Sunday, July 25, 2010

Number 8, Number 8, Number 8

Best Quote I Heard All Day
 I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works--Oscar Wilde

Yet another year passes.

I was trying to come up with some kind of witty surprise for my 8th blog birthday but the ole brain just ain't cranking out smart, snappy shit today.

Honest to God, my first entry on July 25, 2002, was a snorer. However, after that one, I got into the swing of things. I just reread the next entry, The KC's Top 10 List of Overrated Knitting Fads, and I have to say, knitting hasn't changed much. I still consider these ten items overrated. I might add a few more, though. Magic Loop being one. I know, lots of people love it. I find it more trouble than it's worth. Feel free to add to the list.

The History of the Knitting Curmudgeon
Going back to 1997, on the KnitList, I often got myself into flame wars because I refused to kiss knitting asses and frequently put the KnitDweebs on the spot when they acted like they knew all there was about knitting. And knew virtually nothing. That didn't stop them from running their cyber mouths.  I recall one biggie with the then-ubiquitous GM Almalfitano. Old timers will remember that one. She's now an Episcopal nun. God bless her. Heh.

Christmas 1998--Jimmy's birthday. I decided to buy him a copy of The Portable Curmudgeon. He laughed his ass off...but the word "curmudgeon" lodged itself in my head. At that time, we were on AOL, which offered simple websites for members. AHA! I decided it would be fun to make my own website and call it "The Knitting Curmudgeon." I wrote an essay on the origins of Aran knitting, had a section called "The Anatomy of a Knitting Disaster," and other knitting-related items whose topics I have forgotten after 12 years.

I updated The Knitting Curmudgeon occasionally, and people from the KnitList actually read it. By 2000, though, I was busy at work, going through a web development course, so I pretty much abandoned the website.

January 31, 2002. My world as I knew it was destroyed. My beloved Jimmy died suddenly after a short illness, acute myelogenous leukemia, and I was left bereft, bereaved, and lost. I struggled with my grief, shored up my guts, and continued on, not knowing where I was going but wending the wayward road back to life. On July 25th, I found the wayward road's emergency shoulder. Blogger.

WTF is a blog? A "weblog"? Could this be a project that would take my mind off my sorrow? I loved to write and it hit me that this might be a good way to exercise my skills.  I don't remember how I found out about blogs. Probably read about them in the NY Times. I remember the first blog I ever read was Bonne Marie Burns's Chic Knits. Cool! And then there was Chunky Delicious, another wonderful knitting blog. Stacey Joy's RedLipstick, Carrieoke's Knitting Blog. That was about it. This was long before the big blogs--Yarn Harlot and Wendy came a bit later.  I was psyched. So hence, The Knitting Curmudgeon became a blog.

Over time, I wrote about my life as well as knitting and then spinning. My gawd-awful dates and boyfriends. One of my favorite entries is Date-zilla. I don't think I'll EVER forget that one! It's the August 31, 2002 post, if you're interested. And then, there was Achim, the Nasty German, JT who I almost forgot about, and a few more one-hit wonders. With Liz growing up and dyeing her hair a ghastly blue, she became the Punk Princess. My mother, always an inspiration, made cameo blog appearances. And then there's Scrappy, my sister the scrapbooker. A cast of characters, indeed.

My spinning improved while writing the blog, with other bloggers being my inspiration. I was so impressed with ttheir spinning that I finally sat down at my Matchless, which had been gathering dust in the living room, and got up to spinning speed, so to speak. Just to toss in a picture to break up the text, here's my final Tour de Fleece silk laceweight.  Chasing Rainbows is wonderful shit! I shoulda put a penny in the strands for reference. Bite me.

The best thing about writing the blog is the wonderful friends I have made. Readers all of them, some of whom I've met in person, others who I hope to meet at Rhinebeck this year. Of course, there have been a few trolls whom I had to ban from the comments, one person in particular comes to mind, a witch who I suspect is a borderline personality and who has spread her hateful spewings on other blogs as well as mine. I won't name names but she is a "designer." Yeah, so to speak. And then there was the onslaught of the Purling Puppies, members of the webring of the same name, whose delicate egos I offended when I mocked their puppies 'n' knitting fixations--they flooded my comments with shrill shrieks. Shit, I have a puppy but Sam has nothing to do with my fiberwork.

As I always say, I write for myself, not for others. I knit and design for myself, not for others. But the Others mean the world to me. That's YOU, skanks. The Tontant Weaders who've followed me on my knitting and occasionally bipolar journey are rare and handy. OK, enough of this shit. I have knitting and spinning to do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Idiot Cord for a True Maroon

Best Quote I Heard All Day  

  It is better of course to know useless things than to know nothing.--Tom Stoppard

If I spent time foraging in my brain to figure out how many useless things I know, I'd never get useless things done. 

Yes, this blog is filled with useless shit. Like the next bit about I-Cord. Whatta maroon!

Knitting Nancy, French Knitting, Spool Knitting...and then, I-Cord
Well, you all honored EZ with the invention of I-Cord, although she used her term "unvented" when discussing it. Certainly, EZ took I-Cord to the nth degree.

But as Ted mentioned in the comments, French Knitting (my mother always called the tool a Knitting Nancy) uses a spool with four nails hammered around the top edge--it has been around longer than EZ. 

I've found a wonderful book published in 1909 by Mary A. McCormack called "Spool Knitting." Check it out here in .pdf format. Now, if you need a chimney cleaner, you can put your I-Cord to good use following Ms. McCormack's directions.

Project Gutenberg is a free, open library where you can download books whose copyrights have expired. That's where I found "Spool Knitting" but the link I've given you is from American Libraries Internet Archive because the .pdf displays the book in its original, charming format.

Is there such a thing as Imbecile-Cord for seriously stupid knitters? There's a Ravelry group for Mensa members (I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members, as Groucho said). But no KnitDweeb group. What a pity. That means they're running rampant but at least I don't have to read their warshcloth, acrylic prayer shawl adventures.

Spun Out
I've got blisters on my fingers! (OK, skankettes, who said that? On what song? I gotta keep you sharp, dontcha know.)

I could write an article about spinning silk top. But I won't. Here's how ya do it:
  • Rule 1: Don't spin from the top without dividing it into little strips. If you don't break it down, you'll end up with a disgusting mess.
  • Rule 2: Always use Scotch tensioning (no Irish tensioning, no double-drive) and start with light tension. If your tension is too strong, the twist will get away from you. You can adjust the speed of your treadling until you're comfortable with the tension.
  • Rule 3: Don't fucking clutch the fiber! EVER. 
  • Rule 4: Measure and count, measure and count. That's a rule for any fiber, if you want consistency in your single.

Got it? Good. The picture below shows finished Bobbin #1 and a strip of the silk. I'm almost done with the second bobbin, hopefully with plied fiber in time for the end of Tour de Fleece on Saturday.

Can't wait to knit this shit.

Fiberality Fucking Around
Still designing socks and other things, although it looks like I'll be going back to work as of August 2. I'd like to introduce you to my premier sock model, Ms. Elisabeth Wagner, aka Punk Princess, prior to our recent photo shoot.
Such ebullient excitement! ("Yeah, OK, Gram. I'll do it if I can keep the socks. HURRY UP with the camera already!")

I've got directions to finish but here are two that will be available anon:
Miz Mermaid cuff-down socks, made with Black Bunny Fibers SoftSilk sock yarn. This is a simple slip-stitch pattern that works very well with hand-painted yarn. The pattern will be available on I'm going to give it to Carol, too, so she can give it away with the yarn, if she likes.

And here's the Leaves of Grass socks redo:
More SoftSilk. I love this stuff. I'll put up the link to the .pdf here, in the sidebar, and make it available via Ravelry too.

Tick, Tick, Tick
In just a few days, on July 25th, I'll be celebrating this blog's 8th anniversary. 

It's hard to believe that I've been doing this since I was a young'un of 52. I promise I'll do something special on the 25th, although I haven't quite figured out what. The heat's making my brain everso unrare, unhandy, and generally funky.

Later, skanks.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Luddites Unite!

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.--Mark Twain.

Even though I am a FaceBook and Ravelry devotee, I'm convinced that there is TMI, as my daughter Corinne says.

Too much fucking information. And too little actual interpersonal connection these days. When was the last time you truly sat down with a good friend and talked about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness? I'm feeling the need to see the two most important friends from my childhood--Dottie and Peggy. The older I get, the more important these women are to me. The three of us share deep experiences--teenage heartbreak, fucked-up marriages (them, not me), and the births of our children.

It's time to get real, and trash the cyber connection.

Too Much Shit!
Have you ever really analyzed why you knit or spin? And why you have a stash? Mine is now out of control. When you start stumbling over stash yarn that you loved at first sight, had to buy, but whose sudden reappearance is a shockerooni--"Holy shit, where did THIS come from?"--what does that say about you?

With me, knitting and my stash has always been the sanity lifeline. I always said, if I stop knitting, get me to the hospital asap. Never mind that knitting allows me to make stuff I can use. That's the least of it. If my focus goes haywire, knitting always brings me back to the real world, fiber provides color and comfort, and a new design project gives me great anticipation and joy. Knitting is the "lover" that never disappoints.

That said, no, I'm not giving away any of my stash. Yet. If I do, it will go to nursing homes, not to friends. Or I'll sell it at the next Stash sale at Stix-n-Stitches.

Wheel On, Baby
So I've been spinning a shitload of silk for the Tour de Fleece. I posted pictures twice on my Ravelry team discussion boards but frankly, there's so many people putting up pictures, I'm thinking it's a waste of time. I'm on schedule with the silk, though.

Here's the first week's effort.

This is the first of the two 2-oz. tops that I have.

Silk can be a bitch to spin. Not recommended for beginners. Top can become very compressed, due to dye processing, and this top has needed a fair amount of pre-drafting in preparation for spinning. I carefully open up the fiber and use only a very thin strip of the top. I don't spin from the fold, usually, because I find annoying.

Silk can also be very tough on the fingers. I hold the fiber in my right hand, control the twist with my left hand thumb and index finger for my worsted draw. The tip of my index finger, through which the fiber slides, is feeling a bit sore. Today is a TdF rest day but I'll probably do some spinning anyway because that's my daily evening routine.

Obligatory and Ubiquitous Knitting Shit
I'm so glad the Punk Princess is going to college 15 minutes from my house because she's my sock model. On Wednesday, she's providing her feet for a couple of sock designs, including the Leaves of Grass redo.

I haven't felt like designing anything other than socks lately, probably because it's too fucking hot.

Longtime readers might remember this Gansey sock I designed.
I recently found the chart for this, so I'm going to redo it, size it for children, women, and men, and then publish it.

The Leaves of Grass sock will be available next week via Ravelry and as a download here. Tontant Weader Kat is doing it toe-up so I may rework the chart and directions for toe-up at some point. (Kat also got the answer to who sang "Hot, Hot, Hot"--Buster Poindexter.

Now, the question of the week is: Which do you prefer? Cuff down or toe up?

Lately I've been getting into toe-up, especially now that I've learned Judy's Magic Cast-on. Talk about rare and handy. This is the kind of contribution to knitting that I've been talking about. Is Judy a knitting "celeb"? No, she's a generous person who's given knitters a solution that is close to i-cord in value. However, should she write a book, I'd buy it, or make a personal appearance, I'd love to meet her.

Do you recall who invented i-cord? And what the "i" stands for? Go for it, skanks.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I'm hot -- You're hot -- He's hot -- She's hot

Best Quote I Heard All Day
If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?--Stephen Wright

Ole, ole! As I write this, it's 96 degrees F here in northeastern New Jersey. Yeah, I'm air-conditioned. Mammy didn't raise no fool. You get an A+ from me if you can name the singer who sang the lyrics in this post's title.

So besides adding to our family--Miz Sam, our new Beagle (with some Pomeranian) who we adopted this past Saturday, it's been slow living. Sam and Cleo have sniffed each other and declared a quasi-friendship.

Me mind on fire -- Me soul on fire -- Feeling hot hot hot
So the question that's been posed by several friends on FaceBook is what do you knit when it's this hot? Or do you just dump the knitting entirely? I never stop, knitting or spinning. Summer is the time for laceweight shawls/scarves, silk/merino socks, and spinning silk.

What are you all working on in the heat? Do tell. My current project is a reworking of my Leaves of Grass sock pattern, my first sock design from 1997. The link will take you to the original pattern. It was my Christmas gift to the list. A number of people have made this sock pattern--here's the Ravelry link, if you're interested.

I hadn't read the pattern in years...and found a mistake. Of course. I've always loved this twin leaf pattern so I decided to redo the whole thing properly. Don't forget, back in 1997, we didn't have digital cameras, so many of the KnitList patterns were knitted on faith. The corrected pattern will be free, as it was back then, here and on Ravelry.

Holey Gusset, Batman!
OK, ready? Here's my modus operandi.

For a long time, I fucked around with common heel gusset holes. I tried spanning the gusset junctions by picking up a thread on either side. This was truly half-assed and still left a small hole.

Then, I decided to spend some time analyzing the gusset architecture and lo! Gusset Epiphany!

I usually work my socks on 4 dps but depending upon the stitch pattern, I may use 2 circs. Magic Loop drives me fucking crazy. For newbie sock knitters, the figure below will give you an idea of how it works.

A common heel flap traditionally begins as follows: You take half the sock stitches, put them on hold for the instep (Needle 2), and then work the stitches on Needles 1 & 3 for the flap, generally using the heel stitch--Slip first stitch purlwise, k1, slip 1: repeat across row, then turn, slip first stitch purlwise, and purl across.

I realized that when you slip the first stitch, you strand from the last stitch on Needle 2 (stranding occurs with circs, too) to the second stitch on Needle 3, as shown below.
Here's where the hole problem starts. You can see it clearly in the photo.

Gotta get rid of this stranding. The solution? Knit 2 rows of stockinette without slipping the first stitches. Then start the heel stitch pattern with the initial slipped stitch. No stranding.

Let's say that we've got 30 stitches for our heel flap, the formula for which dictates that you work 30 rows, slipping the first stitch of every row so that you can use the resulting chained edge for the gusset pickup--15 chains on each side of the flap. Working an extra two rows of stockinette means that each gusset edge will need another stitch--that makes 16 stitches for each edge.

OK, so far, so good. Once you've finished your heel flap and the shortrow heel turn, it's time for the gusset pickup, beginning on Needle 1. Because you knit the two rows of st st, you'll work the first pick-up to accommodate those rows, then hit the chain stitches.

Newbie Note: Always knit into the back of the chain stitch, which will twist the stitch and avoid a hole. See the picture below.
(Yeah, not a great picture but you get the idea.)

Once you've worked your way down the chains, you'll have to deal with the gusset junction--the area between the gusset edge and the instep.

Most sock patterns don't tell you WHERE to do the extra pickup, just to do it. WHERE is key.

Always pick up the junction stitch two rows below the last chain pickup. Don't pick up anything over on the instep.
Work the instep stitches on Needle 2.

Now you'll work backwards on Needle 3--pick up your junction stitch below the first chain stitch, do the chain stitch pickups, and end with your last pickup for the stockinette rows. A total of 17 stitches for each gusset edge.

The original formula called for 15 stitches. Will adding an extra 4 stitches to the gusset be a problem? Not at all. The extended gusset decreases will alter the width of the instep slightly, keeping it wider in circumference a bit more but it's not enough to affect the fit, really.

Here's the finished product:

Works for me. I'm always looking for rare and handy ways to make my work better.

Now, back to spinning for Tour de Fleece.