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.