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.)