Friday, February 29, 2008

Face Time

For as long as I can remember I've always loved a chance to see the inner workings of things. Given the choice, for example, of seeing a great Broadway musical from the front row or the wings, I'd choose the wings.

When I started working on It Itches, I knew next to nothing about how a book is published. After many months, I can now proudly say that I know almost next to nothing.

Recently I learned about the BLAD. To me, BLAD sounds like the name of a dashing Hungarian spy, or perhaps an onomatopoeia describing the sound of vomit. But my patient editor, Anne, explained that it stands for Book Layout And Design. The BLAD is a little sampler of the finished work that Interweave will use to mesmerize wholesale buyers into ordering hundreds of thousands of copies.

Needless to say, I support them in this mission.

So when Anne asked for an author portrait to put into the BLAD I was delighted to comply even though I am my least favorite subject. Interweave's publicity team specifically states that it does not want high school yearbook poses, and indeed my own is a perfect example (on so many levels) of What Not to Do.


(The expression on my face perfectly conveys the joy I felt at being a tuition-paying pupil of my lousy high school. I remember the photographer told me to smile and I snapped, "I am smiling.")

So I decided to create what we in the click-click biz call an "environmental portrait" of myself in my natural setting. However, there proved to be too much traffic in the ice cream aisle at the supermarket; people kept knocking over the light stands with their shopping carts. So I went with Plan B and set up a shot at my drawing board.

To get the proper angle I had to elevate the camera on a tripod about seven feet off the ground, which of course meant to reach it I had to climb up my library steps. All told, with makeup and hair styling and wardrobe consults and such it took four hours to come up with one acceptable frame.

Come Closer, My Pretty

I sent it off to Interweave, and got a sweetly apologetic e-mail response from Anne. Apparently I had misunderstood. The photograph was nice, but...given the nature of the book, they wanted a drawn portrait. How about something like that avatar I'd used on Ravelry. That sure was cute!

This is the avatar she meant.

The Real Me

Honestly, how is the Pulitzer committee supposed to take me seriously with an image like this?

More Portraits


I don't love taking pictures of myself, but you may have noticed I quite enjoy taking pictures of other knitters. And guess what: there are more 1,000 Knitters public shoots on the calendar.
  • March 15, 2008: Yellow Dog Knitting in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Nota bene: Dixie (who I can't wait to meet) is asking folks to sign up in advance, so please check out the shop Web site for full details.

  • March 18, 2008: Windy City Knitting Guild in Chicago. The meeting is open to all; sittings will be first-come, first-served and space will be limited. If you haven't checked out the Guild yet, perhaps this would be a good time to visit. The meeting runs from 6:45–8:55, but I'll begin at 4:30 and have to stop about 8:30 in order to pack up the set.*

  • April 12, 2008: The Yarnery of St. Paul, MN is graciously hosting me at Yarnover from 9 am–5 pm. Yarnover is a daylong event held annually by the Minnesota Knitters Guild, with a free vendor market featuring 24 unique purveyors of fiber from across the Midwest, as well as the opportunity to register for classes with regional and national knitting teachers; for more information, visit The Yarnery will soon have model releases on hand for those who'd like to participate; they'd appreciate it if folks would sign up in advance.

  • May 31, 2008: The Knitting Nest in Austin, Texas. You read it right, y'all...Texas. I can't wait. We'll be shooting from 10 am to 5 pm. Yeeeeeeehaaaaaaaw!
*Times edited because I am a dim bulb.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Her Best Friend Is a Fairy

Gather 'round, children, because do I have a book to share with you.

It's called The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book, or Adventures Among the Knitting People, and it was originally published in 1918. My copy is a handsome, hardcover facsimile reprint from the wonderful folks at Lacis and I will be forever grateful to them for making it available.

Mary Frances

This was the last of long series* of how-to books starring Mary Frances, a little girl who had previously encountered the Kitchen People, the Thimble People, the Doll People and the Garden People. Apparently wherever she went, inanimate objects around her came to life and spoke to her. Nowadays we have medicines for that sort of thing; but Mary Frances just put up with it and learned to sew, knit, keep house, and cultivate begonias.

As The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book opens, our heroine is preparing for knitting and crochet lessons under the austere gaze of Great-Aunt Maria.

We don't learn much of Aunt Maria's backstory. She's either an old maid or a widow; but in any case she lives by herself with only her shawl and her bitterness to keep her warm. Her tongue drips the purest hydrochloric acid; a bracing counterpoint to the other characters, who wrap up every speech with a little pink bow.

Aunt Maria may well be my favorite person in the entire book. She's always ready to put the lid on Mary Frances when she swings manic and starts to bubble over. For example:
"Oh won't that be splendid, Aunt Maria?" cried the little girl. "I do want to learn so much!"

"It seems to me very strange that you do not know anything about such work," said her aunt. "Why, I made your father learn to knit when he was only six years old."

Mary Frances did not tell her Aunt Maria that her father had told her about those lessons, and how he had hated the work because, every time he made a mistake, his aunt would whack his chubby, clumsy fingers with a ruler...

"Mother would like to teach me," said Mary Frances, "but–"

"Your mother was not brought up right," snapped her aunt.
Mary Frances timidly reminds the old dragon that her mother was unable to learn to crochet because she had one lame arm, but auntie dearest accepts this excuse with evident reluctance.
"Oh yes," said Aunt Maria. "I remember now. But your arm doesn't hurt..."
Clearly, this is the sort of woman who believes that making a toddler pull a plow through a cotton field builds character. I just love her.

But we don't get as much of Aunt Maria as I'd like. In the best post-Edwardian fashion, Mary Frances's father is involved in a train wreck while traveling on business and her mother leaves the kids in Maria's care while she (also in the best post-Edwardian fashion) rushes off to nurse him. However, Aunt Maria's busy schedule of baking bread and reading temperance literature doesn't allow her sit around smacking Mary Frances with a ruler all day.

Enter the Knitting People.


They are wacky little band that includes Knit and Knack, the Knitting Needles; Wooley Ball, the ball of yarn; Crow Shay, a (did you see this coming?) mischievous crochet hook; and Yarn Baby, a pushy little yarn doll with flyaway hair who disagrees violently with everything everybody else says at all times. I know this is a knitting book, but I think she should have been a rag doll.

Presiding over all is a good fairy named Fairly Flew. She is so-called because when she helps you with your knitting, people will say your stitches fairly flew off the needles. Also, she is a fairy who flies. Flying fairy Fairly Flew. Say that ten times fast.

Anyhow, while Aunt Maria's down in the parlor playing "The Lost Chord" on the harmonium and crying into her medicinal glass of brandy, the Knitting People jump out of Mary Frances's knitting bag and start ordering her around. Mary Frances, who at this point in her twelve years on earth has already dealt with talking thimbles, brooms and garden implements is not remotely surprised and goes along with it.

The lessons themselves, which are copiously illustrated with drawings and photographs (all superbly reproduced by Lacis) are actually pretty darn good. I'm tiptoeing around the edges of crochet, myself, and have found them to be clear and helpful–no mean feat for a work almost a century old.

And much of the other content is a refreshing change from modern children's pap, as well. Mary Frances learns real skills using real tools and is taught the basics in order to make things on her own using her own ingenuity to benefit herself and others.** And then the housekeeper makes her go outside and play tennis in the fresh air. Really, I can't fault any of it. It's certainly the sort of life I'd try to provide (aside from the hallucinations) for little Euphemia Gladys, my hypothetical daughter.

Mary Frances certainly benefits and within days she's turning out finished objects. Good thing, too. She has this lisping brat of a baby doll, Mary Marie, who unfortunately keeps coming to life to say things like "Mama, foots told," and then Mary Frances has to drop whatever she's doing and crochet a damn pair of slippers. Every five minutes, Mary Marie wants something to cover her cold feet or her cold ears or her cold butt or whatever. And just when Mary Frances gets her warmly dressed, she starts whining for a book bag, a toy never ends.

I wouldn't be surprised Mary Frances often secretly suspected that Aunt Maria's lonely spinsterhood might be a pleasant alternative to having children.

I need hardly tell you that The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book, or Adventures Among the Knitting People has, in short order, become one of the treasured gems in my collection. In fact, Lacis has reprinted the sewing book as well and I plan to put it on my wish list. I'm hoping it'll give me a little more dirt on Aunt Maria.

*I first encountered Mary Frances when I pulled a copy of the sewing book out of a pile of garbage (where the weight of the stuff on top was canting the spine) in the rare books room at The Strand in New York City. I asked one of the dim-bulb twentysomethings who worked there to give me a price, which (after a forty-minute wait) he did–rudely. It was standard, marked up by 60%. Too rich for my blood. Frankly, I liked the rare books room at The Strand better when it was staffed by people who loved books instead of young dolts who would better spend their time organizing the goddamned stock instead of surfing the Internet.

**The end of the book even includes patterns for wartime Red Cross knitting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blue Period

The Panopticon festival of blue yarn continues with the casting on of a sock, shown below.

Primavera Beginning

The colorway–"Violet" from Lorna's Laces–is so intense that it's like a kiss on the eyes.

Lorna's Laces Violet

I'm knitting it into Primavera, which is available free from this blog. When I encountered the pattern unexpectedly on Ravelry I felt like Romeo bumping into Juliet at the Capulet ball. Or Dick Cheney finding a new flavor of Häagen-Dazs in the freezer section. I must and shall have you, I thought.

I would like to thank the designer, Natalja, for providing that elusive treasure: a handsome, unfussy sock that includes not a single yarn-over. When you have hairy legs, socks with little holes in them do not make for a pretty picture.

Reader Q & A

TB asks, "What yarn did you use for the socks?" It's Schaefer Yarn Company's Heather in the colorway Margo Jones. The whole time I was knitting with it, I thought of it as brown. When I finished them, I added them to my list in the sidebar as "Brown Socks." TB (and several others) called the yarn orange after seeing the pictures. I just took another look. Yup, it's orange. So much for my reputation as an intensely visual person.

I'm still going to leave the title "Brown Socks" in the sidebar, but from this point it should be taken not as an indication of color but as a tribute to James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.

Knitography is curious about the source of the phrenology bust I used as a hat stand in this post. I've seen them on sale for a lot of money in Chicago boutiques–those places in Lincoln Park and Wicker Park that buy $3 figurines in Chinatown, hot-glue them to wooden bases and mark them up to $75–but I got mine for cheap on eBay. I don't recall the seller's ID, but s/he had bunches for sale. After it arrived, I spent some time feeling my own skull and discovered I have an alarming crater in the "moral and religious sentiments" region and an interesting bump corresponding to "extermination."

The photo styling questions continued with SamD, who wants to know what was holding up the Noro Scarf. It's a porcelain pedestal dish I picked up at the local charity shop for a buck. I throw my wallet and keys into it every night, which helps me pretend I've become an organized person.

Aidan asks if I'd like to put my cute little niece in a pita pocket and eat her up. No, I would not. She's been eating a lot of Cheerios and rice cereal, and I don't need the extra carbs. Also, I'm fairly certain that in New England it's customary to serve fresh baby on a clam roll.

An anonymous reader, whom I suspect to be Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis, asked about getting the kitty valentine cartoon on a t-shirt - I'll see what I can do, Daniel, and thank you for asking. (By the way, if you're ever in Chicago and want to cheat on your lovely wife, the key is under the mat.)

Another anonymous reader, whom I suspect to be Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis wearing a different hat, asks about the status of the snowman hat pattern. I admit, I have been remiss. The trouble is, I made it up as I went along and so have no notes about it, so recreating it means knitting it over again, which is taking some time. (By the way, Daniel, if you do decide to drop by there's a free t-shirt in it for you.)

Bronchitkat asked whether the "Denim" Fisherman Yarn from Lorna's Laces that I'm using in my sweater is available in the UK. I think you're in luck, dear–go to the Lorna's Laces Web site and do a search in the "Where to Buy" section. Looks like there are four dealers: London, Bristol, Pembrokeshire, and Somerset. Please buy some. Our economy needs all the help it can get.

Monday, February 18, 2008


After a long stretch of working chiefly on widdle-bitty baby things, it has made a nice change to get some manly stuff onto the needles. My new socks, and Tom's watch cap, and now a simple scarf to go with it.

Tom's Scarf

Plus a sweater for me,

Lorna's Laces Sweater

which doesn't look like anything yet, but there are braids, cables and other chest-thumping delights to come after I reach the armpits. The sweet, sweet yarn is from the Fisherman line by Lorna's Laces, and it's such a corker that even these endless rounds of stockinette are making me coo. (But it's a very masculine sort of coo.)

Abigail won't reach her first birthday until May, and already she's got a baby shawl, a christening shawl, a sweater, two jackets, a snowman hat and a kimono; plus there's a Tomten Jacket that needs a bit of seaming and a zipper. It's enough already, right?

Then Susan sent me these.

My Favorite Model

Abby in her Christmas sweater and her kimono.

And so,

February Baby Sweater Yoke

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Sweater on Two Needles from Knitter's Almanac.

As has been remarked more than once, it's a pity I'm such a cold and distant sort of uncle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Be It Ever So Humble

I am writing from home. Home. At my desk, on my computer, surrounded by my books and my yarn. No smoke damage, no dreadful smell. To say I feel fortunate does not begin to do justice to the situation.

It was extremely heartening to get all your good wishes during my brief exile. Mind you, I cannot pretend I underwent some terrific ordeal. I had a pleasant place to stay just blocks away, I managed to get some work done, and the biggest loss I suffered was the contents of the refrigerator. But it's still great to be returning to...normal? Can I use that word in describing my life?

This morning I have an illustration for Yarn Market News to finish and ship, but I paused briefly to finish up two projects.

The first is a striped scarf made from Noro Silk Garden.

Noro Scarf 3

Noro Scarf 2

I used a mix of the Lite and Full-Fat weights and honestly, I can't see much of a difference between them. I picked colorways that were close together, and as I'd hoped there are places where the striping shifts from sharp to extremely subtle. Those soft passages, which look like blended watercolors, keep the stripes from looking too mechanical.

A confession: it's short. Well, short for a scarf I might wear myself. It's about five feet. But I had to stop, because I was bored to tears. The color surprises were fun for about four-and-a-half feet; and then I started thinking, "Stripes? Yeah? Big whoop. What else ya got?" When you start taunting your knitting, it's time to move along.

A million versions of this idea are scattered about, but I used Jared Flood's excellent variations as posted on his blog. I'm a big fan of Jared's work–he has the command of fine detail that, to me, separates a true designer from a clever knitter.

And I finished up Tom's Watch Cap.

Tom's Watch Cap

This sucker is warm. Even the phrenology bust broke a sweat while I was making the photograph.

It was a fun knit. For the most part I followed Elizabeth's instructions in The Opinionated Knitter (the collection of her original newsletters, published by Schoolhouse Press). However, I did make two modifications:
  1. On the first round after the brioche, I worked k1, p2tog to close up the yarn-overs and keep the ribbing consistent.

  2. I worked a second round of slip-knit-pass after the stockinette on the crown immediately before drawing it all together.
I'd love to sit and knit some more, but the crew wants lunch and we have no food in the house. If I don't act fast, Dolores will put on her lacy apron and start handing around Jello shooters.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Where There's Smoke

On Saturday morning, I finished up my latest pair of socks.

Schaefer Socks 01

Schaefer Socks 02

I'm extremely satisfied. The pattern is from Kristin Spurkland's excellent The Knitting Man(ual) and worked perfectly as written. A handsome pair–interesting without being fussy.

While I photographed them, Dolores plopped down at the computer to work on her latest article for Ovine Activist Monthly. Harry and the guys were watching Stage Door for the four hundredth time on DVD and taking rowdy swigs of Ovaltine every time Katharine Hepburn said "calla lilies" or Adolphe Menjou tugged his moustache.

Suddenly the lights went out, Dolores screamed something filthy and the sock yarn let out a collective wail.

"It wasn't my hair dryer this time!" yelled a ball of angora blend.

"I know," I said. "Ice must have snapped a power line or something like that."

"Well, I'm pissed," said Dolores. "I was this close to a rousing climax."

"I thought you canceled her account on that Web site," Harry said to me.

"I meant in the speech, you little dung tag," hissed Dolores. "And now my concentration is broken and my muse has fled."

"She's probably stuck in the elevator," said Harry.

Dolores picked up my Meg Swansen paperweight with clear intent but dropped it when Stan, who was perched on the windowsill, let out a squeal.

"I don't think this is good," he said, indicating the line of fire trucks and cop cars that were streaming up the road in front of the building. The first of the trucks screeched to halt in front of the water mains by the curb and one of the crew began to drag hoses toward the spigots.

I sniffed and recognized a familiar, acrid scent from my childhood. Burning electrical insulation.

"Okay," I said. "Out. Everybody out. Now. Stay calm. Dolores, grab your coat and pile the guys into the laundry cart. I'm going to get Mrs Teitelbaum and Tinkles. I'll see you on the corner across the street."

Our neighbor at first failed to grasp the gravity of the situation. She insisted the smell was either the kid across the hall playing with a his new chemistry set or another failed batch of challah in 1510. "Pearl just can't cook," she said. "Her first husband died when she hit him over the head with a homemade kreplach."

But I insisted she pack up Tinkles and come with me. There was some disagreement over what to put him in; she wanted to use Tupperware. By the time we got into the emergency stairwell there was smoke pouring in at the fifth floor and below and people were getting panicky.

Our little band gathered on the corner away from the commotion of trucks and flashing lights, watching smoke billow from the vent in front of the building as firemen ran hither and thither and our neighbors traded stories of what they'd seen and guesses as to what might be going on.

I'd grabbed my camera bag and lenses, but thought of my books, my yarn and my drawings for the book. Still, I tried to keep up a brave face for Harry, who was concerned for the safety of his teddy bear and his autographed photo of Nancy Bush. Dolores was divided between worry over her wardrobe and mortification that she'd had to rush past fifty firemen with her hair in curlers.

The temperature was plummeting–Chicago is in the midst of a hideous deep-freeze with temperatures well below freezing–and I realized with some satisfaction that I was still wearing my newly-completed wool socks and my feet were warm.

I called Tom, who arrived in minutes and reassured us all that no matter what, we all had a place to stay for the night or however long it might take.

It proved to be a long wait for news and a certain amount of relief. We left the building around noon. It was six hours, most of them spent sitting on a "warming bus" provided by the public transit authority, before we were informed that a ComEd transformer in the sub-basement had exploded. There was no fire, but (as we'd seen) acres and acres of smoke, and the building was completely without power, heat or water. At almost seven o'clock I was allowed to make my way upstairs to spend 15 minutes rummaging in the dark for overnight provisions; I grabbed some clothes, my laptop, and two knitting projects I'd left lying on the coffee table. Whatever might happen next, I intended to knit through it.

Mrs Teitelbaum is staying with her niece in Highland Park and still insisting Pearl's challah is ultimately responsible for the mess. We're in residence at Tom's for now, hoping the building will re-open for occupancy tomorrow as has been promised. In the meanwhile, I'm enjoying the sight of Tom's mastiff/boxer mix, Augie, flirting shamelessly with Dolores.

Until I'm back at home, communication will be spotty and work slower than usual. But everything seems to have turned out well, and all of us are safe. Except for Tom, that is. Dolores keeps trying to bust in on him in the shower.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Books Old and New

Old Book

The other day I was poking around the neighborhood charity shop and ran across a period piece that absolutely had to join my collection of vintage and historical cookbooks–particularly as it cost all of $1. Take a look at this.

Old Book

It was published by Doubleday in 1965. In spite of the title, Saucepans and the Single Girl wasn't intended as a novelty. The writing is brisk and witty, and though the recipes are inevitably dated, they're eminently practical. This book was meant to serve as a practical guide for a single working woman (who is always referred to as a "girl") who needed to feed herself, the roommate it was assumed she would have, and the string of bachelors she would need to cook for until one of them knuckled under and proposed marriage.

I've been fascinated with old cookbooks and domestic guides for years. I own several linear feet of them, but most date from well before 1950. This one I find particularly striking because although it's relatively recent, the world it evokes seems as remote as that in which Eliza Action wrote Modern Cookery for Private Families in 1845.

The authors–former roomies who make it clear early on that they are both now married–make several explicit assumptions, most of them depressing.

For example:
  • A woman–erm, girl–with a college degree will only find employment in the business world doing support or secretarial work. Her male classmates, however, will become junior executives.

  • She will necessarily earn less than men her age. While she should be expected to be treated to dinners out, she will only be able to afford to entertain at home.

  • When she marries, she will give up her career.

  • Marriage is a girl's sole alternative to lonely poverty.
To my mind, the most fascinating chapter is "Pandora's Box," one of the few not concerned with cooking for dates. It's about food to be shared exclusively with groups of other women. Only when men are absent, say the authors, can women truly relax and enjoy their food:
Unfortunately, the strange mores of our society dictate that a male may snarl and slaver over his food and come back for thirds, but let a hungry girl pick up her fork with a little honest gusto and it's, "My, but aren't we putting on a little weight?"
And yet the girls don't seem to consider themselves downtrodden, trapped or otherwise limited by gender. On the contrary, they take frequent swipes at the previous generation of women–so much less liberated–who don't drink or smoke but do bake cookies and, perish the thought, knit. Poor things.

I closed the book thinking, How far we've come. And haven't.

New Books

I am extremely excited that pre-orders have just opened for two upcoming titles from Interweave Press. One of them is Knit So Fine, co-authored by my friend Carol.

Her Book

That's her design on the cover. I think it's dreamy. Just like Carol.

This is the other one.

My Book

Amazon pre-orders haven't opened yet, but orders through Interweave Press have.

So I suppose I should finish writing it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Change of Scene

I knew this was going to happen.

There's a Fibertarians meeting tonight at the apartment–specifically, I believe, a gathering of the Committee to Elect Dolores Van Hoofen–and it was made clear early this morning that my presence would be considered de trop.

It's okay, really. I needed some fresh air and a change of scene. The view from my desk has been nothing but gloom for more than a week. Of course, from my seat in the coffee shop I'm still looking at snow falling horizontally, but at least it's different snow. Quite a bit of it, too. I don't know that it counts as a blizzard, but it's enough to have made the stroll over put me in mind of Doctor Zhivago. If only I'd thought to put a balalaika playlist on my iPod.

This is a maiden voyage for the new laptop from which I write. I decided at last to buy one so that when I'm traveling I can still write (I'm working, Anne! I'm working!) and keep up with business. And let me tell you, by the way, that there's nothing like investing in a gut-punchingly expensive piece of computer equipment to make a guy feel the need to produce.

Of course, the downside is that I have now officially become one of Those People. I used to sit in this very chair and knit while everyone around me worked, or pretended to. I felt quite smug being the sole unplugged person in the room.

Not that I haven't brought knitting with me. I have. Here it is.


It's Tom's watch cap. Still not much to look at in a photograph, I know, but in person it's become a delightfully squishy piece of fabric to touch.

My thanks to all of you who offered advice on sources of instruction for working the stitch (Prime Rib, aka brioche) in the round. As it happens, I'd settled on working the hat flat after swatching both methods. Circular brioche wasn't difficult; I have excellent instructions thanks to a Meg Swansen handout from Knitting Camp. It came down to personal taste. For me, brioche in the round just didn't have the same carefree, same-every-row appeal.

As for the seaming, I confess (forgive me, Elizabeth) that I don't mind it. The more seams I work, the more I enjoy them. The process is almost magical, much like Kitchener stitch. You have two edges, and then, Presto! You have no edges. It thrills me. When I finished sewing up Abigail's kimono I felt like taking a bow. And as there was nobody watching me, I did.

I admit it also intrigues me to be working ribbing, real ribbing that snaps back with a satisfying boing, entirely without purl stitches. When I have finished the hat, I shall doff it in memory of the forgotten knitter who invented this stuff.

On the subject of hats and Zimmermann/Swansen genius, did you know Meg's doing knit-alongs over at the Schoolhouse Press Web site? She started with a Christmas stocking, and right now there's a two-parter devoted to a conch shell hat. Check it out. A person can never have too much Meg.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My Fellow Americans

Hi, it's Dolores.

Laura Bush was saying to me the other day, isn't ambition a fickle thing? One minute you're all comfy in your boudoir, leafing through the Vogue summer preview and considering whether it would make sense to move the chaise longue a little closer to the liquor cabinet; and the next minute you're tits up on the shag carpet wondering what life's about and why you feel so unfulfilled.

Cupcakes: I, too, have had such a moment, though unlike dear Laura I did manage to keep both myself and my cosmo off the rug. I was going through my morning e-mails about a month ago and read:
Dear Dolores,

Hi! Such a fan here. I work at a rehabilitation center for wayward girls in Wheatgrass Depot, Oregon and not a day goes by that your name doesn't come up in conversation at least twice!

Anywhoo, not to get too personal but I was wondering, how do you manage it all? I come home from an eight-hour day and all I want to do is drop into a chair with a big old Fiesta Platter from the Taco Bell and watch "Ugly Betty" reruns. You have your writing, your music, your celebrity lifestyle and your duty to the public as a fashion icon. Does the pressure to be the best ever get to you?

Now, I must get at least a dozen questions like that every day. But until this one, I always sent a form response explaining that like a tender South American orchid growing on a rugged cliff, I gotta bloom or perish. It's the reason I left the farm where I was born. I didn't want to wind up like my mother, who wrote "Today I ate some grass" on every page of her diary until the day she died.

When I read Mitzie's message, well, the veil dropped from my eyes. I've lived, yeah. Songs? Sung. Books? Written. Parties? And how. And yet...and's not enough. But when you've done it all and are still shockingly youthful, what are you gonna do next?

I don't mind telling you I was on the verge of weeping a little weep like Alexander, because there were no more worlds to conquer. And then a voice in my head thundered, "Dolores! Now is the time for all good sheep to come to the aid of the country."

And I thought, how true.

So what if I've always been an artist? Many artists have evolved into inspiring political leaders. Think of Ignaz Paderewski, Vaclav Havel, Fred Grandy, Sonny Bono. If Arnold Schwarzenegger can stand on a lofty peak, why shouldn't I reach the summit? And as my Great-Aunt Wilma used to say, if the world's going to go to Hell in a handbasket you might as well try to grab the handle.

Today, therefore, I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States of America, as representative of the newly-formed Fibertarians party.

We are a small but powerful fledgling coalition. According to exploratory canvassing our power base is extremely diverse, witness the chart below.

Fibertarians Power Base

Talk about strange bedfellows. Of course, all are welcome in this tent.* We only ask an allegiance to party principles, which are as follows:
  1. Vote for me.
  2. See above.
Here's our entry in the American political menagerie. Clip 'n' post it as a blog button or Ravelry avatar, or pick a way to display your party allegiance in the real world. [Edited to add: due to popular demand, Dolores for President gear is now available to supplement the line of Fibertarian items. –F. Habit, Director of Campaign Swag.]

Fibertarians Party Symbol

Fibertarians Avatar

Fibertarians Avatar 2

Now, my campaign promises.

Unlike the other candidates, I readily admit that I'm in this for the bling. Free travel by private jet, a huge expense account, my own office, and a posse of humpy bodyguards in suits and dark glasses? Betcherass. So just tell me what you want, and I'll want that, too.

Let's get the ball of yarn rolling with a few suggestions collected by my press secretary, Harry.
  1. Elizabeth Zimmermann's birthday will be declared a national holiday.
  2. All fiber-related purchases will be fully tax-deductible.
  3. Knitting will become a mandatory subject in American public schools.
  4. Government subsidies for the establishment of independent yarn shops in high-need areas.
It's your country, kids. I just plan to run it.

Dolores for President!

*You don't even have to live in America or be American. After a stay in the White House, I'm thinking world domination might be a freakin' hoot.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stupid Groundhog

I know: I'm a knitter, I should love winter. Winter should be the season in which I, wool-mad needlefreak that I am, should come into my own. Cozy sweaters! Toasty hats! Sweet widdle mittens and cunning widdle swippers to warm your chilly fingerses and toeses! Oooooh!

Screw it.

This little body is built of genes drawn from the sunny pools of Lebanon and Sicily. I'd make a capable camel herder or tuna fisherman. But I'm not so good in the cold. When the first arctic blast hits town I start to shrivel. By June, when this misbegotten city finally starts to thaw, I'm just a chewed bit of wet string fit only to serve as a cat toy.

I learned during my first winter to just forget about looking presentable for three-quarters of the year. In Boystown, where I live, the fellows generally gird themselves against winter in the snappy fashion here modeled by Cody, fresh from the hottest brunch spot on Halsted Street, where he always gets a good table because his boyfriend Schuyler's best friend Ramon slept with the host and has threatened to tell his wife.

Not Me

Cody is sporting a thin, short jacket; elegant leather gloves; a silk scarf; a jaunty, little hat; and kicky Italian leather shoes. No bulky insulated coats here, no sir. They spoil the trim line of the figure.

A couple of years ago, in November, I tried walking to the grocery store dressed like that. I got diptheria. This is my typical winter silhouette.


Franklin is wearing a schlubby earflap hat, Thinsulate gloves, two scarves, waterproof construction boots, long underwear, three sweaters and an everything-proof ski parka from L.L. Bean that his parents bought him when they noticed his lips were turning blue. He is still cold.

And now that bastard groundhog has indicated that we get the extra-long edition of winter this year. Sure. What does he care? Does he have to leap over gigantic, shin-deep pools of filthy slush at every street corner? Does he have to risk frostbite in order to replenish the household supply of Cheerios? Does he have to wait, shivering, on an elevated platform for the arrival of a downtown train that smells like butt? No, he's done his bit for 2008 and can just go back to sleep until it's time to wake up and have sex with the hot mama in the next burrow.


If I ever meet him I'm going to kick his ass.

In the meanwhile, yeah, I'm knitting. Tom has asked for a scarf and hat to keep him warm while walking the dog, and so I'm working on a watch cap for him using Elizabeth Zimmermann's variation on brioche stitch, which she calls Prime Rib.

Watch Cap

It looks at first glance like regular k2/p2 ribbing, but it has slipped stitches and k2togs and weird yarn-overs in it, and the result is a bizarrely stretchy, bulky rib. Cuddly in excelsis. I figured there must be something special about it, because this hat is knit flat and then sewn up–and you know Elizabeth is not one to recommend flat knitting and seams without a darn good reason. So far it's a soothing knit for frazzled nerves.

Oooh, the perky television weather lady just said it's going to warm up tomorrow–32 degrees! Excuse me, won't you, while I go dig out my bikini?