects Allowed on the Premises

Best Quote I Heard All Day

July 4. Statistics show that we lose more fools on this day than in all the other days of the year put together. This proves, by the number left in stock, that one 4th of July per year is now inadequate, the country has grown so.--Mark Twain

I love fireworks. Here in PA they are legal and you can even buy them in the supermarket. I was so fucking tempted to buy a bunch and shoot 'em off tomorrow. If it doesn't rain, which it's supposed to.

Friggin' Flag Knitting
The only garment made from a flag that was truly cool was worn by The Who back in the '60s. When Carnaby St. was the fashion universe, at least to this then 17 year old.

Here's the perfect KnitDweeb patriotic project. Red, white, and blue warshcloth done in the Old Shale pattern. Nice, huh? Of course, this is done in Sugar 'n Cream, available at the Michaels, AC Moore, WalMart, Hobby Lobby, and other wonderful KnitDweeb emporia.

Or perhaps you'd prefer to crochet a lovely flag afghan? Materials: Red Heart, but of course.

Now, these American flag socks are rather funky. And made with real wool, gang. I'd almost be tempted to make these, just to be obnoxious.

And, in keeping with the true KnitDweeb spirit, all of the aforementioned patterns are FREE, FREE, FREE.

Sorry, can't do white on white. Just white on rice.

Open Mic Thursday
OK, I've given you plenty of ammo. Ya wanna knit patriotic? Then tell the world...

Which of the three patterns above would you knit?

And if you have other sources for patriotic knitted stuff, feel free to shut the fuck up, please. Three are more than enough. Unless you have found something completely absurd. In which case, I'm sure we'd all be intrigued and disgusted.

Warped Speed
After having been sent this link by my dear sister, Ms. Scrappy, I may have to restrict my knitting web surfing. Be afraid, be very afraid of this link. It's not patriotic, just completely bizarre. Knit it because you can. I double dog-dared the blogging Wolvies to knit a pair and be photographed wearing them. No takers. Clearly, I have balls and I'll have to do it.

Obligatory Knitting Shit
The Las Vegas Brights scarf is almost done. Then it's back to the Cobweb Crepe shawl.

In the meanwhile, for all of us who spin, Katherine Matthews once again is having the Tour de Fleece.

I'm in. The Tour begins on July 5th and you must use fiber from your stash, which I think is a capital idea.

This is not the sum total of my fiber stash by a long shot. Just the smaller amounts. We won't talk about the 3 pounds of Romney, the endless supply of Tintagel Farm stuff, and other large purchases.

Please ignore all the Black Bunny Fibers purchases. I can't stay away from Carol's shit.

It's going to be one of these two. And I think I've already chosen the one. Both are silk.

So as of Saturday, the Joy will be cleaned and oiled. And then used for the Tour. Hot damn. I'll be taking photos as I go along. Gotta get it spun and plyed by the 27th so I qualify for the Maillot Jaune button. This one of the few "alongs" that I find worthwhile.

Because "alongs" are not particularly rare and handy, in my opinion. They belong with memes.

Note: The 6th anniversary of The Knitting Curmudgeon is fast approaching. July 25th. If any readers have good ideas for an anniversary blog topic, I'd appreciate the suggestions. God knows I never thought the blog would last this long.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wherein This Writer Adopts Gonzo Knitting as her Raison d'Etre

Best Quote I Heard All Day
“[Ken] Kesey practices what has come to be known as gonzo journalism. The reporter, often intoxicated, fails to get the story but delivers instead a stylishly bizarre account that mocks conventional journalism.”--R.K. Sheppard

Gonzo knitting. A stylishly bizarre garment that mocks conventional knitting? That appeals. My literary hero, Hunter S., would approve, no doubt. Now, the key word here is "stylishly," which lifts "bizarre" onto a higher plateau, dontcha think?

Gonzo knitting. Anything gonzo, anything that "mocks" the establishment, attracts me to it like flies on shit. Well, if I'm not a stylishly bizarre writer, then I think I'll hang up the electronic pen and find a used Etch-a-Sketch to fulfill my scribbling needs.

Step One in the podcast project has been fulfilled. My Super Jeenyus, Neal, the world's Greatest Audio Engineer EVER (a sop to his ego) is delighted to help me learn to use Audacity and to be my personal engineer. Besides, he owes me big time, since I help him a lot with basic software stuff. As he says, "I'm the nerd, you're the geek."

So, when he's finished a freelance gig that he's doing on the weekends, he'll be ready to help. As long as I shut the fuck up and behave. Which is damned difficult, since we both revel in the "Neal and Marilyn Show," a constant stream of insulting banter back and forth, but delivered with great love and affection. He busts my chops, I give it right back. Hmmm, maybe he should be my podcast sidekick. He was once a deejay, so he'd probably love that.

Open Mic Thursday
OK, so it's almost 10 p.m. Thursday night but what the fuck. I was busy training today and kinda got involved in that for 4 hours. Thank God I now do it over Webex, otherwise I would have had to go to Eighty Four, PA. Yes, that's right. Eighty Four. Google it. It's about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh.

This past weekend, I finally bought the book Victorian Lace. I don't know why I waited so long but considering my rather large collection of knitting, spinning, and weaving books, along with the stacks of magazines, I've not really bought much recently, other than Carol's book. Small apartment, living room with three bookcases, all filled. But I was looking over my library the other day, picking up books that I'd bought but not really used. Yet.

And then there were my exceeding well-worn copies of the Barbara Walker Treasuries. These are the books, after almost 30 years of building my library, that I refer to the most often. And one that I almost never use, Principles of Knitting. By far, that is my least favorite book. S
o here's my question to you:

Which book in your library do you use the most? And the least?

And be honest. If you don't use any of EZ's books, that is not considered heresy on this blog.

Las Vegas Brights Scarf
It's growing exponentially. Almost done, I would say. I am quite pleased with it. And love working with silk that I spun.

My PhotoShop Essentials crapped out on me tonight (corrupt file, probably), so I couldn't adjust the picture's lighting and colors. But it's pretty much true, except that the color variations and subtleties are harder to see.

I've decided to give this to my friend/boss, Susan. She has finally finished her Master's after eight months of working full time, traveling, and trying to get her school work done. Susan saw it the other week when she was in the office--she lives in Tampa and only comes up to Jersey City every few months. When I told her it was hers, she was blown away because she understands how much work has gone into it. A gift of love? Absolutely.

I keep wondering when my fixation with lace will die down. I have done virtually nothing but for two years now. And yet, my fascination keeps growing, to the point where I have been designing my own lace pattern for the Chantilly Lace socks that will be in my book Rock Soxs.

Such a simple concept. A bunch of yarn loops and corresponding decreases on either a garter or stockinette field. Yet, it confounds so many and causes great gnashing of teeth, the uttering of expletives unknown to Richard Nixon, and a pathological fear of dropping stitches.

I know. I'm one of those rare and handy lunatics who is guilty of all of the above. It will never end, either.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mountie Pride...And Other Tales From My Teenage Crypt

Best Quote I Heard All Day
High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Yep, that's my high school yearbook picture. And the name tag I wore last night at the Montclair High School Class of 1968's 40th reunion. Yes, MHS warrants its own Wikipedia page. If you remember the movie, "Cheaper by the Dozen," the original, not the remake, the Gilbreth family lived in Montclair. Some of our alumni of note:
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • Joe Walsh (of the Eagles, if you're too young to remember)
  • Allen B. DuMont
  • Robert Trent Jones
  • Christina Ricci
  • Warren Littlefield
And me and Dottie Melcher, along with a host of other misanthropes. Well, perhaps that's too harsh a description. The Mad Dob and Marsh, as we were known in high school, haven't changed a whole hell of a lot.

I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that there is nothing better than reconnecting with people who you saw every single day of the school year from elementary school through high school. Here's the two of us, posing for a picture, which is perhaps not the most flattering but certainly indicative of the evening.

Somewhere I have a picture of the two of us at our brothers Rich and Bob's elementary school graduation, 16 years old and thought we were hot shit. I suppose not much has changed. It truly hasn't. We had not seen each other for six years. It was more like six minutes.

How We Became Artsy Fartsy Creative Types
When Dottie and I first met in 4th grade, she had a couple of Madame Alexander dolls, large ones, that were Gone With The Wind dolls, maybe Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie. I wasn't much for dolls but I was always fascinated by their clothes. We played with those dolls for quite a while. Until the following year, when Barbie became synonymous with dolly fashion.

When Barbie came out, I was almost 10 but immediately jumped on the Barbie bandwagon because at that time, her clothing was exquisitely made, miniature to-scale zippers and snaps, wonderful lace on the $5 wedding dress that took me weeks to save up for.

I wasn't much of a seamstress but I did try to knit little outfits for Barbie. Lots of dropped stitches, of course. And nothing in the way of shaping. But the garment bug had bitten me.

By the time Dottie and I were in 10th grade in 1966, Mary Quant was our fashion heroine. Our plan for life? We'd design clothes and open up our own boutique, The Mad Dob. Dottie could draw, I couldn't. But we both sewed our own clothes and figured we were hip enough to make a go of it. The dreams of two freaky teenagers. It was a wonderful time.

Going to London in the summer of 1967 and wandering around Carnaby Street whetted our fashion appetite, although we couldn't afford to buy any clothes there. And then to France, where we were blown away by the French girls' amazing style.

By the time graduation time came, our parents had managed to redirect us. Dottie went to Boston University to major in art, I went to Wilson College to major in French because I was really better at languages and I couldn't draw a straight line. The Mad Dob was put on hold, and life continued apace.

The upshot, 40 years later? Dottie is an art director, I'm a writer. We're both still involved in garment design. She specializes in Civil War costumes, crochets and sews. I can still sew, although I haven't for a long time. And you know what I do.

This is just one of the ties that bind. But it may be the most important. Because it's the fucking Vulcan mind meld. From age 9 to 58, things have remained the same--we still laugh at the same things, love the same things, and function the same way, more or less.

If nothing else in my life, I have had extraordinary friends. But this one, this lunatic of my childhood, is the best loved by far. And is she rare and handy? Need you ask? I love her muchly. (And if you ever run into Dottie, ask her about the "electrical" banana we stole one cold December night from a Christmas display downtown. And how she managed to ignite her bangs on the Bunsen burner in chemistry class, which she claims not to remember. But I do.)