Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mindfulness - My 2008 Intention

One of the basic concepts of Buddhism is Mindfulness. It's one of those concepts that seems so simple but is, for me at least, very difficult. It relates to living in the moment and being aware of and appreciating what is happening at any given time. Obviously, I've oversimplified the idea, which is very complex and is the subject of many books, but this blog isn't the place for a tedious (for you, not me) explanation or discussion of spiritual principles.

For now, let's just say that I've been thinking for quite awhile about things I can do to improve the quality of life around Pug Manor and bring a little peace and tranquility into the chaos that seems to characterize my own life. Right now, for instance, I'm awash in fears about my job (and not having one), about money, and about how I'm going to spend the next however many years I've got. I've been doing what my father would have called "soul searching." And one of the issues that I've identified is that I'm constantly chasing things that I think will make my life better, and I seldom catch anything of lasting value.

Every year I make a huge list of New Year's Resolutions. The word "resolution" implies use of resolve, which in turn implies commitment. But every year, those resolutions, once written down, are ignored until about December 28 when I suddenly realize I haven't done squat toward them. So this year, a new idea (a resolution, if you will): NO NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS.

Instead, Mindfulness. Here's where I'm going with this whole thing:

Mindfulness about my choices and how they impact others. Everything we do has an effect on others, whether intentionally or accidentally. For instance, an unkind word can hurt someone's feelings unnecessarily. An accumulation of negative thinking can make me more negative. In a more global way, our choices can impact the sustainabilty of our planet. For me, I can work on controlling things like my temper, what I say or write, my driving speed, my consumption of our Earth's natural resources, where the products I buy come from.

Mindfulness about food and eating. I tend to eat when I'm bored or anxious, and when I do that, I seldom think about whether I'm making the right choice. (It actually feels a lot like the way I used to drink and smoke--lighting up cigarette after cigarette to keep my hands busy and my mind still.) It's a fact that when I'm speeding through a drive-thru, I'm not thinking about calories or whether I'm eating something with unhealthy additives or how many miles I'm going to have to walk to burn up that Big Mac. In 2008, I'd like to eat when hungry, stop when I've had enough, and be aware of what I'm eating and really enjoy it. It's also important to realize how that food got on my plate and at what cost. I might eat less if I actually listened to my body about what I was putting in it. (And who could be more concentrated on her eating than Lightning?)

Mindfulness about money. I have earned all my own spending money since the age of 13 and sometimes I get that "well, it's my money and I'll damn well do what I want to" attitude. I tend to be wasteful and I certainly don't save enough. I need to work on knowing, really knowing, where I'm spending money and finding ways to save more. I can use up some of what I have, get rid of what I don't need, and appreciate what remains.

Mindfulness about other people. While I'm spending all that money on whatever-the-hell-I-please, and eating fast food and such, there's a lot of poverty and hunger in the world. I can't solve it all, but I can be more aware of opportunities to assist others. I throw things away every day that someone at the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children could use. I can volunteer to help someone learn to read. I would like to be the person I think I am -- generous and caring--instead of the person I fear I am--lazy and wasteful and too "busy" to help others. And I can use some of that yarn I've been stockpiling for people who need warmth.

Finally, Mindfulness about the "now." I want to take the opportunity to enjoy my surroundings and what I'm doing. I often "quiet" my mind with mindless reading, TV, or internet blather rather than allow it to be aware of what's going on around me. I often knit while I read blogs while I listen to podcasts. No wonder I feel so ADD most of the time--my mind is full of stimulation with little peace. This year, I want to enjoy the peacefulness of my knitting, thinking about the stitches and the pattern and the yarn, how those elements transform string to a beautiful or useful object, and the person who will use it.

2008 Here I Come!

What, you ask, does that cute little picture of a squirrel storing nuts away in her hidey-hole have to do with me and this blog? Hah! Should be obvious!
As I look around my office--or, as we will refer to it here, the stockroom--what I see is 40+ years of storing nuts, er, yarn, away for the winter.
What the heck was I thinking? I'd like to be able to tell you that I was extremely prescient and knew that one day I'd be happy to have yarn to knit from because I had no money and all the time in the world to knit, but I can't lie to you. Nope, I just kept buying because I love the stuff and can't resist it. (I wish my savings account reflected this same commitment to stash-addition.) I can look at these yarns and say to myself, "ahh, I bought that at Stitches at Valley Forge, many years ago."

Well, okay... now is the time for the squirrel to take some of these nuts out of the hole and start working her way through the hoard. Last year I foolishly thought I would join the 2007 Knit From Your Stash movement. Nah--far from reducing the stash, it grew exponentially. I lost my mind, I think. For some reason, the minute I tell myself I can't have something, I MUST HAVE IT. (My weight demonstrates that this practice is not limited to yarn.) This year, with no paychecks for the foreseeable future, I better get going on the stash.

The two yellow baskets are just lace yarn. What the heck was I thinking? I never even knit a piece of lace until February 2007---how could I have accumulated all that lace yarn? Let us remember: I don't even WEAR shawls. How many could I possibly need? I'll have to start using lace shawls as wall hangings, or wadding them up to use as hot pads and dishcloths, for God's sake!

And, by the way, look at all this, uh, stuff. And this is only most of it, not all of it, just the office stuff. There are several more baskets of yarn in the bedroom. So, two things: First, it's a mess. When we moved into this house, a couple of years ago, it was beautifully organized and clean, and I was really proud of my well-organized stash. Everything was tidy and most of it was contained. Now there's stuff every whichwhere, tossed up against things, flung across the top of shelves, stuffed into drawers, crammed into baskets, falling out of boxes and project bags. That needs to change--how can I even begin to use this stuff up without being able to find it?

Second, it tells me that I've been buying carelessly. It's a sure sign that you don't value something properly when you bring it home, toss it into a basket or bucket, and never think of it again. I can feel my mother twitching in her urn, trying to get out those familiar words about starving children in Armenia. Do you think there are desperate knitters in Armenia just wishing they had my stash of fuschia acrylic and purple mohair?

NOTICE: I am going to TRY to knit down the stash. You heard me: I am going to TRY not to buy yarn and use what I have. I have 40 years of yarn, folks! I should be able to find SOMETHING to knit.

Exclusions: I'm sure if I get to SAFF and MSW, I'll buy. There's just no way around that. But I can be a lot more discriminating--I don't need to come home with stuff just to have it. And if I have to buy for a specific gift item, I probably won't have a choice. And, needless to say, patterns don't count. (At least I don't have to stoop to Wendy Johnson's obvious quibble last year--she said "sock yarn doesn't count." Luckily I have--literally--yarn for about a hundred pairs of socks, so I don't have to make up any crazy exceptions for sock yarn.)

So, I have lots of lace yarn, LOTS of sock yarn, and enough worsted and sportweight yarn for at least one major sweater and two or three vests. I have plenty of both wool and acrylic to knit for charity--CIC needs all wool but there are many charities that want acrylic hats, etc. for washability. I should be able to knit for awhile before I feel the pain.

Update -- Too Long so I'll Summarize

How can it be 3 weeks since I updated this? Well, a lot has gone on since December 6, some of it crappy and most of it great.

To summarize:

(1) Haley's birthday party in Charlotte -- Good. Finished Jitterbug mitts which were well received. (Bad: both daughters now want mitts -- in black! @@$^% and both younger granddaughters want mitts, too. That's four pairs!)

(2) Job over -- Crappy. Very emotional days at The Big Corporation, as it folds onto itself in a Super Slo Mo implosion. As of the 21st of December, I'm finished there. Got my vacation time paid out and, of course, I forgot about 401(k) deductions being huge, so check was smaller than I anticipated. Bad. But at least I got the check. Good.

(3) Christmas over -- Good. Christmas in Charlotte with family was chaotic and crazy, but good for the most part. Lots of noise and no knitting but (a) it's over and (b) we don't have to do it again until next year. And (c) it's over. As I have gotten older (er, more mature), Christmas has morphed from a time of anticipation into a time of unmet expectations (not mine--I have few expectations about holidays, but I never seem to be able to meet other people's expectations, or think I don't.) I'm ready for it to be over. (The Grinch seems to be back.)

(4) Bumper cars -- Ugh. Mr. Pug was nice enough to let me drive his car to Charlotte for Christmas and I brought it back with a crunched rear bumper. A friend, driving to breakfast behind me, rearended me. No injuries except to the car. Mr. Pug was very nice about it but wants it fixed NOW. I can't blame him.

(5) Christmas with Mr. Pug and the babies -- Good. No knitting-related gifties but I did get a good laugh. Both Mr. Pug and Jake gave me digital photo frames. You just can't have too many of those things--in fact, I'll have one in the bedroom and one in the office. The laugh came when I opened up Mr. Pug's version. "Oh," said I, "wonderful--now I can have a 24/7 slideshow of all my yarn." Mr. P visibly blanched and I had to quickly reassure him that I was just kidding (as if). And I was--I'll use his for family and pugs. The slideshow will go on Jake's (in the office where it won't annoy Mr. P.)

(6) After Christmas shopping -- Good. What to do when you don't get knitting-related gifts? Go shopping. In my case, I went straight to Bass Pro Shops on my way home from Charlotte, where I upgraded my knitting needle storage solution.

The one on the bottom is the old case, Xtreme Worm Binder, which has one space like a giant ring binder, with ziploc pouches to hold your fishing supplies and zipper compartments to hold other fishing-type thingies. (I have no idea what those might be!) I have used it for about three years to hold my needles, squishing all my DPNs and circs into pouches, separated by size, and filling all those pockets with tapestry needles, knitting markers, etc. At this point, I can only zip it shut with the most xtreme hassle because--surprise, surprise--I have too many needles. So, the upgrade to a double sided bag (upper one) was overdue. Now I have the DPNs in the front side, each size in its separate pouch, and the circs in the back side, ditto.

(7) Friends -- Good. When I moved to Atlanta six-and-a-half years ago, I thought I was in durance vile, sentenced to leave all my friends, family, etc. As so often happens, it has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, as I've made a whole new group of friends that I would hate to leave. (So I guess it's okay that the Savannah job didn't happen -- NOT!) I have been moved to tears by the caring and loving expressions of friendship from this group of Atlanta knitters -- I hope I can share that much love with someone else over the next years, to help them share a point in their life when things aren't going so well. Love you guys!

(8) But -- Crappy. I still miss my faraway friends and family. Deirdre and Debbie are too far away (2000 and 600 miles respectively). So is Connie. So are Linda and Cathy and Nydia. I don't get to see them very often and I hate that. I miss being around for all the family events--I will go to Virginia for my niece Caitlin's wedding in March and then again for nephew Andrew's baby, to be born in April, I think. (All those doggy toys and treats that the pugs are playing with came from Linda and Cathy--AKA "the other moms" and "the flatmates.")

(9) Job -- Ugh. Don't even ask. Nothing going there at this point, but I have to admit that I haven't done much in the past week or so. The job market has been dead but I'm hoping it will pick up after the holidays are over. Not to worry at this point.

(10) Atlanta Knitting Guild -- Good. December meeting was fun--it's one of two potlucks we have every year and also the day we present dressed bears to a group that uses them for traumatized children. This year was a light year -- only 130 bears -- but that's still 130 children that will have something to comfort them when something bad happens.

This is the one I did. Yes, I know, I'm bad -- only one. And here she is, comforting Brett. (Brett, that's just SO wrong.)

The best part of the Atlanta Knitting Guild is that I get to be the liaison with the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children. This month (again!), the members came through with so much stuff that it completely filled my car (or Mr. Pug's car, if you want to be exact). One non-member even sent 18 handknit children's sweaters. When I took them to the shelter, one of the men working there said, "oh, my! a bunch of children will have a nice Christmas present!" I am so appreciative of the generosity of people--knitters are amazing!

Overall Score: GOOD

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Haley

So today is Day Two of the Haley Chronicles.

Isn't she gorgeous? Yeah, I know. And just as pretty inside.

She has been at the center of my universe since December 6, 1991. She's bright, articulate, and a gifted athlete. Her only character flaw is that she doesn't knit, but you never know--that could change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Today ...

Well, it's my former husband's birthday, but forget that ... it's of no consquence. And, no, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

No, it's the day before my oldest granddaughter's birthday. Tomorrow, Haley will be 16--amazing, since her grandmother is barely ... well, let's not even go there.

So this is Part I of the Haley Chronicles. Here's my favorite picture of Haley and me. Tomorrow, you get to see Haley grown up -- even more beautiful, if that's possible.

As for me, for those of you who've always wanted to know what my real hair color is ... this is the only chance you'll get to see that! Check out that tiny piece of gray over my left temple--the beginning of the end!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Job Interview

Every good movie has to have a dream sequence. Dream sequences allow the viewer to get inside the innermost thoughts and concerns of the protagonist’s mind, seeing the stuff that floats around in her subconscious while she’s, well, unconscious.

So, what does Ms. Pug dream about these days? Sugarplums and candy canes? Not hardly. It’s all about getting a J-O-B. And before you can get the job, you have to get through the interview. Anyway, here’s the ubiquitous dream sequence from the Pug Family Movie:

(The scene opens in a spacious office, with light streaming in through the large glass windows. A harried-looking man sits behind a mahogany desk which is completely clean except for a telephone and a gold pen. His suit jacket is arranged neatly over the back of his executive chair, and his tie is askew. Ms. Pug enters, wearing her best interview suit and carrying a large felted attaché case, decorated with colorful duplicate stitch flowers. She smiles encouragingly.)

Ms. Pug (enthusiastically): Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. I’m really interested in the position you have open here at The Frammis Corp for a manager.

Interviewer (skeptically): Well, I only agreed to see you because you’re so persistent. I really don’t think you’re right for this position.

Ms. Pug (disbelievingly): Not right? How can you say that? Have you read my resume?

Interviewer: Yes. Well, not exactly. Actually, no. We don’t read resumes any more. We have resume scanning software, outsourced to India, to do that. And it says that none of your keywords matched our keywords so you weren’t selected for an interview.

Ms. Pug: But, my experience …

Interviewer (firmly): Doesn’t really matter. If the resume software doesn’t think you’re a match, it doesn’t really matter what you’ve actually done. You’re apparently not a match for Frammis.

Ms. Pug: But my qualifications …

Interviewer (frustratedly): Look—don’t you get it? As far as we’re concerned, and this comes straight from the experts in Mumbai, you don’t have any qualifications!

Ms. Pug: Perhaps if we could discuss the job requirements …

Interviewer: I really don’t see the relevance.

Ms. Pug: Relevance? Oh, I think I can make you see the relevance. Hmmm…where is it?

(Ms. Pug snaps open her attaché case and reaches inside. She removes a skein of what appears to be yarn with two long aluminum needles sticking out of it.)

Interviewer: Uh, what are you doing? Is that a weapon? We have a weapons policy....

Ms. Pug: Oh, don't be silly. They're just tools to help me demonstrate my qualifications to you.

Interviewer (reaching for his phone): Put down that skewer! You can’t …

Ms. Pug: Oh, can’t I? (Reaches up to her neck and pulls on a circular pendant.) I don’t think you need to call anyone. We’ll just snip this phone wire with my handy, TSA-approved, thread-cutter. Ah, that’s better.

Interviewer (beginning to show fear): Security! Get someone from … erg, uh, I can’t breathe with that yarn in my mouth. I should tell you that I’m allergic to wool … (He spits out a piece of what seems to be mohair.)

(Ms. Pug removes the skein of yarn from the Interviewer’s mouth and covers his mouth with highlighter tape, while she wraps the yarn around and around the man and his chair.)

Ms. Pug (pulling more items out of the attaché case): Now, there’s a good lad, just sit still. This won’t take a minute.

(She deftly straps Interviewer’s arms to his chair’s armrests, securing each arm with a circular needle.)

Ms. Pug: I don’t need to use this T-pin on you, do I? Or these blocking wires?

(The interviewer shakes his head vigorously.)

Ms. Pug: I knew those Options extra-long cables would come in handy one day. And, look, it’s so easy to tighten the needle to the cable using this little device that comes with it.

Interviewer: Mmmmmmm, ergggg, argghhhhh.

Ms. Pug: Look, let’s just go over these qualifications and then we can be done with this interview. Okay?

Interviewer (nods head reluctantly): Errgggg.

Ms. Pug (reading): Okay, here are your requirements, right off your website: “Must have project management skills, be flexible, able to multitask in a changing environment.” Well, that’s easy—no one multitasks like a knitter. How else would I be able to maintain a constant 26 projects in various stages of completion? Multitasker, check!

(The interviewer nods, reluctantly.)

Ms. Pug: Next, “must be well organized and able to keep track of supplies and inventory.” Hah! That’s an easy one. If you could see my yarn room, with my three walls of shelving, filled with tubs of yarn, all organized by type of fiber and color, and my three-drawer file cabinet of needles, crochet hooks, and yarn needles organized by manufacturer, you’d know I’m organized. And, of course, I keep track of it all in an Access database—I used to use an Excel spreadsheet but there simply weren’t enough features to handle all the reporting requirements. Metrics are so important! And, I guess that also takes care of “must be able to use MS Office.” So, organization and MS Office, check and check.

(The Interviewer nods again.)

Ms. Pug: Scheduling. “Must be able to prioritize and manage schedules of multiple people.” Well, that’s an easy one. I knit at a different place every single night all over the city of Atlanta with a different group of knitters at each event, and I have no problem keeping track of them all. Check.

(The Interviewer is beginning to look interested. He nods again, this time attentively.)

Ms. Pug (still reading): “Must have procurement experience.” Are you kidding? Who do you think bought all that yarn? Check! But you’re welcome to check with my LYS owner if you need a reference.

Interviewer: Ahhh….

Ms. Pug: “Must have excellent communication skills.” Well, you can read my blog if you want to know about my communication skills. Or read my Ravelry postings. Check!

(The Interviewer motions with his head, apparently asking Ms. Pug to remove the highlighter tape. She takes one end delicately in her fingers and rips it off in a quick tug.)

Interviewer: Ouch! Damn it! No, wait, don’t put it back. I was just going to ask … what about adaptability and flexibility? Those are important qualities.

Ms. Pug: Flexible? Adaptable? See this sweater I’m wearing? It was in Vogue Knitting last month and the original pattern was designed for an anorexic flea. You better believe I’m good at adapting if I got that pattern to stretch around this body.

Interviewer (beginning to get into the spirit): It's actually very attractive. I like the way you used short rows at the waist. But, have you ever done training? Were you successful at it?

Ms. Pug: Taught my neighbor’s little boy to knit –and the little demon's a leftie!

Interviewer (excitedly): What about managing diversity? Do you have any experience?

Ms. Pug: Well, I knit with a bunch of men, and some of my best friends are crocheters.

Interviewer (struggling to get out of his chair): You’re hired! When can you start?

Ms. Pug: Thank you, thank you. I can start next week, right after I get back from my knitting cruise.

(The scene ends.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Maryland Sheep and Wool - The Fun Continues

In yesterday's mail, I had a brown 9x12 envelope from Ellen's Half Pint Farm. What the heck? Inside is a pattern that I bought and paid for on 5/5/07 at MSW ($6), and had completely forgotten. It came with an apology and thanks for my patience (which is pretty good when I don't remember I have anything to be impatient about). The pattern is for a vest and is very nicely printed on good card stock but with no picture--hence I have no idea what it's supposed to look like. And no memory of having ordered it, but it's definitely my handwriting on the order slip. And it's apparently one of those patterns that is a combination of stitches in different areas. Knit 36 stitches in pattern A, then switch to pattern B, then C--and all the rows are different (Row 17= row 6 of pattern A, row 13 of pattern B, etc.). The pattern suggests you might want to write out each row for your size individually to keep track of it all. Yeah, I'm right on that one in my spare time. Oh, my!

In related news, Mr. Pug was cleaning out a closet yesterday and came across a box of yarn that has been in hiding for several years, probably since we moved into this house and maybe since we came to Georgia, since I can't remember seeing it in the recent past. It's a hodge podge of projects, started and unstarted, acrylic, cotton, wool, lots of mohair. Kind of musty smelling. What was I thinking? Some Manos in a funny purple--why would I buy 4 hanks of Manos in that color? Was I intending to use it with some other yarns? No clue... A jacket started but never completed (I remember the pattern from Knitter's magazine--I might even want to make it one day, but probably not in this yarn, and I have no idea where the magazine/pattern might be.) A bunch of cotton in hot pink. Some acrylic for kids' stuff, green, purple, multicolored. More mohair! Lots and lots of needlepoint wool from that period in my life, all stuffed into a black garbage bag.

Oh, my. I'm exhausted just thinking about going through it and figuring out what to do with all that stuff. Like I don't have enough yarn I'm never going to use, I really didn't need to find another box of it. And it's one of those big boxes--the kind that bumps you every time you pass it.

Now what else is hanging over from MSW? Are there more unexpected goodies hanging about? Did I order anything from SAFF that I haven't gotten? Memory loss does have its good points, I guess.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Moebi-Now What?

Pop Quiz:

What's the world's longest river?
What's the world's longest snake?
Where can you find the world's longest moebius?
What can you do with the world's longest moebius?

If you guessed the Nile, the python, the northwest suburbs of Atlanta, and no frickin' clue, you are correcto-mundo, oh omniscient one.*

Okay, I've had a couple of clues that the whole moebiusperiment might be a moebi-maybenot

First, a little moebi-history:

My first foray into MoebiusLand took the form of a sample made on 80 stitches (size 9 47" needle, Lion Brand Wool-Ease).

The result was a necklace, not exactly the flowing knitted garment that I might have anticipated from Cat's instructions posted on DIY. (I used a 9 instead of the recommended 11 because that's the only 47" needle I had at the time, but still ... 24 inches of densely packed stitches is not precisely what I had in mind, disappointing even.)

So, checking out the "how many stitches" chart in A Treasury of Magical Knitting (p. 20), I thought, hmmmm....24" is too small, we'll make it twice as big, so 48" at 5 stitches to the inch, what the heck, round up to 250 stitches.

And casting on 250 stitches gives you a long edge of 500 stitches. Cool. Cast on, knit forever (or until it's around 7" wide or almost an even two skeins), finish with applied I-cord. Extra credit question: what is the most tedious knitting job in the world? Answer: putting I-cord on the above-referenced world's longest (and least useful) moebius.

So how did I end up with 70"? Can you say gauge? Or is it the nature of the beast?

(And, while we're talking about strange, I thought the applied I-cord would result in an edge that didn't curl. Moebi-Not!)

Actually, my first clue should have been this. But I'm nothing if not stalwart--I just kept knitting.

My second clue should have been the look of horror on the face of Wanda, owner of Knitting Emporium in Kennesaw, when I told her I'd cast on 250 stitches. She showed me a beautiful moebius wrap she had knit (in worsted weight Malabrigo on size 13's) using 126 stitches. It nestled nicely around my shoulders.

Oh, well, I'm not discouraged. Not much, really. No, really....oh, hell, I'm hating life!

I suppose I could felt it, but I'm not sure whether the soybean part of the yarn (Rowan Tapestry) would felt. Probably not. And then I might end up with a vase.

But since I'm in the "making lemonade out of lemons" mode, now I'm searching for what the real estate world calls the "highest and best use" of this piece of moebi-no. Here's what I've come up with so far:

- Christmas garland (just add lights and/or ornaments)

- Ceiling fan pull

- Belt for Rubeus Hagrid

- Neckwarmer for a pug

Yes, she's the most patient dog ever! The others were quivering in corners lest they be subjected to this torture, which is (I think) the only form currently outlawed by our government. Waterboarding, acceptable; knitted neckwarmer, no.

Project Recap. This is truly an Atlanta 2007 Shop Hop project:

Pattern - From A Treasury of Magical Knitting (Knitch). Iffy at best, but that's probably because I'm a ditz. It's Cat's Bipolar Stockinette, basically. The good news is that I now understand the concept and I'll keep trying.

Yarn - Rowan Tapestry (Why Knot Knit). Lovely, like knitting a beautiful coiled silver anaconda. This shade is the colors of the Earth's precious metals all in one, and I loved seeing them change. At first I thought the soybean content might be a little scratchy (I sneezed for the first 15 minutes I knit with it), but it's soft and lovely. I did find several knots and slubby pieces that had to be worked around or spliced. (For clarification, I spliced the knots and considered the slubs "design features.")

Needles - HiyaHiya #10 47" (Needlenook). This is my first pair of HiyaHiya's and I was a little concerned because they're so light that they feel almost flimsy to a confirmed Addi-lover like myself, but they were wonderful. The join is smooth and the cord never crimped, even under the stress of the moebius cast-on. I'll definitely buy this needle again.

All ideas for moebiuse gratefully accepted, but don't even bother with "rip it out and rewind the ball." That I-cord may be the only extant monument to my patience.

*If you recognize the words of Ed McMahon speaking to The Great Karnack, you're older than you look.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

That Noro Stuff

So, are the manufacturers of Noro the smartest marketers ever, or what?

Let's examine the facts:

(1) The colorways are fabulous. If you can walk past a Kureyon or Silk Garden display without stopping to touch and fantasize, you should probably just pull the lid down on the casket and go back to sleep. However ...

(2) The colorways on the original skein don't give you any idea of the finished product. Still beautiful, but don't even bother to think you know what your object will look like. It's all a crapshoot! The yarn in the photo above* looked as though it would be much lighter than it is, for instance.

(3) The yarn is unplied and this probably saves money in the manufacturing process. If only ...

(4) The yarn costs a fortune, especially because ...

(5) The long colorways mean that you get less pooling but ...

(6) When you get to the end of the skein you have to (a) resign yourself to starting with a totally new, unrelated, color or (b) dig into the other 7 skeins you bought for the project until you find one with the color you want sort of near the beginning of the skein. Assuming the factory balled everything up in the same direction, which they probably didn't. The result is ...

(7) You will end up with 26 small balls of different colorways, none of which fit into your knitting at all. Then you'll go out and buy 3 more, this time hoping for a little synchronicity (or just good luck!) You'd better like fraternal with Noro, otherwise, your 8-skein project will require 13. (Voice of experience speaking here. 'Nuff said.)

(8) The unplied texture has a rustic look. But ...

(9) Knitting with Noro is like knitting with tree bark. In fact, there may be actual tree bark involved--I have seen several types of vegetation that could be anything from hay to bonsai tree cuttings. It will literally scrape the skin off your hands. I just took a piece of wood out of my knitting that I could have used in the fireplace to heat the house.

(10) The yarn has a gorgeous thick-thin-thicker-threadlike texture that makes it texturally very interesting. Unfortunately ...

(11) You can't use it to sew your project's seams because you might as well used barbed wire (or, as we say in the south, "bob wahr").

(12) It felts really well except ...

(13) When you're trying to spit-splice yarn together because there are 13.6 knots in the average skein of Noro yarn. Spit-splicing becomes a lost art with Noro.

Then, when you're done ...

Love that Noro!

*Iro #57 (purchased from Main Street Yarns)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Attitude of Gratitude

For several years, before we started to pass the food at Thanksgiving dinner and after saying grace, I terrorized my daughters, and any unfortunate guests, by making each person around the table tell what they were grateful for. The answers, as often happens when hungry folks are put on the spot and denied mashed potatoes, ranged from truly banal to gloriously provocative. Sometimes they even (amazingly!) created conversation fodder. What a treat! I have always loved hearing what was going on inside other people's minds.

This year, for the first time I can remember in about 30 years, I won't have control of that table and I won't be able to put anyone on the spot. But I still rule the roost here, and can do what I want. So, I'll terrorize you by telling you what's on my mind, just for a change.

I'm grateful for, in no particular order, and with the understanding that the list is incomplete:

- Spit. I'm knitting a Lotorp bag (Noro Revisited, I think) and when you knit with Noro, you better have an ample supply of saliva to spit-splice all the knots. My bag, about half complete, has way more of my spit than I had originally planned. On the other hand, if my body is ever discovered in a strange place, ID missing, in close proximity to the Lotorp, please feel free to use it for DNA testing.

But damn, that Noro is gorgeous!

- The November birthdays are done. As in complete, over, finished, put your wallet back into your purse. In my family, three biggies among the immediates: Jake, KC and Kerrigan. (And several more among the next-to-immediates.) Let me just say that after one weekend that included KC's birthday (NASCAR Speedpark) and Kerrigan 's (Monkey Joe's), I'm exhausted. No more birthdays until Haley and Deirdre in December. Whew!

- Measles, or more particularly, having had measles Back in the Day, or, as they were known then, The 50's. The only thing worse than being at Monkey Joe's for a birthday party is being there with a child who is unexpectedly spotty and whiny and hot and who turns out to be highly contagious. We're lucky we escaped with our lives. (There's a certain irony in having your child GET measles from the shot that was supposed to innoculate him from it, but then that's a fact that some people learn from their flu shots every years. I'm still a believer.)

- Family. As a whole, we're all pretty healthy, but there are always worries in any family. This is the year that my oldest nephew Mike had a terrible bicyling accident in the course of his duties as a police officer. He's going to be okay and for that I'm almost pathetically grateful. Jake's mom's and stepfather's health have been chancy this year and I'm glad they're doing better. We've got a wedding coming up in March (Caitlin and Bobby) and a new baby in April (Sarah and Andrew's). My two sisters are doing well. All the grands are growing up, intelligent, mouthy, beautiful--perfect in every way. My two daughters have been through tough times this year and they're both stronger for it. We are extremely lucky!

- L'Occitane en Provence Hand Cream. It's officially cold weather, although here in Georgia that's relative. But my hands know it, and they are dry, cracked, chapped. My hangnails have hangnails. And, if there was even a drop of moisture in my skin before, the aforementiond Noro has removed every trace. And don't be thinking that all that spit I'm slathering on my spliced ends is helping. The Noro has sucked all that up, along with any moisture native to my skin. And L'Occitane isn't cheap--a smallish tube, tinier than the average infant's foot but still too large to be carried onto an airplane because it qualifies as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, costs about $650 and is worth every penny. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

- Military Personnel. One day this week, I flew to Savannah and back in one day (for a job interview that will probably go nowhere). And the airports were everything you have heard and seen on the news--ugly, crowded, noisy, filled with many lovely and some quite nasty folk. (It's never a good sign when you're greeted at the airport entrance with the news that the place is such a zoo that Meredith Viera is reporting on the chaos Right Now, From Right Here in The Airport, Yes, That's What I Said, Right Here!!!!!) But back to the military. On both planes, there were numerous military personnel, traveling on leave to visit with their families before returning to Iraq. The man sitting next to me on one plane was on his way to Savannah to get married on Saturday before going back to Iraq on Monday. I felt quite teary to see all these folks who are working so hard to keep my life so peaceful here at home. Thank you to all who serve our country. And, because I'm a patriot, I won't mention that we wouldn't be there at all if folks in Florida knew how to count votes.

- Grandchildren. Well, I know I mentioned some of them earlier, but I am especially grateful because I have eight of the little suckers, after all, ranging from 2 to 21. And what they are best at is putting it all in perspective. When you're feeling a little down, like the world sucks and you can't find a job and you're too fat and you just dropped a stitch, for heaven's sake, there's nothing quite like a grandchild's hug to take your mood back up a few notches. And, if your ego needs a little downsizing, the comment that will do it is this one: "Duuuuuude, what did you do to your hair color? Man! What were YOU thinking?"

Gotta love it.

- Pugs. What can you say? A life without a pug is just plain bleak, unthinkable, a wasteland of infinite proportions. Life with four pugs, on the other hand, is a little unthinkable some days too. It takes all my meager powers to be grateful for Bluto when he starts his howler monkey imitation, which he does when he cannot see me sitting ten feet from him and therefore he believes himself to have been abandoned. But that's a story for another day.

-Low Drama, High Darhma. Things are quiet around Chez Pug, and in my life. Oh, occasionally there might be a brief scuffle over ownership of a stuffed toy or a chewie, or maybe a serenade from the howler pug and the other members of his quartet, but basically life is good. No conflicts, no anxiety (well, maybe a little about the J-O-B situation, but it's still minimal). I'm trying to live mindfully these days, taking note of the effects of my actions on others, and being aware of my blessings in life. When I hear about the drama in other people's lives, I'm just really grateful to be out of that particular fray. Yesterday morning I sat out on the knitting perch (yeah, it was kind of chilly but not too bad--remember that in Georgia, everything's relative), just knitting and enjoying the yard. The leaves were falling, spectacularly in a whirlygig fashion, dropping noisily onto the ground. The bird feeder and squirrel tray had customers lined up for the seeds and suet. The pugs were on patrol and I talked on the cellphone with Mr. Pug, who's visiting his family in Salt Lake City. Drama? Not here. Life is damned good.

- Finally, the knitting community. My life is enriched every day by the knitters I know. They are amazing people, for the most part, generous and friendly and loving. And thanks to the Atlanta knitting shops for that wonderful Shop Hop these past two weeks. I missed a few shops I wanted to get to, but having a job, looking for a job, and family obligations kept me away. Sometimes you've got to prioritize, and yarn doesn't always win. (Mostly, but not always.) But I had fun and hung out with a lot of nice people and it was a great event. And I love all those knitters I knit with every day, and the ones I just read about on their blogs, and the ones who post fabulous pictures on Ravelry. I love our community's charitable work. (A special shout-out to the new knitting ministry at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Sedona. Good work, guys!) Basically, I'm grateful for all of you--you're all exceptional people.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I am a woman of obsessions. (Note the plural.) That might seem strange to those of you who can't imagine what it would be like to be consumed by the need to make something, try something, do something, even when you know darn well you don't need it, nobody you know wants it, and you may not even want it yourself. But you GOTTA have it, right now!

Okay, that's a normal day at the beach for me. So, if it's incomprehensible to you, you can just exit out of here and no one's feelings will be hurt.

Much of this year has been consumed by an obsessive need to knit lace. Now somehow I've gotten through 45+ years of knitting with only an occasional desultory nod to the yarnover crowd. I don't wear lace. I'm not a lace person. I'm more the tailored type. I have no desire to look like I'm wearing Aunt Tillie's antimacassar on my shoulders. Neither of my daughters is the lace type--both would probably barf in their socks if I suggested they wear a lace shawl. Three granddaughters and none of them are lacy, though that could change with time.

But this year the Lace Light is fully ON and I have amassed a huge (and still growing) bucket of laceweight yarn, and a 3" binder full of lace patterns. I am knitting lace. Why, you ask? No clue. But lace is my new thing, and I'm powerless over it. Must knit lace.

I suspect that if I have one thing in common with Cat Bordhi, that's it. We are both obsessed. I think that's where the similarity ends. She's obviously on the inventor side; I'm merely a respectful end user. But now her obsession is feeding mine. Not a good thing.

Cat was in Atlanta last week and I went to a guild meet 'n greet at Knitch for her. (Unfortunately, I couldn't take either of her classes -- maybe after I'm gainfully employed again.) Cat spoke for about 90 minutes, mostly about herself and the way she works, and about her new sock book. She may have mentioned the word "moebius" but she certainly didn't dwell on it--she was all about her new sock designs. Of course, I bought the sock book and I will try them--they're truly innovative, if a little odd, and I will make at least some of them.

Then Ellen showed up at the Noble Knitters wearing a moebius and knitting another one. They were made of Noro Kureyon and, while beautiful, they were not my style, not my taste, and, frankly, made my neck feel like I'd contracted St. Vitus Disease. Interesting, I thought. Wonder why she's bothering with those things, I thought, given that there's all that lace still to be knit.

So why, why, why, am I now obsessed with making one myself? Couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is that yesterday I bought Cat's Magical Knitting book and not one, but two, sets of yarn for moebieuses (or moebiei, as it were). One yarn is just as red as it is soft and fluffy--100% alpaca--for a light, airy moebius, a cloud to float around my neck. The other is neutral, tailored wool and bamboo from Rowan, for a more professional wear-to-work moebius.

In the meantime, there's just this one little tiny glitch. The famous Cat Bordhi moebius caston. Now, you might imagine that, having bought the book, it would be clear. Clear as tar, in my opinion. Cast on, ripped out. Cast on, ripped out. At least I took Ellen's advice to use crap yarn for this process.

So I Googled the caston and found videos of Cat doing every other thing you can imagine--the woman has more videos on YouTube than Paris Hilton. Cat casts on a sock with someone else's caston method, Cat knits a sock, Cat twists a stitch to the left or right, Cat scrapes a carrot. You name it, Cat's got a video of herself doing it. But not the dreaded caston because then we might not buy the wretched book. (Which, by the way, has typos--as a former editor, this drives me nuts, and I can't even blame her worthless publisher because she self-publishes. Cat, I'm begging you, get a proofreader!)

But she IS a genius, and we'll cut her some slack for things like typos. Geniuses get a walk on that sort of thing.

Finally, on the DIY site, I found a written description of how to do the caston, and it clicked, somewhat. So now I'm playing with it, trying to figure out whether I've got it right or not. And it drives me nuts that I'm effectively swatching with crap yarn while I try to understand it, and wasting time I could be using to knit with that fabulous red alpaca. And that's another difference between Cat and me--she's apparently got the patience of Job for understanding all the nuances of a technique; I just want it to work NOW.

And, Cat, please put the "Cat does the caston" video on YouTube along with the videos of you doing all the other household tasks. You didn't lose readers when we all learned how to knit socks on two circulars--it just got us all excited to see the next thing you'll invent. And seeing that caston will make us want to knit all the variations in the book--I promise!

In other OCD news, why am I also obsessed with making the Modern Quilt shawl from Interweave Knits? It's not lace, I don't wear things around my neck, and I hate weaving in ends. So why, why, why? Can't tell you, but now I'm screaming around town trying to find all the colors. I'm telling you this right now, if I tell you I want to make an Alice Starmore sweater with 36 colors of Shetland, or a Kaffe Fassett sweater with 63, just call my doctor and change my meds!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This is just so wrong ....

I was on the phone with Eldest Daughter today and I mentioned that I would be available to take a call later in the day if she needed me, saying "After all, I have nothing to do at work anyway."
Her response: "Oh, don't go all Eeyore on me!"
Now I ask you? Have I been Eeyore?
Fine...I probably have. But I didn't need to be reminded, exactly.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Okay, Let's Recap

Time for a little honesty among friends, no matter how painful it may be. And it is.

You may remember that I had a bit of a meltdown at Maryland Sheep & Wool in May, and bought way too much stuff. So, remembering that I haven't exactly set the world on fire with finishing up (or even beginning, in most cases) my MSW purchases, I really set out NOT to buy yarn at SAFF. My failure was spectacular -- I crashed and burned in a major way. Additionally, as though failure with yarn wasn't enough, I added another fiber to the shopping cart this time, roving.

Now, since technically I have no clue what to DO with roving, I'm considering roving bought at SAFF to be in the category of "school supplies." Beautiful school supplies, far from the lowly stuff of my childhood, the pencils (in the words of Bill Cosby) as big as a horse's leg, the paper that looked like half the tree bark was still embedded. No...this stuff can be fondled, hugged, sniffed, and sometimes the fibers actually inhaled if there's mohair involved. Dangerous stuff, but still "learning materials" since they're technically useless, in my hands at least.

Here are the school supplies:

Okay, no problem. School supplies don't count.

Here's the problem:

It's the freakin' yarn I wasn't going to buy:

2007 SAFF Purchases:
  • Brooks Farm Acero and pattern for diamond modular vest. Okay, I'm not apologizing for this. It's just gorgeous. 5 skeins, all a shade different, about 2100 yards. Also, it was the only planned purchase -- enough Brooks Farm yarn for a vest.
  • Yarnsmith Prairie (lambswool, baby alpaca, cashmere) - 2 skeins, different colors
  • Prism Lace Wool, color Mojave
  • Eidos from The Sanguine Gryphon, in Grape (sock yarn)
  • Sea Silk - blue/green
  • Dragonfly Fiber Company merino wool laceweight, Falling Leaves
  • Miss Babs Sock Wool, in Rose Garden
  • The brown Koigu at the bottom was bought for a class and it's only ends and really not enough to do much with so we're REALLY not counting it.
  • Assorted patterns, implements (spindle, nostepinde), tee shirt and SAFF jacket, a pin and some buttons.

Don't even tell me you would have done any better. I did keep to my promise to not buy anything that I could buy elsewhere. Well, except for the Prism which I bought from Yarn Paradise and the Sea Silk. But, sorry! They jumped into my arms and wouldn't leave. But except for those two eensy-weensy technicalities I think I did great.

And, of course, I did promise myself that I would not bring home ANY more sock yarn. That being said, I think I did really well to only bring home two skeins. So there!

And, on the positive side, I did NOT come home with:

  • a spinning wheel
  • an Angora bunny.

But back to that honesty thing. Here's the MSW recap with progress noted in red. As you can see, there's still some work to be done.

2007 MDSW Yarn Purchases:

  • Tess's Designer Yarns Superwash Merino blue (for Diamond Vest) - In progress
  • Autumn House Yarns (Moss Agate, for Rune Way Vest)
  • Socks That Rock, Superwash Merino, Mediumweight: (1) Romancing the Stone(2) Neptunite(3) Carbon Dating(4) Iolite
  • Ellen's Half Pint Farms: (1) 100% merino wool blue/green(2) 80% wool 20% nylon, red/fuschia(3) 50% wool, 50% tencel, blues
  • Celtic Knot Yarn Shop(1) Online Linie 3 sock yarn, blue/black(2) Opal taupe, coral and tan
  • Athlone Farm Llama/Suri alpaca handspun
  • Thistledown Alpacas Myfanvy handspun
  • Tess Designer Yarns sock yarn, blues
  • Tess Designer Yarns Superwash Lace (raspberry and green)
  • Claudia's Handpainted Fingering (for Multidirectional Scarf)- Complete

Okay, I think that's way too much honesty for the time being. Let's go back to that denial thing that I do so well. The one where I praise myself for really not going overboard. Again.

Lily Knits!

So, Lily Chin came to the Atlanta Knitting Guild this week, and what a whirlwind of energy she is! I've always heard that but, except for seeing her from a distance at a Stitches dinner long ago, haven't experienced it in person. What a dynamo--and clever and talented and a great teacher.

In the photo above, she's giving a combination slide talk/knitting demonstration at the Thursday night meeting. She wore a killer Feather and Fan knitted dress and mentioned that it combined latest fashion (empire waist detail) with technique (the feather and fan part).

On Friday and Saturday, she taught a total of four classes. I could only get to two, Borderline Personalities on Friday and Short Rows on Saturday. I have taken several short row classes and eventually one of them is going to click with me. This week was no different--I understand them intellectually but putting them into action is going to take a blinding flash of understanding some time in the future. The borders class, however, really resonated with me! Now I know how I'm going to get that border onto whichever Victorian Lace Today stole I end up making. (That's been one of the sticking points with starting one--I just couldn't make sense in my mind of how that border got attached.) Thanks, Lily. Now I can start one more lace project--that's sarcasm for those who don't recognize it!

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Lily and Claudia on Friday night (who could have predicted that Lily would be a Red Lobster aficionado and Claudia would be a Red Lobster virgin? She's now totally hooked on the whole cheese biscuit thing and has promised not to get snarky about chain seafood restaurants again.) And the weekend concluded with a lovely potluck at Whit's house, looking out over the lake and knitting with friends. What in the world could be better?

Now, for an update. You've probably concluded that I've not been knitting at all, what with all my world travels (if Asheville can be considered "the world") and my celebrity knitting experiences. Not true!

I finally finished Birch, just before I went to SAFF, and, frankly, I was a little disappointed.

Yup, it's beautiful, and yup, that Malabrigo lace yarn is probably the softest, most wonderful yarn I've ever knit with. But, despite the photo above, Birch (on me) is a really lovely little shoulder scarf. Now, a true cynic could argue that the problem is with the wearer--that if I would just lose a little avoirdupois, it might actually be a shawl. But, be that as it may, it's cute, it's petite, it feels good, and it's not a shawl on me! I'll figure out some way to use it, but a shawl it ain't. A babushka, maybe. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I could have predicted this outcome.

Let me begin by saying that you start Birch by casting on an ungodly number of stitches, using the knitted cast-on, I think, which is not my favorite, and then you knit to the point, steadily decreasing. This is wonderful if you want to have an actual end in sight. And, furthermore, before I began Birch, I used the wonders of Ravelry and searched for other people who had made the pattern to read their comments. One of those knitters commented that she wished she had cast on an additional 100 stitches (for a total of 399 instead of the 299 called for) which would have made it larger. Did I heed those words? Nah, I was so bummed out by having to cast on those 299 stitches using a cast-on method I hate that I wandered into a field of denial and stuck with the 299.

Promise to Self: I will make another Birch. I love the pattern, I loved that yarn. But I will suck it up and add on at least another 100 stitches, if not more, at the get-go.

So I did not wear Birch at SAFF, though I took it with me. (Well, I didn't wear anything knitted there--I was, as usual, hot all the time there, even wandering around in the biting wind, and by "hot" I'm definitely not referring to my comely appearance. I was freakin' sweatin' HOT. See note above about excess avoirdupois--coincidence? I think not!)

But I had two problems: (1) I needed another lace project to dive into immediately that would negate the bummed-out-ness of Birch and (2) I needed a project to work on at SAFF that my very small, menopause-addled brain could handle. Enter Kiri, a sort of upside-down Birch:

Loving Kiri! And the beauty part is: since you start at the point, you can just knit until the darned thing wraps around your rather bountiful shoulders. (NOTE TO SELF: How about making Birch out of sport weight or even worsted weight yarn? Maybe worsted weight Malabrigo? That would solve the whole 299 stitch problem! Of course, for me, it would be suitable only in a meat locker or on the ski slopes, but it's really about the process, not the product, isn't it?)

Anyway, I'm making Kiri out of Jaggerspun Zephyr which is again sort of wonderful and sort of a disappointment. Love the yarn, love the color, love the crisp texture. Hate the SEVERAL broken places where I've had to graft. Oh, well. Let's just leave it with, Love Kiri!

And I'm continuing to plod along on the Diamond Vest with the fabulous Tess yarn. For a couple of insane moments I even thought I might get this done for SAFF. What in the world was I thinking? I hate deadline knitting and this one was never going to be done by then. I'm about halfway around the lower part, then there's the upper part to pick up and knit. But I love, love, love the Tess worsted yarn and the pattern is fun (so much fun that it's got me thinking about other modular pieces, and inspired me to buy the beautiful Brooks Farm Acero at SAFF that I haven't even gotten around to showing yet).

Finally, some knitting jewelry. Who knew knitting had jewelry? Amazing!

The bracelet is amazing, from AKG member Nancy, who markets her creations at her etsy site (www.sassafrascreations at* and (ahem!) to her guild friends. It's made out of those old aluminum straights we all got rid of when we got hooked on circulars and wood needles. She has lots of other styles, too. (We even gave one of these bracelets to Lily this week after she admired it--hint: if you want to be wearing the same jewelry as Lily, you know what to do!)

The gorgeous sheep pin is ceramic and I bought it at SAFF from Cindy Hart. She and her husband make beautiful pottery and I bought some fabulous buttons too. In case its beauty isn't enough for you, I can also attest to its durability--somehow it ended up NOT coming off something I washed and it survived the washing machine beautifully, though I'm not recommending the practice.

Finally, the earrings. I made them a couple of weeks ago at a guild class conducted by Jean E. They're beaded, and now I'm very worried that I might get hooked on beads. The class I took at SAFF by Judy Pascale on beaded bags didn't help--I WILL NOT START BUYING ANOTHER FIBER-RELATED STASH, I WILL NOT, oh, heck, knowing me, maybe I will.

*I apologize--I've tried and tried to link to this site but either etsy or Blogger isn't cooperating. Try it this way.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where in the World Have I Been?

Well, certainly not in the blogging world, that's for sure. I'll just say that I've been busy--job hunting (or what passes for it), knitting, working, hiding out here at home...and, of course, at SAFF!

And, while I was gone, Blogger has made some, er, improvements, that I wasn't expecting. The result is these big blobs of white space. Sorry--maybe I'll learn to control them over time.

So, jumping immediately to what is most interesting, what about SAFF? Debra and I drove up to Asheville on Thursday afternoon. We got off to a little later start than I had planned due to my having a phone pre-interview with a recruiter that took a little longer than I thought it would. And the job is probably not a starter, but would be one of those amazing jobs that you just have to try for, even when you know you don't have a chance!

Of course I've been reading all the blogs and the Ravelry posts about SAFF and the first thing they tell you is that it's wayyyyyy smaller than Maryland Sheep & Wool. Well, thank goodness for that...I barely survived and my checkbook is still whimpering.

So, let's begin with the hotel. Not a good story--in fact, the only real disappointment of the weekend. Let me say from the start, Hampton Inn at the Airport - NOT GOOD. Well, the hotel was okay, but there was a little problem with the reservation and the manager refused to make it right. So we will not be staying there again. No, we will not. My recommendation is that you don't either.

But by Friday morning we had (mostly) put that behind us and were only mildly resentful, and we set off for the Ag Center. Lots of cars, even at 9 am. Lots of people. Right off the bat, we ran into Katey with Ravelry buttons (yay for Ravelry and yay for Katey). We had our buttons, we were ready to go down into the fray. We decided right away that we would not buy, we would only look.

(If you don't know who that dog is -- his name is Bob -- you better go right now to and sign up. Hurry!)

Debra was happy ...

SAFF is about 50/50, maybe 60/40 knitting/spinning. So that means a lot of fiber, some of it spun and plied and some of it as roving waiting to be spun, some of it just the way it came off the sheep (including vegetable matter and, ahem, other extraneous materials), and some of it still hanging out on the animal.

And Debra is at her happiest when surrounded by fiber. Any kind of fiber. You could put her down in a field of grass and she'd figure out some way to make it into yarn. So she was in her element. (In fact, she made a basket that might have come from a field of grass, damp grass at that.)

I, on the other hand, am a woman of much more discriminating tastes... I had no intention of buying willy-nilly. I went with a plan and intended to stick with it. And here's the way it worked:

THE PLAN: Buy nothing on Friday, look only. Buy enough Brooks Farm yarn for one vest. Buy some alpaca yarn. Buy some sort of roving so I can work on my spindling. NO NEW SOCK YARN. DEFINITELY NO NEW LACE YARN. Spend only cash.

THE IMPLEMENTATION: Bought immediately, continuously, and often. Bought the Brooks Farm - Acero -- photos later this week, along with a gorgeous pattern for a diamond vest. Bought sock yarn, bought lace yarn, bought roving of every description. Spent all the cash, wrote checks, used the debit card.

THE RESULT: Not altogether spot on, as the Brits would say.

The most amazing thing was the number of people we met that we knew. Well, Debra knew approximately 63% of the attendees--they were either knitters, spinners, or knitter/spinner wannabes. But even I knew a bunch of people. And if I didn't know them when I started, I did when I left.

Here are some of the Gainesville knitters I met while resting my tired back on Friday. Debra was taking a class and I was so happy to meet some friendly folks and even happier when they told me they were from just up the road in Gainesville (Georgia, that is).

And, of course, there were those Atlanta blogger girls -- Melissa and Claudia and Janice and Jane and The Real Diana and Kim Nickels of Knitch. And the lovely Debbi Light of The Whole Nine Yarns. And Nancy T (Sassafras on etsy) and Nancy W and Jean K and ... and ... and .... well, I can't even remember who else from the AKG. Almost forgot the boys--Lou and Brett and Steve and Doug, though they disappeared so fast I almost thought they were figments of my imagination. And those sassy south-of-Atlanta girls Jody and Kathy and Maggie and their friend Grace from Michigan.

Well, there's more news but I don't have time to tell it all--the trick or treaters are coming. (Just to whet your appetite, I took a great class and we visited a wonderful Asheville LYS. And, it goes without saying, that we played with animals, or attempted to.)

And ... drum roll, please ... Lily Chin comes to Atlanta tomorrow so it's a big week. She'll speak to the guild tomorrow night, then I have two classes with her, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Then a potluck at Whit's house. And there's lots of homework before the classes. My, oh my, by Sunday I'll be a quivering mass of fiber overload.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Cheerful Giver

No matter what our spiritual background, the concept of charity is a consistent theme for most of us. We recognize that there will always be some in our world who need our help, and many of us enjoy being able to help others out in some way. In my case, I donate in my own spiritual settings and as a child I enjoyed putting my coins into the "mite" box once a year, knowing that my mite (what the heck is a mite, anyway?) would go to help someone else. (We grew up quite poor and even as a child I recognized that we were lucky compared to others. That's what growing up in a big city like DC will do for you.) And, of course, I carried those ubiquitous Unicef cartons around at Halloween time. It gives us a good feeling to be able to help our fellow humans out. Many of us extend these charitable feelings to our pets by making donations to the local shelter or to national groups.

The knitting community is an especially generous group of people. The Yarn Harlot has raised thousands of dollars for Doctors Without Borders through Knitters Without Borders. Many support the Heifer Project. And recently many people have made personal donations to help a well known knitting designer with some personal needs created by a family health crisis. Groups like the one my sister is involved with at her church in Sedona make helmet liners and prayer shawls. All worthy causes.

For myself, I have a few pet (no pun intended) groups that I consistently knit for: Children in Common and the Helmet Liner Project. The Atlanta Knitting Guild supports a number of charities and the one I'm mostly closely involved with is the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, for which I'm the liaison for donations of clothing, household goods, etc. But we also knit for preemies, make stoma covers for laryngectomy patients, dress trauma bears for children in distress, etc., and I usually try to participate in those efforts, although sporadically. (My own efforts usually involve children--I can't stand the thought of a child in need--though I love the helmet liner project because it allows me to support our soldiers in the Middle East, while not always supporting the reason they're there.)

So why, oh why, please tell me why, am I ALWAYS surprised by finding myself up against a deadline for one of these groups? Inevitably, I suddenly realize that one group or another has set a deadline or a goal or an objective and I haven't done SQUAT. This means that I move from feeling pretty good about myself to feeling like a total dweeb with no redeeming qualities at all because I'm not ready. And the deal is, you're not just sending off a check, or clicking on Paypal--you actually have to KNIT something. There's actual action required.

So here I am again, in a state of frantic charitable knitting, knitting against a deadline, pushing myself, and hating the feeling of scrambling (again) to do the right thing.

Now there are people, and I know several, who ONLY do charity knitting. They knit pet beds for shelters or preemie hats or Hansen bandages and never knit a thing for themselves or their families. More power to them, but Mother Teresa I'm not, and I can't even feel guilty about that. Knitting for charity is an important part of my life, but it's a part, not the whole. I knit a variety of things, and that's the way that goes.

Anyway, for today I'm scrambling to get a pair of mittens off to Afghans for Afghans. Now, I remember (vaguely) hearing that AFA's big Fall push had a deadline sometime soon. That deadline now seems to be, and probably always has been, this coming Friday. And I've done nothing. And they're struggling to meet their goal of 80 cartons of knitted wool garments shipped before the debilitating winter. No time to make a big contribution--just rip off those mittens and get them in the mail. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

So three questions come to mind:

(1) Does it really matter? Will my one lonely pair of green mittens (made from some wonderful mallard green Naturespun) really make a dent in those 80 cartons? Will it make any difference at all if I don't make them?

(2) Is the Karma associated with doing something good for someone else destroyed by my not-mindful-at-all-because-I'm-so-frantic-for-heaven's-sake feelings of desperation and rushing?

(3) What the heck am I doing writing a blog when I could be knitting?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Uncle! A Letter to My Friends

Dear Knitting Enabler Friends (You All Know Who You Are):

Okay, now I’m officially swamped in knitalongs. Of course, I’m already behind a week in Secret of Chrysopolis (Clue 2 out yesterday). Secret of the Stole started yesterday and I’m not ready for that. And I just joined the Muir knitalong on Yahoo (it’s also running on Ravelry), run by Romi, intrepid designer and shawl pin maker.

(For those of you who like eye candy, here's the gorgeous feather pin that Romi made for the MS3 Swan Lake stole. And, in the interests of friendship, let me just say, "I've got something you don't have, nanny nanny boo boo!")

Now, we return you to our regularly scheduled rant:

Still working on Birch, about 15% of the diamonds made for my Tess vest (and Joyce has already had to help me through a crisis), I haven’t started my other MD Sheep & Wool vest yet, and my yarn came from Knitpicks (Wool of the Andes, Thyme color - gorgeous!) yesterday for the Enchanted Forest sweater (Vogue). Haven’t started any of the Jojoland yarn I bought from Needlenook. And, believe it or not, I’m going to Needlenook today to pick up my blue Melody for the bearclaw shawl Pat did and to Only Ewe and Cotton Too for some Suri Elegance (might end up being the Muir, might not).

Whoa!!!!! I’m out of control! I’m reading “Zen and the Art of Knitting” and “Mindful Knitting” and they both talk about knitting as a calming, meditative process that helps get you centered. (I desperately need some centering right now!) How can I be centered when I’m deep under a pile of yarn that wants to be knitted?

This is why I don’t spin, Debra. First, I’d have to build another room onto the house to hold the wheel and the roving and second, I’m already not working on my resume and finding a job—what would it be like if I was just sitting blissfully spinning all day?

Basically, girls, this is really all your fault. Pat created a monster with that first lace project at the Mountain. I was fine with socks. Then Ellen and Joyce and Whit started those me on those damned multidirectional scarves. Now I’ve got to do lace, and socks, and multidirectionals. On top of all that, I haven’t knit a sweater in years because I hate big projects—why am I now trying to knit vests and sweaters?

If I ever mention that freaking tent-sized Koigu coat, please just have me committed immediately and confiscate all pointy objects.

Overwhelm-edly, Me

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yes, that's the Harlot with my what?

So what indeed? Did you hear me? I said Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is holding my knitting! And...she knew it was Birch. And why did she know that? Because (hold for the drum roll, please), because she's knitting a Birch, too. Said it was "back in the suitcase."

Okay, I'm a celebrity geek, a harlot even. Whatcha gonna do? It's just who I am. And I'm not usually this way with celebrities. But... writers and knitters. And knitters who can write... well, I'm definitely in awe.

Yesterday, courtesy of the incredible Knitch and its even-more-incredible owner Kim, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee came to Atlanta and I can now say, I've Knit With The Yarn Harlot! Well, the fine print really says that "I knit while the Yarn Harlot talked," but that's just getting picky, if you ask me.

Knitch arranged for YH to speak at the Hilan theater in the heart of Virginia Highlands. Usually when we say "in the heart," we mean it's right in the middle of things. In this case, this theater is really like the spleen of Virginia Highlands. It's the internal organ that you didn't even know you had until it got crushed in a rush for Socks That Rock at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Show. This venue is literally tucked in between and behind a Ben & Jerry's on one side and a Starbucks on the other, so you walk between the two businesses into the theater. I never would have found it in a million years!

Funny story--I came down late and didn't want to be driving around VH losing my mind looking for parking, so I took a cab. Of course, I knit in the cab during the drive. The driver was Nigerian, very friendly and pleasant and I saw him observe the knitting in the back seat but he never mentioned it. But when we pulled up, and he saw a couple hundred people standing in a line, he said, "Oh, my God, look at all those people. And they're ALL knitting! I can't believe it!" "Yeah," I responded, "all knitting. Well goodbye!" Let him wonder ....

Anyway, Knitch did a fabulous job of organizing the event, with tee-shirts (which I wish now I'd bought!), a raffle for Stephanie's pet charity, Knitters Without Borders, and lots of books for sale. And, thank you, Kim, for putting the Atlanta Knitting Guild board members in the front row, alongside your fellow shop owners. What an incredible honor, and much appreciated!

Debra and I waited in line to have our books signed (thank you, Kim, for giving us tickets for the first signing!) and were among the very last in that group to meet Stephanie. She was very gracious and happy to hold Birch, and to have her picture taken with Debra.

So, without further ado, here's Debra and Stephanie:

Thank you, Stephanie, for bringing your great sense of humor to Atlanta, and for reminding us of the incredible sense of community we're so fortunate to be a part of. And thanks for holding my Birch and not pointing out some horrible glitch in it.

Come back again, any time!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What a Week!

This month has flown past, with a lot happening in a short time. Amazing. This week was a killer, too. Here's a little of the week's "doings."

On Monday, Debra and I took The Big Sock to Newnan (south of Atlanta) so the group there could knit on it. (I was just the travel buddy--Debra is the heart and soul of the TBS project here in ATL.) TBS is now back in Rochester, NY (I think) but I think they'll be impressed by the amount we got done on it.

A good-sized group met at Espresso Lane in downtown Newnan and we met some wonderful people. The staff at Espresso Lane were wonderful, too - very welcoming!

The next night we again drove south (who planned this itinerary?) to the Books-a-Million bookstore in Peachtree City. Here we shared the space with a very pleasant group of folks being addressed by a Buddhist monk. Luckily they were all into peace and love and not being irritated by the sock knitters and we co-existed without fisticuffs. Chris, one of my coworkers at The Big Corporation, brought his three kids who all had a great time knitting. Even Chris knit a few stitches--it was fun to have them share in this event and it was a perfect introduction to knitting for the kids.

Wednesday evening I went to the Alliance Theater to see The Women of Brewster Place, courtesy of The Other Diana, Claudia's friend (and, I hope, mine too). The play was lots of fun--how could Opening Night not be fun?--with some really terrific voices. It was my first time seeing a production at the Alliance and I'll definitely go back.

Thursday and Friday, TBC had a series of events for the first group of our employees to be separated--lunch on Thursday (billed as a "celebration" but we won't discuss the irony that involved), then an "asset collection" event on Friday. That one wasn't emotional enough--some idiot (me!) had scheduled a goodbye lunch for our assistant for the same day. I was so bummed by the time we finished lunch on Friday, I took off and went home. Only two more of these "last day events" to go, 11/9 and 12/21. At least I guess I won't have to work the 12/21 day! (There's always a silver lining.)

So what do the tough do when they get bummed? They go yarn shopping. First, though, they go to a koi show (well, Mr. Pug and I did, anyway, on Saturday). When we were done with our fishy behavior, Joyce and I went on a combination lunch and yarn crawl, always a good thing. I had fallen in love that morning with Muir, a new stole pattern on by Romi and had to buy yarn for it. I don't know what's happening to me--within the last two weeks I've bought sock yarn from Main Street Yarns and Only Ewe and Cotton Too (both at the guild meeting), more Malabrigo lace (green) at Cast On Cottage, more Jojoland Melody at Needlenook, and, finally, lace yarn yesterday at The Knitting Emporium. I have to stop buying yarn! (See 12/21 date above, I will have no income--stop me! On the other hand, if I have a prolonged period of unemployment, you know what I'll be doing.)

Anyway, somehow I lost my mind and bought twice as much as I needed. Well, I know what happened--I've been thinking about several new lace projects and got this one confused with the one I'll probably never make, The Secret of Chrysopolis, and bought two skeins of Cashwool, not just one. And, to cap it all off, I had them both wound, so now I guess I have TWO olive green shawls in my future. Oh, well, you can never have too much lace yarn.

(Were you wondering whether I'd abandoned my lovely Birch Malabrigo stole? Not! In fact, since the stitch count decreases from the top, I'm speeding through it. Well, speeding is a relative term, but it's moving, that's what's important. Here it is, in all its glory. I love this yarn--it's the softest thing ever and it's getting a little "halo" effect from being handled.)

Finally, Mr. Mailman brought a present, and we love it when that happens. Those wonderful girls at The Yarn Grove sent me a gift--a set of Swallow Casein DPNs to play with. I'm in heaven! Now to cast on some more socks!

But what did I do about looking for a job? Er, uh, maybe next week will be calmer.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Knitting Update

Since I'm the only person I know who hasn't yet made a pair of Monkey socks I decided to start mine on Thursday night at the guild meeting. The yarn is Trekking Pro Natura and doesn't look at all the way I thought it would--for some reason I thought it would pool and instead it's striping--but I love the way it feels and the colors.

And, since I'm now officially addicted to lace knitting, I had to start a new piece of lace. The pattern is Birch by Sharon Miller and was in an old Rowan book (#34). It was originally done in Kidsilk Haze, but since I am not a fan of fuzzy things, I chose Malabrigo Laceweight. OMG! This stuff is like knitting with a kitten, it's so soft. And I love the color, which is called Pagoda.

I took the unusual (for me) step of actually swatching Birch and I am a little concerned that there's no edge specified, but I think it's going to need one. The photo here is pretty blurry, but you can see that the edge is fairly undefined looking. I'll have to wait to see how I like it when it's done, but I'm pretty sure I'll be asking someone to help me figure out how to edge this puppy.

And, just in case you haven't seen enough pink yarn to last you, I'll mention that I am hoping to start the Hanami stole soon out of, yes, you guessed it, raspberry-colored Jaggerspun Zephyr. I'm even thinking of putting beads on it.

The Birch pattern is pretty simple--one of those patterns that you can read easily--or I would never have considered another lace pattern at the same time. My main concern at this point is that I really should be putting my attention on looking for a J-O-B and not on knitting, but I'm going to consider the knitting as therapy. Looked at that way, I'd be unfair to myself if I didn't start as many projects as possible!

Rats and Other Matters


No, I'm not going all rodent-y on you. (Not that rodents are a bad thing...but when you have four small furry things underfoot at all times, you really don't need more. And if its tail doesn't curl, it doesn't belong here.)

The Rat in question is this one:

Rat (AKA Devit) turned up our in front yard yesterday morning, just as I was leaving for work. He was limping, but very friendly, and rolled right over on his back to have his belly rubbed. His tag said his name was Devit and that he lived on the western side of the county (we're on the very eastern edge). We called his owner and she said something to the effect of "no, you can't have my dog--my dog escaped yesterday and the county shelter picked him up last night." Uh, no...he's here.

We put Rat, whose name is NOT Devit, in the back yard with the pugs and he went right to the pond and copped a drink. Now, right away this is a unique situation for us. The pugs walk up to the water, look (down) into it, and very quickly get that they will fall in if they try to drink. Rat just put his snout into the bubbler thingy and drank his fill.

When his owner showed up a short while later (and no, I never did get to work), we sat in the back yard and schmoozed for awhile. She was a lovely person who said she has two ponds, er, water features, in her yard and so, of course, Rat knew right away how to belly up to the bar. She also said that, although he has an invisible fence collar, he escapes regularly. I think this might be the farthest he's gotten. (Apparently he'd been a guest of the county animal warden but had managed to escape from them as well. How he got to our yard is a matter of luck, I guess.)

One thing I've learned living in the south: dogs roam. You see them all over the place, walking along the side of the road. Sometimes, unfortunately, you see them dead by the side of the road. I'm hoping that Rat won't end up that way, but I fear for him.

In other animal news, darned if those invisible fish didn't pop right up and show themselves off for Rat's owner. I hadn't seen hide nor hair of them since I put them in there last week, and they flaunted themselves like hussies for a stranger. Of course, that might be because we took an awful lot of pond lettuce out to give to her and that made things a little less crowded, but I saw three of them today, too.

Atlanta Knitting Guild

Our monthly guild meeting was Thursday night and, as usual, it was an incredibly fully packed night of activities. Here are some of them:

- Debra brought The Big Sock and several members knit on it. It's only here for another week or so, then it goes back to Rochester, NY and then on to ... well, who knows where. I'm going to accompany Debra and TBS to two knitting groups south of Atlanta this week.

- The Botanical Garden Scarecrow (which, for some reason, I keep calling the "Squarecrow" since it's made of knitted squares) was in attendance--at least its head was. It has to be in place at the Botanical Garden by about the third weekend of September so there's a lot of activity around getting it complete. Elizabeth and some others have been very busy already! (My teeny tiny contribution is a dark red rectangle which will be on the upper left side of the back.)

- We held a book raffle to benefit the library and about $325 was raised. That money will be used to augment the small library budget and buy new books, DVDs, etc.

- Of course, we had a terrific speaker, Jan Stephens, who spoke about how to alter a sweater pattern.

- There were two Mystery Stoles in evidence, mine and Pat's. They are so different and yet the same pattern--I love how that works. I enjoyed swanning about in mine (a little swan humor).

- Andrea has been our liaison with the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children for several years. The shelter is one of our special projects and we raise money through raffles at least once a year and every month members bring donations. The shelter is a place where women can come during the day to clean up, learn basic office skills, get assistance with finding housing or work, or just have a safe place to be with their children. This month, I took over Andrea's role. I took Mr. Pug's car and filled up the back with donated toiletries, household goods, and clothing. Yesterday I drove to the shelter to turn the items in. I've missed doing service work and I'm excited about finding ways to volunteer with this incredible group of people. A good reminder of how lucky most of us are.