Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shoesday, and some photos.

Fun still abounds at House O' Samurai. The weather is doing this crazy, mid-season deal where there's a forty degree difference between night and day, and the shifts are giving me migraines. So it's back to vegetation in front of the TV, and all the peanut butter and bananas you can eat. Goodie.

Someone asked about gauge on the Russian Prime. I'm knitting it at about five stitches to the inch, with size five/3.75mm needles.

The Goob has begun watching television like this:

That's an easy chair she's got her legs up against. I swear I had nothing to do with this; she settled in like that all on her own and watched TV that way for about half an hour. I got dizzy just looking at her.

She also unearthed a horn from the depths of the toy box, left over from her birthday party:

It's doing wonders for the migraine. (Pleae note the Cat Look Of Doom from behind her. After the photo was taken, the cat pounced.)

Sekhmet? Oh. She's gone totally fucking crazy. Over the husbeast's feet.

Whenever the husbeast goes barefoot, she goes wild. Lays on his feet, rolls on them, rubs her face over them. This time she decided to have a taste.

I don't know what she thought of the taste, but she didn't like the husbeast shouting "SEKHMET, YOU FUCKER!" at the top of his voice.

Oh, shoes?

I got my black suede clogs out of the closet tonight. Worn with heavy socks and long pants, they're good for all but heavy snow, and I usually wear them all the way through winter. No idea who made them; I bought them in Hawaii about five years ago.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Metallurgy, and knitting, and kitchen gear.

Oh my.

For the one or two of you still interested in the metallurgy topic, there's a good history of it, here. (Unfortunately it's a bit on the technical side, but you can get the gist.) Among other interesting links I've turned up, is that East Africa produced a lot of the early steel; knitting was invented in Egypt. Concidence? I'm starting to think not. Then, knitting spread out of Spain to Western Europe at about the same time that Spain started producing enough steel to export it.

Interesting. (Oh, yes it is. Quit rolling your eyes at me.)

The Russian Prime is a single round away from the arm pits:

Tonight I hope to put the armpit stitches on holders, establish the steeks, and all that rot. Then it's a simpler, faster pattern, all the way up to the shoulders. The sleeves are picked up in the same pattern and knit downward, continuing the pattern to the wrists. It's cool. You'll all want to knit one.

Tonight, cooking dinner, I used a new gadget, a Microplane grater.

This is the zester, but I used it tonight on parmesan cheese. It's sharper than a razor blade and made quick work of the cheese, producing a really fine, papery grate. Awesome. You cooks out there, check them out. They're worth the money and more beside.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Still more about knitting and technology.

Last night, after my last post on knitting needles and materials to make them out of , I went and dug up my copy of "A History of Hand Knitting" (Richard Rutt) and looked at what he had to say. He also says that early needles were made from bronze and steel. However, he emphasizes European knitting and pretty much ignores the implications of all those bits found in Egypt, so I take him with a large grain of salt.

On the other hand, Rutt's boffo at details of specific artefacts, giving charts and gauge and material, and like that. According to him, the oldest bit of knitting that's known and substantiated in Europe is a pillow that was found in a tomb in Spain. The tomb was closed up in 1275 CE. So, obviously, the pillows were made then, or earlier. He includes charts and stuff, but the interesting bit is the gauge: Eighty stitches to ten centimeters, or about TWENTY STITCHES PER BLOODY INCH. That is fucking SMALL. (The smallest I've ever knit was twelve stitches to the inch, on 0000 needles, with thread, and I thought THAT was insane.) Among other things, I always wonder who the poor slob knitting was, and hope they had good light. But I doubt they did; Ott lights had a few years left in R&D.

For our puroses, the big point of that gauge is, there's no way it couldl have been knit with anything other than steel needles. Nothing else available in 1275 had the tensile strength to do it. At least not that I know of, and I live with a guy who does industrial inspection and have had an ongoing interest in archometallurgy, myself, since at least 1990. So if anyone ELSE can come up with something that could have made knitting needles smaller than quad-zeros, in 1275 CE, let me know. I sincerely want to hear it. Because I can't think of anything. I can't think of one organic material that could have managed it.

Steel would have been expensive then, limiting knitting to either religious orders with lots of money, or rich people (with lots of money). Spain produced some of the best steel in the world back then, so it's probable that the needles were fairly easy for them to come by, but they still would have been expensive. And of course, there was no way for them to ramp up production enough to provide knitting needles for every peasant in Europe. I think we may have hit upon a legitimate reason why knitting did not spread faster than it did.

Rutt also describes the process of making needles in the 1500s: the local blacksmith would basically cut lengths of wire, straighten and temper them, and point the ends. So by then needles were easier to get, but the blacksmith still had to get the wire from somewhere, and extrusion methods weren't really fast and cheap until, as I mentioned before, the Victorian era.

On a related topic, I was brooding over other ways technology has influenced knitting, and hit on something else: Fair Isle knitting. They were certainly doing banded patterns of stranded color for hundreds of years, but Fair Isle knitting did not exist, as we know it, with all those colors, until after the 1860s. Know what happened in the 1860s? Synthetic dyes were invented.

You can't knit in two dozen colors, until you can MAKE the two dozen colors.

More food for thought. I'm on a roll. Going to page through Rutt again, and ask the Husbeast metallurgy questions. I may wind up calling the uncle who is a retired industrial chemist and engineer who specialized in, you guessed it, metallurgy. This is an odd enough topic, from his point of view, to really get his attention. He's more used to working on nuclear reactors.

What I really need is an archeo-metallurgist. Anybody know one?

Friday, October 26, 2007

A related issue, in knitting history.

While brooding over the history of knitting at the gym today (hey, I've gotta think of something to distract me from my knees), I came up with another reason why the spread of knitting might have been rather slow. One that has little or nothing to do with culture and trade routes, per se.

Mind you, I'm talking about the Middle Ages, here, around 1100 CE.


I wonder, if perhaps the spread of knitting was slowed by a lack of decent knitting needles. Sounds crazy at first, but think about it. Back then they were knitting at really fine gauges (seven stitches to the inch, or less, average) and needles out of wood, that small, kind of suck. Not to mention, even making needles out of wood, by hand, can be a tricky proposition. (Look into arrow making, if you don't believe me.) Not impossible, of course, not by any stretch, but certainly a pain in the keester. And of course, the harder the wood, the more useful the needle is, and the more difficult it is to make in the first place.

Metal needles would be even harder to get. Iron and steel were both very expensive. Bronze and copper would be too soft to be useful (bronze, if pure, would work, but likely be expensive, too). And aluminum wouldn't be made in any useful, affordable way, until at least the 1880s (useless but interesting fact of the day: in the 1850s, aluminum was worth more than gold, because no one knew how to extract it from bauxite). Aluminum knitting needles didn't exist until after WW1, to my knowledge.

There are, of course, other things to make needles out of, bone and ivory and tortoise shell being the most common. And those are lovely, and certainly did exist. But again, the material isn't strong enough to make really small needles with.

I do know that lace knitting, at a very small gauge, did not exist in any real way until the Victorian era, because that was when wire-making technology made it possible for the masses to buy steel knitting needles cheaply (or make them out of bicycle spokes, or the ribs of umbrellas). Until then, only a few people could afford the needles to knit the really fine lace; I'm sure it existed, but it wasn't widespread until then.

So. More food for thought.

Knitting migrations, revisited.

Partly because my Vogue Knitting holiday issue seems to have disappeared (it may be time to clean the house), and partly because HistoricStitcher left me a comment about it (you can read it, here.)

In a nutshell, she makes a case for knitting being brought to Europe during the Crusades, by returning camp followers and the like, who'd gone to the Middle East.

I do think that the Crusades did trigger the movement of knitting, along both trade routes we've discussed before; across N Africa into Spain, and up through the Black Sea into Eastern Europe. There were probably a lot of refugees from the fighting, and they'd have moved along those trade routes to get away from it. Stands to reason.

It's likely there were also all kinds of single bits of knitting brought back by the Crusaders, shirts and socks and gloves and all, and spread out all over Europe. Archeology just hasn't found them. Most were probably worn to rags, and the rest lost in the coming thousand years.

But the thing is, knitting isn't just a trade good, it's a SKILL, something that has to be taught, and learned, to be truly passed along. And it's more the skill of knitting and it's movement, than plain old knitted socks, that I'm talking about. There were other things that the Crusaders brought back to Europe, that are well-documented - spices and citrus fruit leap to my mind, thanks to the food research I do - and both of those goods exploded onto the scene, historically speaking. Looking back, it's like one minute, no one in Europe had heard of them, and the next, every rich person from Ireland to Moscow was eating cinnamon-orange pudding. Blam. Sudden influx.

Knitting's movements weren't like that. There's no sudden appearance. It can be tracked across Europe (at least Western Europe) pretty easily, looking at paintings and fragments and linguistics. It took hundreds of years to spread all the way to Scandinavia, from Spain, which is kind of what you'd expect of a skill that has to be learned. (Iron working, which was only invented once, in China, and then spread west to India, the Middle East, and Europe, can be tracked much the same way, though it took longer to move, because it traveled further.)

So... Crusades and knitting. Yeah, I bet the Crusades did have an effect on knitting's movement. But I still don't think the skill was brought back by returning crusaders, at least not in numbers large enough to matter. Certainly it's possible, even probable, that single people returned with the knowledge, and may explain odd bits and pieces that have been found. But knitting as a trade? That took some time.

Opinions? Anyone?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

...and some knitting.

After I posted last night, I realized I haven't posted a picture of the Russian Prime sweater in at least a week, so here you go:

It's actually a little further along than that, but you get the idea. It's hovering around the armpits of the body, mostly because I haven't knit on it in two days. I've got some fun drug-related crap going on, where I alternate between migraines and nausea. Plus the Husbeast is pulling double shifts.

The Goober is in toddler heaven because I'm under the weather; she's spent the last two days watching children's television and eating bananas and peanut butter sandwiches. I alternate between feeling bad, and wishing all the kids in the world could have problems like this. As you can see, she's mentally scarred by the whole thing:

The other day I hugged her against her will. Poor, poor Goober. Life's rough.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Topics revisited.

It's yet another fun day of sloth here at House O' Samurai. It's rained all day, the Goober's been in her pajamas, and we've both been snacking and have totally blown off regular meals. She's having a ball. Boy, is she going to hate a return to real life, tomorrow.

Anyway, there have been a couple subjects raised here in the last week or so that got a lot of comments, and I wanted to comment upon them further, so here you go.


I can't tell from some of the comments left if people were generally agreeing with me, or if some of you thought I was trying to tell you how to spend your money. If it's the second case, please let me reassure you. Not only do I think it's rude to tell someone how to spend their money, I also think there are a lot of worse things to do with your spare cash than buy yarn. I'm firing up the dye pot again, now that the weather has cooled, and will be re-listing the sock yarn left over from last year as well. So please. Buy all the yarn you want. If you wanna insulate your house with it, knock yourself out.


I said Shakespeare was a hack, and people went wild. Which, no offense, is kind of why I can't stand the guy. It's not so much that he truly sucks, it's that everyone holds him up as the be-all end-all of English lit, and really all he was, was a pop culture wonk, trying to make a buck. Amy Lane and I have discussed this in e-mail a little bit... she compared him to Stephen Spielburg, that he made a bunch of movies/plays and some money and was pretty much the pop culture king of his day. Personally I think Amy's giving The Bard too much credit. Spielburg has used his talent for some good social awareness (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List), and The Bard's social awareness didn't go much further than sucking up to the royal family. I think of The Bard more as a historic version of Jerry Bruckheimer.

Studying Shakespeare in school, to me, is kind of like if they took a Brukheimer movie, let's say Pirates of the Caribbean, waited four hundred years, and because it was old, said it was profound. Then they make every kid in school watch it and discuss it, and people put on tuxedos and spend a week's pay to see it over and over in fancy theaters. That's what we do with Shakespeare. So, if you wanna read Shakespeare, and like the guy, knock yourselves out. But I don't think he was some fantastical example of Great Literature. He was just a guy, a product of his time, trying to make a buck. (And I don't think he's the one who actually wrote the plays, I think a peer of the realm did it anonymously, but that's a discussion for another day.)

What do I like, you may ask? Well, if we're talking about historic writings that I find profound, or at least throught-provoking, I go further back and hit what I consider the really good stuff. Beowulf, the Ulster Cycle (there is a good novelization of it called The Red Branch, by Morgan Llewellyn), the Arthurian Legends (and the related, older, Welsh stuff), the Icelandic Sagas (which Tolkien ripped off -er- adapted). Like that. All contain great commentary on the human condition, great stories, and fascinating characters. Plus they're as old or older than Shakespeare, and so I think legitimate if we're going for historic fiction. Plus there's always Canterbury Tales, but that's about sex and farting, though good for a laugh. Aristophanes was pretty funny, too, but seriously low class. I don't care if he was famous and ancient and wrote in Greek.

I guess profundity is in the eye of the beholder. Folklore fans, all those links above came from Sacred Texts, a wonderful database of all that is holy (or used to be holy) from all over the world. Enjoy.

It has begun raining, again, so I'm going to click "publish" before the cable goes out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shoes Day!

It's been a crappy couple days around here, with me and the Goober sick and the Husbeast doing a work project that involves him not being home most of tomorrow. Thankfully, we've got shoes to talk about.

This is more of my ongoing Sketchers addiction; these were purchased last year and I love them so much, I take good care of them and they look almost new. Here they are without socks, so you can kind of get an idea of them:

Here they are with feet in them. I'm wearing white socks, which should be pretty obvious.

Aaaaand here's a shot from the side, to sort of round things out. I took the photo myself, so it's goofy, but you get the idea.

Up next week: More Sketchers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tis the season.

What season, you ask? THE SEASON OF SWEATERS!! (Jumpers. Whatever. It's autumn in the northern hemisphere.)

The weather is finally cooling off enough to warrant unpacking the wool. Today, with delight, I pulled one on and took a lovely, toasty-warm nap while the Goober was taking hers. Wonderful. I was wearing this one:

It's a regular old pullover knit with Brown Sheep's Lamb's Pride worsted. This is one of those standards; every time I put it on, I think I should knit ten or twenty more of them in different colors.

I can also tell the weather's cooling off, because now Sekhmet wants to crawl inside my clothes at every opportunity. Here she is in my bath robe:

...yes, I look like I'm ten months pregnant with a cat.

And here she is, trying to climb into my pants leg. (Yeah, that'll work.)

Occasionally, when I'm not around to lay on, she will lower herself to laying on the pile of wool blankies I've knit and assembled for her. That's all Australian merino she's laying on; the blue is felted, the brown on top is a loose garter stitch. (No, Bells, I did not use any of the wonderful yarn you sent me for the cat. I'm saving it for ME. Or maybe the Goober.)

I'm almost up to the arm pits on the Russian Prime. It's a good thing I'm not planning on giving it away, after all; I took it off the needles the other night and measured it. It's four inches smaller than it was supposed to be. It'll still fit me, but it wouldn't fit my mother-in-law.

With this sweater, I feel like I'm returning to my roots. My first color-stranded sweater I ever knit was the Chainmail Sweater from Knitter's Almanac, by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I did it in wool, and I was excited and pleased with the pattern, watching it develop as I knit. It's the same with the new one, designed by EZ's daughter, Meg Swansen. As I knit, I think "Oh yes, I remember this." and am pleased all over again with the idea of taking string and sticks and making a garment with nothing else but my own cleverness.

Knitting good.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thrift, and knitting, and stashing.

In case you've been living under a rock (or are outside North America, in which case you're entitled to a lack of interest), the Rhinebeck fiber festival was this weekend. It's one of the country's largest festivals, full of vendors and farmers and knitters and spinners and weavers and other textile-related craftspersons. It seems like half the knitters whose blogs I read, headed there to max out their credit cards and wear fancy sweaters and network and pack their car with all the yarn they can carry.

Several OTHER people on the internet have come out against this orgy of delight. The excess of a house full of yarn bothers them. Crafting in general and knitting in particular is thrifty, the thinking seems to go, and so spending big piles of money on yarn goes against the grain.

I've been brooding over that for most of the weekend, the idea of craft as thrift, and you know what? I think it's mostly crap. I can run out to Wal-Mart and pick up a sweater for ten dollars. There is no way I could possibly knit something that cheaply, unless I were to buy said ten dollar sweater, unravel it, and reknit it. And of course that doesn't factor in the time investment. (There are people out there who do this - buy sweaters, unravel them, and use the yarn in new projects. That IS thrifty. More power to them. But they are a very small percentage of knitters.) Sewers, yeah, if they're clever, they can save money on clothes by either re-working old clothes or hitting major fabric sales. Knitters? Not unless they're using acrylic. Maybe not even then.

There are other crafts, embroidery and painting and scrapbooking and quilting, and on and on and on. Sure, most of them started off as ways to save money (quilting in particular), but in practice, in 2007, that doesn't often happen. Most quilters these days go out and buy new fabric, they don't make up something from their old clothes or worn blankets. Embroidery and painting both cost money, and always have. Scrapbooking? I won't even get started. But it's a money pit.

This does not mean that we don't occasionally save money. I do these knit doilies as gifts because I can produce an heirloom for $5. But it still doesn't factor in the time it takes to knit the thing, and I will never make anything remotely like money off them. The Blue Shimmer, last summer, was knit with pure merino wool yarn I got at one cent per yard. It still cost me about forty dollars. While you'll never find a ten dollar sweater like it, you WILL find a ten dollar sweater that you could wear instead.

We do what we do, because we love to create. It's not to save money. It hasn't been about saving money since World War Two, at the latest. I think active minds have a need to create, almost up there with breathing. It's what humans do. For those of us who use yarn as our medium, to make our thoughts take form, it's no different for us to buy yarn, than for a painter to load up on paints and canvas, or a sculptor to have piles of material laying about. It's a comfort, to have it near to hand, to look at and brood over, to decide what we want to make with it, change our minds, and decide again.

Mind you, I don't actually have THAT much yarn piled up in my house; three sweaters' worth sitting about. If you take away all the odd balls left over from twenty years of knitting projects, that's about all there is. Just a small emergency pile. You know, in case I get the urge to cast on for the Geometric Star at three in the morning. (You never know.)

There's also the flip side of the economic issue - we may not be saving money, but we're keeping an awful lot of small farmers and artesians in business. This new knitting boom, in the last ten years, has sparked the start of an amazing number of businesses. And it's the stashers who keep it going as much as the more active knitters do.

So, while I may secretly think that people with whole rooms of fiber are just a little nuts, I don't see anything ethically bad. It's like an artist with a lot of paint. Nothing wrong with it. Someone will knit it up eventually.

Even if it is your great-grandchildren.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ah, blessed silence.

The Goober and the Husbeast are out together, running some errands and doing who knows what. I am left, in the house, in the quiet, able to hear myself think for the first time in days.

Remember the migraines? Well, they backed off significantly after I got my blood pressure under control. (Duh.) Then I started paying attention to things, to see if I could identify any other triggers. I did. Lack of sleep, changing weather, and my hormone cycle are the big three. (Thank the gods chocolate is not involved.) Guess what three things converged to almost kill me yesterday? Yeah. Good times.


Vogue Knitting's holiday issue is out and I have procured a copy. I've flipped through it once, and will do so several more times before writing my review... but the review will be coming up in the next week or so. At this point, all I'm gonna say is, the idiot sylist who decided to put those models in tutus should be shot, flogged, tarred and feathered, folded, spun, and mutilated.

Just saying.

Off and on, for the last couple weeks, I've been poking around Ravelry, and have learned a few things. For starters, it seems most women either don't know how to dress in a way that flatters them, or aren't able to knit sweaters that flatter them. I don't know which, but there are a lot of horrible colors and fits and choices being made out there. In a related area, people won't knit things, if they look like shit in the pattern. Obvious, maybe, but there it is.

If you're not on Ravelry yet, don't despair. Due to the way it's set up, with people adding things they've knit, as we go, it actually improves with age. Remarkably so. When I joined, just a month ago, there were maybe three pages of Vogue Knitting patterns. Now there are eighteen pages. So while it may be killing you to wait, when you finally do get on Ravelry, the database you see will be vastly improved over the one that greeted the early birds.

And cute photos, because I can.

The Goober got a new book a week ago. She still won't put it down, and carries it around. It's really funny, because it's almost as big as she is.

Sekhmet? Well, she's still a dumbass cat. The other day the Goober put a box on top of her, and the stubborn cat laid there and refused to move.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

HEY!!! Sewers and seamstresses!!

I'm looking to put together a sort of Christmas stocking for my sister-in-law this holiday season. She sews. Any suggestions on cool gadgets to put into said stocking?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I finally - at long last, a month after finishing the book - changed the 'What I'm Reading' at the sidebar. What AM I reading?

"Garlic and Sapphires", by Ruth Reichl. Memoirs from a former New York Times restaurant critic. I worked at newspapers as a young woman, but it was nothing like the snake pit that was the New York Times in the nineties, when Reichl was there. She's a great writer - funny, evocative, entertaining, and did I mention, REALLY FUNNY. She has written other books, I find, and I think I'll get them and read them, too. That's the highest praise I can offer.

I got tagged by Anne for a book meme thingie. I found it more interesting than memes usually are (sorry, but it's true), so here you go.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why: Mostly paperback, because I'm a cheapskate. Occasionally I will buy books in hardcover, but only because I think I'll die if I wait until the paperback is out. (Generally, this means Harry Potter novels, J D Robb mysteries, and anything by Jaqueline Carey.) This also means I cannot stand the wait list at the library.

2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it: "The Bleeding Heart", and sell nothing but paperback romances and mysteries.

3. My favorite quote from a book is: This is a hard one. But one of my most-used lines is from the "In Death" series by J D Robb, spoken by character Eve Dallas. "Act like an asshole, get treated like an asshole."

4. The author (alive or dead) I would love to have lunch with is: J R R Tolkien. Possibly a cliche, but I would love to pick his brain about his books, and what symbolism he was thinking of when he wrote them. If any. Plus I hear he was a nice, interesting guy.

5. If I were going to a deserted island and could only bring one book (other than a survival guide), it would be: Another hard one. Something long. Something long and dense. Tolstoy, maybe, or Tolkien. The complete works of Shakespare in one book? Something like that. The complete works of SOMEONE. Agatha Christie, maybe.

6. I would love for someone to invent a book gadget that: I've got a half dozen book lights of different design, and none of them really work right. I'd like a book light that stays where I put it and lights the page, and doesn't keep the husbeast awake next to me.

7. The smell of books reminds me of: Libraries. I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries. Good memories. If they could bottle the scent, I'd wear it as perfume.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book, it would be: Honestly, I wouldn't want to be the main character of any good book. To be a good book, that means the characters have to go through hell to make a good story. Phedre, of the Kushiel books by Jaqueline Carey, is a very cool person, smart and resourceful and kind. But she goes through a lot of hell I'd rather skip. Even if she does bag a lot of hot men. And women. Haha.

9. The most overrated book of all time is: I've got a problem with a lot of what they call 'classic literature'. Shakespare was a hack whose only claim to fame was thinking in iambic pentameter. Sir Walter Scott desperately needed an editor to cut his work in half.

10. I hate it when a book: Has poorly written characters. If an author spends a hundred pages establishing how independent the heroine is, having her knuckle under at the first sign of trouble will REALLY piss me off. The husbeast has become quite used to me ranting at movies and TV shows when the writers have someone acting out of character. Drives me insane.

There you go. I'm supposed to tag people, but I hate that... Anyone who wants to do this, go ahead. I'd find it quite interesting. Particularly among those of you who are writers and/or formally edumacated in 'great literature'. You know who you are.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


In the past week, I've gotten three pairs of shoes: two I picked out, and one the Husbeast got me. The ones the Husbeast bought were in response to that fall I took a couple weeks ago; I'd been wearing an old pair of Crocs, with soles that were almost smooth. So he bought me a new pair, with little flowers on them:

Then I went to the Sketchers outlet. I planned to get myself a pair of semi-dignified shoes; something between tennis shoes and high heels. When I walked in the door, they told me there was a buy a pair, get a pair at half price sale going on.

I nearly swooned.

The black pair:

And the brown pair:

Keep in mind, these shoes are made by an athletic shoe company. So while they LOOK dignified, they FEEL very comfy. And the best part? The treads.

I won't be crashing and burning in the Target parking lot, wearing these babies.

Then we totally lost our heads and got a pair of shoes for the Goober. They light up.

I want light up shoes. They don't come in my size. Darn it.

Sekhmet? Oh, her. She prefers me barefoot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

No Christmas this year.

As I awoke this morning, trying not to scream because I'd rolled over on my shoulder wrong, I finally faced up to reality. I'm not gonna make the Christmas deadline this year, even if I don't need surgery. The knitting is going very slowly, even though I'm enjoying it, because my shoulder and arm can't do more than a round or two at a time without a break. The all-day knitting marathons of last summer are a semi-fond memory. I'm going to inform my in-laws that there won't be any Christmas knitting this year, and go find them something else as gifts instead (my mother-in-law is easy to shop for since I taught her to knit - I just go out and buy her yarns she's never heard of before).

What, then, will I do with the Strikke-along project, which was supposed to go to my mother-in-law?

I'm gonna stick with the project monogamy, and finsih it.

And keep it for myself.

Seems like a good way to finish out the Year of Me. I think next year will be the Year of Project Monogamy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Today was the day. Even though I hadn't entered anything this year, we went anyway. Partly so the Goober could see all the critters, and partly so I could revel in my farm-country roots. (My father was a factory worker, but we lived in farm country and I grew up running around with my friends on their family horse farms, dairy farms, and helping school chums raise sheep and pigs for the county and state fair competitions. (In the case of the pigs, I also helped eat them later, teaching me the lesson to never name your food, or play with it.) The county fair where I grew up (Stark County, Ohio), is about the same size as state fair here.

So, anyway, off we went to Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina, where the fair is held. "We're going to see piggies and chickens and bunnies and cows!" I told the Goober, to which she replied "Moo!" The cows kind of freaked her out, I think because they were so big. After all, she's used to looking at them in books. She got to pet a bunny, and that was okay too, but the BIG excitement came when we hit the pig barn. I think they look the most like the pictures in the books she looks at. So she and the pig had a great conversation, oinking at each other (make sure to turn it up, so you can hear the oinking):

After tours of the animal barns, we decided to go look at the knitting. As the Husbeast said, "This ought to be good." Remember last year, how the Blue Shimmer didn't place at all? This year's FIRST PLACE in the women's sweater division was a Fair Isle vest (like, with no sleeves):

It's knit at about five stitches to the inch, a little puckered, and the ribbed edges looked like the bindoffs were too tight. Just saying.

More poking around, and we found the other first-place winners, including the winner of the lace division:

It was folded, but appeared to be baby blanket/christening shawl sized. The parts I could see were stitch perfect, and the whole thing was at about nine stitches to the inch, with lace weight yarn, on maybe size one needles. With the all-important knit-on edge. Beautiful work.

We started poking around again, looking for the "Best in Show" winner, the person whose work was considered the best of all the knitting entries, in all divisions. Finally, I found it; I'd walked past it twice. Brace yourselves.

A knit purse. With fun fur. The Husbeast said, in his carrying Husbeast Voice, "I'm no expert, but that's fucked up."

Interestingly, all of the first place winners this year were from Columbia, except the lady who knit the lace (and should have won the Best in Show). It makes me really, really glad I didn't enter this year. If you're the one who knit that lace, all my sympathies.

The Goober is really tired now.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sekhmet, you fucker.

If you can't tell what's going on, that's me, trying to play Civilization IV on my laptop, as the cat sleeps on my left arm and the keyboard.

Friday, October 12, 2007


There were a lot of really good comments and questions about yesterday's post on knitting and migration and trade routes, so I'm gonna just keep on going with the discussion. (Skip down if you're not interested in this, there are some cute photos at the bottom.)

In agreement with the comments in general, I will say that yes - the human race never stayed home. Modern humans like to think that 'primitive' humans stayed home because of a lack of cars and superhighways and airplanes, but it's just not so. We've always been a mobile species. Thanks to new methods that make it possible to trace EXACTLY where stones and woods and even people come from (trace elements unique to each area, to simplify it), we have more and more proof of ancient, wide-spread trade routes. While a lot of you have the right idea, the trade routes you're naming (which did exist), were too early for knitting to travel along. Remember, we're talking 1000 CE and later. Basically, the Middle Ages.

Bog bodies have been found in Europe for hundreds of years, and date from eight thousand BCE on up to modern murder victims. The classic idea of a bog body, though, comes from the bronze or iron age, and was often a human sacrifice. Those date to about two thousand years ago and as such are about a thousand years too early for knitting to be found on them. To my knowledge, knitting has never been found on a bronze/iron age bog body (and I did a quick Google search to check, and that didn't produce anything, either). Most textiles found with bog bodies are leather or woven wool, occasionally woven linen. Of course, this doesn't rule out more modern bodies found in bogs, and those HAVE been found with knitting on them - in particular, guys wearing socks, falling into bogs on their way home from the pub. So I guess the answer to this one is yes and no. If anyone has info on knitting pulled out of a bog, dating to anything earlier than 1200 CE, I'd love to hear about it. I think there was a case in Denmark that involved knitting, dated to about 1300 CE.

Islam's rules on decoration are kind of iffy, depending on how strict people are feeling. The line in the Old Testament (which Muslims also follow to a degree) about having 'no graven images' was originally interpreted to mean no images of Allah or Mohammed. Then it extended to no images of people at all. THEN, depending, it was interpreted to mean no pictures of any living thing, including plants, again depending on who was doing the interpreting and how strict they were feeling. Others argued that it only applied to sacred texts, and anything went in secular decoration and writing. So it's possible to turn up portraits of people, and illustrated texts like 'Thousand and One Nights'. Many people chose to skip the whole damn issue, and went ahead with abstract patterns (like yesterday's Steeked Jacket, and their carpets and tile work), and others did calligraphy. Calligraphy is still a major decorative art in Islamic culture, and outside Asia, the highest form of the art in the world (if you ask me). I love Islamic calligraphy, even if I can't read it. Iznik tiles were (and are, in some circles) world famous ceramics in abstract patterns that have been used by several famous knitters as inspiration (Kaffee Fasset being the best known).

Oh. And early knitting from Egypt has Islamic calligraphy knit into it (mostly 'Allah', occasionally blessings). So those Eurocentric types who claim it was knit by Euros in Egypt, or Egyptian Christians, are full of crap. Most Christians in 1000 CE didn't know how to read or write Arabic any more than we do now. Heck, most of Europe couldn't read or write their OWN languages - that's why when knitting hit western Europe they quit knitting words and started knitting family crests.

I think that hits most of the Q&A from yesterday. If not, drop me a line.

-... -

Otherwise, the husbeast took me out shopping last night, and I bought shoes. There's nothing like retail therapy to make a girl feel better. I'll save the shoe photos for another day, but here was the big prize of the evening:

It's a canvas sleeve full of pockets, that fits over a coffee mug. You can - obviously - fill the mug full of needles and the pockets full of scissors and other stuff. I have always used mugs to hold my knitting stuff, because I can pick them up by the handle and cart them around the house with me.

I had been aware of these for a while. They're made by Bucket Boss, a company that makes all kinds of organizational doohickies to hang on buckets, so you can use them like a tool box, sort of. The plan was, this payday, to order a couple of the mug organizers for Christmas presents, to knitters and other crafters on my list (my sister-in-law sews). On line I had found them for $20 USD, and so was only going to get two. Last night at the outlet mall I SCORED THE SAME EXACT THING FOR $2.50 USD!! That's almost A TENTH of the price I'd planned to pay! EEEEEE!!! I got an armload of them and now eveyrone's getting one.

-... -

The Goober is still cute (and was an angel last night during the shopping):

And Sekhmet is still a freak:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Knitting migrations.

Waay back in 2004, I wrote a research paper on the history of knitting, for an English class that required a research paper. Eventually, after some chaos and shuffling, it became the Knitty article that I wrote about the history of knitting, in 2006. For both projects, I stuck to the facts and avoided most of my more interesting conclusions, because it was entirely theory and I'm not an expert, so it was basically just some person who read some books, making guesses.


Archeology has produced a lot of solid evidence that knitting was invented in Egypt, or by nomads near Egypt, about a thousand years ago. Considering how little ANYTHING survives a thousand years, it's a significant amount of evidence, and as far as I'm concerned, there's no real question over it. We could argue over the exact date, and the exact location, but in general, the information is solid. (I'm of the opinion that knitting was invented a few hundred years earlier than what we've got evidence for, because the scraps of knitting we have are all very complex and fancy - lots of color, etc - and that takes a while to develop.)

The big question, to my mind, is how knitting got from Egypt into Europe.

The most accepted theory - and quite valid - is that knitting moved along North Africa with the Arab people, up into Spain (which was occupied by Arabs from 711 to 1492, exactly the time frame we're talking about), and from there into the rest of Europe. Artifacts and trade routes and what is known bear that out. But there's another route into Europe, that we, in the West, never think about.

Now that I've had a few years to think about it and look at maps, I suspect that knitting ALSO got up into Europe through the 'back door' - Through Istanbul/the bosporous, the Black Sea, and up into Russia and from there west. Knitting was revolutionary, and I imagine ANYONE who knew about it, wanted to know how to do it, or at least buy lots and trade it down the road for a big profit (imagine wearing woven socks, and you get my point). The Black Sea route was a major trade route at the time, and I can't imagine knitting NOT traveling along it.

The only real evidence is Orenburg lace. It's unusual enough, and dates back far enough, that a case can be made that it was developed independently of any lace traditions in Western Europe. It's got several unusual techniques that aren't seen in the West (the way edgings are put on, how color is used, etc) and it's entirely possible it's a unique tradition.

Unfortunately, thanks to politics, the Black Sea route has never been studied or excavated to the same degree as Western Europe has been, so we don't have the piles of artifacts to support the theory (at least, we don't know about the artifacts in the West, which comes to the same thing as not having them).

I've also been looking at motifs in knitting - mostly color knitting - and there seem to be two schools. Western Europe originally copied THINGS - family crests, writing, fake rings on gloves, birds, snowflakes, that sort of thing (still does, to a great degree). In the East, they used abstract patterns that often have interchangeable backgrounds and foregrounds. The Steeked Jacket pattern (which is adapted from a Turkish sock pattern) is a prime example:

Which is the background? The blue or the pink? This kind of thing is classic for Eastern patterns, and Baltic. If you figure the Black Sea route connects the Baltic cultures to central Asia, it would explain a lot. Not proof, but it's food for thought.

Thoughts, comments, arguments? Anyone?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The things you learn on TV.

So, while I've been hiding under the futon, I've been vegetating in front of the TV. And one of my favorite 'trash TV' topics is true crime/forensics stuff, also known around here as murdervision.


-If you have such an unusual genetic profile that the technicians can recognize it at a glance and say "oh yeah, I saw that profile two months ago", you have no business committing crimes. Stay home and learn to knit.

-If you plan to go berserk in court and start screaming about how the police and lawyers are Nazis, and compare your trial to the Nuremburg trials, it would be wise to make sure the judge isn't Jewish, first.

-If you leave donuts and coffee for the police on your tail, they WILL track you down and find you, if it takes ten years and a fifty-man task force.

-If you're going to drive a hundred miles into the desert and spend days burning a body to get rid of it, make sure there isn't a one-of-a-kind, custom made bracelet with the victim's name on it, laying next to the body, when you leave.

-If you're going to leave tire tracks next to a body you've dumped, you might want to make sure you don't have four different kinds of tires on your vehicle. That's a little distinctive. The jury won't buy it, later, when you try to convince them someone ELSE in the county is driving around in a car with the same four odd tires on it.

-If you want the federal government to leave you alone, shooting three federal agents, while being videotaped, is not the way to go.

There you are. I'm sure all of us can use these tips in our everyday lives. Keep them in mind. Glad to be of help.


This post is coming to you from under the futon, where I crawl and suck my thumb when things get crazy in my life.

If you're here for knitting content, sorry, try back tomorrow. I am knitting, but it looks much like the last photo I posted. Green and white diagonal lines.

The Goober came down with Roseola at the end of last week. It was a mild case, but she still had a low fever and spent the last three days alternately sleeping, whining, and laying on me. At the moment the rash is fading and she's on the mend, and the only real symptom left is her sleeping fifteen hours a day.

As for me, I'm trying to shift from one bunch of chronic pain medication to another. Right now, I'm at the stage where I take BOTH bunches of medication, while the new one kicks in, and then I can quit the old one. So I'm nauseated and sleep almost as much as the Goober.

Then, of course, I go this afternoon for the MRI for my shoulder, which is now hurting all the time.

Good, good times. I'm going to go suck my thumb now.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More knitting.

I think this is the longest I've ever gone on this blog, discussing knitting, without a tangeant off into something else - food history, cockroaches, auto mechanics, something. But really all I'm doing is knitting, so that's what you get to hear about. It IS a knitting blog.

The Russian Prime continues apace:

I'm really enjoying it, and can't wait to see how it looks, finished. (For those of you unfamiliar with the pattern, you'll be quite impressed with how the sleeves are done.)

Long time readers may remember me complaining about how, years ago, I knit a silk throw and the silk contained fifty pounds of twigs, dirt, and lint. While I was running about taking photos the other night, I snapped one of That Silk Throw:

The cat is still crazy:

And the Goober is still cute:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The sweater of shame.

Lately I've been taking photos of old projects - at least, the ones laying around the house - with an eye to posting them on Ravelry. There has been a little bit of "oh, I'd forgotten I knit that" going on, but the biggie, the sweater that lurks in my subconscious, is this one:

"Koningsborg", by Dale of Norway. (It's rather desperately in need of blocking... cut me some slack. It's never been finished, so it's never been blocked, so it's still doing the humped-up stranded color thing.)

Unfortunately for me, I knit my initials and the date into the hem, so I know just how long this thing has been sitting around, waiting for me to finish it. It was so long ago, I was still knitting in hems, instead of hand-hemming them. I think the steeks are machine-stitched, too.

I'm thinking next year may be the year of project monogamy. I could alternate old projects and new, but pick one and keep working on it until it's finished.

Either that or I could have the husbeast hold a gun to my head. I think he's ready to.

-... -

Remember the trivia team? (If not, we've been doing a pub trivia game, that turned into a tournament.) Today was the last game, winnter gets two thousand dollars. We'd managed to qualify for finals (somehow), so off we went today, to play.

We didn't win.

But we didn't come in dead last, either. And we beat the two teams we had grudges against. So all is well.

Coulda used that money, though. To buy yarn.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Strikking along.

Still feeling rotten, so here's another blah, short post. I've been knitting as much as possible, but thanks to the shoulder problem, it's not as much as I'd like. Still, I'm getting stuff done, and enjoying it. For now, that's enough.

There was a question about the chart you can see in my last photo, the one with the cat. No, I did not make it on the computer. I copied it out of the book ("Meg Swansen's Knitting"), and then colored it in with a colored pencil so that it would be really easy to read while wrestling cats, goobers, and dropping everything to run to the bathroom (you so don't want to know). As usual, the copyright laws on this stuff is iffy, so I go with "If I wrote the book, would I mind?" and the answer is no. I paid for the book fair and square, and am using this copy (in fact, the copy is laying ON the book) to avoid trashing the binding of the book or dirtying up the pages. When I'm done, I'll throw the copy away, not sell it for profit. So... I don't see anything wrong with it, and I don't think any knitwear designer with a brain would mind that kind of thing.

When I was adding Strikke-alongers to the sidebar, I missed a link. I've added it, and everyone stop by and say hello to Josie.

Strikke strikke strikke!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How NOT to work stranded color.

There is a transmission in my hallway.

The husbeast is off on another round of buying car parts, and installing them in various vehicles. Some for repairs, some for the fun of it. The latest round of purchases arrived this morning and is piled in my front hall. It looks like the front office of a car dealership.

-... -

We've got a tropical storm parked over the house, and I intend to spend the rest of the day (or at least the Goober's nap time) holed up, knitting. I've already begun worrying about whether I'll have enough yarn.

-... -


Khris asked about whether or not doing stranded color left little snaggy things on the inside of the knitting and the answer is, yes. That's why you're not supposed to strand color much longer than an inch, without knitting it in again. There are other ways to work it, though, and Armenian knitting is probably going to be the next big thing - it's a method of using two colors for an entire sweater, twisting them every few stitches. The unused color kind of shows through on the front, but it's all over, so it looks like a design element, and not a mistake. It's an old method used by Elsa Shiaparelli, and there's a new book about it coming out soon from Meg Swansen.

There have also been comments in strikke-alongers blogs about finishing their project in a month. It'd be nice, but don't sweat it if you run over. It's going to take a miracle for me to finish this sweater in a month.

Sorry for the blah blog post today, but it's a blah kind of day around here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Stranded color.

There've been some questions about stranded color, and floats, and carrying yarns and stuff. So here's how I do it; really there's no wrong way, unless it unravels. I carry the yarn in my left hand, knitting continental, all the time. So when it's time to carry two (or more) colors, I just add them in my left hand, between different fingers. First color is between index and middle, second color between middle and ring, etc. I can and have carried four colors this way, leaving the fourth color to sort of dangle, and picking it up as needed (during brief moments of insanity). Here's a photo to give you an idea:
Note the Dolores tee. For good measure, the husbeast and I got a little crazy and shot some video:

You get the idea. I hope. (I've never watched video of myself knitting before. Wow. I look kind of, like, talented, don't I? Huh. Damnedest thing.)

There were also some questions about how the stranded color should look on the reverse side, and it should be a simple fabric with floats of one color or the other, running along. They don't need to be twisted, and shouldn't be (it'll just add bulk to the fabric, and unless you're knitting with sock yarn, you really don't need bulk). Remember, those floats make the fabric twice as thick and twice as warm.

See? It's just strings of yarn going across the back of the fabric.

And the front? Oh, it looks like this:

Heeheehee. Things are moving along. And I can knit the pattern while reading. Whee!

Monday, October 01, 2007


Happy Strikke-day, knit-alongers! Today's the day to cast on. And guess what? For your entertainment, I've gone completely insane and am going to try to knit a sweater in a month. (Incidentally, if I did not have a two year old in the house, I would be confident in my ability to pull this off. With the two year old? Anybody's guess.)

The new project is eligible for the Strikke-along because:
-It's a Russian pattern, and Russia was settled by Vikings.
-The pattern was written by a woman in N America, which was settled by Vikings.
-It would look good on Viggo Mortensen.
-I have a feeling I will start drinking Aquavit before this is all over.

See, back when I was making decisions about what to knit my mother-in-law for Chrsitmas, I was eyeing the Russian Prime sweater from "Meg Swansen's Knitting". But for some dumbass reason, I went off and knit the ugly pea green sideways cardigan instead. I think it was some lame idea that it would be more flattering. One of my new goals is to quit knitting what looks good and KNIT WHAT I WANT. It's a hobby, for crying out loud.

Long story short, last week I was brooding over how I'm constantly knitting for other people and not me, and how I've somehow turned knitting into a job, and thinking back on the years where I would knit what I felt like, and what I felt like usually turned into really beautiful projects, or at least interesting and educational projects. And I posted the pea green ugliness on Ravelry and while rating the pattern and the yarn I realized I hated both. Not the DESIGN, but the actual method of pattern-writing.

So. Here's the new gauge swatch:

I'm knitting this on SIZE FIVES. There will be no repeat of the size one lunacy of last year, particularly not as a gift. I ever do that again, I'm keeping it.

Last night I cheated and cast on and knit the hem; this morning I did the fold line and the row that establishes pattern. I don't have time to spare on this, and didn't want to wait for today. Anyone who wants to punish me for that, send Viggo Mortensen over to have a stern word with me.

Those of you who are contemplating sending a letter bomb to me because I've set aside Innsvinget YET AGAIN, first, you have to get in line behind the husbeast, who is growing quite disgusted. (He is after me to knit something for myself. Isn't he sweeeeet?) And second, the Attack Cat will be sniffing all mail coming into the house for the next month. She's ready and on the job. See?

Happy strikking, everyone! And good luck.