Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Knitting 2007 Further Revealed!

Back again, with the second of this year's two Christmas presents. Can you believe it? Months without a stitch of actual knitting in this so-called knitting blog and then BLAM! KAPOW! you get two finished objects in two days.

It's sort of like when you go through a long dry spell in the romance department, and no matter where you hang out–dance clubs, yarn stores, online chat rooms, church socials, estate sales, Home Depot–nobody notices you; and then you meet one nice person you like, and suddenly you can't even walk to the fridge without twenty guys trying to pinch your bottom.

Yeah, it's sort of like that.

What was I talking about?

Christmas presents. Yes. This is what I made for my Exceptional Niece Abigail® for her first extra-uterine Christmas: the Sheep in the Meadow Baby Jacket.

Sheep Front

Guess how I came up with the name. Go ahead, guess. Here's a hint.

Sheep Left Front

Sheep Sweater

I'm rambling. Let's make this nice and neat.

Project: Sheep in the Meadow Baby Jacket

Yarns: Cascade Sierra (yellow, green, and white) and Berocco Pure Merino (lavender)

Needle: US size 5 or 7 or something plus a couple of dpns in a size or two smaller

Process: I was lying down one night in June reading The Elements of Typographic Style when a ghostly figure (it was either the Angel Gabriel or Jacob Marley–I forget which) appeared at the foot of the bed and said, "Go thou, pick up thy needles and make a sweater with a little sheep on it."

No, wait. I just remembered. It was Ziggy Marley.

Anyhow, I picked up the notebook I keep next to the bed for jotting down cartoon ideas and the names of people I'd like to have shot, and I wrote "sheep sweater little" and went back to reading about the origins of the serif and forgot the whole thing.

Wait, no. I think was wrong again. It wasn't Ziggy Marley, it was just Ziggy.

What was I talking about?

Right. So four months later I was in Sacramento for the 1000 Knitters shoot with the Camellia City Stockinettes. At Babetta's Yarn and Gifts the whole scene came back in a flash. In about fifteen minuntes I selected and purchased all the yarn.

When I got home, I put the yarn into the stash cupboard and forgot about it again for another month or so.

Then I dimly recall some hurried winding, and swatching, and sketching. I had in mind a very blocky, geometric shape along the lines of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Bog Jacket. I wanted an open front with simple I-cord ties because those features had earned the Tulip Jacket rave reviews and almost daily use until Abigail finally outgrew it.

With the intended recipient 900 miles away and sprouting like a weed, I had to make educated guesses about proportions and sizing. I used the helpful project measurements in Knitting for Baby to determine arm length and such for a kid aged nine to twelve months.

Then some frantic knitting at home, in the taxi to the airport, at the airport, on the plane, and in Maine in the office in the barn. I finished it on Christmas Eve.

Sheep Back

It's a good thing I can't get pregnant or the baby would be seven years old before I got around to delivering it.

Fun Stuff: Such complexity as exists in this otherwise simple piece is centered on the breast pocket, and even that's pretty simple.

Sheep PocketThe jacket was an excuse/opportunity to try out an Elizabeth Zimmermann afterthought pocket for the first time.

Afterthought pockets are just what the name suggests. You knit the garment, and afterwards you decide that you want a pocket here, or pockets here and here (or even here–it's up to you). You snip with your scissors at the center of the row where you want the pocket to be, and that's how it begins.

For full details, you can check out the Knitting Glossary DVD from Schoolhouse Press or from Elizabeth's book Knitting Around. I used both. And let me tell you: if you want to feel like a rock star knitter, stick an afterthought pocket into something. It gives you the same sort of high that comes from lace blocking, steek cutting or turning a sock heel.

On the whole, I'm pleased. There are some small details I'd change next time (such as deeper sleeves). But you know what? It fit. And if you ask me, it ain't 'alf cute.

And it's much more appropriate than Auntie Dolores's gift.

I'll tell you later.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas 2007 Knitting Revealed!

Talk about your narrow escapes. Last night's plane out of Maine narrowly escaped the snapping jaws of one snowstorm, and today Chicago–which was clear when I landed at eight o'clock–is being socked by another. My view, which normally stretches to the lake's edge and beyond, has diminished to intermittent glimpses of the street below and the tip of the high-rise three blocks north.

A grand display, to be sure; but I'm happy to neither fly through it nor shovel it off the walk.

Instead, let's talk about knitting. Better still, let's look at some.

Christmas is past. The gifts have been opened. This year, there were two that came from my needles and the first was a piece of lace.

Flower Basket Shawl

Project:
The Flower Basket Shawl by Evelyn Clark (Interweave Knits, Fall 2004). Now available from Fiber Trends.

Yarn: Misti Alpaca Lace in colorway...uh...it's green. Will I ever learn to hang on to the ball band?

Needles: Addi Turbo size US 3

Genesis: I was visiting my parents in Indiana and my mother suggested that I might like to go out yarn hunting. (She's come a long way, has my mother, since I was a little kid and she'd suggest that I might like to mow the lawn on Saturday morning or have another helping of green beans.)

We were at Stitches 'n' Scones when Mom spotted the Misti Alpaca Lace and mentioned that it was her favorite shade of green. I bought it as casually as ever I could, affecting the nonchalant pose of one who might, one day, perhaps, knit something with it. Or then again, he might not. He might instead use it to tie up tomato plants, or trade it on the playground for Meg Swansen and Beth Brown-Reinsel bubblegum cards.

But secretly, in the deepest wrinkles of my brain, I decided that if I could find a suitable pattern quickly enough, Mom would be getting a lace shawl for Christmas.

Flower Basket ShawlNotes on the Pattern: Deservedly popular. According to Ravelry, as of this writing 537 members have begun or completed this shawl and another 575 have it queued up.

You begin with this nifty little set of seven or so stitches and then the thing gets bigger, and bigger, and deeper, and wider. You think, Aha! I am beginning at the tip and working toward the top.

But you are not! No! You have begun at the center of the top and are working downwards and sideways simultaneously!

You realize this with a gasp. And you think, Oh Evelyn Clark, you clever little minx! Come over here right now so I can tweak you on your dear nose and feed you a peppermint bonbon!

Or something like that. Your actual thoughts may vary.

And then you knit and knit and knit and knit, and for a pattern that is so much of the same thing over and over it's astonishingly fun and relaxing.

Evelyn Clark, you are a genius and I hope you are living a very comfortable life being waited on hand and foot by unusually attractive servants of whichever gender you prefer.

Flower Basket Shawl

Variations:
Evelyn's original calls for two strands of Misti Alpaca held double throughout and worked on a US 7 needle. It yields a handsome product which can be knit up by most folks in a surprisingly short (for a shawl) amount of time. Some Ravelers claim to have finished it in a week.

I wanted something lighter and more delicate, so I used a single strand of Misti Alpaca on a smaller needle. This meant doing many more repeats than are called for in the written pattern, but as the stitch growth rate per row remains the same it required no additional math. You can't beat that with a stick.

I worked Mom's shawl for a total of 22 repeats, which (when blocked) yielded a finished piece slightly larger than Evelyn's.

And speaking of blocking, I include the following action sequence for the pleasure of all but particularly for Brenda Dayne, who apparently gets a sadistic kick from watching lace tortured on the rack.

Before.

Flower Basket Shawl Unblocked

After.

Flower Basket Shawl Blocked

Auuuuuggggghhhh! Yes! Yes! More please, Master! Yes!

Ahem.

I'm going to tell you about Abigail's Christmas present tomorrow. I just don't seem to be in a mood appropriate for discussing baby clothes right now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From Our House to Yours

Ladies and gentlemen, the cast and crew of the The Panopticon are pleased to present our very first All-Singing All-Dancing Terpsichorean Holiday Variety Gigantic Extravaganzapalooza sponsored by Bellwether's Choice Sheep Chow with additional support from the Lila Rose Teitelbaum Foundation and Readers Like You.

Top off your egg nog, put up your feet and let the sweet strains of our Christmas medley brush away the winter blues.

Take it away, kids!

Act One

Oh, the mantel clock's tick-tocking,
But you still haven't finished that stocking,
So until you knit the toe,
One more row, one more row, one more row!

Act Two

While shepherds knit their socks by night
All seated in a group,
An angel of the Lord came down
And taught them Magic Loop.

Finale

Santa baby,
Slip a sailor under the tree for me.
With a bottle of gin,
Santa baby.
And while you're at it slip me his twin.

Happy Holidays, y'all. Keep safe and warm. Thank you for all the comfort and joy you've brought me in 2007.

See you on the other side with reports on my Christmas knitting and last night's wonderful 1000 Knitters shoot at Purl Diva in Brunswick, Maine.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Psssst!

OMG, I am totally sitting in the back of my sister's classroom in Maine and blogging at the same time. Everybody else has to work on their research presentations, but I get to play with her computer and draw cartoons and even knit my sock. And I can't get sent to the principal's office!

School is so much more fun when you can threaten to tell the kids a story about the teacher slipping out of her diaper one morning and running around the block naked singing "I'm a little teapot" at the top of her infantile lungs.

I've wanted to watch Susan in front of a class for as long as she's been teaching. It's one of those jobs I lack the temperament to perform, like waiting tables or reading the funnies to the president. Herding young people through the brambly hedgerow maze of knowledge day after day would reduce me to hysterics in five seconds flat.

Teachers, I salute you. This is my first time in a high school classroom since my own senior year and I don't envy you. And these are, on the whole, good kids. Nice manners, stable homes. We're in an affluent suburb of Portland and the class isn't all that large–perhaps fourteen students.

And yet the job seems to require the sort of skills one would need to pilot a bus full of live chickens backwards, with no brakes, down a rocky road through the Andes while simultaneously providing colorful and informative commentary on the scenery.

The questions fly at her–and at Julie, her co-teacher–from all sides all at once, as do the excuses. Amazing, the excuses. Dogs no longer eat papers, it seems, but computers do.

I typed it all out, and it was so good, and now I just can't find it anywhere on my hard disk!

I typed it all out, and it was almost done, and then my computer crashed and I lost it all!

I typed it all out, and then my Internet predator boyfriend spilled Coke all over the keyboard when the people from "Dateline NBC" showed up and I lost it all!

Susan and Julie take these confessions as an opportunity calmly to teach the conceptual difference between "your problem" and "my problem." Perhaps they are saving the Angry Professor and her colleagues a bit of trouble down the line.

Class is almost over so I have to sign off now. Lunch period is next. I hope I don't have to sit alone in the cafeteria.

Personal to Anne, my editor at Interweave: I'm working on my book right here in the classroom! See? How's that for dedication?

MyPicture

What do you mean you don't get it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

North by Down East

Before I say anything else this morning, I have to stutter my thanks for all the encouraging comments that followed the announcement of the forthcoming book. It's been a dream, ever since I presented my first-grade opus Aaron the Alligator (which I also illustrated) at the Kate B. Reynolds Elementary School Tiny Authors Convention. Once you've tasted literary fame, the craving never leaves you.

The book will be somewhat akin to what you find in here: a bit of doodling, a bit of typing. I hesitate to say much more, but I will tell you it's not a book of patterns. Interweave is, I guess, looking to branch out a bit and I'm one of the twigs. I'm pretty proud to be working with an outfit I've admired from a distance for so long.

And now...news from and about Maine.

I got word from my sister, Susan, that my Exceptional Niece Abigail's® Littlest Democrat Sweater made its public debut at a meet-and-greet for noted Maine politico Chellie Pingree. Abby, shown here pondering a question from a Portland Press Herald reporter about which Democratic presidential hopeful she prefers, was a good girl and did not spit up on my handiwork. I am proud.

Democrat Sweater Goes Public

As usual, I'll be heading to Maine to spend Christmas with the whole beautiful bunch. While I'm there, I'm delighted to announce a...

1000 Knitters Public Shoot: Purl Diva

Oh yes oh yes...the one-and-only Purl Diva of Brunswick has offered to host a shoot for the 1000 Knitters Project on Saturday, December 22, from 4–7 p.m. Directions to the shop (and lots of other information) can be found via her Web site.

As usual, sittings will be on a first-come, first-served basis; there's no advance registration. If you're interested in being a model, there's basic information here on the project blog.

I'm curious to know how many folks might be able to show. If you're thinking about it, be a darling and leave a comment to that effect in this entry, won't you please?

1000 Knitters Goodies

On a related note, I've been able to add a few 1,000 Knitters items to the shop to help support project expenses. I especially had fun assembling the portraits on the bag, which were selected using a random number generator.

1000 Bag Design

More will follow, and of course as the project progresses I'll do up versions with new and different portraits.

In the meanwhile...still got Christmas knitting in the works. Oy!

And by the by, many thanks to the folks who've written to say they like their 2007 angel ornaments. (I wish Knitpicks would get to work on producing those little clouds to float my fair isle strands.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nine Beautiful Sheep Stand Before Me

[Author's Note: For best effect, this entry should be read with "Tijuana Taxi" playing in the background and a tall glass of something potent in one hand.]

After grueling weeks of competition...tears and laughter...joy and disappointment...hopes and dreams...it's time to find out who will be chosen as the winner of the Dolores Look-Alike Contest.

Before we begin, let's say hello to our international panel of celebrity judges!
Our judges have spent sleepless hours consuming cheap booze and poring over the dozens of applicants who swarmed the Panopticon studio dreaming of fame. So much ambition. So much talent.

And yet, as Dolores said to the steeplejacks, there's only room for one at a time on top.

From the pool of contestants, nine finalists were selected and randomly assigned letters for identification purposes.

We begin with those who were singled out for Honorable Mention.

Contestant B: Honorable Mention and Franklin's Special Nod for Ingenuity

Contestant B

Rabbitch: Very creative, but unfortunately this picture Gave Harry Ideas. There's going to be trouble in the old town tonight.

Carol: Very high concept.

Stitchy: It's not surprising that even without her, Dolores' fleece manages to find a fan and relax with a cocktail. For some reason, I get the feeling that this sock actually sent in its own photo and I find it a little unnerving.

Brenda: I almost dismissed this out of hand as being too inanimate for the job. But the more one looks, the more one notices the remarkable resemblance. It really is uncanny. As are the "eyes" that follow you around the room. This one gets full marks for the deeply disturbing use of a cable needle, and my vote, as I feel certain Contestant B would fool Anne Coulter.

Contestant D: Honorable Mention

Contestant D

Carol:
Cross-species verisimilitude plus minimalist styling. I like.

Stitchy: I'm not sure if it's the fluffy white hair or that this shepherd is in fact German, but he is evoking images of Mozart more than Dolores for me. The glasses certainly add a more modern touch, perhaps he's imploring us to "Bark Me, Amadeus."

Brenda: Contestant D has the withering glance down, but the glasses, I feel are a little too Wolf in Sheep's Clothing; a bit too Spice Girls. (But hey, the Girls are touring again, and I really think you could pass for Victoria Beckham. Singing, as we know, is optional.)

Rabbitch: How I wish everyone could have won. It would be especially sweet for the owner of this dog, who surely bit her face off right after the photo shoot.

Contestant G: Honorable Mention

Contestant G

Brenda: I really pity the poor sales clerk at the furniture store when Dolores purrs, "Come help Mama pick out a new sofa, Lambkins." With minimal styling Contestant G has captured Dolores' predatory nature.

Stitchy:
I believe this is actually Dolores' cousin, Vera. I read about her in this article a few months ago. Judging by the number of sofas in her living room, I'm going to venture to say that she's a real party animal. She doesn't seem to like being more that a foot away from someplace to lie down. These two really used to tear up the pasture in their heyday.

Rabbitch: Very glamorous, and what a lovely rack if you don't mind me mentioning it.

Carol: How the hell did she get Lisa Marie to let her shoot in Graceland?

Contestant H: Honorable Mention

Contestant H

Carol: Just as a pair of simple shades signal the arrival of the rock star or jazz musician, so this canine entrant's sunglasses symbolize both his celebrity status–and that he is likely experiencing a massive hangover. The deal killer was the ever-so-demure peek of his nuts. Dolores has a pair of brass ones and lets 'em swing free for all to see. Unless I just need to clean my monitor.

Brenda: Who did this to you, honey? You want me to have them killed? It can be arranged.

Rabbitch:
A lovely example of a woof in sheep's clothing.

Stitchy: Black dog in sheep's clothing – Is it possible that this was sent in as a proposition for Dolores? Because this dog is totally hot and I love that he's not constrained by convention and likes to dress up to keep things interesting! Dolores should totally give him a booty call.

Contestant I: Honorable Mention

Contestant I

Stitchy: This little cherub is definitely channeling the more Norma Desmondine aspects of Dolores' personality. Posing in front of a fireplace, cramming as many jewels as she could on her tiny face, swathing herself in leopard. Oh yes, this one is definitely ready for her close-up.

Carol: This is the love child of Elton John and Lee Remick. Unfortunately, Dolores does not possess the trim prepubescent figure that would allow her to wear horizontal stripes and still look so svelte.

Brenda: A delightful amalgam of "This old thing?" false modesty and "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful…" detachment, Contestant I is, I feel, just a touch fresh-faced for the job. (But come back in a year or two, okay?)

Rabbitch:
Good use of glasses, excellent posing. I suspect this child was out drinking with Contestant E earlier in the day.

And now...the mesmerizing creature who stole FOURTH PLACE.

Contestant F: Fourth Place

Contestant F

Brenda: What becomes a legend most? This girl knows how to wear fur! Contestant F cannot hide the fact that she's a star, and the nod to Audrey Hepburn in the upswept do is utter genius. Full marks for glamour, tinged with the crushing loneliness of life at the top.

Rabbitch: The hair. It's the hair that got me. That, plus I almost bought those exact same glasses last week.

Carol: Was this entrant is confused? Perhaps she believed she was entering an Edna Turnblad look-alike contest. Dolores is no hair-hopper.

Stitchy: I really like the clean, simple lines and minimalist presentation of this entry. By using only two props, this dog has been transformed from a loyal, loving friend into a manipulative and tawdry tart. The elegant swirling of the yarn and the perfect placement of the cats eye glasses evokes Dolores in an unusually pensive moment. Perhaps the dog was getting in touch with Dolores' more sensitive side. I believe that's the side she prefers to be spanked on, is it not?

And our gorgeous THIRD PLACE winner...

Contestant C: Third Place

Contestant C

Rabbitch: She had me from "hello." I love a woman with a dangerous glint in her eye. And who seems to be naked.

Carol: Daring attempt to display the essential slattern in Dolores without directly aping her external characteristics. A triumph of the symbolic over the representational.

Brenda: While I admire her nakedness and her tattoo, to say nothing of her skill at hands-free smoking, Contestant C loses points for the bikini strap lines on her shoulders. (Everyone on the Cote d'Azur knows Dolores is a thong-only girl.)

Stitchy: This entry is dripping with the sensuality that can only be found in a ruminant sex goddess. From the hint of tan lines from hanging out in the pasture in a skimpy bikini and to the peek at the tattoo from a wild night out that ended in a particularly good shearing, this contestant has truly captured the essence of Dolores' typical "morning after." The long ash of the cigarette is an especially nice touch and will add some suspense as she's making pancakes for her mysterious morning guest.

Our smoldering-hot RUNNER-UP...

Contestant E: Runner-Up

Contestant E

Stitchy: No longer must we wonder what Dolores looked like as a wee, booze-soaked lamb. This precious morsel has truly taken us back in time. While her annoying pen-mate, Babe, was kissing the farmer's ass in hopes of saving himself from the slaughterhouse, lil' Dolores was partying her way onto the 4-H circuit. Those farm kids were wild. And I can see that same spark in these rose-colored eyes. I implore her handlers to put her on the pageant circuit and watch the fireworks as she slurs out a wobbly rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and loses a shoe in an impromptu interpretive tap dance! This kid has a future!

Carol: Although the precious child's unlined visage and porcelain skin belie Dolores' squalid, self-destructive lifestyle, the juxtaposition of the wholesome with the seedy aptly captures an
essential aspect of Dolores' nature. Let's just hide this one from Social Services, shall we?

Brenda: She had me from the tequila bottle death grip, but the clever use of pink sunglasses really tipped it over the edge for Contestant E. Who knows better than Dolores the best way to camouflage those "morning-after" eyes?

Rabbitch:
Any 18-month-old who starts drinking before noon is my kinda gal. I only wish the prize were monetary, as there will clearly be a need for much therapy in this moppet's future.

And, appearing with a flourish of trumpets and a cloud of Pall Mall smoke, our WINNER!

Contestant A: The Winner!

Contestant A No. 1

Contestant A No. 2

Contestant A No. 3

Brenda: Contestant A has put her whole soul into the transformation, and is on her way to actually becoming Dolores. Clearly unstable, she gets full marks nonetheless, because I am afraid of her. Scary, but brilliant use of leather, and boobs.

Stitchy: I
t was tough, but I have selected this entry as the first place winner. She has brought to life the many moods of our dear, drunken Dolores. The smokey malaise of her food bowl. The ennui of realizing that we are all just livestock waiting for our turn to step up to the chopping block. (At least she's got her knitting to work on while she's in line.) And the utter contempt at society's continued close-minded insistence that she should flick her ashes. Indeed. Well played, fellow fur-bearing creature. Well played.

Rabbitch: The variety of poses, coupled with the addition of the knitting first caught my attention. However, the politically-incorrect courage to wear fur? Priceless.

Carol: Nice jugs. Although the hat is more reminiscent of a court jester rather than
the Bella-Abzug-meets-Minnie-Pearl concoctions that Dolores favors, I have to award a prize based on the sheer number of poses, combined with the world-weary, ever-so-slightly-androgynous persona (suggesting that anyone or anything can become her sex toy, a philosophy that Dolores clearly embraces). I was especially fond of the third photo: no more will I wonder what it would look like if Madame Defarge wore Jimmy Choos. Did I mention the great jugs?

Our top four contestants get to choose from these four glamorous prizes:
  1. an original, signed Dolores drawing;

  2. the judges' super yarny fun-pak: a skein of merino/tencel sock yarn from Black Bunny Fibers (courtesy of judge Carol) a skein of Rabbitworks yarn (courtesy of judge Rabbitch), and a copy of The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious Knits (courtesy of judge Stitchy McYarnpants);

  3. eleven skeins of Lorna's Laces Swirl DK in colorway Iris Garden (courtesy of Lorna's Laces); or

  4. a Tulip Baby Cardigan kit (courtesy of Arcadia Knitting).
Winners, please write to me at franklin at franklinhabit daht cahm ranking the prizes in order of your preference and including your mailing address. First place gets to choose first, and so on down the list. Contestant B, your nod wins you a little something, too, so please drop me a line as well.

Congratulations to all our finalists, and on behalf of Ms. Van Hoofen my heartfelt thanks to the dedicated judging panel and all who took the time to enter.

There you have it, folks! See you at the bar for the after-party.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The News

I am not pregnant.

I am not moving to San Francisco.

I am not engaged to Stephen Fry. I am not America's Next Top Model. I am not playing Xerxes in O, Leonidas!, the upcoming Broadway musical version of 300 by Stephen Sondheim.

I am not joining the Benedictines, the Rockettes, the Sisters of Mercy or the Foreign Legion.

I am writing a book to be published by Interweave Press in the fall of 2008.

I am excited. I am grateful to all of you for your encouragement.

Thank you for asking.

The Literary Life

Thursday, December 06, 2007

San Francisco Notebook, Part Two

Needless to say I wasn't just staring at bridges and statuary during the trip to San Francisco. There are knitters and yarn sprinkled liberally about the area, and I managed to visit a few of them.

Of the knitters, I met one. Here he is, delightful Stephen aka Hizknits, in his office with the inimitable Miss Janie Sparkles.

Man Bites Dog

I had met Stephen on this trip to California, when he was taping an episode of "Knitty Gritty." Stephen lives in San Francisco and works in Berkeley in the marketing department of Clif Bar. We had a fantastic Mexican lunch and he gave me a tour of the Clif Bar premises, which I can describe only as the Office Environment of My Dreams.

Imagine: cheerful people doing rewarding work in attractive, exciting surroundings. So different, so very different from my own, dear employer, which takes as its model the workhouse from Oliver Twist (minus the free food).

(Personal to Stephen: have already eaten most of my samples. What the hell do you put in those things? Hashish?)

Then, oh then, there were the yarn shops. I made it to three.

Artfibers (124 Sutter Street, San Francisco • Web site)

When I asked y'all where I ought to go and about half of you mentioned this place, I knew it had to be good. I wasn't disappointed.

If you go, don't look for a flashy storefront. Look up. You'll see this.

Artfibers

Doesn't seem like much, I know. But climb the stairs to the second floor and you'll enjoy an intimate encounter with some of the most seductive yarn you'll ever fondle. Artfibers sells online but they don't wholesale. If you want to touch it before you buy it, you gotta visit in person.

Happily, they are prepared to make you very comfortable during your stay. The showroom is small, but seating is ample and they have samples of what appears to be the entire line ready for you to play with. Just tell them what you want, and they'll put it into you eager hands for a test knit.

Art Fibers

The yarn–which includes a lot of ingenious fiber combinations and striking textures–is neatly arranged and clearly labeled. There are patterns and books for sale, plus a reference library and lots of swatches to wake up your muse. The service was impeccably friendly. In spite of a multitude of customers, the sole salesperson (who was, as I recall, also the manager) kept everybody happy. No mean feat, that.

ImagiKnit (3897 18th Street, San Francisco • Web site)

One of the benefits of being a knitter is that even in a strange city, if you have the good fortune to encounter a shop like ImagiKnit you will feel instantly at home.

I made two visits to ImagiKnit. The first was unplanned. We were on our way to the Castro and I spotted the sign,

Imaginknits

and my non-knitting companions graciously agreed to stop and let me do a bit of shopping. I liked it so much I went back again on the last day of the trip.

ImagiKnit has two large, beautiful rooms absolutely crammed to the rafters with yarn. The lighting is excellent and there are voluptuous sofas for parking yourself or any non-knitters who may be with you. (If you happen to be gay, you can also send your boyfriend up the street two blocks to Castro, where he can sip a drink and admire the passing show while you cruise the Malabrigo.)

Everybody here, on both visits, treated me with great cordiality. Even the regulars knitting on the sofa gave a cheery nod and a smile. The salespeople were friendly without being pushy, and two of them even posed for me.

Imaginiknits Duo

Since I was so twitterpated with the place that I forgot to take a shot of the interior, you'll have to extrapolate from those two smiles what sort of experience to expect at ImagiKnit.

Lacis (2982 Adeline Street, Berkeley • Web site)

Lacis is not, strictly speaking, a yarn store. However, if you have even the slightest interest in lace knitting or lace making you need to visit. Seriously. I've been to Brussels and to Bruges, both touted as epicenters of the art, and in neither place did the sheer joy of lace come through as it does at Lacis.

If you've no car, no problem. Hop on the BART and get off at the Ashby stop. It's a short trip, and Lacis is steps from the station.

There are two parts to the establishment: the retail shop and the museum. If you get there and the museum's not open, just ask. They'll open it up for you and even take you around the exhibits. Admission is free, and they allow photographs.

As of this writing, the exhibit in the museum is needle laces–lace made with a single needle and thread. I have only a rudimentary understanding of non-knitted laces, but you don't have to know anything to be dazzled by what's on display.

To give you a tiny sample–there's tons more on the Lacis museum Web site–I was very taken with the relative simplicity of the edging on this shawl from the end of the 19th century; it's the perfect foil to the simple, sprigged center.

Needle Lace

And there are two mannequins, one male and one female, decked out in period finery with lace actually made in-house, by lacers who are regulars at Lacis.

Modern Lace, Lacis

To cap it all off, there is a piece of point √† Venise, one small part of which is shown here at roughly actual size, which is worked at–are you ready?–10,000 stitches to the inch.

Point a Venise

I almost wet my pants.

The only complaint I have about the museum is that after visiting it, all of my lace knitting now looks to me like macramé.

The retail half of Lacis is equally dazzling, albeit in a different way. There are more displays of incredible work–including a case of knitted laces I unfortunately couldn't photograph because of reflections on the glass–mixed into the selection of...everything.

Truly, I didn't know where to begin. The book section alone was staggering; more books on general knitting than I've seen anywhere else except Halcyon Yarn. Books on lace, of course; and books on costuming, fashion, corsetry, crochet, doll making, millinery.

And there are supplies for all of it. A corsetry section, a millinery section, knitting supplies, embroidery supplies, pillows and bobbins for bobbin lace, vintage linens and laces, patterns, notions, crinolines (with hoops) suspended from the ceiling. And, among the cases of jewelry and other bric-a-brac, a selection of silver chatelaines that made me realize if I don't get one, I shall expire.

Were it not for energetic help of Erin, the manager, who took time out from sorting stock to guide me through the selection of antique knitting patterns, I might well still be sitting on the floor in a daze with drool running from one corner of my mouth.

I have to come back. Soon. If this is what I saw in only five days, I can't imagine what I missed.

San Francisco Notebook, Part One

I went to San Francisco and came back again. It was, without question, one of the best trips I've ever taken to anywhere. I was unabashedly touristic the entire time, slogging up and down (mostly up, it seemed) hills with my trusty camera at the ready.

In doing so, I created piles of indifferent vacation snapshots which you should pretend politely to notice before skipping to the yarn store reviews in part two.

Bedroom View

The view from the bedroom window at the hotel. That's Grace Cathedral in the middle distance. They have a Peet's Coffee in the basement. The cathedral is built from reinforced concrete, which I suppose makes sense in a city where the ground tends to jiggle about unexpectedly.

Coit

Coit Tower, as seen from the roof garden of the hotel. Notice the bird of paradise growing lushly in the lower left corner–in December. Note the green leaves on the trees. The San Franciscans kept talking about how chilly their weather is this time of year. They can shut the hell up.

Children

Detail of a fountain in the park at the top of Nob Hill.

Sphinx

Three men and a bitchy sphinx outside the De Young Museum.

Sausalito

Tourists (and one resident) in Sausalito.

Golden Gate

Some bridge everybody makes a big deal about. I can't remember the name.

Marin Headlands

Obstinate little tree atop the Marin Headlands.

Beach Wish

A wish for a Wonderful Day inscribed on the beach near Seal Rock. (It worked, at least for me.)

Seal Rock

A really, really big camera near the Cliff House. Impressive, but I would not want it hanging around my neck.

SF Commute

Cable car commuters. Alternate title: Ha ha ha, you're going to work and I'm not.

Bay Bridge

Another one of those big bridges they have out there.

Buddha

A very early (Ghandala era) Buddha at the splendid Asian Art Museum, where I spent the better part of an entire day. Note the particularly fine pectoral development. (I studied four years at Harvard in order to develop a trained eye for such details.)

Next, in part two, the fibery bits of the trip. They were many and splendid. But right now I have to do laundry or I'll have nothing to wear tomorrow except pajama bottoms and my overcoat.