Thursday, December 28, 2006

What was that Ben Franklin said about guests and fish?

We had plans of leaving for Pittsburgh after I got back from work the Thursday before Christmas. But I got back from work later than I had hoped, and we really weren’t packed at all, and I wanted to drop some presents by a friend’s place. She has small kids, and I get that it’s important to have Christmas Presents On Christmas Morning, Even if The Felted Hedgehog Is Not Dry.

So with the packing and the hustling and bustling in the apartment, we didn’t notice right away that there was someone on the porch tapping on our front window.

“Jeebus! What the fork is that?!” I exclaimed. My mother-in-law doesn’t allow swearing, so I was practicing.

The Fool pushed the curtains aside and took a look.

“Huh,” he said. “It’s woolly. I wonder if it’s from that living nativity the Baptist church had a couple nights back.”

He stared for a moment more.

“It’s cursing at me.”

“Call the cops,” I said, handing him the phone.

“Let me in, goddammit, it’s cold out here! You want me to get ice balls in my fleece?”

“Oh,” I said. “I think that’s Dolores. You know, Franklin’s sheep.”

The Fool opened the door, and in barged Dolores, bundled up in a wool overcoat (I ignored the irony.)

“Merry Christmas,” I said. “Come in.”

She stepped on my foot with a sharp hoof as she pushed past, and emptied a carpetbag upside down on the living room floor.

“There,” she said. “You stay here with Auntie Meg and the Fool until Franklin and I come back to get you.”

A half dozen balls of sock yarn shook themselves and settled into an attentive heap, trying hard not to gawk as they looked around.

“Dolores,” the Fool said, “You can’t leave them here. We’re going out of town tomorrow. Who’s going to take care of them?”

“They’ll manage fine on their own – just leave a takeout menu and a little cash by the phone. Now, I have to go to Aidan’s, so you all get acquainted.”

“But….” I began.

But Dolores was gone, hustling out my door again and into a waiting cab. No wonder she hadn’t started sniffing around the liquor cabinet; the meter was probably running.

With some reservations, we left for Pittsburgh the next morning. The sock yarn had curled up in a basket and seemed to be sleeping through the long winter’s night. I tried calling the cats a couple times to get a report, but cats are notoriously unreliable about answering the phone or returning messages left on the machine.

What with the total lack of opposable thumbs in the apartment over the weekend, I don't quite understand how the goings-on were documented, but they were.

Here, the lads seem to have settled in for the evening.

Some of them apparently overindulged. They left lint all over the bathroom rug, too.

Knowing that Franklin is an erudite fellow, I was a little surprised to see what the sock yarn preferred to read. They tried telling me they only bought it for the short fiction, but I said in that case, they could have read the New Yorker or the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, either of which was sitting around.

The Dynamic Duo better retrieve their wayward fiber soon, because we have a gig in St. Louis this weekend and don't want to have to take a whole basket of sock yarn with us. They're not staying home by themselves; I don't know how Franklin does it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Everything

I saw the line Happy Everything on a Peanuts drawing I received in the mail on a Christmas card today, so I thought I would title the post after it.

We're off towards the East sometime tonight, grabbing a hotel somewhere in Ohio, then spending the extended weekend with my parents in Pittsburgh. Tuesday we're playing a contra dance in Indianapolis on our way back home. There's never a dull moment around here!

There's nothing to put a smile on your face like this great picture from the live nativity scene right down the street from us. It is apparently the largest outdoor live nativity scene in the area... so large it's actually five scenes. So enjoy the camel.

Happy Everything, everyone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Today is the Feast Day of St. Dominic

He's a patron of shepherds, so I suppose, indirectly, we should all be celebrating, too.
(Hagiography from the "Forgotten English" desk calendar, which makes a great holiday gift for the verbivores in your life.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Michigan, ho!

We're off to Lansing for a quick overnight today - playing at the contra dance, and then heading back home tomorrow.
The calendar did that thing where the days march along in orderly fashion, and then, when I'm making dinner, someone rips a whole week out of the year, and suddenly, I look up and panic sets in, and then the Fool and I are having discussions that end with me saying stuff like:
"We cannot send Christmas cards out after Christmas, before New Year's! I don't care if they say 'Peace on earth,' they're not New Year's cards. They're Christmas cards sent by slacker procrastinators who can't meet one simple deadline!"

Maybe not my finest moment this week.

But I did a little mental reshuffling, and it's better now.
Thorny is not getting a thing from me until we go to Madison in late January to play the contra dance there.
The Fool's two gifts still on the needles really aren't a secret anymore, and I'll probably finish them as we drive to Pittsburgh next week.
My friend Carrie, who picked a rather big - and justified - bone with me about not spending time with friends because I was too busy (see above re: collection of fine moments this week) has a scarf on the needles as well. So that's my first priority. Because I suspect not finishing her present because I ran out of time would be a faux pas, as they say.
So today, as we drive to Lansing (and stop at Threadbear! Yay!), I'll be exercising spousal prerogative and insisting the Fool drive, so I can knit like a madwoman.
Finished the Sea Silk scarf this morning, blocked, fringe and all - photo update to come.
Happy weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thoughts about my Spouse Who Also Knits (SWAK)

Meg has already written a treatise on the subject, but I was asked to weigh in as well. So here it goes.

Spare Time
Pro: Free time is often spent quietly on the couch together, working on our respective projects, listening to music, and enjoying each other's company though not saying a word. Quite meditative and fun.

Con: Unfortunately this is a little too easy to do, so we don't end up spending much time doing other things together... like housework.

Road Trips
Pro: I usually end up doing most of the weekend driving in the relationship. This works well, as I seem to enjoy it more than Meg. It is nice, however, on longer trips to be able to break up the driving a bit and give myself a bit of extra time to knit.

Con: When I am in the passenger seat knitting, I'm usually thinking about how I am taking away from Meg's knitting time. Crazy, I know, and not really fair to myself. But there you go.

Family Dynamics
Pro: Grandmother is ecstatic that we both knit, and Mom thinks it's pretty neat.

Con: Somehow it really pisses my brother off.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Status Update from the Fool

Knitting hasn't been the first thing on my mind recently, and I'm okay with that. I figure it's one of those things that comes and goes, depending on what else is happening in my life. I got a bit discouraged from my vain attempts to knit a Christmas present for Meg. I think I have frogged a total of four times now, so I needed a break.

I'm finishing up a pair of socks that kept me company at the airport last week (the ones with the forethought heel that I adore so much). I'm also most of the way through the first purple bootie that will accompany the eggplant hat that Meg made for an infant of some of our friends. (The hat is an eggplant hat, not just the color of eggplant, in case you were wondering.)

That darned baby sweater still isn't finished. I really need to get off my lazy arse and finish it. I didn't get to visit my friend over Thanksgiving, though the languishing project is really starting to hang over my head.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, we had a really fun time. Thanksgiving Day consisted of visiting a whole bunch of relatives of mine that I didn't even know existed until a few weeks ago. Meg and I briefly spent a few hours getting to know much of this side of the family (which is really quite large). Natalia, the matriarch of the family, is originally from Lithuania, and her family all grew up on the South Side. Her one daughter has seven children (my third cousins). Before we left for second Thanksgiving at Meg's dad's house, Natalia sat us down and fed us large amounts of eastern European food, including two or three types of sausage, ham, and turkey. She also prepared a "to go" bag for Meg's dad... in case he doesn't have enough food at his house.

Thanksgiving weekend was spent at a contra dance weekend called Breaking Up Thanksgiving (named after the old-time tune Breaking Up Christmas). It's our home contra weekend, so it's quite special to us. We got to play a bunch of times for dances (including as an old-time pickup band featuring twin fiddling, banjo, and guitar). I think we turned some heads when we played old-time music, as we're not usually associated with that kind of thing. We also got to sit in some great jams (the music kind, not the fruit kind.)

Speaking of fruit jam, today was Clear The Freezer day. This mostly meant making 12 half-pint jars of blueberry jam from my grandmother's home-grown blueberries. It also entailed making a mixed berry fruit pie with streusel topping and my famous Messed Up Pie Dough1 for the bottom layer (both from the freezer). More pies are in our near future, including cherry and blueberry pies.

Life is good. I worked a 1-day week last week, and I'm off to a work conference in Miami this upcoming Thursday through Sunday, so it will be a 3-day work week. And I've had lots of time to do fun things and I expect that I will continue to have a decent amount of personal time. I might as well enjoy it while it lasts before the holiday season hits hard. That's fun, too, but in a different sort of way.

1 For those of you hankering after the recipe, halve all of the ingredients for a double pie crust except for the water.

weekly update and some thoughts

Here's the status of the holiday knitting. The hedgehog (top) is untouched. The mystery thing (clockwise) has a couple more inches on it, and I wound the second ball of yarn for that. The Sea Silk scarf pulled out in front of everything else last week. The sari silk scarf is untouched. The scarf I plan to knit for The Fool is unwound. And the single sock? The sock with a mate I cast on and lost? Still gone.
What will our knitter accomplish by next week? Stay tuned.
I'm entertaining myself today by listening to This American Life on the computer. I love this show. And I just discovered their archives.

So I've been thinking about whether or not it's good to have a husband who knits. That's something people have brought up in comments in one way or another. I thought I'd examine this more completely.

Pro: Because the Fool knits, he understands how much yarn costs, how much books costs, etc., etc. So when I spend money on yarn/ books/ etc., he doesn't really raise an eyebrow. There's none of the "You spent *how* much?"
I quilt too, and until it sank in that I own more fabric than I will sew in my lifetime and I should stop buying stuff until I caught up a little bit, I used to feel guilty about some of my purchases. The Fool never said anything, but I always worried that in the back of his mind, he was wondering if we'd ever be able to buy a house, or if our collective life's work would be sunk into Kona Bay cottons.
Con: You know how much you spend on yarn, books, etc? Yeah, well, now he spends that much too. And he spins.

Economy of scale
Pro: OK. So we both knit. But there's no chance we'll both be putting sweaters on holders at the same time, both be using #13s to knit felted cat beds, both need the 20-inch #6 circular.
Con: You'd be surprised how many knitting projects require the same notions at the same time.

Knitting is the new yoga
Pro: One of the things I like about knitting is that it's a craft one can take at one's own pace. I can knit something just as hard, or as easy, as I feel like tackling. I tend to be a little competitive about stuff, so knitting is a good way for me to calm down.
Con: I tend to be a little competitive about stuff, so we have conversations like this.

FOOL: What's this Knitting Guild of America certification stuff?
ME: It's some thing where you do all these exercises and design sweaters and stuff, and then you get certified.
FOOL: Then what?
ME: I guess you could use it if you wanted to get a gig as a knitting teacher.
FOOL: It sounds sort of interesting. I bet you could learn a lot of stuff just working through it.
ME: Yeah, maybe.
(Thinking: Oh, hell! If he does this, then I'll have to do it and I don't want to do it, but I can't let him be the only one in the house to do it!)
ME: I think it's a bad idea. Lots of people get diseases from it.

The Honey-do list:
Pro: I'll confess, I got the Fool to start knitting because I was bored to tears with a kitchen cotton rug I was knitting. So I showed him how to knit, and that was the beginning of the end. And sometimes, if I have something especially odious in the fiber arts that I wish to push off on someone else (Kitchenering socks, for example), he is the someone else I turn to. (He's also the someone else I turn to if there are bugs to kill, if there are things I need from high shelves, or if there's that weird wet food stuck in the sink trap -- shudder!)
Con: That kind of thing goes both ways. So now I have to teach him the crochet cast-on and if there's weird knitter math to be done, I am often the one to help him do it.

Social life:
Pro: Rhinebeck? Sure! How about Maryland next spring? Absolutely! Sweetie, there's a new yarn shop opening up next weekend. Let's go!
Con: None, unless I suggest that I might like to go a women-only fiber event without him.

In total? I think it's easier this way. There's plenty of other things I do that make him say, "Honey, you're very weird." It's much better that I don't add something else to the list.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's *not* wee yarn goblins!

It's the Fool.
There's been some discussion in comments of late about whether, in fact, knitters' houses are populated with small, mischevious goblins who flip balls of partly wound yarn off the ballwinder and tangle skeins.
That may be true. I'm not doubting that.
I'd also thought maybe they were responsible for some of the petty kleptomania that goes on, stashes of stitch markers that dwindle, a 20-inch #6 circ that was sitting there just a minute ago, where did that go, is it in the couch ... cat! Cat?! Bring it back.
Not so. Tonight, the Fool decided to clean out his backpack and it was all in there. Stitch markers, four (Four!) Addis of various sizes, a bamboo dpn and (mysteriously) a pair of toenail clippers.
So many questions answered....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This time, a photo

Disheartened by the list of knitting I hope to accomplish by Christmas, I weeded out the recreational sweaters and took a photo.

Clockwise, from top:
Mystery Thing 2&3: Note there is only one thing, and it's still very mysterious.
Sea Silk scarf.
Sari silk scarf.
The Fool's scarf: Note that it is actually still a skein of yarn. Not good.
Sorta surprise socks: Note that I still haven't found the one I started.
Hedgehog: With newly bought skein of eyelash yarn to finish the little guy.
Eggplant hat in the middle, finished.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone

Like many couples, we're dividing our day between two families. First, we get to meet some distant relatives of the Fool's, and then we're having dinner with my father, who has declared he is cooking the turkey this year. I suspect it's mostly to win the celery / no celery debate regarding the stuffing. I have been asked to bring a pie, a "real pumpkin pie."
I puzzled over that for a while, but decided he meant, no trying to pass off a sweet potato pie or a butternut squash pie on the pater familias.
The Fool and I took the three wee pie pumpkins on our porch from Halloween, butchered and roasted them, and are draining the puree as we speak. I hope Dad gets that for anyone else? I'd have opened a can of Libby's.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not just a river in Egypt

It's been a rotten couple weeks at work, the kind of weeks that feel like there are six days worth of existence crammed into five, the kind of weeks that, honestly, make me want to bite people. I actually caught myself figuring out how I could drive around with a carton of eggs in my car to throw at people who don't use their turn signals properly while driving.
"The problem is," I thought, "I'm right-handed, and my left hand would have to be my throwing hand while I drive."

The point is, I have been turning in the evening to light reading, the kind of stuff that doesn't tax the mind much. The other night, I was reading essays from "The Secret Life of a Knitter," the one about Christmas knitting.

And I was feeling smug, because while I have a bit of holiday knitting afoot, I feel like I'm well ahead of the game. It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Then, the next day, Thorny e-mailed me, and as we often do on e-mail, we talked about knitting. She sent me a list of what she was working on, a little update on each project, and I sent her one back. It's my Christmas knitting.

Here is the excerpt:
Secret Thing 1: I'm knitting this out of the Fool's sight. It's a little harder than I thought, but I had two good shows at Old Town to work on them, so that was a Good Thing.
Eggplant hat:
Ready for the green; will polish this puppy off this week.
Semi-secret blue socks: Lost the second one! Aargh!
Sari silk scarf for Carrie: Have a smallish ball of the first skein left; it's slow going, but it's going. I try to knit a couple inches on it every night.
Sea Silk scarf for Cass: Why am I knitting so many damn scarves this year? Hateses the scarfs, hateses them. Anyway. Is faggot lace pattern on 2s, and it's freakin' beautiful. I'm obsessed with knitting this scarf. It'll be a narrow little thing, suitable for several wraps around the neck, and despite the unkind things I said about this yarn earlier*, I am So. In. Love. with this yarn.
Hedgehog: (Or wedgehog, as I inadvertently called it last night.) Stalled for want of - quit laughing - a ball of brown eyelash yarn. Yep. Novelty yarn roadblock.
Plan to knit another rat for Carrie's squids, probably a white rat with blue eyes and a pink tail.
Secret Projects 2&3 :
Cast on for one. Is v. interesting knit. Love my lovely pointy 4s.
Fool's gansey:
Am working my way up the front, slowly but surely. More slowly than not.
My Blackwater Abbey sweater:
Drooling with lust over the pattern. But as you can see from the list above, I do not need to cast anything else on. CiT: Stalled until I have the time to figure out how to knit the damned twisty stitches right.
An Kamin: Stalled until I have the time to figure out how to knit the damned twisty stitches right.
Fool's scarf from that stuff I bought at Rhinebeck:Oooh, how I want to make this scarf, too. Am going to do it in plushy brioche stitch. But see above re: damn scarves. Not even cast on. Not even in a ball. Every couple days, I pick it up and pet it."

Hmm. So maybe I'm not as set with this Christmas knitting as I thought.

*It took me three days to wind this from a skein into a ball because I was being my own swift and it got all knotted up and it took me two days to untangle the knot. Then I was winding it into a center pull ball on the ballwinder and - I kid you not - it leapt from the ballwinder and made itself into another %$@! snarly mess, which took me another %$^# day to $$#%@ untangle.
But the colors are gorgeous!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Inflicting" is Such a Harsh Word

In fact, the lads of Stitches and Britches seemed overjoyed to learn a new techniques. Having had two requests for demonstrations, I decided to prioritize.

First was the Twisted German cast-on, where we played "telephone" with each other, passing it around the table, each teaching the next person until it came back to me. Seeing that there were seven of us, it's amazing that the technique stayed intact, although the method by which it was taught was somewhat altered.

The second technique I taught was the Magic Loop. This wasn't quite as generally interesting to folks, but Franklin (who requested the technique) was appreciative and a bit befuddled that it actually works. It is one of those techniques that you have a hard time believing in until you see it, so I don't blame him in the least.

I have started the Christmas knitting. Okay, so it's only one object, and it's at the request of Meg. She's pretending that she doesn't know what it is, and the rule is that I'm not supposed to work on it when she's around. Of course, this idea went straight to hell this afternoon when I made her try it on to see if it would be too small. I told her to close her eyes, but she didn't bother. At least I'm not at the interesting part yet.

I have to finish the secret knitted object (with rodent on the front) by Friday because the mother of the intended recipient will be in town. I get to meet him for the first time (the intended recipient), which involves a drive out to northwest Indiana. Then I have two gigs back-to-back in Arlington Heights with Donnybrook, immediately followed by Breaking Up Thanksgiving for the weekend in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Breaking Up is always a fun weekend for us, because we get to hang out with friends and play for the challenging contras workshop as the Cosmic Otters. I am also teaching a workshop on Celtic fiddling styles, and I'm not exactly sure what I am going to cover.

Speaking of Celtic fiddling styles, Meg and I have decided that it would be in my best interest to attend the Ceilidh Trail School of Celtic Music this upcoming summer. It sounds absolutely awesome, and I'm not sure I can wait that long! I wish there were more Cape Breton fiddlers or piano players in the area. You readers in the Boston area don't realize how lucky you are. I feel like I'm finally starting to get the style somewhat close to right, though it takes me awhile to warm up into the sound. It's not an easy style to learn, as it has taken me the better part of four years to get somewhat more comfortable with the tunesets. I owe much to Cape Breton Live for their nearly constant broadcast of live house parties and dances. Anyways, a week at the school could only help me get further down the road, and I am greatly looking forward to it.

We have a few hours to kill before we have to go D.J. our Celtic radio show at WHPK. Perhaps I will knit and make dinner between now and then.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Fool is off inflicting the Twisted German Cast-on....

.. on the lads of Stitches in Britches tonight.
I've been doing some thinking about my knitting in the meantime.
I realized that this Blackwater Abbey yarn, pictured above, doesn't really want to be this sweater.
I tried, I really did, but it's just not doing what I want it to do. The little twisty stitches are not very crisp and I'm not getting a lot of definition, probably because the Blackwater Abbey is a two-ply, not a three ply.

So this leaves me impaled on the horns of a two-pronged dilemma.
1. What do I do with all this yarn?

One good way to solve a knitting problem is to throw money at it, so I bought a pattern from the Blackwater Abbey folks. It's a cabled cardigan, and I'm making it out of that rust-colored yarn. Astute observers of my wardrobe (OK, the Fool) will notice that I actually already own this sweater. It's dark green, and I'd put it on in November and not take it off until March if I thought nobody would notice. I bought it in Galway the year before I started knitting. That proved to be a problem, because when I wore it to places where I was likely to meet knitters, I'd have this conversation.

THEM: Oh, that's a beautiful sweater!
ME: Thank you.
THEM: Did you knit that?
ME: Um, no. I bought it. In Ireland.
ME: I bought it before I learned to knit.
THEM: Hmmf.

So this way, when I knit my own sweater, it will be exactly the same as my favorite cardigan in the world, except I'll be able to wear it around knitters without feeling a little embarassed, much like I would if I had to eat a hamburger in front of a cow.
What clinched it was a conversation I had with a friend about this problem, who reassured me that all the fashion magazines say when you find a shirt or a pair of pants you like, you should get two in different colors, and as long as I didn't wear both sweaters at the same time, nobody would notice.

2. What do I knit that sweater out of, if not Blackwater Abbey?

Why, Cascade 220, of course. What can you knit everything out of? Sigh. I swatched in Cascade (which, I know, I should have done before buying all this Blackwater Abbey and setting myself up for a whole new sweater project) and it looks pretty good.
The only problem is that I don't understand Bavarian twisted stitch knitting as well as I need to in order to make this sweater work. I took a picture of the swatch, but it didn't come out, so take my word when I tell you that at first, the stitches travel along the way they ought to, and all is orderly and tidy ... and then, it looks like I started knitting with an eggbeater.
So perhaps I need to spend a little more time figuring out how to manipulate these stitches without having to use a cable needle or slide two off and swap them before continuing on.
One step forward, two steps back.

3. What do mittens knit out of the Gollum-colored part of a skein of Noro look like?
This. And also? The Fool's handspun (bottom) knits up at a different gauge than KnitPicks Merino Style (top). But they go on two different hands, and they're monstermittens anyway, so I'm not losing sleep over this one.
They're warm, and that's what I was looking for in a mitten, so I'm pleased. Also, I didn't knit webbed thumbs, which I did last time I knit mittens.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Twisted German Victory!

So the other day, I was putting dishes in the kitchen when I overheard several expletives coming from my wife:

Meg: "Damnit! Son-of-a-*$^@$! Mother%^$@er."

Fool (rather puzzled): "Honey, is everything okay?"

Meg: "Now that I've mastered the Twisted German Cast On, I can't remember how to do the regular long-tail cast on. Oh, hell!"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Figured something out

I realized last week that it was getting cold and I had no mittens, somehow. So I decided to knit a pair with two balls of leftover Noro (the Gollum-colored part), some of the Fool's first handspun and some KnitPicks Merino in olive green.
I swore off mittens last year, so this was a pretty major decision for me. Plus, it's getting cold again this weekend and I have to cover an outdoor event on Saturday.
Anyway, what I discovered, after knitting a pair of mittens in three days, is that I don't mind mittens at all.
What I hate are dpns.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dulaan Projects

I'm a man of few words this evening.

Presenting our household Dulaan projects:

The hat I made...

The hat Meg made...

Another, erm, hat Meg made.

Rhinebeck Plunder

Okay, so Rhinebeck was, in fact, two weeks ago. But that doesn't mean that I can't still post about it, especially considering my posts have been few and far between recently. Part of me doesn't really know how to put Rhinebeck into words, we had such a good time, so here is Rhinebeck in pictures:


...and wools!

Right, don't forget the llamas!

...and a Bosworth spindle.

And, perhaps most unexpectedly of all, trebucheted pumpkins!

Oh, right... don't forget about all the plunder that managed to sneak onto the plane with us.

Psst! Norbert!

This one's for you. It's really easy. I don't even get out the power tools when I make the cake, although I use the mixer for the frosting.

Pumpkin cake

2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. powdered ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
4 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
1, 15-ounce can of pumpkin

4 oz. softened cream cheese, or you can use neufchatel if you like it tangy
1/4 c. softened butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 t. milk
2 c. sifted powdered sugar.

Preheat oven to 350.
For cake: Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, oil, sugar and can of pumpkin until well blended. Mix in dry ingredients. Pour in a 9 x 13 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake is not jiggly and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.


Let cool completely before frosting. Or else the frosting melts and gets all gloppy and ... not so pretty.

Frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Add in sifted powdered sugar and continue beating. If it looks a little thick, add a tiny bit more milk until it's the consistency you like.

For extra-festive occasions, I like to put some fall-colored sprinkles on the top.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Two conversations about knitting....

... and one disturbing revelation.

Thorny and I are trying not to stalk the Yarn Harlot, even though we made the Fool take a picture like some weirdo fiber paparazzo.

THORNY: I'm really trying not to go over there and be all fangirl - "ooh, I love your books," - what am I supposed to do? Ask her to sign something?'
ME: (Rummages purse, looking for something Thorny could get the Yarn Harlot to autograph while thinking of the weirdest thing I've ever heard people ask a celebrity to do.) Hmm. You could do that rock star thing.
THORNY: What rock star thing?
ME: You could ask her to sign your left breast or something. I bet someone has a Sharpie.
THORNY: I'm not asking her to autograph my boob.
ME: And then you could go get a tattoo of her signature.
ME: Oh, come on.

At work, Tuesday, eating lunch with Nikki and Katie:
KATIE: What are you knitting?
ME: It's the Baby Surprise Jacket. It's a design by a woman named Elizabeth Zimmerman, who was a pretty famous knitter - she came up with some really innovative ideas.
KATIE: What's surprising about it?
ME: Well, you knit this big flat flobbery thing and then you fold it up and sew a couple of seams and it turns into a little cardigan.
ME: I'm not exactly sure how it works - it's a very exciting piece of knitting, really.
NIKKI and KATIE: Hahahahahahah!!!!
ME: Well, I think it's exciting.

Fine. Hats for everyone:
I got a press release from Consumer Reports today, about their Holiday Shopping Poll. A lot of it was boring, except for this stunner.
Buyer beware. In 2005, clothing was the most disappointing category of gifts received (36%) — the biggest offender was socks (11%)

Back to sewing up the Halloween costume. The Fool and I have a gig at a costumed contra dance, and we're going in Renaissance finery. So I'm working on what he refers to as "a wenchcoat."
With luck, I'll make enough progress to justify a little knitting before bed. The Baby Surprise Jacket is getting really gripping.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Where your socks have been

Dear Adina,
Meet David. He's from San Antonio and he works in computers. He is a knitter who wears kilts with impunity. He knit that sweater he's wearing, and that kilt hose, too. Which is why I feel a little guilty admitting the following.
That thing he's holding?
It's one of your two socks. He's weaving in the ends of all the bits of yarn I made the sock out of -- a thankless, kind-of-boring task that, in retrospect, I feel like I badgered him into.
See, we were at this sheep-and-wool festival in New York over the weekend (a big one, sort of like the World Cup or Super Bowl of sheep-and-wool festivals), and we ended up hanging out at a Marriott hotel with a big batch of other knitters.
(There has to be a better noun for 'large group of knitters' than 'bunch.' Maybe 'skein,' or 'roving'? Will think.)
So there we all were in the lobby, a big roving of knitters and spinners, when David came to join all of us. He didn't have a project with him, just a beer, and when he started to look a little anxious, maybe like he was on the verge of fidgeting, I offered him your sock to finish off.
By offered, I mean, I threw it at him and said, "Bored? You can weave in ends!"
And he did! Amazing.

(I'm going to try this right now and see if this works in real life. "Bored?!" I'll shout at my husband, throwing him a dirty plate, "You can load the dishwasher!")

Anyway, hanging around in a skein of knitters and spinners is a good time. The Fool got to do his favorite thing - show people the Twisted German Cast-on. Here, he is inflicting, erm, demonstrating it to David.

Here, Thorny is watching in rapt fascination (patient indulgence) as he shows it to her.

Here's Lanea and Jayme, a couple of East Coast knitbloggers we met. They're good people to hang out with, because they apparently travel with homemade cakes and wine.
(They also bring their own crockery, so you will never end up in the situation I did at Celebration dance weekend two years ago when Ben-the-Actuary asked me if I wanted a martini to drink while I played old-time music and when I said yes, thinking, well, maybe Ben has a way to make a good martini in the dark, I found out his idea of a martini was warm bad gin in a styrofoam cup - anyway. That would not happen with these two.)

You may actually have seen them around, because they are contra dancers in DC. When you call at Glen Echo next, I suggest that in between dances, you ask the floor if Lanea is there, and if she is, whether she brought any of her family heirloom almond cake with her. It is That Good.

Anyhoo, that's what I showed your socks last weekend. I also took them to a Celtic festival in Kalamazoo, Mich., to work for a couple weeks, and to the Old Town School of Folk Music while I was house-managing. I believe they heard the Pine Leaf Boys and the Red Stick Ramblers. You should hear those bands too, btw. Anyway, they'll be in the mail shortly.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

In Which The Two SockKnitters Learn They Are Not As Clever As They Thought They Were

She knew.
Thorny knew.
It turns out that while we were patting ourselves on our not-so-sneaky backs for arranging a surprise trip to Rhinebeck, she guessed what was up. So while we were spending our time trying not to give the secret away, she was spending her time trying not to let on that she knew anyway.

But no matter.

We had a great time. There was yarn, roving, two new drop spindles purchased (I still have not fallen prey to the call of the pretty, pretty wool) some new friends, some really delicious Italian almond cake, leaping llamas, pumpkin-hurling trebuchets, curly-haired sheep and a goat that nibbled on my clapotis tassel ... yeah. Good weekend.

We're unpacking right now, and contemplating bed (hung out with knitbloggers until very late last night) so here's a picture until I can get to the good stories. It's of a Bluefaced Leicester, the Fool's favorite kind of sheep. In particular, it's of a rather randy Bluefaced Leicester.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shhhh ... it's a secret

"Gee, it'd be fun to go to Rhinebeck."
"Yeah. It would."

So we are.


Why are we not playing blogger bingo or any of the other fun Rhinebeck festivities all of blogland has been talking about? Why, because we are kidnapping Thorny and taking her with us ... and it's a surprise. So we've been gleefully rubbing our hands together in absolute, suffering silence over here.
She is en route from Madison as we speak, and we have concocted a plausible cover story as to why we have to drive somewhere with suitcases tomorrow, and, yeah.
The cover story has to do with faulty plumbing and the water being shut off and the floor being torn up and having to stay in a hotel, and as we had a water heater failure that caused us to call our landlord at 1:30 a.m. last Saturday, it's not that outlandish.
It beats the Fool's idea of simply eyeing her sternly and saying, "You'll pack your suitcase and get in that car if you know what's good for you," or mine, of making her play rock-paper-scissors for the privilege of asking a yes-or-no question.

Back to packing now, and trying to figure out what kind of knitting project to take with us. Socks, probably and the River Forest Gansey.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oh dear

Tonight, we decided to walk down to Barbara's Bookstore to buy a copy of Time Out Chicago, in which the lads of Stitches in Britches figure prominently. Well, for one short article, at least. If you don't live in Chicago, you can read it here.
I'm not one to beat up other writers - dog knows how hard it is some days, but I do wish whoever wrote that headline had not dusted off the "knitting not for grandmas" cliche.
That said, here's hoping the guys get more folks to come out and knit.
So en route to the store, the Fool stopped, looked aghast and slapped our bedroom wall.
"Uh oh," he said, turning his hand over. "Moth."
"Wool moth?"
"Hang on. Let me get the camera."
"You're going to blog the moth?"
Dead moths don't photograph well, so he set it aside to take a picture of tomorrow in natural light (because you all want to see a small blurry brown squashed moth.)
Now I'm going to be up all night worrying about the veritable Old Country Moth Buffet of wool in this apartment. How the hell did a moth get in here? What are the cats doing all day?


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I get on these kicks...

... where I tend to buy a lot of things in the same color. For a while, it was chocolate brown. Then it was sage green. Then magenta.
So the other night, when we were driving home from WHPK, and I was sitting with my knitting bag on the seat next to me, I happened to notice that the Fool was petting it lovingly.
Puzzled, I stared, and he glanced over, only to find that he'd mistaken the apple green knitting bag for the apple green skirt I was wearing.
I've got to go shopping.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Technical Knitting

So Meg has informed me that I have to post some "technical sh**" to keep the balance between her style (read: far more interesting) than mine. Ideas include "designing something" and "coming up with a different way to graft." She also informs me that Cat Bordhi has come up with some weird new way of doing sock gussets, which means, of course, that it must be good.

See, we have this expression we like to use. It basically goes like this: "I like so-and-so; it's nice and weird." This can range to anything from an Irish tune playing on the CD player to a knitting technique to a reference to the spouse (the last being a term of endearment). A variant of this is: "I think you'd like so-and-so because it's nice and weird." As you might imagine, we have a fairly unique relationship.

So, without further commentary, I present my latest epiphanies in the world of technical knitting.

I finally figured out, thanks to Charlene Schurch and Sensational Knitted Socks, what exactly is meant by "pick up two stitches at the top of the gusset" before knitting the first instep round for the foot. In retrospect, I realized that I used to do this completely wrong, causing a hole at the top of the gusset even though I was so careful to "pick up an extra stitch." So thanks, Charlene, for straightening this out. I don't want to divulge any of her secrets, so let me simply say the book is highly recommended, as many sock knitters will inform you.

Since I knit with either 2 circs or Magic Loop, stitch markers are commonly used in two places to mark where the instep stitches end and the heel stitches begin. I believe that most people use two markers. I, however, being "nice and weird," only use one. If the round starts in the middle of the back of the heel, I use a stitch marker to mark where the heel stitches end and the instep stitches begin, but I simply don't find it necessary to mark the other side. This may be due to the fact that I usually continue some sort of pattern across the instep rather than reverting to POSS (plain old stockinette stitch)1. Or it may also be that, since the number of instep stitches remains constant for the duration of the foot, needle 2 will always start out by me working the same number of stitches immediately followed by a gusset decrease (if applicable on the current round). Therefore, a stitch marker really isn't telling me anything here that I don't already know. Of course, that makes me the dork on the train with only one stitch marker on his sock. Is that like walking down the street with one shoe on?

1POSS is my rather poor joke on something in Java called a POJO (plain old Java object). I'm sure that I'm the only one laughing.

Ahhh ... weekend chez SockKnitters

We have Barachois on the CD player and a whole sackful of produce from the farmers' market to unload (fingerling potatoes, apples, cider, funny little gourds and an eggplant!), we opened all the windows, and we're going to clean.

Thursday was Contract Renewal Day, as my parents used to call it. The Fool and I decided the last three years have been pretty good, so we agreed to extend the contract - grin. Sealed the bargain with our annual fancy dinner at Topolobampo, Rick Bayless' Chicago restaurant. We sat next to a table of four doctors.

Dinner went kind of like this. I ordered the tasting menu, whereas the Fool decided to eat a lot of seafood instead.

ME: Two delicious big shrimp with garlic, chiles, sprouts and little crispy bits of potato
FOOL: assortment of three ceviches
DOCTORS: Discussion of Crohn's disease, intestines, intestinal surgery.

ME: Small bowl of garlicky, creamy chile-spiced soup with chives, cubes of roasted potato and crabmeat.
FOOL: Licking bowls of ceviche and crunching on homemade tortilla chips.
DOCTORS: Discussion of catheters.

ME and FOOL: Langosta al Pasilla Oaxaqueño - pan-roasted Maine lobster with a mezcal-laced sauce of roasted organic Happy Valley tomatoes and smoky-spicy chiles; beet chilaquiles, wild arugula salad and heirloom cherry tomatoes. (Thank God for website; I was forgetting adjectives. I got a half lobster, he got a whole lobster - I'm not a glutton.)
DOCTORS: More discussion of heart catheters, EKGs.

ME: Slices of pork loin in mole, fresh tortillas.
FOOL: Polished off second half lobster, broke legs open to see if there was anything tasty inside, assisted with mole.
DOCTORS: Residencies, something horrible and weird that happened to a guy they knew who wore too-tight boxers one day.

ME: sampler of moist chocolate cake layered with fresh blackberry mermelada, old-fashioned crispy rosette with Mick’s first Gala apples and raspberry swirl ice cream, blueberry-lime ice infused with tequila.
FOOL: Something amazing with crepes, plantains, berries, melon and a really incredible cinnamon sauce.
DOCTORS: Mortgages.

It was a delicious dinner, full of flavors we weren't familiar with at all.

Last night, I cast on for the complicated Japanese twisted stitch sweater. I used the twisted German cast-on. The Fool luuurves this cast-on. He is like a Jehovah's Witness of the Twisted German Cast-On.
For the last year or so, we have been having conversations like this.

ME: I think I'm going to start a new pair of socks.
FOOL: Would you like me to show you the twisted German cast-on?
ME: Nah, I'm kinda tired, I'll just use the long-tail cast on.
FOOL: The twisted German cast-on is easy to learn, and it forms a very elastic edge, which makes it nice for socks!
ME: I'm really kinda tired.

Or this:
FOOL: I see you're holding yarn and needles. Does this mean you want to learn the twisted German cast-on?
ME: No.

Or this:
ME: Hey, have you seen my green sweater?
FOOL: Isn't it on the couch?
ME: Yeah, thanks.
FOOL: Speaking of sweaters, a great way to start a sweater is with the twisted German cast-on. You want me to show you?

Or this:
ME: Don't forget to pick up some milk on the way home.
FOOL: Only if you learn the twisted German cast-on.

OK. Most of those are exaggerating. But the Fool really digs this cast-on. Finally, I asked him to show it to me a couple weekends ago, and it was like the gates to heaven opened in his eyes and there were harps and heavenly hosts singing praises to the twisted German cast-on.

And now I really dig it too. I've been casting everything on with it - but I'm not ready to take it door-to-door.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What they talk about

The Fool and I have this running joke, which started when I went to a women's craft circle.
FOOL: That's not fair, that I can't go.
ME: Well, the rule is that whomever is hosting it gets to make the call, and she said it's women-only this month, so that's that. If you want to come, we should host it, and I'll make it co-ed.
FOOL: What do you do at these things that I couldn't come? I know all these women anyway.
ME: (snarkily). We talk about our periods. And vaginas.*

Fast-forward several months. The Fool had gone off to his men's knitting group and upon his return, we had this conversation.
ME: So, how were the Britches?
FOOL: Fine, we had a good time.
ME: What did you talk about?
FOOL: Um, penises.
ME: No, come on, really, what did you talk about?
FOOL: Really. Penises.

And then tonight.
ME: So, how was knitting group?
FOOL: Fun! We got into this conversation about menstruation. And menopause.
ME: ?!?!?!?

So there you have it. When women get together in same-sex groups, we talk about our periods. When men get together in same-sex groups, they do too. Mystery solved.

I've been working on the back of the River Forest Gansey from Knitted Holidays (I think that's the title.) I know, technically, this is not an authentic gansey, but that's what the designer called it. It's a fun knit. I'm doing it in Cascade 220. And I'm knitting some monstersocken for a wacky contra dance caller we'll be seeing at Gypsy Moon Ball at the end of October. Just finished the heel, and am on the gusset, my favorite part.

* At a co-ed incarnation of this same group recently, I recounted the same conversation I shared here, and the hostess went rummaging around in her closet and found a piece of lewd origami someone had folded for her out of a dollar bill, a representation of the female sex organs.
"Huh," the Fool said. "It's a little airplane."
"Er," we said. "No."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hey everyone! I'm reading "War and Peace"

... one small chunk at a time. I expect it will take me two years or so. When I get to the part with the socks, I'll let you all know.

It's actually a pretty cool site. You can sign up for works of classic literature, which are delivered daily, a couple pages at a time, to your e-mail inbox. I hope it will be an antidote to the feeling that I'm not as smart as I used to be.

Thank you all for your kind compliments regarding the quilt. It's really not that hard to do - much like knitting, it's one little step at a time, and then, suddenly, you stand back and it's an Entire Useful Object. There's even frogging, although quilters call it, "Where is the damn seam ripper?" There is also the opportunity to accumulate stash. And that's all I'll say about that. If I sewed my entire stash together, I think I could make a garage cozy.

Finishing the quilt did make me think for a bit on the power of the UFO. One quilt book I have even suggests that you not call them that; you should call them "Works in Progress," because "UFO" has too much baggage attached -- it makes it a thing to finish, not a process to enjoy.

I usually go on finishing binges, where I start tearing through UFOs, whether they're socks that need kitchnering, or quilts that need binding (my least favorite part) or sweaters that need seaming (which I used to really despise, but I'm warming up to now). Sometimes, I imagine what my descendants would do if confronted with a whole room full of unfinished work. I like to think they'd be guilted into finishing it for me, but honestly? They'd probably send it straight off to Goodwill. That usually sets me off on a finishing binge, if only because I'm afraid on some level that the UFOs would somehow bind me to the material plane and I'd have to haunt someone's arse until it occurred to them that I wanted my last earthly sweater seamed.

Wow. There's a ghost story waiting to happen. I happen to have a few inherited UFOs of my own. My grandmother quilted - colorful square patches of Hawaiian fabrics, all sorts. They would give quilt instructors fits; they mix fabric blends and nothing's quite square and the seams are in-SANE. I love them.

I've got a couple quilt tops of hers and I know that sooner or later, I'm going to have to figure out how to turn them into something useful so I can have picnics on them or put them on the couch. Not because some old Okinawan lady is haunting my arse.

Now to go knit the edge of a mobius cat bed. Unlike the Fool, I found the Magical Mobius Cast On to be really amazing.

ooh, ooh, gratutious knitblogger cat photo! It's Mab! On the quilt!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not knitting

But a finished object nonetheless, and actually, a finished object that I started way back when, two addresses ago, before I even knew the Fool was out there. It feels good to get it off my back; it was turning into an albatross.

Compared to the subdued quilt I had on the bed before - vintage and modern Asian indigo prints - this thing makes the bedroom hum. I joke about how it glows in the dark. The Fool loves it, and the cats seem to like it too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Celtic Fest 2006

By the way, if you haven't been to Celtic Fest Chicago yet and you live in the area, you really need to come. We went to see some of our favorite Celtic bands perform tonight, including Kornog from Brittany, Beolach from Cape Breton, and La Bottine Souriante from Quebec. Tomorrow includes Beolach again and Natalie MacMaster. I highly recommend attending if you have nothing else to do. It's all day Sunday in Grant Park, and it's free. What else could you ask for?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Britches Update

So the men's knitting group has, in fact, been meeting regularly. Summer was a bit slow, but things are showing signs of picking up. Two new fellows, Michael and Hugo, attended for the first time last week. They live over in Ukrainian Village, have been to other knitting groups in the area, and heard about us through MenKnit. Michael was knitting his first sock ever: a vintage sock out of Nancy Bush's book, and I thought it looked great. Hugo was knitting a beautiful wrap of some sort. His stitches are absolutely impeccable. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of either project, because apparently photos are prohibited inside the establishment. We found this a bit unusual, since we've never had problems before. Maybe we just got caught this time.

We also had a slight mishap. Apparently a stranger was rummaging through one of our bags while we weren't looking. A very nice man noticed this going on, and the guy bolted out the door. Fortunately, we're pretty certain he didn't take anything, but it was still a bit unnerving nonetheless.

We were graced with the presence of two people this week who are doing stories on our group. One guy is a producer from Chicago Public Radio and has come the last few meetings to record conversations for the piece. It may never make the airwaves and is mostly for his personal collection, but he promises to let us listen to it once it's complete. He's a knitter as well, and I hope that he continues to come to the meetings once his story is complete. The other reporter was a woman from Time Out Chicago who was very enthusiastic about doing the story. I think we gave her enough information, and we are supposedly going to appear in an October issue.

I have to admit that, while I find all of this attention from interviewers flattering, I am growing a bit weary of the questions (I think this was the fourth interview for the group). It would be nice to think that there really isn't anything worth reporting about a men's knitting group, but apparently I am wrong. Please do us a favor, however. If you are thinking about doing a story on our group, please hold off interviewing us for at least a few months so that we can have some good, quality time enjoying each other's company, free of interview questions. Really, we're friendly guys and like providing information about our group, but it's also nice to have some time to ourselves where we can really feel like we're not so unusual (delusional as it may be).

On a somewhat related note, I've been asked to review Michael del Vecchio's new book entitled Knitting With Balls: The First Contemporary Guide To Knitting For The Modern Male. This is very exciting for me, as I've never been asked to provide a review before. Michael is one of the founders of, and I'm glad to see that he's written a book. I'll let you know when it comes out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who says it's not a sport?

I was talking to the Fool over dinner last night about the new Knitty.
I mentioned there were some cool sock patterns, which got his attention. And an article on twisted stitches, which I plan to read in great detail.
Then I mentioned, casually, that there was an article on how to knit two socks, one inside the other.
This is a bit of knitting magic I'm rather keen to work.
But someone I live with (who is not a cat, if that helps you narrow it down) has a thing about knitting socks and I suspect, would be bothered if I were to do some cooler sock knitting first.
I said, "There's an article on knitting two socks, one inside the other," and he said, in that I'm-very-interested-but-pretending-not-to-be tone of voice, "Really? I'll have to look at that."
So now, it's like the Ghost of Sock Knitting Past rattling chains in the bedroom at night - and keeping me from sleep.
I found the article, darnit, I should get to knit it first.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Not Idle Hands

Well, sort of. I have managed to finish a pair of socks for a friend who is in turn constructing some reinforced, decorative coathangers. Certainly they are not the most elaborate pattern I've ever done, but I didn't have target feet readily available for sizing and therefore didn't want to get too complicated.

I am so incredibly close to finishing these, it's really starting to bug me that they are not yet complete. I am calling them the negative socks, since one is the exact negative of the other.

I am well on my way into my first pair of cabled socks. It's a simple cable pattern out of the Schurch book. It's much subtler than if I had knitted it with a solid-color sock yarn, but I like it nonetheless.

Then there is the double-secret cardigan I've been working on over the last few months. It's complete except for the buttons running down the front and some duplicate stitch detailing. The recipient of the sweater does read this blog, and since this is intended to be a surprise, I cannot reveal any more details at this point. Although I can show you a few things.

We went out for dim sum this morning with a few friends. We had an unexpected friend join us for lunch. He told me that he would be happy to eat any ha gow we didn't feel like finishing. We informed him that he was out of luck.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Finishing Day turned into Finishing, um...

Finishing Some-Period-of-Time, culminating this week in an actual finished object.
It's a vest for the Fool, which I began last fall, when we were at a contra dance weekend in Lansing, Mich. We slipped off from the dance long enough to go to Threadbear, which is such a cool yarn shop that we were both a little overwhelmed and I couldn't hardly hold myself together except to pick out yarn for this vest (Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed).

When I thought I might like to knit this, I showed the Fool the photo, in Family Circle Easy Knits or something like that (It took so long to knit this thing that all I have is the photocopied pages, no title information available), and he looked at the vest, which was knit in a tweedy beige yarn.
"I like it," he said.
I was cautious.
"What, exactly, do you like about it?" I asked. "The color, the pattern, what?"
"I like the buttons," he said.
"The buttons?"
"They're nice and brown and round."

Eventually, I got him to admit he liked the pattern, too, and when he saw this yarn, he decided he liked that, too.
The only thing left was to make sure it had nice brown round buttons when I was finished, so this morning, I found these at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago. I waffled at first, between these and some nondescript plastic ones, like on every camel trenchcoat in the world, but finally went with the wooden ones. I like the way they feel in my hand, and I really, really dig the subtle crescent moon.

Here's a fuzzy closeup of the cable. The way the pattern showed it, the cables continued up over the shoulders and down the back.
The way I knitted it? Not so much, unfortunately. That's what happens when there's a lot of time between starting a project and finishing it -- things go wrong.

As long as we're showing off FOs around here ... couple pairs of socks, naturally.

These were a disaster. Some kind of twisted rib in the cuff, but look ... they match. Perfectly. I didn't try to do that at all, but here they are. I used my traditional knitting method with self-striping yarn and everything - I knitted one sock, then I finished it, then I took the yarn and knitted the second sock, and this is what I get. Twin socks. Sigh. Well, the Fool will have to live with it.

These were from that Knitty pattern, and I knit them in Socks That Rock - Emerald Isle, if I remember right.
That is some cool yarn. There's another skein in the basket right now, and if I hadn't promised the Fool the joys of knitting that hand-dyed goodness, I'd be planning another pair.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In which the Two Sock Knitters....

... celebrate a new holiday.
Finishing Day!
It's where we sit across from each other at the dining table and mutter while we seam sweaters that were languishing in baskets under the coffee table.
It has stretched into a two-day Finishing Festival!

We've had an eventful couple of weeks, starting out at Stitches Midwest, where I bought some Blackwater Abbey for the Japanese twisted stitch sweater and where we picked up some sock yarn (because we couldn't help ourselves, and besides, we found Lorna's Laces on sale.) I also bought Beth Brown-Reinsel's gansey book, even though I am no friend of knitting sleeves in the round.

Franklin spoke very highly of the book, so I thought I'd take a chance. The Fool and I spent a pleasant half-hour or so in his company, walking the floor and discussing sock yarns for men who do not care for flamboyant foot-coverings. We also spent time talking with strangers, most of whom said something like, "Is that Franklin?" in a reverent whisper, before shoving us into racks of yarn and needles to shake his hand or ask after Dolores or tell him about a sedate charcoal gray wool/nylon fingering weight just two aisles over.

Actually, I'm kidding. No one shoved us into a wool display.

We also spent some time at Pennsic, the annual event for the Society of Creative Anachronism. Some of our friends, who we do not see often, are into this, and so we took it as an opportunity to dress up in fake medieval clothes, play music for pocket change (and to beg firewood - the Tune For A Log campaign was highly effective) and buy funny hats.
Well, only the Fool. It's a very good hat.
The fun thing about hanging with folks that are into historical re-enactment is that they are often into fibery things. I saw some beautiful examples of historical knitting, of nalbinding and of spinning. The Fool bought a wee bag of flax, just to see what that was like, and spent several enjoyable hours messing with it.

Now that we're home again, I've been afflicted with a terrible case of knitting monogamy. Remember Eris? I tried it on again to see how far back to rip the sleeves and realized that I could rip the sleeves out all I wanted -- it wouldn't change the fact that the shoulders were weird and bunched up.
I figured the yarn didn't really want to be Eris. It wanted to be the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket from Interweave last winter. So I've knit that and tonight, as part of the Finishing Festival, I'm going to block parts of it and start putting it together - providing I can discourage the cats from sitting on my damp knitting.

Hairy mongrels.

Friday, August 11, 2006

We're off!

After some family responsibility kinds of stuff this morning, we're off to Stitches Midwest, and then off for a week of adventuring across Indiana and Pennsylvania, including but not limited to contra dancing, camping and picking blueberries at the Fool's grandmother's house.
I think the cats get that something is up; we put out extra-large bowls of food and water for them in anticipation of the catsitter, and they're getting a lot of attention.
I can't keep hiding from the last minute list of stuff to do, so off to load the dishwasher and think anticipatory thoughts of Blackwater Abbey yarn.

Monday, July 31, 2006

How To Turn Stockinette into Garter Stitch

First, screw up some knitting to the point that ripping it out would make you cry. Misreading the pattern is recommended. Putting some intarsia between you and the error is recommended but does help increase aggravation. (The following is a dramatization and is not a real project).

Second, pick the stitch you are going to ladder down. I recommend the one furthest away from the edge... if that is a factor.

Next, drop the stitch and slide all of the rest of the stitches onto a stitch holder. Now tug on both sides of the dropped stitch until it ladders to the point you want to catch it. Stick a needle in the stitch you want to catch, just in case you get a bit too excited with the laddering.

Replace the needle with a crochet hook, hooky bit facing you.

Since you want this to be garter stitch, you have to alternate the direction from which the loops pull. The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is to connect loops stockinettely on alternating sides. The first stitch will be stockinette on the wrong side, so stick the blunt bit of the crochet hook under the first ladder, flip your work so that the wrong side is now facing, and push/pull on the hook until the loop pops out in front of the ladder and you've caught the active loop with the hooky bit.

Now point the groovy part of the hooky bit downwards (toward the bottom of your work), come over the ladder from front to back, twist the ladder around the hook, and yank it on through the loop actively on the shaft.

The hooky bit should be facing you again. Now pull nearly the whole length of the shaft without dropping the stitch off the blunt bit.

Find the next ladder, aim the blunt bit of the shaft under it, and push it back towards the other side, flip, and do the stockinette loop shuffle again, this time on the right side.

Repeat until you get back to the top. (That's only 50+ rows, right?) Then repeat for each stitch you want to be garter stitch.

So I did this with three stitches and goodness knows how many rows per stitch (probably around 30). My project went from this:

To this:

Look, it even got less blurry! It does work, and it looks a lot nicer than I thought it would. You actually can't tell the difference between the rows I knitted this way and the ones I shuffled. So while I'm quite pleased with the results, I will make sure to read the directions more carefully next time.

What a grand birthday present!

For my birthday, Meg gave me 23 balls of Shetland Spindrift, enough for me to make an 8-color sweater for myself. It wasn't exactly a surprise, though she made me go into the back of Mosaic Yarns while she picked up her special order from the front counter. As if I didn't know.

I actually had to go on a scavenger hunt around the apartment to find each ball. It was quite a blast! The clues were generally pretty easy, though a few stumped me for awhile. Anyways, this will be my next fair isle project, I think.

In other news, this arrived from The Fold:

This is two pounds of roving that Meg says she'll knit up into a sweater for herself, once I've spun it, of course. I certainly have my work cut out for me.

The cat has finally figured out that, while it's noisier in the bedroom where the AC unit is, it's much cooler. So Meg is reading, I am typing on my laptop, and Spoot is perched between us. One big, hot family.