Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Hey kids,

I've been asked-nay, commanded-to step away from the keyboard for a couple of days and get some profound rest. I expect to be back on Monday, full of piss 'n' vinegar.

In the meantime, talk quietly amongst yourselves.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I came home last night to the smell of baking brownies. The embroidered cloth I bought in Budapest was on the table, along with a stack of the best dishes and the silver epergne full of baby roses.

Dolores was in the kitchen, pulverizing a pile of avocados into fresh guacamole.

Dolores Cooks

"This is a pleasant surprise," I said. "Is it by any chance a...belated birthday dinner? Hmmmm?"

"Book group," said Dolores, tossing a pinch of salt into the bowl.

"You joined a book group?"

"No, I started a book group. You think I can sit around with the sock yarn all day watching Nickelodeon? I pulled out Catullus the other night just for shits and grins and realized my subjunctives are slipping. I need stimulation, cupcake."

"Did your batteries go dead again?"

"Vulgarity is not appreciated. Now get out of the way so I can mix the sangria."

"How many people are coming?"

"Just three of us. It's only our first meeting. I put up a sign in the laundry room but this building is full of Philistines. So we got Harry, Mrs. Teitelbaum, and me."

"She's not bringing Tinkles, is she? Harry's still got that twitch in his eye."

"Of course not. How could Tinkles read the book? He's a cat."

"Oh. Of course."

I went into the bedroom to change clothes. Harry was reading quietly on the chair in the corner.

"Good book?" I asked.

Harry Reads

"I think so," he said. "I don't understand all of it. But Dolores says if I expand my mind it will give me greater range as an actor."

"How true."

"Also she said being smart is a great way to pick up guys."

"Did she really?"

"Yeah. Like, she said if it weren't for your brain being kind of big you'd get about as much action as a shy cloistered nun with a suspicious rash."

An hour later, the Coven of Intellectuals convened in the living room while I sat nearby spinning the last of Rabbitch's merino. Dolores, naturally, took the lead.

"I think we should begin by discussing our initial reactions to the work," she said. "For example, I found it to be a profoundly moving exegesis of the female mind, and a testament to the power of exploring the depths of one's own soul. Mrs. Teitelbaum, what did you think?"

"I don't understand what it had to do with airplanes," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.

Dolores rolled her eyes.

"Well," said Mrs. Teitelbaum, "it's called Fear of Flying."

"That's a metaphor," said Dolores.

"What's a metaphor?" said Harry.

"It's when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly," said Mrs. Teitelbaum.

"No," said Dolores, sucking in her breath. "That's a metamorphosis."

"Oh," said Mrs. Teitelbaum. "Pardon me for living."

"I couldn't finish it all," said Harry timidly. "And I didn't understand a lot of it. Like, what's a zipless fu–"

"Harry!" I said, jumping up from the spinning wheel, "How about we go in the other room and have a brownie and I'll read you the next chapter of My Friend Flicka?"

"Yay!" shouted Harry, rolling off the sofa.

"Is the meeting over?" asked Mrs. Teitelbaum vaguely.

"Yeah," said Dolores. "We're adjourned. Here, take some guacamole home with you. Shalom."

She shoved our neighbor out the door and pulled her coat out of the hall closet.

"Where are you off to?"

"I gotta go buy batteries."

Welcome to My Library

It's been very bookish in the apartment lately, quite aside from Dolores's attempt to establish herself as the kultur maven of Lake Park Plaza.

I've been a bibliomaniac literally for as long as I can remember. The first gifts I can recall were books. My earliest memories of my parents involve bedtime stories. And I'm told that as a toddler I used to smack our patient German Shepherd, Sandy, with The Poky Little Puppy and command, "Read!" My appetite for a good yarn is far older than my appetite for good yarn.

My personal library has grown like a bed of mushrooms since the first pile of Little Golden Books landed next to the crib. Now, I'm not one of those people who never gets rid of books once I own them. I have a strict schedule of two cullings a year, spring and fall, during which deadwood is ruthlessly removed. But I usually get rid of three or four books each time. In a given month, I usually acquire five or six. Or ten.

Get the picture?

I've never counted or catalogued them, until now. That nice Brenda Dayne, hostess of Cast On, mentioned many episodes back and I was intrigued. I opened an account and am slowly working my way to the finish line, enjoying the process of handling every book individually. I estimate that I'm a bit less than half done.

Care to have a look at the work-in-progress? Feel free.

Tips: If you choose Display Style "D" you'll see my comments, where I record marginalia, inscriptions, or other aspects of the book. And if you search for the tag "beloved," you'll pull up the list of volumes dearest to my heart.

Also: No liquids, no cigarettes, anything before 1850 must be handled with gloves, and you will be frisked at the door before you leave. I understand Book Lust all too well.

And Finally

Many, many thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes and comments. It was good day. I am happy to be alive. And I am so happy you are all out there.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Each One, Teach One, Finale

In Which Willibald Leaves the Chrysalis and Takes Flight

When last we saw him, my student Willibald was sitting on my couch trying to kill me with dirty looks as he struggled with his first swatch of purl stitches. I understood the fellow. He, like me, feels compelled to master anything, however difficult, with speed and ease. If this does not happen he gets angry with himself.

At such a time a cooling-off period is the best remedy. I knew his subconscious would keep on purling, and when he next gave it a go there'd be a marked improvement.

We ended the lesson, and I sent him home.

"You just need some practice," I reassured him. For the fortieth time.

"I'm doing this for fun. I'm not going to do this if it's not fun," he said. For the fortieth time.

It so happened that almost the next day Willibald left Chicago for the holidays, and so did I. In the spirit of optimism I'd given him a copy of The Knitting Answer Book and he promised to pack it along with his needles, yarn, and London Beanie pattern.

A good night's sleep stiffened his resolve, and he called from the East Coast to tell me he'd decided to just purlpurlpurlpurlpurl until he cracked it.

I waited expectantly for word, and when it came it surpassed my hopes.

"I finished the ribbing!" he crowed. Apparently he'd leapfrogged right over the swatch.

There were misplaced stitches here and there, but not enough to make him rip back. I wished him godspeed as he headed for the crown and his first encounter with multiple decreases.

Willibald's holidays were busy, but he called me to say he was sneaking in knitting here and there, even as he drove with friends from one destination to the next.

I smiled quietly. Knitting in the car. Most promising.

Sure enough, I got a message just before New Year's Eve. He'd jumped from the circular needle to the dpns without a hitch and could see the Promised Land. And then, another message.

"Call me! I need you! Emergency! Emergency!"

When he answered my ring, he was audibly distraught. On practically the last row, he discovered what he thought was a dropped stitch–several rows back. I smacked my forehead. I hadn't shown him how to pick one up. On the other hand, the fellow was a surgeon.

"Do you have your book there?" I asked.


"I'm sure you can follow the instructions for fixing a dropped stitch," I said. "It's simple. All you need is a crochet hook. Did you remember to pack your crochet hook?"




We decided he'd secure the rogue stitch with a safety pin and bring it to me after New Year's Day, and I'd show him how what to do. But his tone drooped. "I was so excited. I really wanted to wear it to my next lesson and surprise you," he said.

Poor fellow. I was still thinking about it two hours later, as I clicked along on a lace swatch. The telephone rang. It was Willibald. Shrieking.

"It's done!"


"It's done! It's done! I picked up the dropped stitch and finished the hat and you can't even tell where the problem was! I did it! It's done!"

"But how did you–"

"In a pinch," he said proudly, "a fondue fork makes a decent substitute for a crochet hook."

Of course it does. Clever boy.

Since finishing his first hat Willibald has kept on trucking, altering the beanie pattern on his own to make a second hat in colors and proportions specfically requested by his partner–who is contentedly wearing the first one. He bought the yarn at Arcadia Knitting on his own, and had a chance to bask in the praise of the lovely ladies who'd sold him his first yarn.

Willibald's Knitting
Willibald's First Finished Objects

Of course, he keeps telling me it's still not fun yet. He swears he may just stop at any minute.

Yeah. Right. Me too.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I have it on the authority of a guy who was preaching in my subway car last night that because our city allowed a Gay Pride parade and hosted the Gay Games, Lake Michigan is getting bigger and deeper and is going to rise up and destroy the greater Chicagoland area.

I asked him if he knew exactly when this was going to happen, but he didn't. He just said we're living at the end of days, and so we have to repent now. Right. Like I don't have enough to do this weekend.

He couldn't even tell me exactly how to repent, although I understand vaguely that it involves a trip to the South Side. That's one heck of a train ride. Maybe I could get Aidan take care of it for me, since he lives down there anyway.

I also asked the guy if only the gay people would drown, but he said no, everybody's going under. Unless, I suppose, they've gone outlet shopping in Gurnee for the day.

On behalf of my tribe, I 'd like to say that I'm really sorry, especially if you just bought a condo near the lake. I didn't think repeated viewings of The Women and a fondness for leather motorcycle gear could lead to something so catastrophic or I'd have been more careful. But this guy swears it's true. Hurricane Katrina, it seems, was brought on by the evil convergence of lycra t-shirts, back issues of Honcho and old Barbra Streisand LPs.

He did take care to point out that it's just the gay men who are responsible. Lesbians, you're in the clear, because you're "kinda hot, whooo-eee!"

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pump up my Floaties and put on my swim fins.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Each One, Teach One, Part Two

If you missed the first part of the saga, it's here.

In Which We Grapple with Continental Purl

As you might expect of one who has cut people open, rearranged their insides, and stitched them up again (without killing them), Willibald has steady nerves and nimble fingers. Teaching him the long-tail cast on and the knit stitch was as easy as Britney Spears just before last call.

I got him started on a garter stitch scarf in alternating blocks of gray and gray. After pulling back his work twice he sped forth, jumping right over the color change without a hitch. His first block or so showed the variations in tension that we all deal with at the beginning, leading him to insist the scarf was not a scarf, but an "irregular polygon." But he persevered, and when the scarf had reached about half its length we began to discuss his next move.

Slippers were briefly considered, but he liked the idea of knitting a hat to go with the scarf. And so I pulled out the old reliable London Beanie. It has stripes to give it a bit of interest, and the tight, short fit means it moves quickly.

"All we need to do," I said, "is teach you to purl. That way you can do the ribbing at the bottom."

"Is it difficult?" he asked.

"A little fidgety at first," I said. "But with some practice it becomes second nature."

So we sat down cozily with two cups of green tea and soft music, and picked up our needles. Half an hour later, Willibald was eyeing me with the sort of beady-eyed hatred normally reserved for ex-boyfriends who sleep with your sister. (Or brother.)

"I don't like purling," hissed Willibald through clenched teeth.

"I can see that," I said. "But you just need to keep trying, and it will click for you. I promise."

"Do I have to purl?" he said.

"Well, strictly speaking, no. But it'll keep you from doing a lot of cool things if you can't."

"This doesn't work," he said. "There has to be a better way."

"Well, it's been done like this for at least a couple of centuries, so it has been proven to work. But if you can figure out an alternative, please make sure you let me know."

"Don't take that tone with me."

"You need to relax."

"I am relaxed."

"Dude, you just bent a steel needle in half."

"I have extremely muscular fingers."

"I think we're done for tonight."

What will happen next? Will Willibald ever learn to purl? Will Franklin strangle him with a 24" Addi Turbo and bury him under a pile of stashed Rowan? And what about Naomi?

A Little More About the New Wheel

Nothing magnifies joy like sharing it with others, and so I was delighted at the response to the new arrival in our house. There were a couple of questions, so let's take a minute and answer them.

Szarka asked whether the crank hole (giggle) in the drive shaft (giggle) was elongated from wear and whether this interfered with operation as it does on her wheel. I took a look, and the hole is as it was made - no distortion. It operates perfectly, although before I could get the drive wheel to rotate consistently in one direction I did have to treadle quite a bit to get a feel for how much force and frequency (giggle giggle) to use.

Ted asked if the wheel is tiny, and suggested that it might be designed for flax. Sharp eye, Ted, just as I'd expect. The wheel is quite small (though not miniature) which I like because when I sit at it I look like a basketball player. It also has a distaff, and the flyer hooks are placed so as to encourage spinning Z—or it is S? Whichever is the opposite of the usual direction for wool. The orifice, though, is no smaller than the orifice on my Ashford. (Heh heh. Big orifice.)

Heather asked for a closer shot of the inlay (yes, it's inlay) on the bench. Here you are.

Wheel Inlay

Odd, isn't it? The top bit is obviously a shield. There's more inlay around the rim (giggle, snort) of the table. If anybody reading this has similar marks on their wheel, needless to say I'd love to hear from you.

There were questions about, and suggestions for, names. I don't know that I'll name it. I used to be a namer of inanimate objects. My computer in college was called Fanny. But when your sock yarn starts to talk to you and impinge on the hospitality of friends, it sort of kills the thrill.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hippie Feet

Sometimes knitting turns out to be more than just knitting.

The lime green socks I started on the Los Angeles trip are complete. So complete, in fact, that I'm wearing them as I type this. Right up to the bit of weaving, I doubted whether I'd truly have the gumption to wear them.

Turns out I do.

Lime Socks

These are dear to me, even though they're knit with simple wool (Wildfoote) in a pattern I've already done once before. Buying the yarn was an act of rebellion, an alliance with everything I thought I didn't like and wouldn't wear.

I will turn 36 on January 24th. Often I feel a bit sad to think how I spent my twenties–the years in which one is supposed to be wild and adventurous–strapped into roles and clothes I thought I wanted because almost everyone around me was insisting I should want them.

I was such a buttoned-down little thing. On the outside, polo shirts, topsiders and, I blush to remember, a collection of waistcoats* and bow ties. Inside, a dedicated assimilationist who believed quite firmly that the gay community would be granted its civil rights if we could only act "straight" enough.

I lived in a state of chronic discomfort and couldn't figure out why. Now I know it was because I was being suffocated and strangled by my own choices.

Like it or not, I've turned out to be the very thing I despised at the time: a damn hippie. An eccentric, spinning-wheel-owning, tree-hugging, meditating, earth-loving, war-hating, man-kissing, drum-beating hippie. Who wears loud socks. Or whatever else he wants to.

And bless my soul, it sure feels good.


*Upon reflection, I still like the waistcoats. Properly tailored, they look kind of snuggly on a small man. Peter Rabbit-ish.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It Followed Me Home. Can I Keep It?

So this weekend a friend and I went on a little road trip out of Chicago and finished up our intended errand earlier than expected. He suggested that as long as we were out, we might stop on the way home at an antiques mall we'd passed earlier. Indeed, I had no objection.

The antiques mall turned out to be more of a multi-dealer junk shop. You know the kind of thing–ugly Venetian glass ashtrays from the 50s, and cartoon lunch boxes from the 70s. I balk at seeing things I owned as a child under the banner of "antiques." It's not quite time for that yet.

We were on the way out, passing the very last stall, when some sort of alarm bell went off in my head. I turned around and, half buried behind country-kitsch tree ornaments and faux-colonial table lamps shaped like Betsy Ross french kissing Benedict Arnold, I spotted...a spinning wheel.

"I need to go look at that," I said.

I fully expected the wheel to be:
  1. fake;
  2. transformed into a lamp or planter;
  3. missing half its vital organs;
  4. ridiculously overpriced; or
  5. all of the above.
I pulled it out from behind the hill of bric-a-brac and gave it a quick once-over, then a slower once-over. Drive wheel, check. Mother-of-all, maidens, flyer, check. Treadle, check. Tension screw, check. Legs, check. Distaff, check, aside from the topmost bar.

There had to be a catch. I swung the treadle, which had been tied back, into position and reconnected the footman to the crank. The wheel was unlubricated but still spun with surprising ease. The wheel itself was still perfectly true. I had no string to make a drive band, but the flyer, which had all its hooks but one, spun easily on the leather bearings.

The frame didn't even wobble. No sign of rot, no cracks, no sloppy repairs on the underside with nails or glue.

Was it a fake? If so, it was a very clever fake. The wood was old, fine-grained stock, and the table was rough-hewn on the underside. All the joins were authentic. The turnings were machine-lathed, but original. There were traces of the orignal red ochre paint on several of the turnings. It obviously had not been cobbled together from a random collection of incomplete wheels.

To my eyes, which I grant are not expert, it seemed to be an intact, nicely-preserved, Eastern European wheel from the last quarter of the 19th century. Or a well-nigh perfect reproduction of the same.

Gritting my teeth, I flipped over the red price ticket. Less than 100 dollars. Much less than 100 dollars.

My vision went all blurry. And then suddenly we were back in the car going home, and I owned two spinning wheels. Because having just one spinning wheel in my high-rise Chicago living room wasn't weird enough.

That night, I felt as though I'd taken in a healthy but neglected puppy off the street. The little thing lapped up half a bottle of lemon oil and quite a bit of wheel oil. When I first put on the drive band, it groaned a bit as the works began to rotate for possibly the first time in years. But I coaxed it, and offered more oil, and fiddled with the tension, moving very slowly. Within two hours, it was purring contentedly. The action was almost as smooth as my Ashford's.

I finally understood why my father got so much satisfaction from fixing cars and stereos. Only took me 35 years, Pop, but hats off to you for showing me the way.

It's missing only one vital part: the bobbin. However, I'm confident I can get a set made without much trouble or expense. I've got good, close-up photographs from similar wheels, I've worked through Alden Amos's detailed formulae for computing double-drive ratios, and my folks know people with lathes. I've already started making measured drawings.

Now, like any new parent, may I present a few photographs?

The New Old Wheel

Flyer Assembly

Drive Wheel

Daddy's so proud. Thank you for indulging me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On the Charts

If you look over my list of finished objects in the sidebar, you'll notice something that I admit came as quite a surprise to me. Well before my skill level justified it, I began to rebel against published patterns. Not that they weren't useful, and often appealing. It's just that the initial urge–"Hey, I want to make that!"–is usually followed closely by another–"Hey! I want to change that!"

When I started to experiment with color knitting and lace, I realized drawing up charts was a skill I ought to acquire so as not to waste time and yarn. I invested in a giant pad of graph paper and found I quite enjoyed the process...provided the patterns were relatively small.

Sketching by hand was no trouble for smallish motifs, covering perhaps 25 stitches square or fewer. But when I started dreaming in lace and decided I wanted to mix an array of Shetland stitch patterns into a single piece, my troubles began.

It's one thing to painstakingly map out part of a stole that's 200 stitches wide and 100 stitches tall. It can be an exhilirating contemplative experience, and a wonderful exercise in concentration.

It's quite another thing to knit from your chart, realize you want to shuffle the motifs a bit here or there in order to improve the piece, and then contemplate redrawing the entire...freaking... chart...

And for me, the impulse to tear out my hair is doubly frustrating as nature long ago anticipated me in that area.

I knew charting software was available, but when I began to hunt for it none of the well-known applications supported Macs (a situation that has since changed). I bleated about this in a blog entry, and got a message from the dear lady at the helm of the Knit Foundry. Fear not, she said, help is on the way.

And so it was.

For the past several months I've had the pleasure of working with Knit Visualizer. It's the first and only charting software I've ever used, so I can't offer you a comparative review. However, by happy chance one is available from my comrade Marilyn, who knows from software.

What I can tell you is that I was able to use Knit Visualizer out of the box with little initial reference to the documentation–and the documentation, when needed, is excellent. As Marilyn points out, this software is what you get when a knitter and a developer inhabit the same body.

I'll give you the two limitations I've found, and they're minor. First: the software does not allow the creation of color charts...yet. The next upgrade, I am told, will take care of that. Second, there seems to be no simple way to substitute one stitch for another. For example, if you've used the diamond symbol to represent "red" in your chart and wish to change all instances of the diamond to another symbol, so far as I've been able to find this isn't possible.

On the other hand, the ease of use is admirable. A stupendously broad and deep palette of symbols is provided for the user, with everything from the most common symbols for purl and k2tog, to a cavalcade of cables and esoteric increases and decreases. Quite complicated charts can be put together with surprising ease.

I agree with Marilyn that the stand-out feature is the pattern text parser, which allows you to type pattern instructions into the software and watch, amazed, as the finished chart appears before you. The parser is optimized to work with patterns as written in Barbara Walker's famous Treasuries, and to date I've used it countless times to do up charts for lace patterns I've needed to swatch.

This is no small boon. I'm hard at work on the christening shawl for Phil and Susan's baby, a piece I hope will become an heirloom. Less time drawing dots in little boxes means more time knitting, and I estimate conservatively that I've probably saved six to eight hours thanks to Knit Visualizer.

I also used it to chart the donkey for the Littlest Democrat sweater. I could probably have done it by hand, but using the computer freed me up to tinker and manipulate until I was absolutely satisfied with what I'd done.

The slick, flexible print interface means I can share the chart with you quite easily. Ive turned it sideways so that I could make it bigger. I've tested it to make sure it should come out legibly on any decent printer.

(Republicans, I'm afraid I just don't have time for an elephant, as I'm busy knitting helmet liners for 21,500 under-equipped soldiers who are being sent to Iraq. Je suis désolé.)

Donkey Chart

In Other News

I had a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Those responsible know who they are, and I thank them. Select details in the next entry. Or, you know, when I get around to it. It's going to be another week of 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. This, too, shall pass.

I hope everyone's week is off to a beautiful start.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Deux Ewes

Yes, I know. I promised a write-up of the charting software last week. I want to do it right, is all, and there simply hasn't been time. Every day this week has seen me leave the house at 5 am and not return until about 11 pm. Daddy is tired.

Victorine has also picked this highly inconvenient time to pay us a visit. She's doing wardrobe for a Canadian all-sheep opera company that's on tour with Massenet's Manon Gigot and Poulenc's La Voix Ewe-maine.

The rest of the crew is staying at the Allerton Hotel, but Victorine was asked to vacate her room after she and Dolores drank everything in the minibar, ripped the shirt off the bellhop who was sent to provide refills, and then attempted to do the same to the security guard who responded to the bellhop's desperate cries for help.

Dolores was unapologetic. "If they want to be left alone, they shouldn't wear those hot little uniforms," she said.

"Oui," grunted Victorine. "Les épaulettes, elles me font boum-boum à la coochie-coochie."

Victorine's presence is not helping little Harry, whose nerves were shot after a week of living with Mrs. Teitelbaum and her cat, Tinkles.


Mrs. Teitelbaum sent him home with a special Memory Scrapbook she created to commemorate the visit, but we have to keep it hidden because every time Harry sees it he starts to fray. I've tried to keep him quiet and calm, but Victorine has taken to sneaking up behind him and screeching "MIAOU!" and I'm afraid the twitch in his left eye may become permanent.

If you were coming home after an eighteen-hour day to this, would you have time to do justice to a very cool piece of charting software? Yeah, I didn't think so.

So have a little pity and a little patience. Or Victorine may show up at your house next.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Each One, Teach One, Part One

In Which We Select a Project and Purchase Yarn

Over the past two months I've been doing my bit to Increase the Tribe by teaching a good friend to knit. He is not, to be strictly accurate, my First Pupil. That title belongs to my sister, Susan.

However, Susan had only one lesson, approximately one hour long. After that I sent her back to Maine with a book, yarn, needles and an encouraging word. We're a family of auto-didacts, and I knew she'd pick up the rest on her own with little or no difficulty. She did not disappoint.

My present student is a medical professional and the owner of his own consulting firm, for which he works long and arduous hours. His life is, as you might guess, something of a pressure cooker. His partner suggested that he learn to knit in order to:
  1. Pass the time spent waiting in airports when flying to and from various clients;
  2. Keep his brain and fingers nimble; and
  3. Calm the hell down, already, before you drive me crazy.
The student–let's call him Willibald, just to piss him off–began as an absolute newbie. Our first order of business was to go yarn shopping. No, I lie. Our first order of business was to choose a project. The conversation went something like this:
Willibald: So, what should I make first?

Me: Well, I think for your first project we can start you out with either a scarf or a hat. Which sounds more exciting to you?

Willibald: I want to make a sweater.

Me: Hmm. Okay. See, a sweater is a big commitment and fairly complex. You might want to make that your second project. Or your third. A hat will have a lot of the same techniques in it, but it'll be smaller and bit easier to handle.

Willibald: I want to make a sweater.

Me: I understand that. I just don't want you to get discouraged, and for most folks a sweater takes a while to finish. You won't see results for probably a month or two, at least. A hat would be a good project, though, and would teach you just about everything you need to know to make a sweater. How about a hat?

Willibald: It could be a sweater vest.

Why did you ask me what you should make first when you've already decided what you're making first?

Willibald: I was just being polite.
And so to the yarn store, Arcadia Knitting.

We were greeted as always with great cordiality by the owners. We began with a brief orientation in yarn weights and basic fibers. The shop is arranged by color, so we started out in the Red Section nearest the door and proceeded eastward.
Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

It's beige.

Willibald: It's a very ostenatious beige.
Never try to have the last word with a doctor.

On the other hand, Willibald went into cardiac arrest when confronted with the price of decent yarn and immediately lowered his primary target to making a scarf in two colors. After about three hours of browsing, he made his first personal fiber purchase: four skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

In two shades of gray.

Men, I swear.

To be continued.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Cartoon

I realized we haven't had a new cartoon in here since the now-infamous "p2tog," so here's a little in-progress something from the sketchbook.

This bubbled up during my trip to Los Angeles with John. Guess why.


I was already scanning it when I realized that perhaps the signs ought to be changed to "Solid," "Variegated" and "Self-Striping."

I'd apologize for putting an unfinished scribble in front of you, but maybe you could just think of this as an extremely short behind-the-scenes factory tour of my creative process. Don't forget to visit the gift shop before you leave. There's an entire section of discounted, slightly irregular sheep.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Allow Me to Elucidate

Yesterday's post generated a lot of questions, my favorite of which was a simple "What? I don't get it." via e-mail from a reader who turned out to be looking at the post as it showed up in Bloglines–with no photographs.

So all she saw was:


Which sounds like what you might hear if a robot from Tuscaloosa got overexcited and started to short-circuit. No wonder she was confused.

Now, to answer your questions.

1. The fiber on the spinning wheel is merino roving I got from Rabbitch, who is positively evangelisitic about spreading the joy of living hemmed in on all sides by unspun wool. You know how you're always hearing that merino is terribly hard to spin? Bullshit, kids. Once you get the basics down using something with a longer staple/lower price go ahead and try it. I swear it won't leave scars or frighten the children.

2. The open book in the photograph is Margaret Stove's Creating Original Handknitted Lace and I love it. It takes a lot of the mystery out of not only laying out your own lace designs, but also adapting or creating your own stitch patterns. You could buy it from Amazon, as naughty Danny suggested, or you can buy it from a company that actually gives a damn about knitters and knitting. I suggest either Schoolhouse Press or Halcyon Yarn.

3. The Harley-Davidson mug is there because I am a wild, butch roughneck who likes big, noisy bikes and, not infrequently, the men who ride them. This is, of course, in addition to knitting lace.

4. I do not tease you with my Ashford, Mr. Brinegar. You know perfectly well you're welcome to take it for a spin whenever you like.

5. The blue sock is knit out of some lovely Knitpicks (the first I've ever used) from an Anonymous Donor using a pattern from–oh, what a shock!–Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. Yes, I know. There are lots of other sock books out there. I've seen them. I'll get around to them. As soon as I'm finished with Charlene. Which is apparently going to take a while.

6. And yes, that's a garter stitch edge on the heel flap. My very, very first sock–my ur-sock, if you will–was knitted from Mary Thomas's gut-wrenching treatise on the subject and had slipped stitches on the heel flap. I find the garter edge feels firmer and, to my eye, is more handsome.

Did I miss anybody? If I did, just yell. I turn 36 in couple of weeks and senility is setting in fast.

[Yep. I forgot Ted's question about the charting software. The software ought to have its own entry, actually–so I'll answer that tomorrow.]

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Knitting Update in Four Onomatopoeias and an Ejaculation








Tick Tock




Allons-nous au Salon

This just in:* Chicago's "Winter Delights" series is featuring knitting as the centerpiece of the "Stitching Salon" that has been established for the season at the Chicago Tourism Center, 72 E. Randolph Street.

Here's the description, in part. For full information, check out the Web site.
Participate in hands-on workshops with local knitting experts every Wednesday, from 6 to 8 pm. Every other Thursday at 6 pm, knit to knitting-inspired films. Join a knitting circle during lunch each Friday from noon to 2 pm. Watch the creation of handmade artworks during on-site, interactive artists’ demonstrations on Saturdays from 11 am to 4 pm. On Sundays, January 21, February 4 and 18, at 3 pm, come to Family Sip & Stitch for afternoon tea and an all-ages craft project. Stop by anytime to help create an artwork or make a piece of your own to take home.
There's a PDF schedule of events, at which I haven't had a chance to look. I wonder who the experts will be? [Addendum: Duh, here they are. And quite a nice line-up!]

I work in Evanston, so the lunch hour stuff is out of the question for me. And I don't know that I'm up for a combination of toddlers, sippy cups, and yarn.

But I'm happy this is happening, just the same. We need to keep knitting's profile high, dammit, unless y'all want to go back to the Bad Old Days of buying Red Heart at Michael's because there was precious little else to be had locally.

*A big shout out to my Morning Commute Buddy for alerting me to this. I won't mention your name since I didn't remember to ask permission, but as always you put sunshine in my day.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Only 363 Days To Go

So, what do you think of 2007 so far? I find the pattern interesting enough, though I'm somewhat dubious about whether I've got gauge. I probably should have swatched.

There hasn't been a new entry for several days because the turn of the year always brings out the teenage poet in me. And I hate that. Nobody should ever visit this page only to be confronted by sentences like

And then I realized that Christmasses, to me, are like snowflakes–no two alike, but all equally beautiful.

I'm sorry you just read that. Be grateful you didn't see the rest.

Anyhow, the ball dropped in Times Square, and I'm back to normal. Or what passes for it around here.

If you blog, New Year's means you can do one of two things: write about your resolutions, or write about how you never do anything so jejune as make resolutions. You already know I'm jejune, so what have I got to lose?

Here we go.
  1. I will do my utmost to expand my earring wardrobe.

  2. I will polish my imitation of Etta James singing "Stormy Weather" to a high lustre.

  3. Ditto my Frank Sinatra singing "Come Fly With Me."

  4. Those stubborn mildew stains on the grout in the shower? History.

  5. More Vegetable Biryani.

  6. I will stop pretending I've never watched "Family Guy."

  7. When at work, no use of the phrase "Fuck off and die" before 10:30 a.m.

  8. I will lighten up on Lindsay Lohan. (Hilary Duff, Fergie, and Ryan Seacrest will remain dead to me.)

  9. Investigate career avenues in porn. You never know.

  10. Floss.