Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is This the Party to Whom I am Speaking?

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry. They’re going to pry it out of my hands.—Barack Obama

Fortunately for the Prez, he’s being allowed to keep his BB, now with special security-enhanced software.

You have to love a President who’s savvy enough to appoint a CIO for the country. It’s about time.

And I understand his love for his CrackBerry. I can’t access my personal e-mail at work, or for that matter, FaceBook. But I can on my BB.

I guess FB is out of the question for him, though.

We loves Web 2.0, precioussss.

Grouped Up
I’ve never been a joiner but lately, I’ve been going to a Wednesday night knitting group and enjoying it. After a day filled with tech crap, it’s good to clear my brain at least one night a week, see other people, and talk shop.

Last week, I brought my Joy and BJ brought her Louet and we had a little spinning lesson. I think Beej finally got the hang of it. I know that it helps a lot to watch other people draft. Talking to other knitters is good. The quality of knitting that I’ve seen in this group gives me some hope that the bar is starting to be raised.

It All Starts With a Slip Knot, Ya Know
It’s always been a concern of mine that knitters in general are overly dependent on sources other than themselves for help. It’s fine to ask for help if you’re hopelessly screwed up and you tried hard to do it yourself first before screaming SOS. However, I’m afraid that it’s been a national malaise for a long time, this “I’m owed an explanation, hold my hand” attitude.

I and other friends my age, like Loopy, had no resources back in the early ‘70s, when we picked up our needles and began to knit seriously. I cut my teeth on Mon Tricots, those wonderful French knitting magazines that I discovered around 1977. I read every set of directions for every garment and tried to visualize what was going on, usually in the bathroom, where I do my best reading. And I’d pull out my needles and some scrap yarn and practice stitch patterns. There was no one to ask so I learned by trial and error, mostly error. When I discovered Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1978, I realized that I wasn’t a blind follower because I had bumbled and stumbled my way into knitting competency.

Is it good that there are now You Tube videos for virtually every knitting function? I think so but there’s something to be said for figuring shit out on your own. It builds self-reliance and confidence, as well as the ability to troubleshoot.

In other words, think for yourself before you ask everyone on Ravelry what you should do. It is a good thing that there is a wealth of useful resources available now. However, it’s the extraneous shit that tends to boggle the mind.

Old Sweaters Never Die
I dragged my first Alice Starmore, the Morning Glory vest from Stillwater, out of the cedar chest this morning. I hadn’t worn it in several years. The vest is now 12 years old. (Just for shits ‘n’ giggles, I looked up Stillwater on Alibris.com—the going prices is $232. Gawd.)

Other than one button missing, the vest is in great shape. I tend to keep my stuff for a long time. The oldest sweater I have dates back to 1983, a Perry Ellis bolero that I made from Manos. It still looks like new, amazingly. Manos tends to pill like a bitch, which is why I rarely work with it.

Spinning Shit
Well, besides helping BJ with her spinning, I was the happy recipient last week of arguably the best spinning book ever written—The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin, published by Interweave Press.

This book, besides its comprehensive chapters on fiber—animal, vegetable, and synthetic—gives the most lucid explanation of drafting methods that I’ve ever read. Mabel Ross’s book, Handspinning, was my Bible when I was learning how to spin. And I still defer to her “measure, count” advice. But McCuin, with her excellent explanations and photographs, takes the subject matter and makes it comprehensible to rank beginners.

My one beef about the book are her ops cit for Spin Off articles from past issues. What I call “See thises”. I would have preferred seeing these placed in the Bibliography and Further Reading appendix rather than directly in the text. It’s one thing when you’re writing a textbook for historians or scientists. It’s another when you write for hobbyists. When you place this kind of citation in the body, the reader gets cranky because it’s highly likely that they don’t have access to the issue in question, nor will they be able to get it. Given that Interweave publishes Spin Off, it would have been far simpler for McCuin to include passages from the articles in question rather than tease the reader with “for more detailed information.”

I say, gimme the detailed info HERE and NOW.

The point that McCuin makes in the book and one that I’ve always posited is that an expert spinner is not one who can spin thin. It’s a spinner who can spin whatever weight of yarn they desire. This is the true test of a skilled spinner and one that I’m working towards achieving.

Jerry’s Aran
I cranked away at this over the weekend and managed to get more than 36 rows done. Cabling is slow going.

All in all, I’m pleased with the results so far. As is Jerry.

In several ways, this is far from a traditional Aran. For one thing, it’s not knit in bainin, the oiled Irish yarn that is scarcer than hen’s teeth to find. Jerry already has a Aran that he bought in Ireland on a trip there some years ago, so I wanted to make him something a bit lighter. My use of seed stitch as a side filler is also not particularly traditional.

The stitch patterns that I chose are not seen very often in the Aran sweaters made in Ireland. Frequently, they incorporate varying combinations of a double moss stitch-filled diamond central panel and other basic symmetrical central panels, simple six-row cables, Trinity stitch, double moss for filler, plus traveling stitch patterns such as Marriage Lines and Tree of Life. If you examine these sweaters, they are very basic in their design. Wonderful sweaters, to be sure. But not terribly complex. However, lately I’ve seen some Arans that are pretty complicated and done in different colors along with the traditional ecru.

It would be more accurate to call my design an Aran-style pullover. I’m thinking I may design a really traditional Aran for myself, since I don’t own one. Yeah, kiss me, I’m German. And now it's time to help Mr. McCarty use Internet Explorer. He may be rare and handy but not computer literate.

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