Friday, April 27, 2007

Okay, everyone! Back to your knitting!


Dateline: Bay Area, CA, approximately 5:05 pm Thursday, where a local woman has just recovered from opening a package labeled "Rockin' Sock Club." Mrs. Dickinson, along with thousands of people worldwide, have received similar packages over the last few days. Reports of hysterical whooping, fainting, and even running naked down the street waving hanks of hand-dyed sock yarn have flooded newspapers and police stations in villages and large cities alike.

Mrs. Dickinson stated that she had expected the package at her office, and reportedly stalked the mail room guy until he threatened to get a restraining order against her. Efforts in this regard proved futile however, as in order to comply with the order, Mrs. Dickinson would not be able to come to work at all.

Accordingly, she was stunned to arrive home, and find the much-desired package in her mailbox. She yanked it out, scattering junkmail, and ran upstairs to her apartment, keys at the ready. She even turned off the Cast-on podcast mid-essay in order to be completely ready to open the package and bask in its contents the second she entered the apartment. Mrs. Dickinson stated that she "never turns off Cast-on" unless and until she "absolutely [has] to."

When Mrs. Dickinson opened her package, she was left with only two words: "Holy crap," which she uttered so reverently that a flourish of trumpets could be heard in the background. The beautiful Merino/silk yarn then emitted a golden glow. The next thing Mrs. Dickinson recalled was being awakened from a deep swoon by her dog Pepper, a 60 pound Blue Heeler, who was more than ready for her w-a-l-k.


My pinky has healed. I will commence knitting the April socks tonight. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Wrath of Pinky

I dissed the Pinky in an email to my brother. Who, as it turned out, is a Pinky. He replied saying, "hello, Middle Finger. I see the assassins have failed." But I was not without injury. The assassins succeeded in breaking a wine glass in my hand as I was washing it. As a result, I sustained a frighteningly deep cut to (oh, the irony) my left pinky finger.

It gets worse. I knit in a more or less continental style. Though the index finger and thumb of my left hand play the starring roles, my left pinky is a supporting actress in that it curls inward around the working yarn, providing the gentlest bit of tension. Though the cut has mostly healed, my pinky is sore and doesn't like to curl as much as I need it to curl. I cannot knit until it is in complete working order.

Sunday night, while DH watched the Warriors game, I twitched like a little kid hopped up on Mountain Dew and Halloween candy and then dragged by her parents through The Large Museum of Deeply Boring Things That You Can't Touch. Ordinarily, I would have been knitting.

I have resorted to scrapbooking. Which, by the way, I dislike. It isn't a craft. It is essentially a chore, much like weeding or tidying the drawer I call "the tool drawer," and DH refers to as "that damned drawer full of junk." I am buoyed by two facts: (1) that this particular endeavor is the organization of our honeymoon photos, and revisiting them truly is enjoyable; and (2) unlike our wedding albums, I have dispensed with the hardcore scrapbooking methods. The vast majority of the pages are devoted exclusively to the photos, and I am making separate pages for the relatively few scrappy bits I saved from the trip. I am nearly done.

However, in support of my longed-for return to knitting and consequent avoidance of the hardcore, cult-of-scrapbooking wedding albums, I propose the following list of reasons...


1. Knitting requires very little set-up or take-down. Pull it out of your bag or basket, and you are ready to go.

2. Knitting does not require a vast array of tools and materials. You need yarn, needles and a relatively small selection of helpers like crochet hooks, stitch markers and cable needles, all of which can be comfortably contained in a box or basket.

3. Knitting is portable. You can do it almost anywhere, which also means that almost any idle moment can be filled with crafting.

4. Knitting requires very little space in which to work. You can do it in one small corner of your sofa, or a cozy chair. Scrapbooking takes about half of a dining room table at minimum, with papers, templates, photos and scissors scattered about.

5. You can't wear a scrapbook.

6. Knitting does not make your fingers sticky with glue, or involve papercuts. Though we joke about knitting-related injuries, I do not personally know of any actual person who has been injured by her tools or materials.

7. Knitting does not resemble tidying, organizing, sorting or cleaning in any way, shape or form.

8. Knitting consists of a small, compact series of rhythmic movements, often creating a feeling of relaxation and calm. You can watch TV or let your thoughts wander, if you're working on a simple project. Scrapbooking is all reaching, cutting, gluing, placing and sorting. There's little rhythm to it, and if you want it to look halfway passable, your complete attention is required.

9. You can wing knitting and undo bad execution without ruining your materials. Wing a scrapbook, and your mistake often renders your materials unusable.

10. Scrapbooks tend to look best with a lot of planning ahead, i.e., choosing coordinating papers, building around themes, and designing specific pages. This is optional in knitting. If you don't like this much planning, most of it can be done for you by an expert in the form of patterns, the selection of which is vast and readily available.

If I missed anything, please add more reasons in the comments!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well, duh.

You Are the Middle Finger

A bit fragile and dependent on your friends, you're not nearly as hostile as you seem.
You are balanced, easy to get along with, and quite serious.
However, you can get angry and fed up with those around you. And you aren't afraid to show it!

You get along well with: The Index Finger

Stay away from: The Pinky

Two comments:

1. For some reason, I am overcome with hilarity that The Pinky is my nemesis.

2. I have a working hypothesis that 80% of people who take this quiz suspect that they are The Middle Finger, and look forward to confirming same. 10% are disappointed that they are, in fact, another finger.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ask the Impatient Knitter

Q: I am knitting a lace shawl. When is a good time to put in a lifeline?

A: I shoot for about the halfway point, but typically end up putting in the lifeline before that, inspired by having to painfully tink back a bunch of rows, obsessively counting stitches at the end of each, to the last row I did correctly, whereupon I emit a sigh of relief and stuff the project back in its bag. If all my knitting instincts are in good working order, I put the lifeline in the next time I pick up the shawl. If I have failed to learn my lesson, the next time I pick up the shawl, I brazenly knit on, sans lifeline, until I need to be reminded again.

We shall see what happens tonight, when I hope to pick up my Children of Lir Stole again. DH is meeting a friend for drinks, and to watch the Warriors-Trailblazers game. It will be an ideal time to get in some mileage on this project. The last time I picked it up was during the final round of the Masters tournament, which was not a very good choice on my part, as I actually wanted to watch the tournament. One good birdie putt is a recipe for dropping stitches, forgetting your place in the stitch pattern, or missing yarnovers. Take my word for it.

In the meantime, I have been knitting mostly on the Ivy sweater. The Karabella Breeze is working out beautifully. It's crispness shows the stitches to great advantage, especially the cabled section at the bottom. I am about 3/4 of the way up the back. Here's what I love about this sweater. The first few cable repeats were like getting to base camp: "are we there yet?" Then, I got into the rhythm of it and became positively addicted to the cables and couldn't wait to start the next repeat. By the time I got done with them, I was ready for a little rest, and the stockinette started right there. I expect that if this gets old, it will be just in time for the armhole shaping, after which it is a quick trip to the neckline and bind-off. Yay!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

For Kurt Vonnegut

Lots of knitters out there already missing you.

Peace on your journey, friend.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Until today, the last time I won anything, it was a gigantic bag of fertilizer at the county fair when I was 5 years old. My parents were thrilled, as they'd been wanting to re-do the lawn, but I was S-O-L.

I chose the handspun. Very much worth the 28 year wait.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The minds, they are a'changin'

(With apologies to Bob Dylan: Sorry, dude. I can't resist puns. Or whatever it is that's in the title).

Sarah would like to know whether I've changed my mind about anything.

It is a worthy question. I am a pretty rigid person, usually. My mind, once made up, will generally stay that way, if not forever, close enough to it that you'd have to wait around a really long time. The times I have changed my mind are so rare and golden that I should start a hall of fame for them.

1. Ch-ch-ch-changes

One that leaps most readily to mind was my prejudice against science fiction books. I liked some TV shows (okay, just Star Trek, the Next Generation) and movies, but for some reason, the concept of the science fiction book conjured up all sorts of childishly mean-spirited images around the theme "dorks reading bad fiction." My husband once pointed out that, sure, there's a lot of crap out there, but some good stuff too, and anyway, Jane Austen was no great shakes, either.

After I recovered from this (!), he handed me a copy of Sirens of Titan, by Kurt Vonnegut. With its finely drawn characters, acerbic wit, and a dog who travels the space-time continuum with his master, I was happily engaged in this book from page one. What sets this book apart, however, are the grand themes that surface as the plot unfolds. The denizens of have given it a much more knowledgeable and thorough review than I ever could, so I shall direct you there for more information.

But Sirens probably isn't true sci-fi. Certainly not as I defined it in my knee-jerk aversion to sci-fi. So, I stuck my toes in a little deeper with the Ender series, by Orson Scott Card. There are a bunch of these, starting with Ender's Game, which in the grand tradition of series, is probably the best one. It certainly got me hooked enough to read up through the fourth book. After that, I was a little Ender-ed out, but I could see myself re-reading some of these, or continuing at some point.

Very basically, Ender is a young boy, and an outcast in society, for a big reason that is clear from the get-go. He gets recruited into an elite military school at younger than the standard age, where the kids train to be the best warriors possible in order to kick the butts of the aliens who kicked our butts a decade or so previously. From this fairly simple premise, Orson Scott Card got 3 really good books, and 1 mostly good book (and the rest I can't speak to) without having to thoroughly exhaust his bag of writerly tricks.

Though less in the way of grand themes, there is definitely a lot to hang your hat on intellectually, e.g., dystopia, family dynamics, ethics of war, cultural differences (esp. in Book 4)... and so long as the action is interesting, the characters are engaging, and the writing is good, I am up for pretty much anything.

2. Turn and face ...

More significantly, answering Sarah's inquiry got me thinking about why I had this prejudice. There is no logic to it at all, which makes it a true Capital-P Prejudice. I never had any highfalutin standards for my reading material, and though I do read what you might call literature every once in a while, I never thought of myself as being literary. I have read romance novels. I have no business talkin' smack about people who read sci-fi, y'know?

I will readily confess my other ____-snobs, i.e., wine snob, music snob, yarn snob..... But a book snob, I am not. If DH asks you where his Star Trek novels went, don't tell him they're in my book basket next to the bed.

3. The strange...

As for yarn, I am changing my mind about cotton. My second sweater was a white cotton tunic from a Spring/Summer issue of VK, maybe 5 or 6 years ago. I believe the pattern called for Classic Elite Weekend Cotton. Back then, I was a new knitter, and pretty much everything I made was either a Lion Brand Pattern or kit, and I used the requisite Lion Brand yarn. When a pattern didn't call for Lion Brand yarn, I substituted. This wasn't a conscious thing. It was an access thing. I didn't make much money, there weren't lots of yarn shops where I was living, so I knitted with what I had.

For this cotton sweater, I chose a Lion Brand cotton (and I can't remember the name - it might have just been called Lion Cotton), and knitted away at K1P1 ribbing (ouch!) for ages until the sweater was done. It looked good, actually. Not as light and summery fabulous as in the magazine, but respectable, especially for one's second sweater.

It was also massively heavy and had all the drape of a hunk of siding. It wasn't very soft to knit with or to wear, so into the closet it went, until I ended up packing it into a bag of clothes I donated after losing my "living at home during law school" weight. I never touched cotton again. I bypassed it disdainfully in yarn shops, and found the Spring/Summer issues of knitting mags to be utterly devoid of anything knittable. I might have liked the pattern, but I wasn't touching cotton with a 10-foot needle. Nope. Not me.

That might have all changed. A few weeks ago, while browsing in Urban Knitting Studio for a light pretty something to make into a springy shrug (I was thinking silk, or maybe microfiber), I fell in mad crazy love with Blue Sky Cotton, from the wonderful folks who make Blue Sky Alpacas yarn. It was the shade that called out to me: a very light petal pink, so delicate it is only found on babies' toes. I had to have it. I didn't care what it was made of. Okay, I did kind of care, but when I picked it up and felt how soft it was, I was sold.

I started knitting with it this weekend, for another iteration of Stefanie Japel's Minisweater (made my first one a couple of weeks ago, and now I am addicted). Ladies and Germs, it is like knitting with cotton balls. I love it. I love that stitches don't squish up together like wool does, and leaves the fabric uneven. It really is just a touch uneven, and in such a charming way that I am not sure I want to block it.

I probably won't change my stance on eyelash yarn any time soon, but stay tuned for further developments.