Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pomatomus Update

Okay, forget the chubby ankle. Isn't this the most wonderful sock ever?
No, wait, maybe this one is:
The first pair of Pomatomus (Pomatomuses? Pomatomi?) is done--off the needles and on the foot. The second pair, toe up this time, is OTN. The picture is old--by now I'm about 2/3 of the way up the foot. The yarn is Trekking.
I'm in love with Cookie A's new book of socks, and am anxiously awaiting Wendy Johnson's book, due to arrive any minute now. Will this be another year of All Socks, All Year? Probably.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Outlander Treat

Spoiled! That's what I am. Cluxewe (Melinda), the best Ravelry Outlander group partner ever, sent me the most incredible package yesterday. It arrived looking like it had been run over by a truck and it might have been--if so, the truck belonged to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So, what was in the box, you ask? Well, this:

Isn't it pretty? It's a huge felted bag made of Icelandic Lopi. And it was filled with

all this! There's yarn and soap and tea and candy and stitch markers and magnets and so many dragonflies I can't even count them all. Most everything comes from Melinda's "neighborhood": the Campbell River area of Vancouver, BC, an area I've never been to, despite having been born in Seattle. She even sent a visitor's guide that makes me want to jump on a plane today!

What about the USDA? Well, apparently agents of our government, determined to protect us from those sneaky Canadians, rummaged through the box to find some kind of pet treats that were being smuggled across the border. (Can't you picture the German Shepherds, in black suits, earpieces, and sunglasses, sniffing out those treats among all the boxes coming across the border? Get 'em, boys -- treats for us tonight!)

So, no pug treats but by God, the border is safe from dog treats! And a lovely candle lantern was broken--I suspect it was collateral damage from those treat-sniffing dogs!

Thank you, Melinda! What a fun package--even Mr. Pug was impressed. He kept saying, "more? there's more?" as I continued to pull items from the bag. The pugs seemed mostly unimpressed but I did hear Buddy muttering something about government interference.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Frank Herzog Made Me Cry

How do you know you're really, no, REALLY, old? When you go to a Russell Crowe/Ben Affleck movie and this guy makes you cry.

Yup, I cried.

We've been in Atlanta eight years this month, and I've pretty much come to think of myself --mostly, not completely--as an Atlantan. Definitely not a Georgian, that would be going too far. But an Atlantan--one who resides in Atlanta.

When Mr. Pug and I went to see State of Play yesterday, we had a good time picking out Washington, DC scenes. OMG, there's Metro Center Station! The Rayburn Building! Oh, wow--which bridge is that, anyway? There's the Watergate! Honey, what was the last show we saw at the Kennedy Center? Did we stand right there after the performance? Yup, it was a hometown festival all around.

But Frank Herzog--man, he got to me. He doesn't even get a credit at the end--I guess those credits are reserved for speaking roles, and he didn't speak a word. If he had, I think I would have bawled out loud!

But there he was, grayer and fuller in the face than the last time I saw him, but then again, I am too. He was sitting next to Ben Affleck in two scenes, portraying (I guess) a congressman at some hearings into the nefarious doings of a Halliburton-like company called PointCorp. In one scene he looks mildly surprised when Ben breaks down on announcing the death of his (clandestine) girlfriend. In the other, he looks frankly (a little pun!) horrified when Ben makes an impassioned speech about said company.

But it was definitely him--the onetime voice of the Redskins, Frank Herzog.

Okay, I undersand that you've never heard of Frank. Not everyone is lucky enough to be from DC and some of you still don't understand about the Redskins, and why they're they ONLY NFL team worth following. But seeing Frank made me homesick in a way that all those pictures of DC couldn't. After all, even the old Americana motel in Arlington--I can't believe it's even still there!--nope, seeing Frank was even more poignant than that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Attend Stitches South

(The Guild asked David Letterman to write this for us, but his fee would have emptied the guild’s bank account. Never mind … we can do this.)

Are you still on the fence about attending Stitches South? Well, that’s understandable—we’re all watching our pennies and it’s a busy time of year. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to attend many Stitches events—both Stitches East and Stitches West—and for most of those years I was a single parent with a full-time job. Still, as a passionate knitter, I’ve never regretted the time or money spent on Stitches for the following reasons:

10. Hang out with your friends—after all, we’re all going to be there.

9. Meet a favorite author or designer. How about Elise Duvekot? Fiona Ellis? Melissa Leapman? Margaret Fisher? Jean Frost? Ginger Luters? Sandi Rosner? They and many others will be here.

8. Attend the fashion shows and learn about all the upcoming trends in the knitting world. Rub elbows with the people who make the trends and the ones who interpret them for us.

7. Show off your own knitting, either in the student fashion show or just walking around the hotel or the Market. There’s nothing better than hearing another knitter compliment your creation. (And when Rick Mondragon tells you it's beautiful, you can be really proud. Not that I'd know--he never looks at my feet.)

6. No travel expense—it’s here in your city! No hotel, no airfare, no cab rides. It’s here!

5. Learn a new skill or brush up on a technique. Interested in cabling? Japanese short rows? Fair isle? Intarsia? Want to learn how to finish your project professionally? There’s a class for every skill level and interest, and I don't care how good YouTube is, it's so much easier to see it done in person.

4. Meet someone new. Every new person who shares our passion brings their perspective to us and we will impact everyone we meet. Knit in the hotel lobby or in a restaurant--you'll be amazed at the conversations you'll get into.

3. Participate in the knitting community—are you on the Knitlist? KnitU? Sockknitters list? Ravelry? You can be sure you’ll run into someone you know, even if you just know their screen name.

2. Support our guilds—after all, the Atlanta Knitting Guild is sponsoring this event. Both the AKG and the North Georgia Knitting Guild will be there with booths, waiting to greet you.

And the Number One reason to attend Stitches South:

1. STASH ENHANCEMENT. Have you seen the Market vendor list? What an incredible mixture of commercial yarn companies, national yarn vendors, and independent dyers and producers. Did you know several of our own members are setting up booths? How about Sassafras, Cast On Cottage, Knitting Emporium, Gale’s Art, Only Ewe and Cotton Too, and The Whole Nine Yarns?

Every one of us can participate at some level. Some people will take classes and attend all the events and still have time to wander the Market and fondle yarn. Others will dash in and take a class and rush back to their lives. Many people will come for the Market—after all, it’s like going to the buffet table on a cruise, but with no calories.

This is an extraordinary opportunity for us. Make the effort to come and experience Stitches. Wear your AKG or NGKG badge proudly. And don’t buy anything I wouldn’t! (That leaves you lots of leeway!)

See you there!

Monday, April 13, 2009

So Many Vendors, So Little $$$$$

Okay, let's start by saying, I have NO money this year. So why am I obsessed with the Stitches South Vendor List?

Well, for one thing, I'm not going to Maryland Sheep & Wool this year. And SAFF doesn't happen until the fall and God only knows whether I'll be able to make that trip. That means I get to see some of the vendors I never see except at MSW or SAFF: Miss Babs, Ellen's Half Pint Yarns, Tess' Designer Yarns, the Sanguine Gryphon, Creatively Dyed, Brooks Farm Yarn (!!!!!!), Knitting Notions, Just Our Yarn ... there are more but it sounds piggy to go on and on. Wait, did I mention Brooks Farm Yarn? (Note to self: be first in line. Some yarns go very quickly!)

And, of course, there are the yarns that I've never seen in person like Lisa Souza. I've been drooling over her yarns online forever but somehow haven't ordered.

And the local favorites--how fun to actually KNOW some of the vendors this year--like Knitting Emporium, Only Ewe and Cotton Too, Gale's Art, KnitWitch, Cast-on Cottage, and The Whole Nine Yarns. Krazy Knits is from Dalton--I think they're North GA members. Oh, and Sassafras Creations, of course. (We are all wearing our Sassafras jewelry to be walking advertisements for Nancy, aren't we?)

And then there are the commercial vendors. I want to see ALL of the Malabrigo colors--all of them! Same for Cherry Tree Hill. And the thought of all those Hiya Hiya needles in one place--my heart is pounding! How about the "big box babies" of the knitting world: WEBS, Yarniverse, Carolina Homespun, Yarn Barn of Kansas (check out their incredible selection of books).

Who's not there that I'll miss seeing? I wish Romi was going to be there. I love her jewelry. Does she even do shows? I don't know. Maybe I should knit Muir to send good thoughts for next year for her. Maybe I should just knit it because I'm in love with the pattern. Maybe I should just do it ... just because.

And Black Water Abbey, of course. I'm determined to make that Vickie cardigan out of BWA. And Socks That Rock, Wollmeise, who else?

Oh, stop being such a pug about it! But, can you say, can't wait?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Sock Saga Continues

The best part of Second Sock Syndrome is that when you finally finish that second sock, sometimes years later, people think you really knock out a lot of socks.

I'm a very slow knitter. Not that I knit slowly, but I complete slowly. First off, I have very little time to knit unless my commute includes things like overturned motor homes on the highway in my path. (It did on Friday--someone else's misfortune was my gain.)

Second, I have a bad case of startitis, meaning I always have lots of projects on the needles (just ask the folks who have to keep bringing me new needles! Thanks, Jane!) so it takes awhile to finish one thing.

Anyway, it's a huge victory dance in the Pug household when something actually comes OFF the needles.

The pink and purple babies above were started at least a year ago and have survived the Huge Noro Bag &*(%-up which resulted in many tiny balls of pink and purple yarn and lots of curses. Of course they did survive better than the Rats-a-frackin' Noro that caused the problem, which went straight to the trashcan. The yarn is J.Knits North Carolina, size 0 needle.

Next, behold the Gorgonzola Opal Big Feet. Yes, Ellen, you're right. I did knit the foot about half an inch too long, and thanks so much for bringing it up. If you think I'm going back to unknit a pair of toe-up socks that took FOREVER to knit, you can forget it. I'll pull that gorgeous short-row heel back a scootch and no one will ever know. Size 1 for the foot, 2 for the cuff.

Did I show you these before? I don't care--they're so bee-yoo-ti-ful you get to see them again. They're toe-up from Storm Moon Knits and I bought the yarn last year at the Celtic Knot Shop in Ellicott City, MD when we went to Maryland Sheep & Wool (the store has recently opened up again under new management and I don't know the new name). Unfortunately Storm Moon is not dyeing at the moment, but if she starts again, I'll be there. (I have one more skein of this yarn stashed away, in the Crocodile Rock colorway--it's the same color Joyce is using in her shawl and I think I bought the last skein available on the Storm Moon Etsy shop.) 56 stitches (this is a beefy little yarn!), size 1.

So, are you dying to know what's taken these guys' place on the needles? Well, I'm dying to tell you. First, Pomatomus, an incredible Cookie A sock and something of a cult sock (but since it's me we're talking about, a three-year-past viral).

This shows the sock in its current state, coming into the home stretch before the toe decreases. Here's an older picture that shows a little more detail of the pattern:

I'm SO in love with these socks!

And the latest car socks. What? You don't have car knitting? Oh, well, that's probably because you don't commute 43 miles each way in Atlanta's rush hour traffic. And when we say "rush," we mean, "crawl."

Now here's the thing about car knitting: By definition, it has to be pretty brainless. You really don't want to be tracking a traveling stitch or trying to find a dropped yarnover in traffic. And don't ask how I know.

This is lovely Lion Brand Sock-Ease which was sent to me in a swap. I've never used it before and I'm quite pleasantly surprised. I thought it might be rougher than some of the sock yarn I've been using (Opal, for instance, which also feels a little scratchy at first), but it's got great stitch definition and I think it'll soften up a little when it's washed. The needles are size 0.

Don't you just love it when you have a day that feels like you accomplished something?

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Church of the Knit Stitch

When I was a child, back in the dark ages of the 50s and the 60s, people’s religious affiliations were very much known and defined who they were and what they did on any particular day. For instance, my two best friends in the 6th grade were Jewish and Catholic. I knew that one went to Catechism class on Saturday and mass on Sunday. The other went to temple on Saturday and Hebrew School on Tuesday. Don’t go looking for them! They’re not available. As for me, I was Episcopalian, which was mostly weird to my friends—“we’ve never heard of it, we can’t spell it, and we don’t know anyone else who’s Epis…Epish…Epip … never mind!”

When we moved to suburban Maryland when I was in the 7th grade, our local parish church was a huge part of my life—I sang in the choir, attended services, picked strawberries for the annual Strawberry Festival, went on retreats with the youth group—so many of the people I knew were from the church. That continued through high school. Again, I knew the affiliations of many, if not most, of my school acquaintances. (I have to admit: I didn’t know any Baptists. They came into my life only when I moved south.) The bottom line: we all had an affiliation that might as well have been tattooed on our chests and we all sat in a pew of some sort and if you didn’t you were odd man out.

Over the years, although I still think of myself as an Episcopalian and still attend services on a sporadic basis, my religion no longer defines me – it’s simply one part of who I am. For me, my belief system is in a constant state of flux, and reflects the influences of many different religious and secular traditions and groups, both ancient and New Age. Think ancient Anglican rites with a Buddhist twang. As for my friends, I suspect they’re from many different religious backgrounds, though I really couldn’t say. I know some folks who attend regular services of one kind or another. I know a few who have very strong convictions and more power to them. Others have no apparent affiliation; a few consider themselves “recovering” from one type of religion or another. A recent survey of 35,000 Americans by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life noted that about 16% of those surveyed reported no affiliation at all, so I think it’s just part of a trend.

But we’re an amazingly spiritual group. Almost everyone I know on a daily basis has a rich spiritual life and a surprisingly large number of those folks regularly share their thoughts and hopes and beliefs with people they imagine or know to be open to hearing about them. I’m constantly amazed by the diversity of interests among those I know and those I come in contact with, and the openminded respect most people have for the belief systems of others. For myself, I really don’t care what your beliefs are, I’m just happy you’ve found something that makes you feel better about your life. And happy not to have you force it on me, thank you very much.

More and more, though, my spiritual life revolves around the simple activities in my life that aren’t necessarily found in my local mega-church. My spiritual advisors are the folks I come into contact with on a daily basis. My spiritual experiences are more likely to involve the joy that comes from seeing a butterfly in my back yard or a cherry blossom floating to the ground, and not necessarily a psalm written in a long-dead language. Or the pleasure of watching the yarn go around the needle over and over, making one stitch, then another, then a pattern repeat, then a row. One minute you’re knitting a tube, the next minute you’ve turned the heel. Your yarn has transformed from a ball to a garment. It’s changed. Life changes. We all change.

And the prayers of my childhood have morphed as I’ve aged, too. Now I’m just as likely to send a message to the universe through the knit stitch, as I knit a helmet liner for a soldier thousands of miles away or a pair of socks for a child I’ll never know or see. Knitting safety, knitting warmth, knitting love.

What brought all this up, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. This week, our knitting group celebrated a significant birthday with a member we’ve all come to know a little and like a lot. We waited to hear about the results of some medical tests, and, as we sat and knitted, we sent our good thoughts to her, reassuring that we would be here with her, knitting, no matter what the results meant. A woman I’ve come to care deeply about is home recovering from major surgery—we’ll sit with her this week and knit good wishes and love into our conversations, transmitting hope through the osmosis of knitting. Other friends have lost their jobs, or, praise the knit stitch, kept their jobs. This one’s husband is sick, that one’s is recovering from an illness. Someone’s waking up in the middle of the night with an anxiety attack, someone's embarking on a new career or starting a business, someone else is fussing over the details of an upcoming event. We're all worried about money. And we're all knitting through these experiences, together.

And last night two friends passed on some love to me. They infused me with love as much as if they’d held my hands and prayed with me. They brought me a lovely children’s book about Dog Heaven that made me weep for my lost babies and at the same time remember that they’re not lost at all. They’re still with me. As a matter of fact, I was knitting away on a pair of socks this morning that have been on the needles for at least a year and I found a black pug hair woven into one of the socks. I'm currently out of black pugs, but I’d guess there’s a little black pug hair in most of what I own, and I’ll probably never be black-pug-hair-free. Whose hair was it? Bluto’s? Lightning’s? Doesn’t matter. I didn’t pull it out—I just kept knitting. But I felt the love.