Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Turkey Mantra: Bite Me, Eat Me.

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.—Calvin Trillin

Not to denigrate my mother’s cooking skills but my brother and I often played games with “Leftovers Delight”, a gruesome dish that my mother created using leftover mystery meat, canned LeSeur peas, and canned potatoes. The gravy was a watery mishmash of bouillon and whatever juice the meat retained after a day’s refrigeration.

I remember Rich and I flinging peas at each other. Assassination via overcooked vegetables.

Aren’t you glad I wrote the above after the holiday? Jerry and I went to Scrappy’s for a fabulous dinner and then to his sister Pat’s for dessert, entertainment provided by his wonderful nieces Michelle aka Sheldon and Kelly. Michelle and I share the same birthday. She's studying at the Berkeley School of Music in Boston. The Sisty Uglers went their own ways, with Corinne, Liz, and Mike to his parents in Williamsburg, VA., and Jenn, Ian, and Norm staying home and cooking their own bird. Ma and BrĂ¼der Richard we at Scrappy’s too. Mammy’s doing quite well., although a bit washed out from her cancer treatments.

I’m spending this holiday weekend moving crap from PA to NJ, shoving in some knitting time, and getting the draft book outline pulled together. I found a reputable literary agent, one who will also serve well for non-knitting writing. Once I’ve finished “Knitting in Public”, I will move on to other writing. There’s only so far you can take writing about knitting, in my opinion. I’d rather reach a larger audience at some point. It would make for a good retirement job.

I’ve been toying about publishing a chapter here, to get feedback and hopefully constructive criticism. Authors should never evaluate their work. Depending upon how it goes with the book proposal submittal, I may do this.

Loopy’s Socks
One of my shove-it-down-my-throat projects is making these socks for Jerry’s nieces. I can complete one sock in about 6 hours or so. The glory of working with heavier yarn. These make terrific boot socks and I’ve been doing the sizing, so I expect to have a freebie pattern uploaded very soon for your knitting entertainment. The sizes will include children’s as well as women’s and men’s. Plain vanilla, nothing to them. So hardly a "design." One of the things I have in my head is to use the Raggi self-patterning for a hat design. I saw one done at Stix ‘n’ Stitches when I was there recently and have my own ideas for a funky but chic hat.

Where I’m going to find the fucking time to do all this shit is beyond me. I manage to shove 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag quite well but there are days when I’d like to lie in the bathtub and read for an hour, thinking about nothing. Oh yeah, I forgot. I've done some spindling too, when I get bored knitting these socks.

I bought this Corriedale at the Garden State Sheep & Wool show, from a local producer. It spins like buttah. Of course, my wonderful Golding spindle helps a lot. This is one of my Russian hand-painted spindles.

More on Da Mags
Interesting discussion in the comments for the last post. I truly don’t have a problem with magazines recycling old material as long as it’s clear that there’s nothing new in the issue, which IK did in their editor's note. For one thing, the designers get a small fee for reprint if they sold their designs as First North American Serial Rights or First Rights. If they sold all rights, the magazine owns their design. The other advantage to these recycled issues is that many people like to have popular patterns gathered into one issue, particularly if they didn’t buy the original issue or book where the design appeared.

On the other hand, new is always the best, although in IK’s case, I would say that they may be better off recycling old stuff.

Step mentioned the Brit magazine The Knitter, which I had bought and forgot to mention. As close as I’ve been able to tell, it’s been around for more than a year. The magazine features top designers like Martin Storey, Louisa Harding, Erica Knight. I bought mine at Barnes & Noble, if I recall correctly.

That’s the word I use for my world. I don’t live in reality, I live in fiberality. Despite the hectic work schedule, I’ve managed to get some spinning done. One of the projects I set forth for myself was to spin a heavier single. It may seem to novice spinners that spinning thin is difficult. It’s not. What’s difficult is to be able to flip between thin and thick. Brain retraining is required. Or perhaps brain regression.

I’ve always followed Mabel Ross’s advice: Measure and count. This is key. The rotation of the wheel matched with the draft makes for consistent spinning. So when spinning thicker, I had to readjust my rotation count and align it with drafting more fibers into the twist. It took me several minutes but here’s the result.

Here's some laceweight silk I've been spinning, the Chasing Rainbows I bought at Rhinebeck.

I am now confident that I can spin whatever I want. I spin what I like to knit, as a rule. But with weaving as another option, I’d like to spin some heavier, more interesting weft yarns.

I’m hoping to talk Sheila into moving towards selling spinning fibers and spindles in her shop. I’ve offered to teach a beginner’s class to get her going. Haven’t taught in a while but I do love to teach. Even working as a software trainer was fun. I make sure I leave ‘em laughin’. And knowing WTF they’re doing.

So, mes petite choux (that’s French for “my little cabbages”), time to get back to Jerry, who’s watching TV. Five days off, albeit moving crap most of the time. And then this coming Friday, Jerry’s having same-day surgery on his shoulder. Old war injury, so to speak. Well, actually an old touch football injury. So I will be playing Nancy Nurse. Now I ask you, is that not the most rare and handy role I could possibly play? Or perhaps it will be more like Nurse Ratchet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

She's back...mostly.

Best Quote I Heard All Day

As I get older, I just prefer to knit—Tracey Ullman

Right, Tracey. A true celebrity knitter…maybe. Somehow, I think she really can knit well. (Certainly Goldie Hawn is an experienced knitter. The rest—who gives a fuck.)

Except as I get older, it seems as if I keep adding other crap to my repertoire. Besides spinning and weaving, I can embroider and quilt. And sew, if I ever get my Bernina back from daughter Jenn, who designs her own medieval costumes for her SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms) events.

There’s not enough fucking time. Literally.

I’m finally back up and running, as long as I'm in NJ. I'll be moved in by the 30th. Until then, I won't be uploading any pictures. It’s been tough to function without internet at home. At work, they have it so locked down, as they should, that the best I can do is write a blog entry and save it until I can get it up on Blogger. Those of you familiar with WebSense, which allows network administrators to control where and what you can see on the web, know that blogs, social networks, and of course, nasty pictures, are banned. So I’ve relied on my BlackBerry to read e-mail and do FaceBook. Feh.

Mammy Update

She’s doing very well. Off to get her lymphoma zapped and her prognosis is excellent—she’s feeling quite chipper. Let’s put it this way, she’s busy knitting. told her that my readers sent her get well wishes. She doesn’t quite get what I do, either here or at work, but she did appreciate your kind thoughts.

Rhinebeck Feh

I have to say, I was not exceptionally thrilled about Rhinebeck this year. I barely saw anyone, other than Mel and David at their booth, Joe for a split second, Lorraine for a little while longer, Sean for another split second, Ted, Carol, Laura, and a few other guys from Easton Mountain whose names I’ve sadly forgotten.

Who I missed seeing:

  • My dearest Lee Ann Balazuc, who couldn’t make it again this year. Dude, if you don’t fucking show up next year, I swear I’ll drive up and kidnap you, Spiff, and Twinkle.
  • Veronik Avery, with whom I always enjoy chatting. Carol did give me some wonderful samples of her new St. Denis yarn. But still…I wish I’d seen her.
  • Mindy Soucek—I really, really felt bad that we didn’t run into each other. Mindy is very special to me.
  • Fredda Peritz—missed you, woman!
  • Lars Raines—I know, it’s tough for him with his insane schedule.
  • BJ Restropo—Beej, where WERE you???
  • Cheryl Anderson, who I wanted to meet very much.

Oh well. I did have Jerry with me but I told him that next year he stays home. Let’s face it, when you drag your significant other to these yarn/fiber extravaganzas, it’s a drag on you and on your love. Better he should stay home and watch some movies. I took Jimmy to Stitches once, years ago, and swore I would never take him again. You’d think I would have learned? Nope. So next year, I’ll do my one-day run on my own.

What I bought:

I was on the lookout for fiber other than merino, which seemed to be the overwhelming choice at MD S&W. I was rewarded at Rhinebeck, buying some various fibers. Silk, of course. I can’t resist Chasing Rainbows. Skanska had no cormo, sadly. But I did find some nifty dyed targee at Carolina Homespun, along with a little bit of pygora to sample. And then, there were the bags of mohair/merino.

My bad. I bought two more Golding spindles. I love the ones I already have and have been spinning this nice Corriedale on my little Golding spindle. The Russian hand-painted inset spindles are my favorites—I’m starting to collect them. Look at it this way—these days, I’m making plenty of bucks and I can afford to buy them. Besides all the “I’m going to be 60 and I’d better smell the roses” nonsense, having a lovely spindle in my hands makes me spin more.

So much for Rhinebeck this year. I will not go to MD again.

Joy of Sox

That’s actually a title I may use if I ever do a sock book. God knows people suck up sock books like shop vacs.

Generally, I take time in October to replenish the sock drawer. Two lightweight pair for me, two Raggi pairs, one for Jerry and one for me.

I enjoy designing socks but when it comes to making my own, I could care less about patterning. I use the same plain vanilla 60-stitch pattern with self-patterning yarn that I’ve worked for the past 15 years. It fits. I wear them with my Mary Janes to work. I don’t need anything else.

As far as the Raggi socks go, I call them the “Loopy” socks because Loop turned me on to Raggi. She has made her husband Jerry socks from Raggi for a long time. Again, these are plain vanilla. I made my Jerry a pair last winter and he loved them so much, I’m at it again.

I may size the Raggi socks and then put the pattern up here as a freebie.

Da Mags

I’m sorry to say that IK is a mess. Vague seems to be getting back on track, thank God. But IK is foundering. It was bad enough watching Knitter’s go down the crapper but now, IK is racing down the poop chute. Reviewing the fall issue, it struck me that the designs’ colors were drab. No matter how well designed the garments may have been, the issue as a whole was downright grim.

WTF are they thinking? I realize that it’s been quite some time since I did a magazine but there are some design concepts that don’t change.

Concept #1: Don’t fuck up the page layout by cluttering it with little photos that cause “eye confusion.”

Concept #2: Work with a photographer who understands the vagaries of shooting knitted garments and is willing to teach you how to style. IK’s photos are often badly lit, frequently staged in an uninteresting location, and most of the models lack character. I rather miss the red-haired IK model of the past. One of the best photographers I ever had the honor to work with was Ian O’Leary, who did the photography for Sasha Kagan’s first few books. Ian taught me how to style sweaters, how to capture the design’s personality, and how to choose and work with live models.

Concept #3: Make sure that the editorial pages stand out and don’t look like advertisements. Otherwise, you’ll have confused readers.

I have found a good magazine, new to me, and one that I think is a serious threat to IK—Creative Knitting. It reminds me very much of the old IK, with directions on the left-hand page, photo on the right. No little bits and pieces scattered across the spread. The issue I picked up had some very nice designs. Check this one out. I have a feeling that it’s an up-and-comer.

My other favorite magazine is online—Twist Collective, by Kate Gilbert and her crew. This is undoubtedly the classiest netzine I’ve read in a long time. Yes, I know. Knitty and Knitter’s Review are beloved. Honestly, I find them less interesting than TC.

All that said, the IK Accessories special issue is arguably the best publication they've done in a long time. Well worth the fifteen bucks.

Spin-Off, Handwoven, and PieceWork continue to be exemplary magazines.

Other Obligatory Knitting Shit

I’ve been pretty busy, in the little spare time that I have. Besides the pile of socks, I've finished several designs for the book, spun a fair amount, and written another book chapter. I think I've scared the shit out of Jerry with the boxes of yarn that I've packed up, not to mention my library. I'll have pictures next week of some works-in-progress but until then, you'll have to make do with plain ole flat text.

Once I've moved in with Jer, I'll have my own room for a little studio. After two years, I'll be able to open up the big loom. Somehow, I'll pack in some weaving time. Time management--rare and more than handy.

By the way, if you really want to know what the fuck I'm doing, you can friend me on FaceBook if you let me know that you read the blog. I will most likely set up a separate page for my design work in the next few weeks. I don't bother with Twitter these days.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Yikes! No Internet

Yes, it's true. I'm in the process of moving back to NJ and in with my love Jerry. So the internet is gone until I get my ass situated in a couple of weeks. Daughter Jenn has been kind enough to let me use her connection while I'm visiting.

Lots going on. Book is well on its way, I've done a huge amount of spinning, knitted four pairs of socks, and finished another design. Plus work has been busy. My days are chock full. Of nuts, sometimes.

I promise, as soon as I get my internet back, I'll be posting a lot. God, I miss blogging. Btw, Mom is doing superly. Heh. She's going for treatment but the doctors expect her to recover fully. Listen, she's back to knitting and rooting for the Yankees. Can't ask for more.

Talk to you all soon!