Monday, March 29, 2010

A Few Choice Words from Seattle/Tacoma Airport

For the parents of the dozens of little children on spring break who keep sneezing and coughing on me.
Whatever I catch from those ill-bred little bastards, I hope you catch double.
For the man who "forgot about" the hacksaw blade in his carry-on bag.
Pray tell, what is the weather like on the planet from which you come?
For myself.
Putting knitting needles in your carry-on is rather pointless when you pack all your yarn in your checked bag.
For airport concessionaires.
Keep a couple pre-wound balls of Cascade 220 and a few pairs of size fives behind the counter, for knitters who aren't very bright in the morning. You could charge fifty bucks a ball. We'd pay it.
At the Airport With NO YARN

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Same Airport, Different Scene

So this morning I was at O'Hare again, this time heading west to Seattle. I've flown enough lately that I can now go through uppity fancy foo-foo special security when I'm on American Airlines, which is no small boon when Terminal 3 starts to feel more familiar than the living room.

On either side of me in line were standard-issue uppity fancy foo-foo special people. Guys in suits. Guys in golf clothes. Women in suits. Women in resort clothes. One woman took the stereotype to the limit and was pulling the bag containing her microscopic dog in one hand, and her plaid-clad golf-shirted husband in the other.

And there I am neither uppity, nor fancy, nor foo-foo. I don't even qualify as foo. And I'm wearing the kind of stuff I always wear–leather jacket, engineer boots, jeans. Come to think of it, I looked like this:

Cover Girl

The nice people at Skacel made that photograph, as one of a series of magazine ads promoting their Addi Lace needles, which I do in fact happen to adore. (My mother called in a froth from the magazine aisle at the supermarket when she opened Vogue Knitting and found this version of me staring up at her.)

To say I struck an anomalous note in my surroundings is to understate the case. But nobody seemed to notice. Even in uppity fancy foo-foo special security, the passengers are generally too concerned with hanging onto a shred of dignity while disrobing and emptying their bags to care who else is wearing what.

But then I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a woman, of emphatically indeterminate age, without dog or husband but still very much in the second-home-in-Palm-Springs mode.

"Excuse me," she said, not unkindly, "but I just have to're a musician, right?"

I laughed. "No," I said. "I'm a knitter."

She looked confused for a split second, then she frowned–and snapped, "Jesus Christ, I was only asking. There's no need to get sarcastic."

Next time I'm just going to say why yes, I am in fact Willie Nelson.

Whilst in Seattle

I'm only here in Seattle for a couple of hours, then I'm heading north for a sort of knitting conclave on what I understand to be a very pretty island with lots of trees and water and absolutely no cell phone reception.

After that, it's back to Seattle, where the good folks at Renaissance Yarns are hosting me (on Sunday, March 28) for a day of lace knitting classes. In the morning, we'll have "Introduction to the History, Methods and Styles of Lace Knitting;" and in the afternoon, "Lace Edgings: Before, During and After."

If you're interested, as of this writing there are still a few spaces left. You can call the shop at (253) 852-YARN or (877) 852-YARN, or write to for more information.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Franklin in Wonderland

The last time I changed apartments, the moving crew was deeply amused to find that I had five smallish pieces of furniture, eight huge bookcases, and 110 boxes, 97 of which were labeled BOOKS.

I attract books the way velcro attracts cashmere. In spite of a strict policy of twice-yearly culling, which sometimes eliminates as many as seven volumes, I'm still hovering around the 3,000 mark and fear that my cataloguing project will never be complete.

Some of what's on my shelves has been known, read and loved for so long that the books themselves have become almost superfluous; the contents are embedded in my brain and will likely remain until I am otherwise old and dotty and pluck at specks of dust, unable even to spell my own name.

The Alice books are on that list. I remember with absolute clarity the first time I met them, in the first library I can remember, at my first school. I didn't twig to all the jokes–unlike Alice, I had been deprived of peeks into an elder brother's Latin grammar–but I loved Tenniel's pictures.

They were unlike anything in my other favorites: Curious George, Corduroy or even Where the Wild Things Are. The last of these had scenes that were twilit and vaguely threatening; but the illustrations in Alice touched a level of absurd creepy chaos so spine-tingling and delicious that I suspected that I wasn't supposed to be looking at them.

Which is why Alice was the first book I ever stole from a library and hid in my bedroom. (Don't make that face. I felt guilty and brought it back two days later. I always brought the stolen books back.)

When I started working on the Looking Glass Socks I didn't want to get too elaborate. These needed to be low-stress travel knitting. I still hoped to have some kind of visual reference to Wonderland, but after the chessboard fiasco I gave up and settled for plain ol' stripes.

It wasn't until I was getting ready to write this entry, and actually pulled my copy off the shelf to scan an illustration, that I looked at Alice meeting Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum...


...and was startled to notice that in the second book, Alice is wearing striped stockings.

As the second of my pair reverses the colors of the first,


I've decided that one sock must be from the waking side of the looking glass; the other is from the dreaming side.


And I did it without realizing what I was doing. Funny, isn't it, the things that knitting will pull out of the deepest wrinkles in your brain?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Six Things Passengers Waiting for This Flight to St. Louis Would Rather Do Than Sit in the One Empty Seat Next to the Guy with the Knitting Needles

  1. Perch on an armrest next to a ten-year-old who spews BBQ Pringles every time he makes a big kill on his little video game player.

  2. Sprawl on a carpet that is visibly soiled with popcorn droppings and invisibly soiled with heaven knows what else.

  3. Spy on said Knitting Guy from behind a pillar and take his picture with an iPhone.

  4. Move toward the empty seat as though to sit down, then reconsider and walk away, then come back, then walk away, then come back, then walk away, then come back, then walk away, then come back, then walk away, then come back, then walk away.

  5. Greedily devour a McDonald's Extra Value Meal while balanced unsteadily on the rim of a garbage can.

  6. Call "Maureen" and tell her you're "still in Chicago" and that now you've "seen everything."

Monday, March 01, 2010


I was putting away clean laundry the other day and realized that my collection of dress socks–which I grant you is not uncommonly extensive–is now about fifty percent hand-knit.

That's a respectable total, I think, especially considering my tendency to over-think knitting projects in general, and socks in particular. After a recent speaking gig somebody asked me, "Do you swatch?" and I replied that it sometimes feels like I never do anything else.

Those Looking Glass Socks I wrote about a few entries back, the ones made from Supreme Possum, are a perfect example. I fussed and fussed and cast on and knit and ripped back and cast on again and ripped back again and broke out the colored pencils and doodled on napkins and Googled "Fibonacci" and created charts in Illustrator and stared at the wall and bent the ears of several persons willing and unwilling. I wound up with this.

Striped Sock

I'm happy with it. It's fine. It may even be cute. But after all the exertion I keep thinking of a favorite anecdote from one of my culinary idols, Madeleine Kamman. In When French Women Cook, Madeleine tells of slaving for hours in the kitchen over a new dessert intended to impress the chef to whom she's been apprenticed. The chef looks at the finished dish, tastes a spoonful, and says, "Congratulations, chérie. You have just re-invented Nesselrode Pudding."

After all that effort, it does seem one might have come up with something more revolutionary than 2-4-2 stripes, doesn't it?

On the other hand, just at present I need a bit of plain vanilla. When I have an odd moment to knit, I can pick these up and knit. No charts to consult, no maneuvers that can't be accomplished on a speeding bus, no passages that preclude conversation. There's something to be said for that.

Part of the swatching process involved testing five different solutions for avoiding that ugly color jog that you get when working stripes in the round. The first two solutions were
  1. pretending I didn't care about the ugly color jog, and
  2. pretending the ugly color jog didn't matter if I kept it at the back of the leg.
The other three were various sly tricks figured out by knitters far smarter than I. I ultimately settled on the jog-less jog Meg Swansen sets forth with characteristic brilliance in Handknitting With Meg Swansen. I'm not going to explain it here, because it's Meg's technique and not mine. And for heaven's sake, the book is cheap, amazing, and readily available. If you don't have a copy, you should get one.

I will show you how well it worked. Here's the foot, with the spots where the color jog would be in plain view.

Striped Sock Folded

Here's the path of the jogless jogs.

Striped Sock Color Changes Path

As you can see, Meg's maneuver (which I can perform, but still not comprehend) causes the first stitch of the round to travel one stitch to the left each time it's performed. Here's how it looks on the inside, with the unused yarn being carried up a short distance between stripes.

Striped Sock Interior

Maybe, just maybe, if I keep fiddling and dawdling, I'll eventually come up with such a fabulous contribution to the field.

Or maybe I'll be 96 and still knitting freaking stripes. Time will tell.

A Gold Medal

Ironically, while I've been doing this very unremarkable work I've also been preparing a reward for those who have completed extremely remarkable work.

Knitting Olympics 2010 Gold Medal

It's the Gold Medal for Yarn Harlot's 2010 Knitting Olympics. If you like it, you can get one of your own here, or snag sidebar- and Ravelry avatar-sized versions from Stephanie's blog.

A big ol' salute to everybody who took part, including Harry, who finished his animal blanket with time to spare and didn't even care when Dolores told him the cow looked like an elk.