Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Which Jake Cracks the Code

Grandson Jake came to have dinner with Mr. Pug the other night while I was knitting with the Noble Knitters. They were still sitting at the kitchen table when I got home and Jake had a really wonderful late Christmas gift for me (more later). It was great to see him (and, of course, to get a really wonderful gift) but the funny part came as he was getting ready to go home.
Leaving the kitchen, he ran back and said, "DB! I finally understand the signs."
"Signs?" I asked, thinking is that like crop circles, or zodiac or what?
"Those signs," he said, pointing at the refrigerator.

"Ohhh, those signs," I said. Well, who doesn't know what they mean?

"I've lived here with y'all for over two years and I never knew what they meant. Now I know what they mean. That first one means knit one pearl one, right?"

Well, don't that beat all? Lived here two years and it never occurred to him to just ask? I don't know if that's the barely post-adolescent in him or the male. Now it makes me wonder whether Mr. Pug knows. I'm betting he doesn't.

So where did he finally get his secret decoder ring to work? Seems it was the yarn shop in Franklin, NC, where his dad and stepmom have recently settled. The last time I was in Silver Threads and Golden Needles it was owned by someone else, and I loved it. Now it's under new ownership and I hope I'll get to see it when I go to The Mountain in a couple of weeks. Anyway, he says it's a wonderful place, and when a 22-year-old man tells you a yarn shop is wonderful, you've gotta believe it.

Which brings me to the gift.

First off, that IS my color. Kind of a ripe raspberry. But the fiber ... well, that's 60% merino, 30% New Zealand possum, and 10% silk. It's worsted weight and feels like a cloud. I'm not much of a hat wearer but it looks like a hat to me. Just beautiful!

(So, am I right? It IS a wonderful gift, huh?)

Finally, in other news ... I was talking to my sister Debbie on the cell today as I drove into the driveway, and saw this:

Now, the other day Mr. Pug told me proudly that he had "trimmed" the crape myrtle. I didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't go look at the tree. The last time he "trimmed" a tree, it was the Japanese maple in front of the Virginia house and when he was finished, it looked like a lollipop. I cried that day, wept like a baby.

I didn't cry today, and I didn't crash into the garage door, but it was close. I think I must have shrieked, because Debbie sounded concerned. When I explained, she just laughed. She knows Mr. Pug pretty well, and she wasn't even surprised.

This time, he's taken a mature tree and turned it into a stump, or rather a collection of stumps.

If I don't have purple crape myrtle flowers this year, he's a dead man!

Friday, January 23, 2009


Multiple Choice Test

You get into your car at the end of the work day and a smell like a decomposing mammal emanates from the front seat of the car. The smell is so bad that all the interior paint has melted and dripped onto the floor. Opening the windows wide and turning the A/C to high makes no impression on the smell. As you drive down the highway, other drivers, including some from third-world countries whose last transportation was a burro, are yelling obscenities and holding their noses. It’s because:

(1) It was your turn to drive the carpool and you’ve just had five 12-year-old boys in the back practicing for the 2009 Smelliest Fart Nationals after a big meal of Meat Lovers pizzas and milkshakes.

(2) A possum climbed into your teenager’s lost athletic shoe under the front seat and died from the toxic environment – so, there IS a dead mammal somewhere in the car.

(3) You have a new part-time job doing the laundry for the Thrashers and all those nasty layers of sweaty clothing from last night’s game are marinating in the back seat.

(4) Your spouse's body is in the trunk, secured with lengths of discarded Noro Kureyon. That'll teach him to ask you "Are you sure you need more yarn? Don't you think you have enough?" (for the 73rd time).

(5) You bought a 2 ounce hunk of aged gorgonzola cheese at the DeKalb Farmers Market.

Do I need to tell you the answer is (5)?

And do I need to tell you that I took it home, put it in the refrigerator (right next to the industrial-sized open box of Arm and Hammer), and got up in the middle of the night for cheese and crackers? Man, it was tasty! I’m ready to go back.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Swapping We Will Go ...

No, not that kind of swapping. Get your mind out of the gutter! (And, for god's sake, don't give Mr. Pug any ideas!)

I have no idea why I did this, but I signed up for two ... yes, two (2) ... swaps on Ravelry. I've never done a swap and I really can't explain it except that Debra told me she did one and had fun with it and Cindi is doing one and ... well, I guess I was jealous.

So anyway, two.

First is a sock swap with the Sock It To Me 3 group. The idea is that someone sends me three packages, a month apart, and I send another someone three packages. One of the packages must include a pair of handmade socks. Other than that, contents are up to the sender. The idea is to make new friends and get to know them, hopefully sending things that will please the sendee. I've "met" my sendee, the lovely Catnurse on Ravelry, and she seems very interesting and fun. She lives in cold country so woolly socks probably are worn much of the year. She is a cat person, which I guess you could have discerned from her name, so that gives me a chance to explore my inner feline. (I am so in awe of people like her who foster animals, especially with all the folks who are giving up their animals for economic reasons.) I haven't yet met the person who will be making socks for my size 9.5's--maybe she's already withdrawn from the swap in anticipation of knitting the never-ending sock.

Second is a swap with the Outlander group. This one doesn't start until April-ish so it's just in the planning stages. Forum discussions seem to go on and on about picking the proper Ravatar for the swap--each one personalized to one's clan (Beauchamp, Murray, Fraser or McKenzie)*. Since I haven't been assigned to a clan yet, it's all a bit moot for me at this point. I guess I could Photoshop a piece of tartan onto Lightning's photo to make my Ravatar look a little more Scottish ... she wouldn't look any sillier than she did wearing that moebius!

Anyway, the swap is limited to 60 people and the theme will be Dragonfly in Amber, the second Outlander book. DIA is the one where Claire and Jamie are in Paris at the French court so there are a lot of possibilities inherent -- herbs (Master Raymond), the French court and France, dragonflies, amber ... you get the picture!

I'm sure you'll hear more as I progress.
*By the way, an Outlander note. I have been listening to the series on CD from the library and am now fitfully and impatiently awaiting #4, The Fiery Cross. (The books in the series are Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, The Fiery Cross, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes. There's another one due out this year, I think.) At the same time, I'm re-reading DIA for the swap--in paper, I mean. Have I confused you yet?
Anyway, one of the Beauchamp Ravatars uses the initials JHRC, which always make me laugh out loud. Claire (Beauchamp Randall Fraser)'s favorite curseword is "Jesus H Roosevelt Christ." Everytime I hear it, I think of my father and want to call him so we could laugh together about it. He's been dead almost 30 years now (can it be 2009 already?) and his favorite curseword, at least the one that we can print, was Jesus H Christ. When he said it, my mother would say, "now, Ben ...." and he'd look sheepish and my sisters and I would pretend we hadn't heard the blasphemy. How he would love the insertion of Franklin Roosevelt into his favorite curse, and the anachronicity (to make up a word) of it all.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

And a Fibery Time Was Had By All

Last weekend was very much all-knitting, all the time. This weekend -- not so much. I've got a cold and I'm just at home mainlining Zicam.

Last Thursday, designer Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer was in Atlanta to speak to our guild. Then she taught classes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I can't believe my camera malfunctioned so I can't even prove she was here, but a careful review of my so-called funds would prove it. So on Saturday I was signed up to take her afternoon class (faroese shawls) and I had the yarn for that (sock yarn from the stash since we were just making a teddy bear size shawl). On Sunday I was scheduled to take her Faux Ikat class and I had the yarn for that too (Schaeffer Anne). But she got us all inspired about smoke rings the other night so Saturday morning I had to go to one of our local shops to look for yarn for that. Hmmm…just barely time to shop and then get to class.

Then the class went from 2 to 5. I had promised a friend I would go with her to a shop north of Atlanta for a PJ party. Okay, need to go home, change into PJs … but wait. I forgot I'd promised to go out for dinner after the class. Ooooookay. So I’ll go to dinner but probably won’t have time to change into PJs. (Can you see this day is getting out of hand already?)

Bottom line, the dinner was long, long, long. You don't rush service in a Greek restaurant where everything you do is punctuated by cries of Opa! And it was delicious, if a bit pricey. Probably a skein or two more than I'm used to spending for dinner--can you tell I have a problem with yarn? I'm starting to think of money in terms of skeins of yarn. And let's not even discuss the fact that all the knitters at the table were looking at the belly dancers and speculating on how the beads were attached.

By the time I got out of the restaurant it was raining (well, pouring) and I wasn’t quite sure where I was or how to get to the PJ shop. Finally found it—60 people in PJs hanging out knitting and eating. What a hoot! Anyway, my friend and I got ready to leave about 10:30 and suddenly the lights flickered. There was an accident right outside the shop that had taken down a power pole. Lots of emergency vehicles, no way to leave the shop.

By the time we left at 11 it was raining even harder, if possible, and Mr. Pug was calling my cellphone grouchily asking if I’d had an accident. Nope—unless you consider too much yarn an accident!

Anyway, then more knitting on Sunday. The idea of the Sunday class was to measure the dye repeat of your hand-dyed yarn and then calculate how many stitches you could knit from one return of the yarn (in this case, 48 inches) to make your yarn pool interesting and attractively. If you're interested in the concept, read Sandy Rosner's article in the latest Knitter's on making entrelac socks out of self-patterning yarn. Anyway, it worked fine in the class but when I cast on at home, somehow it's just doing whatever it wants. Luckily, I love the yarn and I don't really care but ... oh, poot! Anyway, I'm calling my piece Naux Ikat. (I swear I have a picture of that somewhere but I can't find it--damn that camera!)

More knitting on Wednesday evening, when the usual suspects gathered at the Barnes & Noble in Norcross. (Well, one unusual suspect--Cindi from my work joined us. Hopefully she'll make a habit of it.) Kay brought some really pretty green that might work with my Noro Silk Garden Lite vest (don't ask!), although it seems to be missing too. I have no idea what I did with that!

Finally, the North Georgia Knitting Guild met on Thursday night. Paula Vester from the Peachtree Handspinners Guild spoke very interestingly about needle felting, a subject that I have little or no interest in. She was great, showing off lots of small projects and giving folks a chance to play with samples. To give you an idea of how compelling she was, I was able to talk Cindi into buying a needle felting kit on Friday at Knitch. Thank God she bought it, otherwise God only knows what I'd be sticking my barbed needle into today.

Anyway, I've been nursing my cold with a small project for the lovely Ruby, my grandniece whom I may actually meet toward the end of the month. The pattern is Helena and it's from a couple of months ago. The yarn is Rowan Cash Soft from Only Ewe and Cotton Too and is really nice to knit.

The second picture shows the repeating lacey lower half of the sweater. That's about 1.5 repeats. Very easy to remember and just lacey and girly enough not to be too annoying. The sweater pattern is a top-down, seam-free item that reminds me of my "go-to" baby gift during the 70's and 80's. I can't remember whose pattern it was, but every single friend who had a baby during those years got one of those things. It's nice to re-visit the concept but in a color with a little more pizazz than all those boring baby colors we used in those days. (Yes, I know it's pastel green, but it's so much more! Really like a baby avocado color, not like that nasty insipid baby green of 30 years ago.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Found it!

The beautiful yarn I couldn't identify? Well, there's good news and bad news:

The good news is: It's Storm Moon's Tornado sock yarn and the color is called "30 Days of Night." Cool!

Bad news: Storm Moon has decided to stop dying, at least for awhile.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Slow Stashing?

In this week's Knitter's Review, Clara Parkes makes some very good points about what she calls "slow stashing." This is obviously a timely subject, especially given the current uncertain economic times. And, of course, this is Resolution Week.

Ravelry and the various Yahoo groups (Knitlist, Sockknitters, etc.) are all buzzing this week with posts by people who would like to get their yarn stashes under control. This is nothing new--it seems to come up every year--and it's sort of the craft equivalent of dieting and fitness resolutions. There are the folks who promise to buy no new yarn this year, and some of them have statistics from previous years to prove they can do it.

Really--do these people have no life? Who keeps spreadsheets on miles of yarn knit, stitches counted, grams and balls of yarn used? This is the equivalent of deciding that yarn is fibery trans fats and to be shunned. Yarn is beauty and love--how can it all come down to keeping track of how fast you got rid of it? If you hate it so much, give it away, throw it away, send it to me. I'll love it.

Sorry, back to the point. Parkes recognizes in her essay that many of us will have fewer resources to commit to yarn this year, but that yarn and knitting have roles in our lives that go beyond the sustenance view of the yarn dieters. We don't buy yarn for the same reasons that our grandmothers did, because someone needed a pair of socks or a sweater to keep from being cold. We also buy it because we want to create something beautiful, or want to believe we will. For those of us who buy yarn for this reason, Cold Turkey won't do.

Neither will it work for us to give up beautiful yarn and buy only Big Box acrylic and fun fur. We need wonderful, luxurious yarns.

Of course, there are a few who cry that they will buy no yarn at all, except ... well, Wendy Johnson allows sock yarn in her yarn diet, and you just can't argue with that.

And our vendors, whether they're local yarn stores or favorite internet sellers, need us to buy yarn too. Economic recovery isn't a one-way street--we need to buy so others can stay in business too.

So, Parkes's idea is fundamentally good, in my opinion. She suggests "slow stashing" which I would interpret to mean using moderation and mindfulness about our acquisitiveness. I like this idea. It's sort of the Weight Watchers approach to eating. It says, yes, you need a certain amount of nutrition. No, it's really not healthy to say you're never going to eat carbs or butter again. No, if you deny yourself completely, you'll be back eating at the trough again pretty quickly.

Now, here's where Parkes and I diverge. She says to start with an unblinking survey of your current stash, dividing yarn into two piles, Happy Yarn and Unhappy Yarn. The Happy yarn makes you happy and the ... well, you get the point.

But it won't work in my stash. Happy and Unhappy don't begin to cover the problem at Chez Pug. Here are the piles I propose:

  • Happy AKA "Oh, wow! I still love you!" (Brooks Farm Acero comes to mind when thinking about this pile.)
  • What the heck were you thinking? Or more to the point, Who were you when you bought this yarn? (And how many shooters did I do during the 80's to make me think I was ever going to wear Hot Pink mohair?)
  • It was such a bargain, it would have been wrong not to buy it.
  • I paid so much for it that I can't throw it away.
  • I bought enough to fit me but now ... well, 'nuff said.
  • The child I was going to make this baby surprise sweater for is 15 now.
  • My friend made me buy it.
  • The guilt/mercy purchase--I couldn't leave the store without buying something.
  • I fell in love with it and I don't care if it's totally impractical.
  • It's ugly but there's an orphan somewhere that won't care.

Now don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about. We all have yarn like that if we would just admit it.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Clarification and a Sock Update

Mr. Pug pointed out (while I was sitting in the office until 1 am this morning untangling yarn) that Noro was technically not to blame for the three-yarn debacle pictured yesterday. He reminds me that the mess was actually caused by Buddy and that Noro was an innocent victim. That makes me feel only slightly less guilty that I untangled that atrocity by attacking Noro with a machete like a South American native fighting his way through the rainforest. Sorry, Noro.

But, I ask you: is this the face of a killer? I think not. He's the very picture of innocence.

In other sock news, two pairs were completed last week:

First, the Dream in Color (Pansy GoLightly) toe-up version of Spring Forward. My only quibble with the cuff-down version was that I could only get 2.5 repeats of the pattern on the cuff and still get it over my heel. I thought that knitting them toe up would give me more leeway but this turned out to be wrong--new toe-up version has the same 60 rows and the cuff is short, just like the other one, but I like the short-row heel a lot better so it's all good.

And the Opal happy socks (I have no idea what the real name of this yarn is) are done too. These I'm in love with! No quibbles at all.

Finally, just to let you know that I'm not completely anti-Noro:

This multidirectional took two skeins of Silk Garden Lite and, again, I love it! Great colors, not even one knot, very little veg matter. The perfect yarn, if you didn't have a history with it.

Two of the three socks involved in the tangle have been rehabilitated. The J Knits North Carolina is in three small balls and I've already knit about 2 inches onto the cuff since last night. The black/red/chocolate mystery yarn, which I don't know the name of*, has been cast on and torn out already. I started a toe-up sock using a short-row toe and decided it's just a very fiddly way to cast on. I'm not sure it's worth it, but I'm going to try it again because I'd like to try to make La Digitessa and that calls for this cast on. If it doesn't work the second time, the sock will be made with my standard toe-up cast on.

The Noro is, unfortunately, in the trash can, but not before it left Noro fuzz on all the other victims. RIP, little Noro.

*This yarn came from the Celtic Knot and I bought it when we went to Maryland Sheep & Wool this past May. It had some very clever name but I've lost the band and can't identify it. It's a little odd because it's quite heavy fingering weight, almost sport weight. Unfortunately the Celtic Knot is gone now (I assume) and I can't ask about it. It seems to me that some of our group bought some of this yarn (Whit maybe) and maybe one of them will be able to identify it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Putting the Blame Where It Belongs

In the way the liberal media are so often given the blame for the Iraq War (meaning that they reported it), my friend Jane is really to blame for this posting.

It's all her fault, or at least it seems that way to me. Well, she's responsible for the posting, not the subject, below:

One day I was feeling oh-so-proud of my prowess with socks and Jane, in a rather wet-blanket sort of a way, posed the question "do you ever have a problem with Single Sock Syndrome?"

Well, I wasn't about to answer that question because, well, because I sort of do. I am, in fact, a great starter and a lousy finisher. But I've had a sort of a banner week of finishing socks and I got a little cocky. I started looking around for socks that could use a little completion in the second sock sort of a way and I found some easy candidates:

But it turned out that each of them had a good reason for their early abandonment. The Opal on the top left is some that I got in a raffle at the guild and had been knitted and unknitted and reknitted and so forth several times. I have cast it on and unknit it myself three times and now I find that, having reached the new yarn portion, I can't get gauge to save my life. Hmmmm....not an easy fix.

The Opal on the top right is what I'm calling my blue cheese sock and it's done on size 0 needles. I think it needs to be a 1 or a 1.5. I just don't think I'm going to like it--it needs to come out and be restarted.

The sock on the bottom--well, it's sock #1 and it just needs to be kitchenered and sock #2 started. But I haven't touched it in over two years and ... did I say kitchenered? Yuk! And I haven't knit on DPNs for awhile either. Well, of the three this is the easiest but ....

But wait ... upstairs in the Maryland Sheep & Wool 2007 knitting bag ... what about that tangled mess of yarn? Isn't there an almost complete pair of socks in there? Well, yes, but ....

An hour later I'm very little closer to solving the problem. I did manage to recover a ball of really beautiful sock yarn that I thought was going to be a multidirectional scarf (until I realized I already have one that's almost identical in color). And I did manage to cut loose the partial sock from the mess. But, of course, I can't finish the sock until I untangle some of the yarn that goes with it. It's lovely yarn, J Knits North Carolina, but it's hopelessly tangled in ...

Yes, it's hopelessly tangled in NORO, the dreaded Noro Kureyon.

So, students ... what have we learned from this debacle:

(a) Never toss three different projects into your knitting bag without putting them into individual project bags?

(b) If you'd just finish one project at a time, you wouldn't be in this mess.

(c) You idiot--haven't you learned yet that Noro can't be trusted?

And, of course, the answer is (d) All of the above.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Resolution, Schmesolution

There are very few unbridled successes in my life but I think I can say without contradiction that I have one achievement in my life that cannot be taken away from me.

I have NEVER ONCE accomplished any of my New Year's Resolutions. Now I'm not so egotistical as to think I'm alone in this--I'm sure many of you are thinking right now "What's she talking about? I'm just as much of a loser as she is. Maybe even more so." But you're not my problem, I'm my problem.

In 2006, for instance, I resolved to lose weight, finish some UFO's, be a better parent and semi-spouse, blah blah blah. In 2007, I resolved to lose weight, finish some UFO's (most of which were left over from 2006 and some from the 1960's), etc, etc. In 2008, I just planned to be more mindful of what the heck I was doing which would result in losing weight, finishing UFO's, being a better parent. I don't think I nailed even one of those resolutions. I'm clearly the World Champion of Non-Accomplishment, whatever you think.

So this year I have a plan that is diabolically clever. So clever it makes Tom Cruise's plan to assassinate Hitler look shaky--not to mention his plan to convert us all to Scientology. Nope--got him beat! No more resolutions of things that I can do to make my life (or yours, for that matter) better. Nope! This year, it's the year of the Anti-Resolution.

In 2009:

  • I will NOT join the Ravelry group that plans to knit a full-size sweater every single month during 2009. Hell, I'm such a slow knitter, and have so little time to knit, I'm lucky to have enough time to make a pair of socks a month, not to mention a sweater.

  • Nope, I won't be committing to knit a pair of socks a month either.

  • I will NOT be letting my hair go gray this year. Yes, Sandy showed up at Whit's the other day with her hair grown out and it looked fabulous. Yup, both Nancy W and Nancy B, not to mention Ellen, have gorgeous gray hair. You will not see mine go gray this year, even if money gets so tight that I'm coloring it each month with Just For Men and a toothbrush.

  • I will NOT be appearing on either Atlanta's Desperate Housewives or The Biggest Loser this year. Don't call, don't write. It's not happening.

  • I WON'T be promising to blog every day, or even every week. As often as possible--that's all I'll commit to.

  • I will NOT be running in the Peachtree Road Race this year, or the Marine Corps Marathon. This represents the latest in a long series of years I have NOT run a marathon, something I'm quite proud of.

  • I will probably NOT finish most of the knitalongs I sign up for, even the ones I pay a fee to participate in. Actually, I may fail to even download most of the clues and I think I can say without any fear of being embarrassed later that I will almost surely end up deleting most of the postings due to frustration. I can totally promise that I will delete all postings written in German, French, Urdu, or those postings that appear within four hours of the clue's publication showing off a photo of the completed clue with the words "I finished."

  • I WILL continue to sign up for them because, you just never know! This one might be THE ONE!

  • I will NOT be trying Ina Garten's recipe for cheesecake again. Love the Barefoot Contessa but that cheesecake was the biggest disappointment of the Christmas season. Bummer!

  • I will NOT go to Maryland Sheep & Wool this year. Yeah, I know -- that's not such a positive accomplishment, merely an economic decision. We've gone two years in a row and it already feels like a tradition I don't want to give up. But maybe next year.

My theme for 2009 will be SEIZE THE DAY. That comes from one of those ubiquitous email spam letters that slipped through the spam filter the other day because Joyce sent it. I always think I won't read those things and I always do. But this one had a gem buried in it: SEIZE THE DAY.

I'm taking that to mean Be Open to Opportunities. Don't put off new experiences or the chance to knit with a friend or see a grandchild participate in a sport or event. Take a trip--see someone important or visit some place new. Listen to an author talk about a new book. Sign up to take a class to learn something new. Take pleasure in wearing a handknit sock or finishing that viral knit, even a year later than everyone else. That's my plan for 2009.

See you there?