Monday, March 31, 2008

Something accomplished.

It kind of reminds me of peacock feathers, where the overwhelming color is blue, but there are little flecks of everything else. I've got about 1200 yards of it, plus another 200 or so yards of a related, brighter blue. I'm gonna knit a plain old stockinette sweater and put the brighter blue around the yoke.

I know, I know, I'm starting a new project before I finish anything else. Screw it. I'll finish the rest of this stuff sometime or other.

Life is short. Knit whatever you want. I think it's going to be my new motto.

-... -

Since I didn't do much in the last few days other than spin and sleep (and deal with temper tantrums - the Goober's, not the husbeast's), there's no real news. But I haven't fallen on or over anything lately, or slammed my hand in a door, or broken any bones. But I'm going to the gym tonight, so who knows? The day is young, yet.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

As if things weren't fucked up enough...

Last night, going out the back door to the porch, intending to sit on the porch swing and watch the Goober play in her sandbox, I crashed and burned. Splat. Onto concrete. Broke the cup I was carrying, threw the camera OFF the porch (it came to rest under a tree in the back yard - and survived, amazingly), and flung ice cubes and soda all the hell over the place. The worst part was, the Goober saw the whole thing. While I was laying on the ground, waiting for the pain to abate, she kept asking "Mumma? You okay?" and I would say "Yes, baby, I'm fine." and she would wait a moment, then ask again. Ugh.

She did kiss me to make it better, after I got up off the ground. And picked up the ice cubes for me.

Anyway, since fixing dinner and walking around the house have become contact sports, what the fuck, I might as well do what I want:

I'm almost on the second bobbin. To hell with this 'take a break' crap.

And after that? I'm going to try spinning a version of Purple Trainwreck. That should be interesting.

Friday, March 28, 2008

When did everyone go insane?

And how is it I didn't notice? (Okay, I'd sort of noticed I was insane, about the time I started thinking about building my own loom. But the rest of this stuff snuck up on me.)

Last night I smashed my bum hand in the pantry door. For the rest of the evening, the Goober would pretend to bonk her arm on things, stop, clutch it, and yell "OW, FUCK!" ...thankfully this morning she seems to have forgotten the new vocabulary words.

Then, through a haze of painkillers, FedEx dropped off a package. I'm sitting there thinking "Shit, did I order more wool and forget...?" but it wasn't for me. It was for the husbeast. Inside was a watch. (No idea when he ordered it, why, or how he paid for it. At the moment my stress levels are high enough and I'm not asking because I know the answers will piss me off.) Anyway. This watch does everything but wipe his ass for him. A compass, a thermometer, a BAROMETER, it even does altitude. Setting it, among other things, involved telling it how high above sea level it is, and how far the husbeast's hand is from the ground when he's walking around. Then the Goober found all the super-large buttons on it and the two of them spent the rest of the night playing with it. My only thought is "What, no microwave?"

This morning I was awakened by Sekhmet, who was standing on my back, meowing, and beating on my head with her paw. Fucker.

-... -

As if things aren't weird enough around here, I've been trying to order "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" because the Goober's big into music and I won't mind watching them over and over. I thought this would be a simple matter of logging onto the Disney web site and paying them. But no.

A bit of backstory for those overseas - Hollywood has been claiming for years that they're losing massive piles of money to piracy and re-sold DVDs. Even though accountants and mathmaticians have proven that their statistics are bogus and it's impossible for them to lose as much as they're claiming (according to them, they lost SIX BILLION in the year 2005 alone, to pirated copies). Their solution to this is propaganda (including a web site that makes movie piracy out to be worse than child molestation and selling nuclear warheads to small middle eastern countries), and to prosecute anyone who does ANYTHING remotely threatening to their copyrights.

Because suing your customers is always such good business.

Okay. With this in mind, I logged on to Disney. No Fantasia available. It's a "Limited Edition" and isn't being released right now. WHICH MEANS TO GET A COPY I HAVE TO BUY A USED COPY, WHICH THEY CLAIM IS ILLEGAL. If the motherfuckers want to quit losing money to piracy, WHY AREN'T THE SONS OF BITCHES SELLING THE GODDAMN DVDS????? Assholes. Total assholes. I'm tempted to fire off an e-mail to Disney entitled 'you stupid morons', but I doubt they'd open it.

Only in America. Not selling a product and then getting pissed when people buy used. What in the FUCK? They deserve to lose six billion dollars. Dickheads.

-... -

Anyway, thanks to my hand smash last night, I've decided taking time off is pretty pointless, to hell with it, and I'm going to finish up spinning this teal wool. Why not? Everyone else has lost their mind. I need to join in.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's spring!

How do I know? Two ways.

The first, more traditional way, is that everyone in the house has a nose full of snot. Including the cat.

The second, more fun way? The Washington Post did their Peep Diorama contest. Click. You must.

My fave is the Tomb of King Peepankhamun. Of course.

Otherwise, still trying to take a break from the fiber stuff, still listening to the iPod, still reading textile history books and fighting the urge to build my own draw loom on the back porch.

Or maybe a trebuchet. Hmmm. Textiles, or declare war on the neighbors. Hmmm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This is all the Smithsonian's fault.

It didn't take much of a search, but I figured out where this odd urge to weave sixty million yards of silk to make my own kimono, or tapestries for the walls of my office, or overshot twill for my dining room table came from. Oh yes. I know who to blame now.

5,000 years of textiles, edited by Jennifer Harris, published by Smithsonian Books. (For those of you overseas, the Smithsonian is our many-branched national museum, and one of the few things I know of still running properly in this government. Knock on wood.) I've been reading this book for about a week, and it's wonderful.

The book starts off with a discussion of methods - spinning, weaving, tapestry, knitting, lace-making of various types. Then it heads off on a worldwide survey of everything on the planet that could possibly fall under the heading 'textiles', from European iron-age wool twill to African ikats to Indonesian batiks to Muslim carpets and Japanese silks. The head spins. I have finally faced the fact that knitting cannot copy EVERY kind of textile - so here we are at this lunatic urge to buy a loom and weave, oh, I don't know, warp-dyed ikat or a Gobelin tapestry.

I may yet get a grip and control myself with this whole weaving thing. Last thing I need around here is another hobby.

But I doubt it.

Among all the woven textiles, there is the very first close-up view of the silk knitted jackets thought to have been produced in Italy during the 1500s. With my nose pushed up against the page (couldn't find the magnifying glass - the Goober's been playing with it), I'm about 90% sure the stitches were twisted. The color knitting methods make me suspect it was knit on a frame or rake... anyone out there who does frame knitting, is it easier to make twisted stitches, than regular?

Oh, and add that to the list of stuff I want to knit: a copy of those jackets. Like this one.

And, holy crap, the Cooper-Hewitt (the textiles branch of the Smithsonian) has an on-line store.

I'm writing a complaint letter. I swear it. My hand is killing me, so I'm trying to take a break from the knitting and spinning, so I sit down to read a book, and see all this fantastic stuff I want to knit, and... and... and...

A very strongly worded complaint letter. How dare they inspire me and make me want to learn? What do they think they're doing? Their jobs??!!?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

If a thing is worth doing...'s worth overdoing, I always say.

I certainly did that this weekend. 750 yards of two-ply, sport weight yarn were spun up. Then I started playing with the colors I got last week, and when I noticed that the middle of my back between my shoulder blades felt like it was on fire, I thought maybe - just maybe - I should lay off for a little while. This kind of thing has happened before; when I was knitting the Starry Night Ruana Thingie, I'd pop in the Lord of the Rings director's cut DVD and start knitting, snap out of it three hours later, and wonder why my fingers were numb. This time it's Stargate. Seasons and seasons and seasons of Stargate. With no commercials.

The good news is, I think the spinning is helping my pinch/grip strength, which has always sucked since I broke my hand. The actions of spinning are kind of like weight lifting for the small muscles of my hands and fingers. So long as I don't overdo it (again), it might actually be good for me.

It looks like there's enough of this yarn (about a thousand yards, total) to knit a sweater; I'm going to spin up the rest of the teal by itself (I'm out of the darker blue) and throw it in with random stripes. Sometime. Soon. Plain stockinette. Soon. Really.

-... -

Here is a photo of the Goober. See that earnest look on her face? How serious she is?

She was trying to explain to me why she needed jelly beans for breakfast.

She got a banana.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I've got the two-ply blues.

Doobie doobie do wah.

I've spent the day plying two bobbins of 'old wool' (the blue and teal heathered stuff I got last month) in an attempt to free up said bobbins for new color experiments with the wool that got here yesterday. Two solid hours of treadling later, I've got one stinkin' bobbin of plied yarn:

And I have barely scratched (spun?) the surface of the two bobbins I'm plying FROM:

... no idea what that lopsided tumor-looking bobbin has going on. I'll be lucky to get this done by the end of the weekend. The plan, originally, was to knit a felted bag with this yarn, but now I'm wondering if there will be enough to knit a sweater. Or three. Urgh.

-... -

Thank you to all who are weighing in on the weaving issue. As usual, I don't think I've properly expressed exactly what I'm thinking of doing, so I'll give it another shot. First, I intend to fool around with plain weaving, to get a feel for it and decide if I enjoy it enough to get more serious about it. (Not to mention the hand issues - I have to make sure I can do it without winding up on painkillers regularly.) This phase, I'm thinking some place mats, maybe a table runner, some dish cloths. Cotton thread, tabby weave. I might get wild and put in some stripes or something. That's it.

THEN, assuming I'm still having a good time (big assumption; we'll see), I want to try my hand at some wall hangings, which would be in brocade, which appears to be (from my reading) fairly simple, but tedious. We're talking cotton or linen warp and weft, with whatever strikes my fancy for secondary weft. Again, we'll see. I'd also been thinking of giving rug weaving a try, until I researched it further and saw how those knots have to be tied... forget that. My hand hurts just looking at the diagrams.

At the back of my mind is lurking the thought that it would be cool to knit enough yardage to make myself a kimono, but I doubt I'd ever get that far.

If you've just decided I am insane, my only comment is, what, haven't you been paying attention?

-... -

Last night the Husbeast brought home a box of diapers, and after we put them away, he was looking at the box and said "You know, I bet the Goob would fit in here." and the next thing I know...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meanwhile, having lost my mind...

I've been reading up on weaving and looms and considering just what I want to do with the whole weaving idea, and I keep returning to one thought: This is stone-age technology. I should be able to cobble together my own stinkin' loom for less than the ridiculous prices I'm seeing on the internet and in catalogues. I could build my own freakin' draw loom for less than they're charging for these four-shaft floor looms. It's insane. So. I'm seriously thinking about building my own, at least to fool around with and decide how serious I wanna get about the whole thing.

Then, of course, the little voice at the back of my mind (you know the one) asks "Yeah, flint knapping is stone age technology too. Remember the blood loss the last time you tried THAT?"

So... we'll see what happens. Any weavers out there, if I wanna do regular tabby-weave brocade, I just need a rigid heddle loom, basic stuff, right?

Stay tuned for further insanity.

I doubt the husbeast is going to let me hammer nails into the floor... hmmm....

-... -

Today in the mail, I got a bag of roving samples in over a dozen colors, to play with. I'd hoped to finish spinning up the LAST pile of roving I bought before it got here... so I've spent the afternoon spinning like a wild woman, working on the old stuff while drooling over the big bag of roving sitting on the dining room table.

-... -

I got the Goober some "Little People" from Fisher Price. She's thrilled.

She's making all the proper animal noises. It's very cute. We're waiting for the barn to get here - it's still in the mail.

-... -

Almost done with sleeve one of the Russian Prime. I hope to do the wrist ribbing tonight. That only took, what, a million years. Oy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I think I'm old.

Pretty sure I'm old. Because the husbeast bought me an iPod Shuffle (a 'just because' present, he says) (no, he is MINE you cannot have him) and it got here last night. I synched it with the computer, loaded on THIRTEEN HOURS' worth of music, and turned it on. It sounds great, wonderful digital sound. A battery charge lasts around twelve hours. What makes me old about all this? (Other than the fact it took me this long to get an iPod.)

LOOK AT HOW FUCKING SMALL IT IS!!! That's IT. Battery, music, volume control, EVERYTHING. It's a freaking postage stamp!!! I had a first generation Walkman, for crying out loud... this solid state digital age stuff is making my head swim.

But it is cool.

So last night I put on my ol' head phones and dug in to do some spinning.

At one point I noticed the Husbeast was standing in the door laughing at me. I turned down the music and said, "What?" he kept laughing and said "It's the contradition that is you." I said "Huh?" again. This went back and forth for a while. I really wasn't getting the clash of high-tech iPod and medieval tech spinning wheel all in the same place. But the Husbeast was mighty amused.

Sekhmet has proven, yet again, the extreme lengths she will go to, to find a sunbeam:


I've hit kind of a dry spell on books; I've read everything new, and my next order of books won't get here until this weekend (a book to teach myself chemistry, and another book on the history of textiles). So I pulled out this art history book I've got, that's, um, like 900 pages long (I've been meaning to read it for years, instead of just looking at the pretty pictures). Then I started at the beginning and started to read. I'm up to classical Greece now, and have reinforced all my previous thoughts on art and history: the stone age and neolithic are fascinating; textiles and clothing are fascinating; jewelry and other gemstones are fascinating; and I don't give a rat's furry ass about statuary or Great Paintings. I'm seriously thinking about skipping ahead to India or China; Greece is for the birds.

Anyone know how to knit a toga?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lemonade, and stuff.

There were some questions about yesterday's lemonade post. First, the pitcher is Fiestaware, the full-size disk pitcher. Not sure it's available in yellow any longer, though. They do limited runs of some colors. But it's one of their classics, and the shape at least is always available. (Come on, you guys should have known what that was, at least those of you in the US. Fiestaware is like the Limoges or Waterford of the US.)

The recipe for the lemonade is available, here. I actually found Myer lemons at the grocery store (I was so shocked, I just stood there, boggling, for a moment). If you ARE using Myer lemons instead of regular, use more juice than the recipe calls for; it's very mild in taste compared to the paint-stripper aspect of regular lemons.

Sekhmet, that fucker, is laying on the Russian Prime. And the Goober is talking to her toes.

I'm anxiously awaiting my book on color in spinning, and my sampler bag of twelve (fourteen?) colors of wool roving.

And I'm still looking at looms.

In. Sane.

And these two aren't helping.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

First sign of spring.

Woo and hoo.

FINALLY saw the wrap-up of the Stargate SG1 series, which they put on a direct-to-DVD movie. They have plans to continue making those movies, and I gotta say, if they're all as good as this one was, I'm all in favor of it. Some excellent plot twists in the movie, and no killing off characters for stupid reasons.

While watching the movie, I sat and knit. I'm making a concentrated effort to finish the Russian Prime, because it's serving essentially as a prototype and giant gauge swatch for the Newgrange sweater, which I'm gonna knit knext. (My poor father-in-law's sweater is getting pushed back, AGAIN.) Don't know how long I'm gonna last at the whole 'concentration' thing, though, 'cause yesterday I ordered a book about spinning with color and a variety pack of dyed wool roving. 'Cause, as you know, I don't have enough fiber insanity going on around here.

Speaking of fiber insanity... thank you to all who offered loom advice. I've done a bit more research and what I want to try is basic weaving with a few detours into brocade. For that I think a rigid heddle loom, a basic one, would get the job done. But let me know if you disagree; heavn knows there are a LOT more experienced weavers out there. (There's one rigid heddle loom, I think by Kromski, that has built-in warping pegs and folds up when not in use. It's a tabletop, but we've got a huge variety of tables at different heights around here, so I think that would work.)

Trying to gear up for an exciting day of grocery shopping.

Oh, and someone knit a Fair Isle sweater from this:

I won't get to it before 2050.

White (blog post) and an open Etsy shop, coming soon to a computer near you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

We have a winner!

Thanks to the random number generator, our winner is Rachel, of Knitting and nerdiness. Rachel, e-mail me your addy at JTheaker AT sc DOT rr DOT com and I'll get it in the mail to you. I underestimated the yardage, so I'm throwing in some other homespun for you.

-... -

I'm already a week late in getting my Etsy shop up and running, according to my mental calendar. And it might be later. Real life is biting me in the ass and keeping my head above water has been hard. But I did dye some yarn this week, and I am getting my act together. Really. I swear.

Knitting while reading has also bitten me in the ass, and I'm pulling out two rows of the Russian Prime (taking a break from the annoyance to blog, actually) and giving it another go.

Reading a book on art history, since I finished the one on Chinese art history, and I've come to an interesting realization: I don't give a shit about the fine arts. I wanna know about the DECORATIVE arts. (I blame this on my mother, who was an extremely practical woman, and it has apparently rubbed off on me.) So I'm skimming. But I keep finding more and more inspiration for more and more knitting patterns. I'm going to be writing up a pattern for an imitation of celadon porcelain in the next couple weeks, so possible test knitters, watch this space.

And, by request, a photo of the Goober:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I had a dream...

...that I was weaving on a loom. I woke up, and thought 'but where would I put it in my office?'

I'm doomed.

-... -

Am quitting try number two at finding a drug that works on the nerve damage in my wrist (it fires off signals at random - itchy, hot, cold, pain, weirdness). It's a fine line between 'nerve damage muffled' and 'zombie', because of course anything that muffles the nervous system is a sedative. And apparently I'm sensitive to them, into the bargain; for the last two or three days I've been falling asleep every time I sit still, and that is NOT a good thing with a two year old in the house.

On the other hand, I've done a good bit of dyeing and spinning, finally producing a spun yarn that's nice enough I'm willing to charge money for it. I desperately need to get my Etsy shop up and running, if for no other reason than to get rid of some of these piles of yarn sitting all over the house. (The husbeast has been amazingly good-humored about the whole thing, but then with the amount of tools and gear he's got packed in the garage, he knows he's got no room for criticism.)

Gasoline here is climbing toward four dollars a gallon, and I'm thinking of only shipping for my shop on Wednesdays and Saturdays.... does that sound reasonable, or do you expect your yarn put in the mail immediately?

-... -

I'm planning to get a book on tapsetry weaving this payday. Doomed, I tell you, DOOMED.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bloody, buggering, pig-fucking hell.

While I was trying to deal with this, the Goober spit milk all over the dining room.

It's a shame I quit drinking.

Topic jumble.

I tried to post a couple times over the weekend, but Blogger was doing their scheduled outrage (I assume related to the stupid time change), and I finally gave up in disgust. So here are answers to questions, rude commentary, and other things I've been thinking about.

-... -

There were some questions about drop spindles. They're a great way to try spinning, without the horrendous outlay for a spinning wheel (unless, like me, you have funky hand problems and all the twisting bothers your fingers). Essentially a stick with a weight on it, the construction is easy enough that you can get learn-to-spin kits from different places that include a spindle, directions, and wool to get started, for about thirty bucks. I suggest Halcyon Yarn, they're good people. Nice.

Of course, being me, I couldn't leave it alone and started poking around the 'net for information on the history of spinning. Spinning with a drop spindle goes back to the stone age. (Short video of someone using a drop spindle, here.) The spinning wheel was invented around 1000 CE somewhere in India or China. Around 1500 CE, someone in Europe got the bright idea to add the foot-pedal drive. Up until then, you spun the wheel with one hand and drafted the fiber with the other. (Which sounds utterly insane to me - the whole advantage of a spinning wheel, to me, is having both hands free to draft the fiber.) This old method with the hand crank wheel can still be seen in Great Wheels (mostly antique, but at least one company still makes them) and Indian 'charkas', which they use to spin cotton. ('Cause cotton spinning isn't hard enough with all those short little fibers, no, you gotta do it one-handed.) Excellent video of a Great Wheel being used here. You can see the evolution from spindle to wheel easily - this is sort of the platypus of spinning wheels, catching the whole thing in mid-shift from spindle to 'modern' wheels. (For contrast, you can go here and watch a woman using a modern wheel - watch her hands. You can see the major advantage.)

I'm thinking a history of spinning article for KnittySpin might be in order.

-... -

The husbeast got a photo over the weekend that perfectly captures the Goober's attitude:

That's her toy basket she's sitting in. Of course she dumped it out all over the floor, first.

-... -

I've decided on using the Newgrange pattern for my mother-in-law. In shades of blue or green or in-between, with accents of gold silk. It'll give me a chance to try this idea I have for pattern writing, and also to experiment with some silk, which I've been meaning to do. (I want to get weaving silk, and ply it on my wheel. And see if I can save money at it.) Plus that leaves the Taotie pattern to knit for myself. Possibly with silk. Mwahahaha.

On a related issue, the test knitting, I was thinking of sending the yarn to the test knitter (with the pattern of course), and then once the sweater's done, send it back to me, I'll take photos and stuff for the formal, for-sale version of the pattern, and then return it to the test knitter to keep. The test-knitter could make it in whatever size they wanted - I'd need to know ahead of time to provide the yarn, of course, but ALL the sizes are supposed to work, after all. Of course, that might make the test knitters a little picky about what they knit, if they're going to keep it, but that's all to the good - I want to write patterns people like.

Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, March 07, 2008


Haven't talked about those in a while. But first, a word about the photo from yesterday with the wild baby. See that huge white streak on the back of my head? That's a giant cowlick. If I cut my hair as short as the Goober's, it would look just like hers in that photo, only in black and white.

Anyway. Books.

I have this Dorling-Kindersley addiction. They're a British publishing firm that does mostly refrence books, with tons of sidebars, extra bits, and PICTURES. EVERYWHERE. I love me some pictures. And maps. And charts. So they have been publishing this history of the world book for a while:

It was kinda (okay, a lot) pricey, so I just drooled from a distance. But about a week ago, I found it on sale. With a further discount for being a member of the book store mailing list. So I bought it and am reading it now. It's six hundred pages long. I've already identified at least a thousand ideas for knitting. Oy. If only I'd had a text book like this in HS, I might have paid more attention in class.

Then, some folks have mentioned they're trying to learn to spin. In part due to my nefarious influence. So I feel honor bound to suggest my favorite spinning book:

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, by Lynne Vogel. There are three sections in the book: dye methods, spinning, and knitting socks. While the spinning information is slanted toward drop spindles, there is still a horde of information in there useful to wheel spinners also: it's got the best discussions of pre-drafting and using color in spinning that I've yet found. (I know there is a book entirely devoted to spinning with color, and I'm getting it, but it's pricey and this book covers a lot for the price.) At the moment, this book is probably the one I find myself refering to most, either for dye or spinning information.

Oh, and one last thing.

And I have to go out this afternoon to chase down my doc about a perscription. Nothing but good times ahead.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's the wild baby of Borneo!


Some of you were curious as to where I get ideas. Really, the problem is not ideas; I see knitting patterns and ideas EVERYWHERE. The problem is finding the time to knit them all. (I'm hoping to get the yarn biz going well enough that I can start hiring test knitters to produce some of these ideas, and then sell the patterns.) My brain works in a very visual way; maps and charts and pictures are my friends. Those weirdos who can look at a pattern and identify where it came from? I'm one of them. To give you an idea, while I was flipping through photos on line, looking for a photo of the Blue Mosque for this post, I spotted a photo and thought "That's not the Blue Mosque, that's the Allhambra, in Spain." It's rather spooky, even to me.

So, a smorgasboard of stuff I've been meaning to knit for years.

Celadon porcelain has always been one of my favorites, though other forms of Chinese ceramics are also tempting. I'd use a subtle gray-green yarn and knit a yoke sweater, with some subtle texture around the neck to imitate the way the clay was carved before the glaze was put on. I've got a folder on my computer called "celadon" that I copy photos to, when I run across things I like. Of course there are dozens of other types of pottery from all over the world that would translate wonderfully into knitwear.

There's a folder in my office of stuff I've torn out of magazines that I think would make cool sweaters; the latest is a couple of advertisements for scandinavian carpets, torn out of an Architectural Digest while I was in Florida.

Of course there are all the historic sources, such as the ones I produced yesterday. Another idea lurking in the back of my mind is to create a drapey kimono-style jacket based on the "Frieze of Archers" originally in the palace of Darius, king of Persians, at Susa. I've got several pictures of these guys laying around the house, waiting for the day I get off my ass and knit this. I'm thinking linen for drape, and otherwise sticking as close as possible to the designs and cut of what they're wearing. I'd like to do something similar with Minoan palace frescoes, Byzantine mosaics, and Japanese and Chinese scroll paintings, Russian icons, and illuminated manuscripts.

Then there's antique clothing of all types. I could go on for days about that. But one of my favorites is Mario Fortuny, the maker of the famous (well, in clothing history circles) delphos gowns of the early 1900s. While the gowns were certainly cool, it's the jackets he made to go over them that really fascinate me. The one at the left is stenciled velvet; I once got as far as knitting a gauge swatch with cotton chenille for the velvet and gold rayon for the gold paint... all I figured out was that I hate chenille yarn. Then there are the other great clothes of history - Worth, Charles I's execution undershirt, bronze age string skirts, and ethnic textiles from all over.

When I was in college in 2005, I spotted a photo of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul in my World Religions textbook. I turned the book sideways (earning an odd look from the prof, who later demanded an explanation, which got another odd look), and yup, there it was - Fair Isle patterns. I've got this one about half charted, and think a nice, crisp cotton would be better than wool in this case. (This tile photo is off the 'net, and I'm not sure where it's from - but it gives you an idea of the photo out of my textbook.)

And then there are ancient maps. Done in intarsia, in all colors, and felted. Cut like an old-fashioned frock coat. With sea monsters needle-felted onto the oceans where appropriate. And a dragon or two.

You see where this is going. I could go on for days. Art, textiles, history, you name it. I want to knit everything. Would anyone be interested in test knitting? And if so, how much would you charge? (I'd provide the yarn.)

All images copyright the human race, all rights reserved. 20,000 BCE - 2008 CE.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Chinese bronzes and megalithic carvings: a reader opinion poll.

So. I am half-assedly planning my mother-in-law's Christmas present. This is way far in advance, obviously, but I hate being rushed at Christmas and I love the 'I could knit this... or this... or this...' phase when the whole project is pure potential. The pure potential phase on this could stretch out three or four months, because I'm going to finish the Russian Prime, and then knit my father-in-law's Christmas sweater before I start on this one. The plan is to knit something in two-color stranded knitting, using either the Russian Prime construction (probably) or the Steeked Jacket construction (probably not, unless I'm using yarn I don't wanna steek).

The current issue is the overall idea. I can't settle on that.

At first, I was going to do something based on the door lintel at Newgrange in Ireland. It's an early bronze age site, a tomb with very cool swirly thing going on:

At sunrise on Midsummer's Day, light shines through a hole above the door and all the way down the shaft of the tomb to the burial at the end. I was thinking of knitting this with a dark gray/blue and a light blue, with touches of gold silk detailing to represent the sunlight.

Then I got this damn book on Chinese art history that I'm reading. And that reminded me of several other ideas I've had for years that I could do instead.

The oldest idea, and probably the oldest of these patterns, is the 'Taotie'. That translates roughly to 'glutton' and is a face motif found on very old Chinese bronzes:

There is an old legend of a demon that was cast out of China by it's first settlers, then bound and forced to act as a guardian. Most historians suspect that's what the taotie represents. There are varying degrees of subtlety in its use:

I would make my version fairly elaborate (covering the whole sweater), but subtle, so unless you look closely it resembles a lot of swirls. I'd do it in ivory and turqouise, after a cup found in the tomb of empress Fu Hao:

Then there's my last idea:

Basically, copy that. It's another Chinese bronze, this time inlaid with silver. I was thinking I could custom spin the darker yarn, to look like the bronze patina, with different shades of brown with a little blue and green thrown in. And I could use a bright white or silvery gray for the silver bits. This one is probably the least complicated in terms of making the pattern (yeah, really), but I'd be spinning the yarn for it which would obviously take a while.

So. Two questions. One, what do you guys think is the best idea, and two, would y'all be interested in me walking you through the entire design process to see how I do it?

[Most of these images, copyright the Freer Gallery of Art, a branch of the Smithsonian. I will spare all of you the rant about how they can take their alleged copyright of cultural treasures stolen from other people and smoke it. But the collections available on line are great. Check 'em out.]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Let's have a contest.

Win this lovely (?) prize!

Between 120 and 150 yards (I will have a better idea once I wind it off the bobbin, and will give that more accurate figure to the recipient) of worsted-spun, three-ply merino wool. It wavers between sport and worsted weight, and is a nice, tweedy dark turquoise with flecks of everydamnthing. (For definition of the yarn weights, go here.)

What must you do to win this glorious prize? Leave me a comment, or e-mail, with suggestions for color names. Like Mermaid Tail, or Purple Trainwreck. You can include what colors it should be, or you can just give the name. I'll keep track of everyone, and next Wednesday (March 12) I will fire up the random number generator and pick someone. Multiple color names are welcome, but each person will get entered only once to keep the odds even. I'll use at least some of the name suggestions. International entries welcome; I will ship anywhere.

-... -

Thanks to the last adjustment of my medication, last Thursday, my ability to concentrate is FINALLY back, and thereby my enjoyment of many things, like reading and knitting. I started back to the gym last night, after more than a month away. We did weigh and measure first off, and it was like I never left; all my numbers were nearly identical to my last weigh and measure waaaay back in October. I got winded pretty quickly, but I hope to build back up to going every weeknight, like I was doing before that stupid idiot Colonel McCucheon cut me off all my medication in mid-December.

-... -

The Goober and Sekhmet have halted their world domination plans to declare war on each other, something like Amerca and the Soviet Union after WW2, only nastier. Hostilities commenced the other night, with incendiary Lego carpet-bombing:

Sekhmet could not be reached for comment, but I suspect will be falling back on guerilla warfare.

-... -

Trying to get motivated to change my blog template and add all the color articles to the sidebar... while I'm at it, is anyone interesting in me doing white and black, as well? Or is everyone about done with the whole color issue?

'Cause I'm reading up on Chinese art history and can go on for hours about the bronzes.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It's getting surreal around here.

Okay, okay, it's possible it has always been surreal and I'm just noticing.

Last night I was in my office, spinning, and listening to internet radio, the 80's alternative station. The Ramones came on, "I Wanna Be Sedated" and I rarely get to play loud music any more 'cause usually when I'm spinning the Goober is in bed, so... I cranked it up. I've got some good speakers on my computer, so it was pretty loud. Next thing I know, the husbeast and the Goober burst into the room and moshed around me as I tried to keep spinning while laughing so hard I could barely see. Then Echo and the Bunnymen came on, and I left the sound up, and the husbeast said "What is this, the bad flashback channel?"

Being a grownup is a lot less serious than I thought it would be, when I was a kid. Or maybe I'm in denial. Either one works for me.

And then this morning, I'm in my office again, trying to send e-mail, and the Goober comes in and starts poking through my things. She can't resist the dye supplies, especially since I got organized with them. There's also a five-gallon bucket that she loves, more normally used to soak yarn and occasionally as a dye vat. I have said "Leave the bucket alone" so many times, I'd get a tee shirt made with that on it, if she could read. Anyway, after another round of 'leave that alone' this morning, I look away for a second, and the next thing I know...

"Mumma. I stuck." I was very, very, very tempted to leave her there.

-... -

My pound of wool arrived Saturday:

I've been spinning it up; I haven't quite gotten the hang of doing it thin enough to then ply and get sock yarn. I'm getting more like worsted weight. I'll still be selling off the stuff, probably at discount prices, because if I keep all the yarn I'm going to be spinning, I'll be buried. No way I can knit it up fast enough. (If you guys are wondering at all the blue I'm using, it's easy on the eyes and it's a very popular color, meaning it'll be easier to sell.)

I chain-plied what silk I had spun and skeined it up:

Not sure if I like it or not... it'll make a freaking warm scarf, though. Maybe I can unload it on someone for Christmas. And there's still half the silk left to spin... I think I'm going to be doing a tutorial on how to draft silk hankies, because you can knit from them without bothering to spin the fiber first (silk fibers are really long and the structure of knitting holds it together).

-... -

The husbeast has volunteered us to make sloppy joes for some charity thing on Wednesday. (To give him credit, if I said no, he'd make them himself. He's not forcing me to make it.) The only thing we have that's remotely appropriate to use is the roaster I use to dye yarn with.

Sure hope it doesn't turn the food purple.