Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Knit It Up

The latest episode of the Stitches in Britches meeting occurred this evening at our usual hangout, the Argo Tea Cafe at the corner of State and Randolph in the Loop. We were graced with a visitor from Japan who is over in Chicago for a few days. While Mariko is not technically male, we figured we'd bend the rules a bit for someone who has traveled so far.

She runs a sake party planning business. Aidan suggested that we all take a field trip to Japan and attend one of her parties. What an excellent idea.

Jim was back tonight. He brought his newest knitted toy to show the group. He's working on a whole family of stuffed knitted animals.

Andy was there, working on what I believe is a hat... or is it a matching neck warmer? Andy, if you're reading this, please set me straight.

Aidan was working on another sock. What a sock-knitting fiend! He may have to supplant me as the new Sock Knitter.

I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a photo of Franklin knitting, though he looks quite dashing modeling Andy's newly-completed neck warmer.

In other news, we discussed yarn made of stainless steel (I suggested that the finished product would have to be armor, or possibly silverware), monkey-picked tea, and the luac (a.k.a "cat turd") coffee craze of the late nineties. Andy was also kind enough to point Mariko towards the nearest sake bar.

Though we rolled out of the cafe a bit early this evening, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Monday, March 20, 2006

What the Fool didn't tell you

was that in order to shack up with his new blonde plaything (I call her Edna; he likes to call her "Spinning Wheel." What-EVER. Like that's a name) he had to sell me to the gypsies.
I just escaped.
It was harrowing.
Actually, in light of his spinning and gigging and all the roving, my God, the roving, my fibery existence has been, shall we say ... blah.
I've been, um, knitting some things. I'll show them to you now.
This amorphous red blob is Eris. She was my Knitting Olympics project, and now she has a sleeve left to go. I hope to wear her to the contra dance weekend in Cincinnati this Friday.
Behold Eris!

These are a pair of knitted fingerless glove-things I am knitting for my dear friend Carrie. I've known her since we were both 12 and she has never been what one might call a girly girl. She's surrounded by guys in her house now, what with the husband and the two small boys, and so her love for things pink has skyrocketed.

Then, we have the frog socks. It took me a while to figure out exactly what kind of stitch pattern said "frog," other than one, say, with really badly planned cable crossings or lots of dropped stitches and ladders, or the wrong number of stitches altogether.

I found the answer in Charlene Schurch's sock book, cast on, and have been gratified with the result, a suitably textured, amphibious sock cuff. I think I'll try a short row heel. And the toes, in true tree-frog style, will be bright orange.

Behold! Frog socks!

Finally, thanks for all the kind birthday wishes. I got some knittery goodness in honor of the occasion. The aforementioned Carrie went to Loopy Yarns and picked out some yarn she thought I would find interesting. She's not a knitter (yet), but she sews very well, and so she has some definite ideas about fiber.
In kinder moments while fabric shopping, I've called her out for being a fabric snob. And she is. Of the worst kind. Her eyes glaze over when faced with bolts of raw silk, and she would sooner go topless than use a poly/cotton blend, ironing be damned.
This is what she picked out:

The red yarn is a cashmere/ silk blend (picked strictly for luxe fiber content), the blue yarn is a Cascade cotton blend (picked for its bright and cheery color) and the green yarn is a mohair/ synthetic blend (picked because of its color, and because she thought it would be interesting to make something out of.)
The best part?
When she told me, "I know you can't really make anything from one skein, so I got you two of each."
The Cat Bordhi book is from the Fool.

In direct contravention of the "Knit down the stash, dammit!" directive I issued earlier this year, I weakened while visiting a friend in Cleveland this weekend, and bought a skein of sock yarn. I'm trying to come up with a loophole as to how this doesn't count as yarn or something. If I'd only gotten the purple one, I could have tried to pass it off as an eggplant.

So, um, ha! Knitting.
I'll just get out of the way so the Fool can continue waxing poetic about Edna -- I know when I'm outclassed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Saturday in Pictures

It was a beautiful day in Oak Park...

I found three great CDs from the used record store...

...and some delicious tea from Todd and Holland.

I went to the Fold...

to get some of this...

and one of these.

Later, I made some of this.

At the end of the day, I was one happy Fool.

An Incredible Day

Things got off to a good start this morning, getting a chance to sleep in. When I woke, I checked my e-mail to get directions to our band gig that evening. Immediately realizing that it was a mere 10 miles from The Fold, I planned my day around getting there in time to try out and potentially purchase a spinning wheel.

Before that, however, I made a trip to the local mall to get fitted for wedding formal wear. While I was there, I stopped by a used CD store on the off chance they would have something good. It turned out that they had three excellent compilation CDs of some of my favorite artists (Andy M. Stewart, Phil Cunningham, Beausoleil, etc.) The three CDs cost me a grand total of $7, and they make an excellent companion in the car. On my way home, I stopped by our local tea merchant and purchased a few of my favorite varieties (a China Keemun and an Indian Nilgiri). I had an exquisite cup of the Keemun after lunch. I highly recommend you try both varieties, if you ever get your hands on them.

So there I was, driving out to the Fold, with aftertones of tea in my mouth and incredible new music playing over the stereo. Plus it was a bright sunny springlike day outside, and I was going to a spinning studio. I was so happy I could have cried.

I arrive at the Fold at the perfect time of day. Toni was not teaching a class and so was able to show me how to operate the various wheels. Wow, they are amazing contraptions! Everything I found annoying about drop spindling was did not exist in the wheel world.

I ran into the Keyboard Biologist while I was there. She was messing around with a drum carder in the back room with one of her friends. She owns a Lendrum wheel and promptly sang its praises when she heard I was looking for one. After trying many of the wheels, I concurred with her opinion and bought a Lendrum. I found to be really smooth and easy to operate. I also ended up playing a fiddle tune for everyone at the request of one of the ladies present.

The gig was fine, but really it was just prolonging the amount of time I had to wait before I could go home and try out the new wheel. I spun for about three hours and tried each of the four rovings I own. They are all a little bit different, and I'm getting a good feel for the motions. Spinning on a wheel seems so much more natural to me than a drop spindle. I'm really liking it.

So that was my day. It is now time for bed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Meg!

Sorry there have been so few posts these last couple of weeks. St. Patrick's Month combined with the promotion at work has left me incredibly busy.

I want to take this opportunity to wish my dear wife a most happy birthday. She prefers to think of it as the fifth anniversary of a birthday she had five years ago. Regardless, we're celebrating with dinner at Hopleaf Bar with a few friends.

The plan is to try to finish Fiesta Feet by tonight, which is a bit aggressive but doable. Thanks to Lucy Neatby's apparent philosophy of "always decrease every round in the gusset and toe," they are snug and pointy. Oh, well. The brilliant color scheme makes up for it. The camera is hiding somewhere, else I would take a picture of them. Franklin has a good picture of them here.

Stitches in Britches is going along fabulously. Franklin just posted about Tuesday night's meeting, classifying me as the type of guy "who enjoys the sort of knitting that would make other people cry." Hah! It's not as hard as it looks. I was working both Fiesta Feet socks together on one circ out of necessity. Running out of the purple main color yarn, I wanted it to end in the exact same spot on both socks. The result was having to use three balls of yarn at once: two balls of variegated (one per sock), and one ball of the purple from both ends. This led to much tangling and cursing at various stages of the endeavor. I finally got the rhythm of it down just as I finished up the ball of purple.

In other news, Meg has started the frog socks. This is very exciting, because not only is the yarn frog-colored, but the pattern is very nubbly and reminds her of a frog. Plus, the toes are going to be bright orange! I'll let her tell you more about the pattern and approach when she posts.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The agony of defeat

Off to meet the lads of Stitches in Britches tonight at the MCA. I'm bringing my Olympic knitting project.

I got my butt kicked by this little section of the instructions about midway through Olympic week and had to give up my chances at medaling. There I was, cruising along on Eris, until I hit the bottom hem. There's a funny little curved piece of hem with a lovely matching swoop of cabled whatnot to match.

I knitted eight little rows and tore them out when I had the wrong number of stitches. Undaunted, I reknit them. Again, the wrong number of stitches. So I knit them again. And still had the wrong number of stitches.

The next day, I was flying to Boston with my best friend Carrie and her two small children (2 years and 5 mos.) We were visiting two more friends of ours with an 8-month-old -- I was going along to play Tensing Norgay to her Edmund Hillary. There was no way the sweater was getting finished, not with this little bit of knitting that refused to be figured out and two sleeves to go.
Rationally, I understood that if I couldn't figure out this funny little bit of curved cabled knitting sitting on my couch with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate to hand, I definitely could not figure it out sitting next to a toddler. I took a sock.

In my duties as calabash aunt, I exposed the squids to yarn. We stopped in at a shop in Somerville, and while Carrie occupied the youth, one asleep in a kid-backpack, and the other happily being spun on a desk chair while holding a small stuffed sheep, I shopped very fast.
(Got some seriously girly pink yarn and two hanks of roving for the Fool.)

See, when I called him the night before, he told me that on Saturday, he planned to make two stops en route to a gig in Wisconsin. He was going to take 15 minutes to buy a pair of brown shoes for work (He claims guys can buy shoes in 15 minutes and women can't) and then he was stopping by The Fold.
"You are?" I said.
"I thought I might. Do you need anything?"
"No," I said, "I've got enough yarn to knit. What are you shopping for?"
"Some fuschia sock yarn and, um, maybe something else."
"Something else?"
"Well, I sort of got that promotion at work, and there's a bonus with it, and I thought I might take a little bit of that money and spend it on something for myself. Something big."
"That's a great idea," I said, imagining that he might buy enough yarn to make a sweater, say. "You should. What are you getting at the Fold that's big....waitaminnit ... are you buying a spinning wheel!"
"I thought I'd look," he said, a little defensively.

We have this running joke. If one of us takes a bite of something exceptionally delicious, like, say, a piece of homemade blueberry pie, we say, "Oh, it's not very good. You'd better let me eat it and save you the disappointment."

He called later with a full report from his trip to the Fold.
"You wouldn't like it very much," he said. "It was full of beautiful hand-dyed yarns and there's a big dog who follows you around and pokes you with his nose."

I adore big dogs. Almost more than homemade blueberry pie.

No, there's no wheel yet ... but we talked about it and agreed that if this was something he really wanted to look into, he could do some research and maybe after St. Patrick's Month (when he has a lot of gigs and I am a fiddle widow), we would go back out to Marengo and he could try out some wheels -- and I could pet the dog.

And now that I am back from Boston, I figured out what I was doing wrong, andEris is working out right and I'm on the first sleeve.