Sunday, September 25, 2011


Great day yesterday--spent the first part of the day with friends, ShopHopping, eating and schmoozing, and then saw a great movie with Mr. Pug. A movie I would never have chosen but I really enjoyed. 

A baseball movie, for a couple that never, never--well, hardly ever--goes to a baseball game. What's the deal? And what does it have to do with a knitting blog? Well, it does.

First off, it was a well-acted movie. I'm not a huge Brad Pitt fan because I've always viewed him as a pretty guy without much substance but, well into his forties, he's growing into his looks much the same way Harrison Ford has. He could, in my opinion, become a Clooney--Beautiful at a Certain Age. There are some other well-respected character actors in the movie like Philip Seymour Hoffman, but also some new faces (at least to me) like Jonah Hill. So, not a Beautiful People movie, just good acting and a good story.

Moneyball is based on the real story of an Oakland Athletics general manager faced with competing against larger-market, bigger-budget teams like the New York Yankees, who bought and stole talent from smaller, less well-funded teams. In a year when he lost three of his superstars to such teams, he had the challenge of rebuilding from the ground up on a beer budget. He became convinced that the answer could be found in statistics--that if he could find the players who could (statistically, at least) get on base more often, he could win ballgames. He was battled every step of the way by his scouts, the team's manager, and a skeptical press, yet that team ended up winning an unprecedented 20 games in a row that year (although not the Big Win they were looking for). 

And how does this relate to knitting? Hold on, hold on ... I'm getting there.

Now, I'm really not a student of baseball but the characterizations of the old-time scouts in Moneyball rang true to me. They sounded an awful lot like my father did when he talked about baseball, which he loved way more than anything else in his life, including us. He talked about baseball players the way old racetrack touts talk about horses--about stride and form and athletic build and how they "look" at their particular chosen "spot" on the field. Intuition and past experience play heavily in choosing potential winners. This one's a mudder, that one's good for the sprint but can't go the long haul. Always bet on a red horse, or one with a star on his forehead. (I had a BFF long ago who always bet on a horse with the name "Steve" or one with the title "Doctor." A horse named Dr. Steve would have sent her into ecstasy. She won as often as anyone else, as far as I could see.) 

One player in Moneyball was even criticized for having an ugly girlfriend which supposedly spoke to his self-confidence--how could he be a good player if he didn't have the confidence to have a pretty girlfriend?

So, first and foremost, Moneyball reminded me of my father and of another longtime friend, Larry. I've lost touch with Larry over the years I've been here in Atlanta, but being with him always made me think of my father because of his love of baseball. Larry was the first person who ever explained to me why baseball was more of an intellectual exercise than a game like football or basketball, which were (in his opinion) purely athletic pursuits.

My father died in 1979 and never knew the 2002 team that Moneyball is about but he'd have LOVED this movie. It combined his love of All Things Mathematical with his favorite sport.

But here's how it relates to knitting--you knew I'd get there eventually, didn't you?

I picked up some yarn at Only Ewe and Cotton Too yesterday (hi, Elyse and Bill!) because it was flat-out beautiful. Oh, and it felt good, too. Zara Chine, a gorgeous DK weight, heathered bright red with a hint of black. Great twist, fabulous color and perfect for a vest pattern I have in mind.

Perfect? Well, not exactly because the vest (the Portland Zippered Vest if it matters)--heavily cabled and intricately patterned, calls for worsted weight. If I'm going to use the Zara, it's going to require some heavy rethinking of the pattern to make up for the difference in gauge and weight. Thankfully, Susan D volunteered to help me and it MIGHT work but that's really not my inclination. My inclination, like the old baseball scouts, is to use my intuition and say, "oh, what the heck! I'm sure it'll all work out" because I desperately WANT it to work out. 

But that's really not my experience--I have a pile of failed projects that didn't "work out" because I skimped on the planning (and plodding) process.

The way it's going to work out is with a heavy application of math and statistics, not with a hopeful spirit and a generous dash of wishes. I'm going to have to add spreadsheet and calculator to my knitting bag. I'm going to work with Susan to rehash the pattern--add a repeat here, go up or down a needle size, actually fit it to my tension and my body size, and there's a good chance it might actually fit when I'm through. 

But like the critics and the old scouts, I think it'll take some of the magic out of the old game.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peg Aloi and Tough Women


So, somewhere in cyberspace, a freelance writer named Peg Aloi thinks women aren't tough anymore.

She seems to think that we (the stereotypical women who probably only exist in her mind) are soft and girly because some of us blog about canning vegetables and sewing clothes and even knitting. Somehow that makes us less worthy of respect, that we show that we're multidimensional people, not paper dolls. She seems to think it's anti-feminist to show what she thinks of as our feminine sides.

Ya gotta love it. If Gordon Ramsey writes about cooking, he's a real man. If I do, I'm a lightweight, ruffled, girly-girl who's there to make fun of?

Here's the comment I left on the page:

Yup! I burned my bra (figuratively if not literally) so my daughters would have the respect of their peers, be welcomed into J-School and law school and med school as equals, and be employed to write pithy columns that would get people talking, even if the columns were crap. You're welcome.

I really thought by now we'd be past laughing at stereotypical portraits of the sort of woman who knits or cans tomatoes or hunts or fishes or plays soccer. I thought we'd be talking about REALLY tough women--the ones that are serving in the armed forces, sitting on the Supreme Court, caring for sick relatives, and sending their kids to school well-nourished and clothed on a recession income, among other things. That was what my generation of bra-burners was trying to do. Apparently in some quarters, we're still back in the '60s.

Oh, well. Maybe your daughters will be more enlightened.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

'ey Mate! That's My Tooth!

So, I was lying in the dentist's office today -- literally lying upside down almost -- while a probably otherwise nice enough woman dug and scraped and wrenched and grappled with my teeth. Seriously, a root canal is nothing to be trifled with, and I'm not the greatest patient in the first place. I was not a happy bear.

But nowadays dentists have all sorts of tools at their disposal to keep you from being distracted by the tools they're using -- IPODs and TVs and Sirius Radio and audiobooks and, for all I know, Chippendale men pole dancing on toothbrushes. As for me, I was watching Regis and Kelly, whom I only get to see when I'm in the dentist's office. (And, frankly, I don't miss them at other times.)

Today Kelly was talking about weird syndromes and she mentioned a Croatian woman who awoke from some type of surgery speaking German, never having spoken it before. And another woman (why is it always women? Are men too embarrassed to report this type of insanity?) who awoke from oral surgery (hello!) speaking with a British accent.

The syndrome was called ... get this ... Foreign Language Syndrome and it seems it's a real complaint, if not a medically recognized syndrome. (Obviously whoever named the darned thing has a bad case of Overly Obvious Syndrome.)

Well, so there I am, with a mirror and a rack full of nasty-tasting purple gunk and a drill and someone's entire hand in my mouth and I'm wondering ... what language will I be speaking when I finish with this procedure?  With my luck, I'll end up talking like Tony Soprano or one of those fakey British-accent guys who sell kitchen gadgets on early morning cable.


And then I got to thinking, maybe I'll have some new syndrome, and it will change my life. I'll have a really fabulous talent, like opera singing or dress designing or I'll look like Sofia Vergara. What the hell! I'd settle for looking like Kate Middleton!

Maybe Sofia Vergara with a fabulous talent?

Never mind. Once all those implements were gone from my mouth, it was just me in there. No accent, no new body, and definitely no talent. Maybe a little slur until the anesthetic wore off completely.

Rats! Why is it always me?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Springtime Holiday!

Today's a Pajama Day and I'm very much enjoying spending [Insert Generic Springtime Holiday here] at home.

Just me and the pugs... Mr. Pug had to work today if you can call frying multiple turkeys for the other Home Depot folks work. To me, it would sound like fun if I didn't know he was up most of the night (after getting off work at midnight) injecting and brining and whatever else it takes to make a fried turkey taste ... not so fried.

Seriously, I told him this morning, "they take advantage of your good nature," and he just looked at me. Then I remembered, and said, "well, yeah, I take advantage of your good nature too, but I'm entitled!" Much eye rolling ensued.

Anyway, much celebration of the  beautiful weather around here. For Lucy, a sunbath in the backyard. For me, a big pot of vegetable soup. (Oh, and the great pedicure I got yesterday--see toes at bottom left--OPI Roller Girl, if it matters.)

My entire accomplishment for the entire day thus far is that I'm within 4 rows of binding off the Lakedale shawl, no mean accomplishment since the last few rows are long, long, long. I'll withhold photos until it's complete, just so you know I don't show ALL my cards.

Finally, in an Attitude of Gratitude, I'll share this from Older Daughter: she and I were talking as she drove home from a beach weekend. She was fussing that I was alone.

(Question: why do people think that an arbitrary date on the calendar is somehow a day that One Cannot Be Alone For? Just because we always had a big Easter dinner with all the family around the table, searching for eggs and eating chocolate bunnies? And now we don't?  Never mind, I think I just answered my own question.)

Anyway, I was sitting on the screened porch with the phone, talking about what a nice day it is--pugs in the garden, irises and azaleas and snapdragons and roses blooming, butterfly bush almost in bloom, bird feeder doing a land office business, hummingbird at the feeder, etc.--and she reminded me that it was really all thanks to Mr. Pug, whom she somewhat irreverently called "the Man Slave." She said that without him, I'd be living in a hovel and I should be grateful.

I reminded her that without the Man Slave, I'd be living in a hovel in her back yard, and we were both grateful!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Still Blocking

And here's Ishbel! Ishn't she ... I mean, Isn't she ... beautiful?

MadelineTosh Merino Light from Eat.Sleep.Knit. The color is Cherry. Isn't she ... oh, never mind, I already said that!

Ode to the Glove

Knitting as we know it today is a trendy thing. A trip through what researchers would call “the literature” – Ravelry or the blogs of young and (dare I say it?) hip designers. or the knitting magazines and especially the online magazines such as Knitty and Twist Collective—show that today we’re knitting as much to express our personalities as we are for utility.

Kicky ruffled skirts, ChaCha scarves, embellished swing jackets travel alongside intricately cabled sweaters and socks of twisted stitches that make your head hurt when you try to follow them. Shawls--once the domain of sturdy housewives and women selling vegetables at the local farmers market or even (and I know I’m going to get bitten for this one) your grandma—are now exotic, bright, beautifully, intriguingly complex, garments.

But few items of clothing are more homely and comforting than the knitted glove. Early examples of knitted gloves have been dated to about 1000 AD in Latvia, so they’ve been around for awhile. And most of us wear them at one time or another. Even for those of us who live in the South where winter is mercifully short—even we wear gloves. Growing up farther north, my daughters wore those great fluffy mittens I knit out of Lopi; today they wear delicate mitts, with or without fingers, designed to keep their hands warm on the steering wheel while still showing off their jewelry.

Be it ever so humble, you can depend on a glove to keep you warm, to protect your manicure while gardening, or, for knitters, to provide a quick venue to practice a new cable or a fair isle technique. And, of course, gloves have had protective uses for years and years, from the ubiquitous rubber glove to wash dishes to the leather boxing gloves that protect a fighter's hands and the ones that baseballers use to catch a potential home run.

But now, according to a piece I heard last night on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” gloves have taken on a new life. The Aglove keeps your hands especially warm on the ski slopes, due to silver threads (no, real silver!) that conduct heat better so you can operate your IPad while you schuss down a slope. The SensoGlove has a computer chip in it with a screen. It analyzes your golf swing to identify weaknesses in your grip. Use the Power Glove to control your computerized gaming system. (The Power Glove was invented after an earlier prototype for Nintendo, the Data Glove, failed.) The Bionic Tennis Glove is supposed to improve your swing and control of your racquet.

What’s next? Socks that diagnose pronation or an incipient bunion? A shawl with underwires to keep the girls in place after age and/or childbirth drag everything south? Knitted knickers that dispense a steady dose of contraceptive?

No! I say, no! It’s time to stop this nonsense. Sometimes a glove is only a glove. Keep knitting, and don't even think about how to knit in those computer chips.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Okay, the Day Could Have Started Better

Doesn't that just say it all? 

On a more positive note, here's what I'm doing while the Oh, So Wonderful Mr. Pug labors with Tire Stuff.

Blocking Multnomah, and it's about time! Multnomah has been finished for months and months but this is the part I hate the most. Soon she'll be beautiful. She's made of Dream in Color Knitosophy (Discover is the colorway).  

OMG! I just checked--I finished Multnomah in February 2010--she's been sitting for over a year waiting for blocking. I'm sorry, Multi! I'm a bad, bad crafter.

(Please don't let me look to see how long Saroyan's been waiting--hope it's not the same length of time but I bet it is. Definitely a question for another day!)

In my defense, it's really not my fault. It's the Atlanta Spring's fault. I make the item, of wool no less, and just when I'm thinking it's time to block and wear it, the weather changes (around early March) and I switch out to open-toed shoes and that's the end of the wool garment. After that first official crocus springs forth, it's all sandals and light clothing, and no waiting for Memorial Day.  I mean, really, once I have that ceremonial First Real Pedicure of the Spring, I never, ever look back!

(I have no excuse about why I didn't block it in time for the cold Atlanta winter, which starts in late December and ends in February. Just a bad crafter and a sad, sad case of poor memory.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Can't Compete!

Snapped at a traffic light on the way back from a training session this morning in downtown Atlanta (somewhere on Memorial Drive):

Sadly, the resolution isn't good enough for you to be able to read the writing on the passenger door. It says:

Wholesale prices
  • Socks
  • T-shirts
  • Boxers
  • Wife Beaters
Okay, let's do the math.

The Sock Man: 60 socks (30 pairs, as the clarifying print on the side of the truck notes) for $12. That's about 20 cents per sock or 40 cents a pair. And, just for giggles and grins, let's assume the guys in the SockMan truck aren't charging tax. Even if they are, it's still a helluva deal.

Me: 1 pair of socks, approximately 100 grams of wool (maybe superwash, maybe not). At rock bottom, you could go to Michaels and get a skein of acrylic for about $3.99, but let's be realistic. Most of my socks come in at about $18 to $28, depending on who dyed it and where I bought it. (Let's call it a non-weighted average of $23/pair. We won't even talk about the ridiculously low cost of my labor!)

$0.40 vs. $23.00.

Hmmmmm ....

There's really no point in trying to figure out how much it would cost me to knit a wife beater, now is there?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day Seven 2KCBWDAY7

Last day of KCB Week--will it be my last post? Hmmmm ....

Today's assignment:

Write about your typical crafting time. When it is that you are likely to craft – alone or in more social environments, when watching TV or whilst taking bus journeys. What items do you like to surround yourself with whilst you twirl your hook like a majorette’s baton or work those needles like a skilled set of samurai swords. Do you always have snacks to hand, or are you a strictly ‘no crumbs near my yarn!’ kind of knitter.

First of all, "crafting time"? In what alternate universe does the Knitting and Crochet Blog Arch Fiend live? 

For me, there is little or no "crafting time." What there is, is 10 minutes between getting home and feeding the dogs, another 6 while I'm waiting for the potato to microwave, a hour between laundry loads--no, I used 30 of those last 60 folding the last load, hanging up drip-dry stuff, putting it all away. 

There's an additional 30 minutes most mornings if I remember to set my alarm for 5 instead of 5:30. There might be a pitiful few more while I wait in various lines--at the bank, at the grocery, at the drive-thru, at the pharmacy -- 15 minutes to fill a prescription, my Aunt Sally's fanny!  Then there are the few minutes spent at traffic lights on my hour-and-a-half commute each way. [This in no way constitutes an admission of guilt in any charge of "failure to pay full time and attention" that might be levied by some over-zealous state trooper trying to supplement Georgia's pitiful tax coffers.]

I always think I have "crafting time" at night in bed. The reality is that more mornings than not, I wake, still wearing my glasses and holding my knitting in my hands. If I die peacefully in bed, it'll take the CSI investigators a few hours to figure out that I'm not a murder victim. ("She was holding a sharp weapon, but never even lifted it--she must have known her attacker!")

So, all this has shaped my knitting. Let's review the facts:

  1. I have almost no time to do anything.
  2. If I have any time, Mr. Pug is talking to me.
  3. If he's not home, there are always between one and three dogs on my lap.
  4. My powers of concentration are about shot by this advanced age. This means that I have the attention span of a flea smoking crack.
  5. I have lots of yarn and no time to knit.
  6. But I want to knit it all so I keep casting on new projects.
This unhappy combination of factors has resulted in a very confused knitting life. It results in multiple projects requiring differing levels of concentration, each project relegated to a specific minute portion of my life. 

First, major projects. In recent years, these have been few and far between. Last year there was the modular patchwork jacket, a project you may see one day only if I am crippled in an accident resulting in several weeks in a wheelchair or a hospital bed. Those are the only circumstances that I can imagine would force me to actually seam together all the pieces. (Note to self: you don't like to finish!) More recently, the Jane Slicer-Smith jacket which was begun last May, put away in June, and picked up again this January. Somehow, in the interim, it has assumed the proportions of a tent that could house several Bedouin sheepherders AND their sheep, and has been put down again. 

Now, Waltham, which may one day look like this:

but today looks like this: 

Long way to go, huh? And by the way, for the moment, please don't remind me that there will be seams aplenty in this project!

Second, minor projects requiring some level of concentration. Okay, there's some concentration (or a lot!) involved in a major project. (Did you see those cables in Waltham? Yikes!) But into this category fall things like lace. This cannot be accomplished with a spouse talking to the knitter about really important, critical, crucial things like "do we have any more dried mango?" and "how do you think the lawn looks now that I switched to that new fertilizer" and "let me tell you about the customer-from-hell I had today."  Nope, this requires absolute silence, and this means I can't even have the ubiquitous NCIS rerun going. Also, these projects cannot be carried away from the piece of paper known as the "chart." Losing the "chart" means abandoning the project. These projects either go well 

like Ishbel here (which needs blocking, I know, I know--I'll do that tomorrow, Scarlett) or they go hopelessly wrong like

this. What's the problem, you may ask? Well, the answer is that I have no idea what it is. Not the yarn, not the lace pattern. The only things identifiable here are the needle, the row counter, and the provisional cast-on. Otherwise, no clue. Classic case of chart separated from knitting. Hopeless case.

Finally, there are the carry-along projects, usually a sock but less frequently a multidirectional scarf and most recently 

 these little mitts or fingerless gloves or whatever the current word for them is. They're made of Zauberball and are warm and cozy--which might mean something next winter but here in Atlanta, where we've had our pedicures and have been wearing open toed shoes for weeks, means they might as well be T-bone steaks at a vegan convention. No use at all.

The ultimate carry-along project, of course, is socks and I always have several pairs on the needles (or, needle, since I almost exclusively use one long needle for Magic Loop). This type of project can, if properly chosen, be completed in the dark by a blind person simply by touch. [In no way is this an admission that I have  EVER knit on a sock on I-75S on the way to work.]

Since I just indulged in a major frenzy of finishing completed socks (weaving in the ends, etc.), I'm down to about two pairs and this is one of them. Plymouth Fino, a fuzzy unplied sock yarn that I hope will wear better than it knits. But it's pretty and someday I might even finish this one and get the next one started. This is the pair that's traveling with me in the car now that I've finished up the Blue Ridge Footprints socks. 

There's another pair on the needles somewhere. (Well, let's be honest, there are probably several pairs on the needles somewhere in this house if I could find them--see the post on organization, Day 3, I think--I think they're somewhere in the Rockies, but .... oh, who cares? They're lost forever.)

But, seriously, there is another pair somewhere (in the car? trunk maybe? in a knitting bag? somewhere in the garage, in which case they are well and truly lost) that I've been puttering away on. They're beautiful autumnal colors (which I'm calling Autumn in Orwell, for those of you up on your Vermont geography). And I'm sure they would be really nice ... if I ever see them again.

"Crafting time"? Are you crazy? I barely have thinking time!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Truer Words Were Never Spoken!

Quote from Ducky on a rerun episode of NCIS, in which a passenger on an airplane is killed with a knitting needle:

"A crude but highly effective technique."

Now that's what I aspire to ... that my crude technique is effective.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day Six 2KCBWDAY6

Today's assignment:

Is there a pattern or skill that you don’t yet feel ready to tackle but which you hope to (or think you can only dream of) tackling in the future, near or distant? Is there a skill or project that makes your mind boggle at the sheer time, dedication and mastery of the craft? Maybe the skill or pattern is one that you don’t even personally want to make but can stand back and admire those that do. Maybe it is something you think you will never be bothered to actually make bu can admire the result of those that have.

This may sound like a change of subject, but it really isn't. 

I went yarn hopping (hi, EatSleepKnit!) with four friends today. Three I know really well, one is a newer friend. So I may be somewhat off in my calculations but I think our little group represented about 200 years of combined knitting experience.

And, although I think most of us have certain areas that we would consider our personal areas of expertise, most of us have at least tried most types of knitting. This doesn't mean we're all experts--far from it. One of my goals for this year is to learn fair isle knitting and I'm definitely not the best at doing intarsia--each of us probably also has an area or two that we'd agree aren't our best skills. 

What we all have in common is that we're all still learning. We take classes from knitting designers who come to our Guild or to Stitches events or to SAFF or Maryland Sheep and Wool. We buy books and magazines that feature new techniques and we try them--sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. But we're all still learning.

So, my aspiration for this year, and for future years, is that I never stop learning. 

I'm going to keep taking classes and trying new things. Entrelac this year, definitely. Fair isle, if I run out of excuses for not doing it. Knitting one of Cookie A's most complex socks--from her pattern, not copping out with my toe-up prejudice. Improving my finishing techniques.

And, occasionally, trying old things, again, hoping to hone my skills. Here's the first inch from my new project, two sleeves on one needle. It's Waltham, by the way, by Kathy Zimmerman.  I haven't knit an Aran sweater since approximately 1979, but here we go again. That one went pretty well--let's hope this one shows the effects of the 25+ intervening years of knitting.

Oh, by the way, remember that thing I made you read yesterday? The description with no photo?

Does it look anything like what you thought it would? 

Friday, April 01, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day Five 2KCBWDAY5

Well, today we're going totally off the tracks. The instructions for today are not do-able, at least not by me, at least not today.

Today's the day the Crazed and Possibly Insane Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Fiend wants us to experiment with using lots of fun media--videos, schematics, original cartoons, blah, blah, blah. Not only can I not do any of those things on a good day (and today wasn't actually all that great!), but ... wait for it ... today's the day my camera died, like a duck shot from the sky.


So today we're going to have to dig deep and use a technology most of us haven't even considered in many years. Nope, it's not 3-D. It's even older and weirder than 3-D.

So, let's get started. Now sit quietly and close your eyes. Sitting quietly? Eyes closed?

What? I can't hear you.

Oh, I get it. You can't read the blog with your eyes closed, can you? Okay, this is going to be a little more difficult than I thought.

So, pretend your eyes are closed. It's really black, isn't it?  Now pretend you're wearing a collar of knitted tubes. There are seven tubes, all different but similar sizes. The tubes are joined at the beck of your neck by a vertical band of stockinette stitch. In these days of precious metal prices heading for the roof and fashion jewelry enjoying a resurgence of interest, you're wearing a multi-dimensional necklace of yarn--turquoise and brown with little flecks of green and white. You are wearing a necklace of knitted turquoise-colored rings. Claudia's Handpainted Fingering Yarn, to be exact, color Teal Party, bought at EatSleepKnit

If none of that makes sense, and you want to cheat, or if your imagination still isn't working, or if my description sucks, go to Ravelry and check out "Sev[en]" by Kristen Johnstone. Or you can wait until I get a new camera if you want to see the one I finished earlier this week.

How's that technology working for you?

For those of you still here, you've just been transported back to the late 20th century, 20 or 25 years ago, and you've experienced a little-known technique that historians used to call "reading." If it felt a little familiar, I guess you can thank your first grade teacher.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - Day Four 2KCBWDAY4

Today's assigned topic is:

Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

Over the course of my knitting years I've given away countless knitted items and very few stick in my mind.

In my 20s, when I and everyone else I knew were having babies, I knitted baby sweater after baby sweater for all the little babes that were (seemingly) so important in my life at the time. At the time, I had a favorite pattern, a top-down little raglan from a Bernat book and I probably made 15 or 20 of them. I have no idea where any of those babies or the sweaters are today--I guess they weren't that important at the time after all. But the thought was nice.

And for many years--10 or 12--I knit socks for Russian orphans. Adoptive parents would gather up those little socks and stuff suitcases full of them and carry them with love when they made their pre-adoption visits to visit orphans in far-flung places in Russia--back when Russia was the USSR. Why Russian orphans? Why not?

The idea was that the parents would travel to Russia to meet a child they might or might not end up bringing home and would be appalled by the living conditions the children were in. One of the things that has stuck in my mind is the fact that we were encouraged to make the socks (or sweaters or hats or whatever the item of the month's challenge was) out of pure wool. Yes, our own babies wore acrylic to avoid shrinkage, but it was unthinkable for hot water to be wasted washing an orphan's socks, so they would remain pristinely unfelted for all time. And if some hideous circumstance resulted in a sock being shrunk, there was always another orphan that would fit it, no matter the size.  I have no idea how many socks went to Russia, or whether any of them ever got there, or whether any child ever wore one of my sock pairs. But it felt good to send them off, like releasing butterflies into the wind.

Eventually, things being what they are, the cost of taking those hugely stuffed suitcases on an airplane became so outrageous that parents stopped carrying them. I'm assuming that socks are still mailed off but I don't really know. For some reason, I stopped knitting them when the push went from knitting garments to finding the money to ship them. 

There are so many amazing knitting-related charities--Afghans for Afghanistan, knitted hats for preemies, Caps for the Capital, squares for Warm-Up America. It's amazing to me that there are so many people in this world who are so selfless. The anonymity of the whole thing is the most amazing part--no one wants or needs credit. They just want to help.

Then there are the things I've made for swaps, mostly on Ravelry--little knitted bags and socks and once an IPOD case. I sort of know where they went but ... not really.

But the garments that I always wonder about are the helmet liners. Our guild has made over 650 knitted helmet liners for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Frankly, there's something wonderful  and awful at the same time about knowing your knitted helmet liner might be keeping a soldier warm in a cold war zone. The people who collect them say that they're needed because the government supplies acrylic or polyester liners that don't keep the head warm--I'm sure there's some fiscally responsible reason for this, or that they wash better, or some other esoteric reason to send something that doesn't work to someone who's defending your company, but I don't understand any of them. I've heard that sometimes medics use them to keep a wounded soldier warm as he or she is Medevaced to a clinic--that may be an urban legend but I'm clinging to it. I hope that our liners have done some good to the people who make sure we can live free.

Well, this was a way too serious trip down memory lane. I guess I should have stuck with the sweater my ex got in the divorce settlement!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week - Day Three 2KCBWDAY3

So, today's assigned topic:

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

And the answer is, in my case there's no good answer. Or, put another way, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. Let's start with the easy way.

My yarn stash is arranged decoratively in crisp white cubes, sorted by weight, then by color. Individual planned projects are arranged in clear ziploc bags, each one labeled with a copy of the pattern (in its own acrylic protector, of course) inside the bag, but visible to aid in immediate identification.

(Are you buying this?)

Each yarn is assigned a personalized identification number (a PIN for short, if you're still believing this crap) that matches an entry in the Ravelry database where, if you're still believing any of this utter fabrication, a clear photo and description of yardage and colorway and dye lot are also contained.

(Okay, this isn't working, even for me. I know that friends lie to friends all the time but this one is really pushing the envelope. We're going to have to do this the hard way.)

First of all, what do you know about tectonic plates? All you really need to know is that, as portions of the earth expand and contract, bodies of land are shifted and moved onto each other, creating crevices and mountains. Every so often a really bad movement might result in things like dinosaurs being purged from the earth, but that's really a seldom thing. Here's something that may help you understand what all this means in terms of stash management.

Okay, are we clear? No? Okay, perhaps I need to explain further.

In the master bedroom, there's an area that we'll call "The Appalachians." This mountain range consists of bags (some project bags, some shop bags) each with yarn in them. Here, for instance, is the cobalt blue Miss Babs yarn I bought at Stitches last year to make a shawl.  And the (almost the same color blue) Malabrigo worsted, also from Stitches, that was going to be a Cheryl Oberle shawl. And there are some miscellaneous skeins of sock yarn. Come to think of it, probably everything in this range came from Stitches last year. This range could be considered the "OMG! I just bought this at Stitches and I'm going to work on it right away so I need it near to me!" pile. And, yes, I know Stitches was almost a year ago. Your point?

Upstairs, "The Rockies" used to be in the extra bedroom. but got moved to "The Shenandoahs" next door when grandson Cole was there. The Rockies mostly consisted of yarn bought in the 2004-2010 era (hereinafter called The Spenderiferous Era). Lots of impulse purchases that have never come to fruition. Storage in this area consisted of lots and lots of large straw beach bags with no organization whatsoever.

Earlier this year, The Rockies got combined with The Shenandoahs. The Rockies materials date from pre-history through our move to Atlanta. Meaning there's yarn in here older than my daughters. Now "The Rockendoahs" have experienced a number of landslides and even a few volcanic eruptions. When we first bought the house, The Rockies were beautifully organized in bins on shelving (Mr. Pug took care of that!). Now just walking around in The Rockendoah area is treacherous, and requires pinions and ropes.

Okay, see why there are no photos? I thought you'd see it my way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Knitting and Crocheting Blog Week - Day Two 2KCBWDAY2

Day two, and I'm still blogging. Amazing!

Today's challenge:

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

That's an interesting one, now that I'm officially a Knitting Crone.
I was taught to knit at about 9 or 10 by my grandmother who was in her late 70's by that time and Older Than God in my eyes. So I wanted to knit like her but certainly not to BE like her. At that time I didn't know anyone else who knit, except for my mother who was a dabbler. (And I certainly didn't want to be her either!)
But now I'm an older knitter in a world seemingly dominated by young, fearless knitters. It's an amazing world to be a part of, surrounded by people young enough to be my grandchildren who are leading the way with incredible designs and patterns. Sometimes I see a fabulous, innovative new pattern on Ravelry or Knitty and read all the way to the bottom and read "so-and-so has been knitting for seven months now and her first book will be published next year."
Thank God for Maggie Righetti and Elizabeth Zimmerman who went before them and paved the way. They taught me the skills that have kept me knitting so I can jump fearlessly into the pool with these newer knitters.
Over the years I think I've dipped a toe into most aspects of knitting and I've had some amazing successes and some devastating failures. And 50 years after learning how to knit, I still think of myself as an intermediate knitter. There are some areas I've only recently entered (with lots of trepidation) like lace. Until about four years ago, I'd never knit lace--my excuse was that I'm really not a lacy, girly-girl, person but the reality was that I was ... SCARED of lace. Now lace is an area to be respected but not feared. I'm still not a shawl wearer, per se, but I've knit a few and I'm sure there are a few more in my future.
And for many years I knit socks. You really can't fail with socks--they always fit someone, you can never have too many, once you get the basic shape down they're all do-able. About three years ago I read an article by Ann Budd in Interweave Knits and became obsessed with toe-up socks. Since then I've made them a passion. I can cast on (Turkish or Judy's Magic Cast On) in my sleep, have perfected my short row heel, and finally have a loose bind off that I like. In short, socks have come to be my "go to" project--I keep finding them in various stages of completion all over the house and car and occasionally even finish some.
But what have I done over the past year? Well, let's see ... there's my ongoing fling with modular knitting. One sweater complete (if by complete you mean in pieces waiting for seaming together), one vest in progress (and will I ever finish it? I think not but I remain hopeful), and the infamous Jane Slicer-Smith jacket that's about halfway done and, by some horrible circumstance, is now approximately the size of a Cirque de Soleil tent. (The elephant called--she wants her cape back!)
And, of course, I dabbled with beading last year, even before Sivia Harding came to teach at our guild. She got me started playing with beads and beaded jewelry (although I guess my first beaded jewelry muse was really Betsy Hershberg). 
But what will this year bring? Well, I already know I'll be doing entrelac because we're having a very well-known entrelac designer come to the guild in the fall (sorry--can't say the name until we have the contract in hand). But I'm very excited--I've done entrelac but I'm not ready to say I'm good at it yet.
I did promise myself that this would be the year to learn Fair Isle. I want to, no, really, I do. And I truly do mean to learn it, some day. But ... do I really have to?
And then there's Waltham:
I can already hear the naysayers telling me, if you can't put together one sweater, what makes you think you'll put this one together? And I don't have an answer for you. I just know I'm going back to my roots and trying cables again. (The last cabled sweater I knit was for my ex-husband and he got custody in the divorce.)
The good news: Mr. Pug won't get this one!