Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ribbony madness.

There is a fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'.
-- Dave Barry

And we're skating the edge of the line here at House O' Samurai. I'm finishing up some, shall we say, experimental work in the form of a bunch of froo-froo barettes for some girls (possibly including my own girl), then will be offering more artfully rendered things in my Etsy shop. In a half-assed experiment this morning, I found myself pondering the above quote from Dave:

This is, obviously, a five-cord braid. I'm gonna glue it onto a barette with some kinda flower poofs on the ends, and leave the long ribbons dangling down with beads on them. 'Cause all little girls love dangly bits. (Until we grow up and realize the best dangly bits are the parts we lead men around by. Oh. Wait. Did I type that out loud? Never mind. Ignore that.)

I have invented something I'm calling the 'six-petaled poof':

Not botanically accurate, but it will probably make a little girl squeal with delight when it is affixed in her hair. I showed it to the husbeast with some small pride, and he asked, "Is that a cock ring, or an IUD?"

I immediately turned toward the window - for better light - and took a photo.

He said "Oh geez, will that be going on the next -"


"Can you leave out the cock ring part?"

Nope. And you can start worrying about your dangly bits, too. I might string them with beads and tie knots in the ends.

LeGoob has gotten in on the act and mooched small bits of ribbon off me.

Here she attempts to look like a Replicant from Blade Runner. The Darryl Hannah flavor.

And the husbeast has just informed me he has turned on the deep fryer. Perhaps I should go see what that's all about.

Oh. And I am still knitting.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Odds and ends. And odds.

There appears to be a good bit of interest in the lace knitting, so I'll continue posting about it until I run out of stuff to say, or people beg me to shut up. For now I'll be writing them separately from the 'everyday posts' (of which, this is one) so that they're more easily archived/linked in my sidebar.

Sorry for anyone who contacted me by e-mail the last several days; I'm tweaking my medication again (messing with dosages mostly), and while I'm feeling better, feeling better means feeling good enough to sleep, so that's what I've mostly been doing.

Anyway. While feeling better yesterday I ran out to the craft store again (I'm scaring myself), got home, and found THIS on my futon:

NO idea how the little fucker wormed her way in there. Generally my futon can be used as an archeological record of what I've been doing for the past week; this photo is no exception.

And speaking of scaring myself, my desk looks like this:

I've gotta finish up the practice projects and start posting inventory to Etsy before my office explodes.

Judging from comments made in the hub's office just now, I strongly suspect he is cruising eBay for oboes. No, sorry, drum sets.

New insanity, coming your way, soon.

You know the crafting has gotten out of hand...

When you find yourself thinking a glue gun that runs off a USB port would be damn handy to have.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bored and knitting away.

So I thought I'd subject you guys to a meme thingie going around. The Omnivore's 100. It's a list of foods. Bold the ones you've eaten. Since I talk about food here a lot, I'll throw in some comments for - hopefully - entertainment. I'm a lot less picky than I have a reputation for, I'll say that.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare - beef sashimi, same diff
5. Crocodile - gator count?
6. Black pudding - I've had a Filipino equivalent with blood as the main ingredient. It, ah, did not agree with me. Though it tasted all right. The first time.
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht - Ick. Double, triple ick. Even sour cream doesn't save it.
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari - I don't eat tentacles
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi - a dry N Indian curry
15. Hot dog from a street cart - I prefer them at ball games
16. Epoisses - German cow's milk cheese; I've had a lot of Amish hand-made cheeses, so I may have had something similar and not known it
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - plum wine from Amish country, yum
19. Steamed pork buns - known as manapua in Hawaii
20. Pistachio ice cream - butter pecan is better
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries - I'm allergic
23. Foie gras - kind of bland, really
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese - unfortunately
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - no, and you can't make me
27. Dulce de leche - this is a latino milk-based caramel; FOOD OF THE GODS
28. Oysters - allergic, yay
29. Baklava - best when homemade by someone other than me
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas - once; these are movie snacks in Hawaii
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - still allergic, yay
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut - don't like it, but I've eaten it; come on, growing up in Amish country?
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar - uh, ick
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - during college part one
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail - oxtail soup; not bad
41. Curried goat - does curried kangaroo count?
42. Whole insects - FUCK no
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more - eh, it's booze
46. Fugu - none for me thanks, I like breathing
47. Chicken tikka masala - or at least, something like it, a chicken curry; very good
48. Eel - once, during a drunken trip to a sushi bar where Asian friends made fun of me until I ate everything
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - not my favorite kind
50. Sea urchin - see above, about drunken visit to sushi bar
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi - in better bento boxes
53. Abalone - not sure, but I seriously doubt it, because the tab at the sushi bar was never too high and this stuff's expensive
54. Paneer - no, but it looks like something I'd like
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal - believe it or not, no
56. Spaetzle - more food of the gods!
57. Dirty gin martini - I prefer vodka martinis, but any port in a storm
58. Beer above 8% ABV - I've known a few home-brewers in my day
59. Poutine - not TRUE poutine made in actual Canada, but I've had the same unholy combo of ingredients mixed together before; that stuff is evil
61. S’mores - d'you know, most of the folks I knew in Hawaii didn't know what s'mores were, and hadn't had them?
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin - yup, worked, too
64. Currywurst - that's just wrong
65. Durian - one bite; it's like congealed moose snot, only not as good
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis - no, but I'd like to try it
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho - salsa you eat with a spoon
72. Caviar and blini - just the blinis; yum
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill - not that I'm aware of, but knowing my family...
76. Baijiu - the smell alone gives me a headache
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - the pudding pies are better, though
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini - and many related drinks
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict - let's just say the richness doesn't agree with me and leave it at that, hmmm?
83. Pocky - POCKY!!! Chocolate koalas are better, but... POCKY!!
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - good grief no
85. Kobe beef - I've had the American version, but not true kobe beef. You can't GET true kobe beef in the US, thanks to the asshole beef farmers and their lobbyists making it illeal to import.
86. Hare
87. Goulash - this is a famine dish for me; I've gotta be really hungry
88. Flowers - I prefer to make tea from them
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - spam musubi, the totally wrong food of Hawaii...
92. Soft shell crab - still allergic, thank the gods
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish - I do not get the hype
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor - still allergic, woohoo!
98. Polenta - yet again I do not get the hype
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee - my lifetime coffee intake is half a cup, one night when I was sick and had to stay awake. Can't stand any of it.
100. Snake

There you go, total excitement, I'm sure. You probably got the idea I'm allergic to shellfish. Only thing I miss are scallops. Definitions of the more obscure of those foods available here. Considering I have a rep as a picky eater and I think tex-mex exotic, I'm amazed at how many of those foods I've tried. Granted, I didn't like many of them, but still. Guess it's from hanging out with people who ate the stuff; when we lived in Hawaii the husbeast often went out to get manapua every Sunday morning.

Anyone wanna get me started on a food topic? I got nothing else to talk about.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

This, that, and the other.

For those who requested it, some photos of the shawl in progress:

As the plan now goes, there will be three graduated rings of beads in different shades of blue, in the hopes that it will then match more things. This is the smallest and darkest round of beads. I'm now on round seventy of a hundred and forty something. But since each round gets longer/bigger as you move outward, I'm more like a third done, than half.

For those considering trying lace, also please refer back to my great epics on basic lace tips, here and here. And a quick round-up of questions asked:

-Yes, I've used the Emily Ocker cast-on. And it is very clever. But my method, with the firm cast-on and the 'hat finish' later produces the same effect; the path of the yarn (the way the stitches interlock) is nearly identical. My method with a firm provisional cast on provides a solid, non-moving basis to start knitting on. Ocker's cast-on is very flexible and stretchy. Entirely up to personal prefrence, though I firmly believe that the solid provisional cast on is easier for beginners.

-When working center-out doilies, I suggest working the first five or ten rounds at a table, holding the entire project nearly flat. That keeps the needles from twisting around on you or flipping over.

-Doilies as blankets are a totally subjective thing. They certainly work, in that you can use a round or square doily pattern and thick yarn and needles and produce something that will function as a blanket. And I'm a big fan of round blankets for napping under or curling up on the couch with, because you don't have to waste time hunting for corners or long sides or whatever. But personally, I can't get past deliberately putting holes (eyelets) in something you're going to use as a blanket. So... up to you. It's your blankie.

-If anyone wants help choosing a first pattern, materials, etc, give me a yell. Happy to help. I'm a fan of crochet cotton, but mostly because it's dirt cheap, you can unravel it a thousand times, and no matter how badly you mangle those stitches, they won't break.

I got this in the mail yesterday.

The husbeast said "Is that Chinese?" I said "No, Japanese." He said "You're fucking crazy." But now I know how to knot my own frogs. Tee heehee.

And I would dearly love to blame this on the Goob, but I watched the husbeast do it with the Goober's stickers. Sekhmet's had stickers in her fur off and on since Sunday.

And for all you Goob fans, a video.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Medallion knitting.

ETA: I did NOT knit any of the doilies used as examples in this info. I HAVE knit the banded doily pattern, but the one in the photo is not the one I knit. All were skimmed off Ravelry. A search of 'doily' in 'patterns' will turn them up.

That's the usual technical term used for, among other things, doilies. Anything that is started with a few stitches and knitted outward in all directions, and winds up flat at the finish, is a medallion. Pi blankies, coasters, nearly all round and quite a few square shawls, you name it, they're medallions. Doilies and some shawls are more properly known as lace medallions. You get the idea.

So here's what I know about knitting lace medallions. Quick history, then a section on 'what makes it hard/too much bother'.

According to the history books I've read, the oldest known doilies were knit flat, on two needles (and therefore technically not medallions, but work with me here). They looked something like this:

You'd cast on stitches for the radius (center to the edge) and then knit each wedge in short rows - that's right, lace short rows - and when you got back 'round to where you started, you grafted them together - that's right, grafting in lace. I keep meaning to knit one of these to say I did it, but then I think 'lace short rows' and go cast on something more rational. Like a Dale of Norway cardigan.

The above short-row pattern dates to a 1917 knitting pattern put out by a thread company, and patterns like this are said to date back to the Victorian era. The common thinking is, the Victorian ladies didn't have thin enough double point needles to knit true, center-out lace medallions and so used single-points and short rows instead. To me this theory is SERIOUSLY flawed, what with all those twenty-stitches-per-inch circularly knit stockings dating back to the 1500s. Obviously SOMEONE had the needles to knit regular doilies. Personally, I think the short-row doily was nothing but a fad. Thrill knitting, as it were.

So. 'Real' doilies. Cast on a few (four to twelve, in my experience) stitches and start knitting outward in all directions. Usually round, but not always. Usually the bind-off is done with crochet slip-stitch (the only crochet I am remotely proficient at), but occasionally someone goes crazy and knits on a sideways edge.

These have never been reliably dated, that I could find, but they certainly go back to Victorian times, and I suspect are an offshoot of lace caps. (You know, those mushroom-like 'mobcaps' that women wore on their heads all the time.) Those were pretty much doilies with a draw string. Not much of a leap to a decorative mat. Just some starch. Jane Sowerby (Victorian Lace Today) puts the date of her earliest medallion shawl at 1840, which sounds about right from all I've been able to dig up over the years. I'm betting they go back to the late 1700s, at least, but so far I haven't been able to find any refrences, that's just my own sneaking suspicion. (The suspicion is based on what I know of lace and fashion of the day.)

The third and most recent type of doily has appeared since the 1950s, and I am POSITIVE are based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawls. For those who haven't seen or knit one, a pi shawl is a round medallion knit on the basis of pi for the increasing; every doubled number of rows, double the number of stitches. In other words, cast on, say, six stitches. Knit a round. Increase to twelve stitches. Knit two rounds. Increase to twenty four stitches. And on and on, until you've knit the Hindenburg. Fill with hydrogen and look out for American saboteurs.


What you wind up with is a circle knit in bands, and it doesn't take much to go from there to lace patterns and you get something like this.

You see a significant bulls-eye effect happening. There's no lateral motif that stretches from the center to the edge, as is normal in older medallions. This is based entirely on the pi system, and I have seen pattern books that switch out bands and are modular; pick the bits you like and knit in order.

As for difficulty. Charted patterns are the way to go. With the way these SPECIFIC patterns are normally charted, some of them can be read left to right and knit successfully, if that's what your big hangup is with knitting charts.

There are many, varied and complicated fiddly little cast-ons for medallion knitting. I've tried them all. These days I use a provisional cast-on (the usual long-tail method with contrasting yarn). After I'm done knitting and am darning in ends, I pick out the provisional cast-on and thread the tail of yarn through the stitches. Pull tight. Finish off. Like the top of a stocking cap. Easy as heck, looks all impressive like you are a cast-on goddess.

For sitting-around lace (table cloths, decorating whatever) I suggest using something strong, like cotton or linen. They take a beating and a washing and re-starching without a problem. For wearing-around lace, heck, use whatever you want. I like alpaca and silk for shawls, they drape very nicely. Mohair drapes well too, if you can stand it. All three are very warm.

Needle size is up to you, particularly on doilies, but size twos are a good place to start. Small enough that it looks like lace, but big enough you can see what you're doing.

Choosing a pattern is really the tricky part. Banded doilies, like the one I discussed last, above, are not only easy, but easy to fix, if you screw them up. Off by a stitch or three? Just increase at the next band/pattern shift. Looks fine. A word of warning, though. DO NOT KNIT ONE OF THESE IF THERE IS AN UNEVEN NUMBER OF SCALLOPS ON THE EDGING. I once nearly lost my mind trying to block a thirteen-point round doily. Nothing was symmetrical. Avoid this. Not worth it. Never worth it.

Traditional doilies are more impressive (if you ask me) and great fun to knit. If you're a little careful about picking your pattern, you're golden. As you know, these types are knit in repetitive pizza-slice shaped bits, repeated around the circle:

You get a chart for one slice, and repeat it as many times as the pattern tells you to. Obvious. Easy. This is how I'm knitting patterns written in German; count pattern repeats around, get the chart, let it rip.

Here's the secret. The more slices of circle, the smaller the slice is, and THE EASIER IT IS TO REMEMBER. Which means you won't be staring at the chart constantly, which means you will knit faster. The one I'm doing now? Aster?

Sixteen repeats. By the third or fourth go, I remember it and knit like the wind.

Something like this?

Four repeats. You will sleep with this chart and still not remember from one repeat to the next.

Occasionally you can cheat. Lyra, the doily I want to knit for my mother-in-law? It's sneaky. It's really an octagon. There are little bits knit on in the corners (outlined in blue) to make it a square. So it's easier than a true four-repeat square.

There you are. Doily knitting. Now all of you know my secrets and will never be impressed again.

Gotta go knit. I'm gonna do beads soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Don't hate me because I knit lace in my sleep.

Remember, all I did for the first ten years of my knitting 'career' was knit lace just like this; I call it my Early Doily Phase. In the year after I got my hand fixed, I knit like fourteen of these suckers, and used to randomly mail them out to people who I thought would like one. (Trish in the comments has had one for quite a few years, as I recall.) Now with my discovery of Herbert Niebling, I fear I am descending into an Intermediate Doily Phase, though this time around I'm going to knit many of them with something snuggly and call them shawls. (Is it a shrub, or a small tree?) Very small-gauge knitting like this (yesterday's doily was knit on size twos with #10 crochet cotton) is also very light, which means it doesn't tire my hands out like larger-gauge knitting does. (I may never knit with regular-weight lopi again, I don't care how warm it is. Bulky weight anything? Forget it.) So I can knit on these things for hours a day and not wind up on painkillers. So I do.

Before you go thinking I actually know what I'm doing, I will share the sad fact that the silk I got from Habu Textiles isn't going to work for my mother-in-law's shawl. If I were to knit it up on the needles it needs, it would not be a shawl. It would be a very elaborate and beautiful coaster. However, it is going to be PERFECT for an experiment I've been wanting to try - buying very thin weaving thread and chain-plying it on my wheel into something thicker. If it works, my mother-in-law may get two gifts this year. Or I may keep it. Bwahahaha.

It also occurred to me that I had no friggin' idea how big this shawl would be, or how much yarn it would use, or even how the beads would work out, seeing as I've never worked with beads and knitting at the same time, before. So last night I cast on ANOTHER shawl that I've owed a friend of mine for about three years. It's a round doily pattern from Niebling, "Aster". I'm using size three needles and this yarn, an alpaca-silk blend in color cognac, with some judiciously applied turquoise beads. (Said freind loves the brown/turquoise combo; I knit to please.) I'm going to see how big this thing turns out, then adjust as needed for my mother-in-law's shawl. I will probably wind up using the same yarn, too (it's yummy), but in black. Assuming I can get black. They're out of stock at the moment. ARGH.

So that's the current level of adventure in knitting.

Last weekend, when I went to the craft stores? There was a sale on stickers.

We're gonna be picking stickers out of the lint trap in the dryer for WEEKS.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

The beginning of the end.

Finished the knitting portion of the white German doily last night. Am now binding off. There are twenty scallops around the edge; binding the first one off took half an hour.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Why the sudden push? Well, partly because I need to finish SOMETHING before I lose my mind (even I get tired of looking at all these unfinished projects sometimes), and partly because I got this in the mail yesterday:

2200+ yards of silk from Habu Textiles. It is going to become Lyra, by Herbie Niebling, the Mozart of lace. That's a Ravelry link. The pattern is available at Lacis, here. I'm gonna jazz it up with some beads at the edge (at the apex of the leaves, I'm thinking), and give it to my mother-in-law for Christmas to use as a shawl. I like beads on the edges of my shawls and wraps; the extra weight makes them stay where you put them. Plus of course it looks cool.

As I recall, someone requested video of the Goober doing different emotions on command. Forget who, but we had the camera out last night and... well... you can see how clinically depressed my poor child is.

The Goob just came up to me and informed me her laugh is broken and she needs Dadad to fix it. (He is, of course, the fix-it guy around here.) He's at work right now, but when he gets home I'm going to suggest a major tickle-fest to fix that broken laugh. Poor, poor, sad little Goobie.

Otherwise, not a lot going on. I talked about bleach with a chem geek friend of mine yesterday (okay, maybe I'm a chem geek too, but I don't think I know enough to really hit geek level) and there was much talk of hydrogen atoms and...and.. I realized I kind of wanted to write a 'white' article to add to the color section. So we'll see.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spinning - the process.

Bells got a spinning wheel (on loan) and is kind of freaking out over it in a 'this is cool, what do I do?' sort of way, and I've had some questions from other folks, so I thought I'd show my version of spinning. Remember, just like knitting, there is no single right way to spin. If you wind up with a product you like and there are no injuries, property damages, or lawsuits filed, then you're doing it right.

Yarns come in two broad categories. Woolen and worsted. Woolen yarns are spun with the fibers all jumbled around in the plies. Worsted yarns (has nothing to do with 'worsted weight'), are made from combed yarns, with all the fibers running in one direction (lengthwise) along the yarn. I spin worsted yarns. They're stronger, warmer, and in my opinion easier to spin - for one thing, they don't need as much twist to hold them together, and for another, the pre-drafting is much less elaborate. (Well. You can make the pre-drafting as elaborate as you like. You can get away with less pre-drafting with worsted yarns.)

Okay. I start with roving, which is the long snakey wad of fiber - usually wool - that's already been cleaned, carded, and otherwise processed. Here's some (I forgot to take a 'before' picture of the wool used for all the other example photos, so this looks different, but same general idea):

Generally I buy my roving in half pound/quarter kilo wads, so I don't shorten it any, lengthwise. What I do, is split it in half lengthwise:

I put the ball of roving between my feet, and pull it apart, dropping the halves to either side of my body. Then I roll up one half, put it away in a bag to keep the cat hair off it (hopefully), then divide the half in half again, and so forth, until it's as thin as I want it.

For a two-ply DK weight, I am for something like this:

Note the bowl of the roving. Again, keeps the cat hair out. Mostly. By now, just the act of pulling it apart over and over will have fluffed up the fibers, making them easy to draft during the spinning process.

While spinning, I sit the bowl at my right side, use the right hand to manage the bowl and feeding 'raw' wool up, and for traction. I use the left to pull the wool out smooth and control the twist. I had to use my right hand to take this photo, but imagine it over where my thigh is, holding on to the roving.

You can see how it's getting thinner twoard my left hand. Remember, it's supposed to be DK two-ply, so each ply needs to be half the thickness of the finished yarn. Overtwist just a tad (once you get the hang of it) because plying removes a bit of the twist. Or rather unwinds it again. You know what I mean.

So, spin yourself up two bobbins of singles. (Or three, or four, or whatever you feel the need to do. It's your yarn.) Next is plying them together. For plying, YOU SPIN THE WHEEL IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION YOU SPUN THE SINGLES. I, like most other spinners, spin the wheel to the right/clockwise for the singles, and then to the left/widdershins for the plying. DO NOT SCREW THIS UP. You will wind up with wool spaghetti. You will be sitting there asking yourself why the fuck it won't hold together. You will drive yourself insane. And for the love of all that's chocolate, don't spin one single one way, and one single the other, and expect anything good to happen. (Incidentally, chain plying also follows these rules. Spin the single one way, ply it the other.)

Okay. Set your wheel to spin faster than it had been (there are zillions of wheel types so I'm not going to attempt to tell everyone how to do that; for me it means moving the belt from one groove of the whorl to the other; the smaller the whorl, the faster the spin, on single-drive wheels). Haul out the Lazy Kate, the cardboard box with knitting needles stuck in it, or whatever you're using to hold the bobbins, and put them on it.

I prefer to turn one bobbin upside down so both 'feed' to the outsides of the bobbins, but that is purely a quirky prefrence. Doesn't matter how you put the bobbins on there so long as they feed easily. Pull off a foot or so from each bobbin and wrap the plies together, as you intend to do with the rest of it. If you've got 'em twisted right, they should twist themselves up and do most of the work for you. Hook the start of your plied yarn to your leader and let it rip.

How you hold the plies as you feed them is another totally subjective thing. Some people don't really tension them at all. I do, between my fingers. you can see by now why it's helping my grip strength.

At this point, treadle as quickly as you can stand it (I find it works best for me going faster than when I spin singles, but not as ripping damn fast as I possibly can). When your bobbin is full (or the singles are gone), it's time to wind the yarn off. Many people take the bobbin off the wheel, put it on the Lazy kate and wind from there. I'm lazy. I take all the tension off the bobbin (unhook the Scotch Brake) and wind it off straight from the wheel.

From there it's a matter of putting some figure-eight ties in the skein, a swish in the sink, let dry, and voila.

Yarn. I pull the skein after washing, from the ends, to remove as many kinks as possible. I do not weight it. Weighting yarn makes no sense to me.

Handspun wool relaxes and fluffs up significantly upon washing, so I strongly suggest either washing it before use, or else expecting it to do majorly strange things whenever you do wash it. And once you get the hang of it, and aren't producing tangled snarls, knit with your yarn. You'll learn what you need to fix and how consistent you are.

And lastly, a photo of some of my best work, when I was learning:

In cases like these, I suggest chocolate. With hazelnuts.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stupid asshole bastard fuckwits.

Wound up back at the pharmacy AGAIN today, to talk to them AGAIN about how their automated refill system screwed up AGAIN and left me with no drugs AGAIN. And how no one with a pulse will ever answer the phone, no matter when I call. AGAIN.

Long story short, I had to drag a two year old onto a military base and get her to behave in an echoing waiting room where every peep sounds like someone screaming in your ear. Had to haul in several bottles of pills (I dislike hauling pills around; it's just asking for trouble). And after going through all this CRAP, I find out that my perscriptions are in order and it's their mistake. AGAIN.


Anyway. The German Doily is going well, I've got about five rows left. Which is good, 'cause silk is getting here from Habu Textiles this week to start my mother-in-law's Christmas present.

If you remembered me mentioning a gift knit, I gave up on it. It was supposed to be one of EZ's two-needle baby jackets. I fucked up the lace pattern. Screw it. I'll find something else to give the person.

Spent two hours tonight fooling around with ribbon some more.

Now I feel like someone's hammering a nail into the first knuckle of my index finger. Maybe it's time to stop. But my hands seem to be getting steadier and less twitchy. Yay.

The Goob's favorite thing lately is to empty out her stuffed-animal basket (a collapsable laundry hamper) and roll it around the house. Then when she's tired, she crawls inside for a rest.

Then when the Goob takes a nap, Sekhmet sneaks in and has her own little snooze.

Everyone in the house is insane. Must be something in the water.

Now I'm gonna go knit some more. I'll regret it later, but what the hell.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hand stuff.

A quick note before my eyes roll back in my head and I pass out for the night. There were various questions in comments and e-mail, so I'll try to cover them.

I did physical/occupational therapy in an Army Hospital. I'm lucky I got the ball-bearing exercises. They sent one guy down to the target range. And I did wind up in the kitchen cracking ice cube trays (the twisting motion was killing me, so they made me do it a hundred million times). Fortunately, I always took good care of my hands BEFORE my accident. In many ways I was ahead of the curve on dexterity, range of motion, etc. So when I busted my hand, I lost half my range of motion (for instance) but was still in normal levels. So though I FEEL like my hand is screwed up, being used to huge ranges of motion and dexterity, I'm actually not doing too badly. When I'm feeling really rotten, I go visit my hand specialist, and he inevitably marvels at how well I'm doing.

Some things I've done in the past as various forms of therapy, that some of you might want to try:
-Origami helps muscle strength in your fingers and also helps your fingers re-learn how to work independently of each other.
-Knitting of course just keeps up all the ranges of motion you need to function.
-Math class. I had to re-learn how to write, and even after I re-learned, I was still typing grocery lists and everything else possible. Math classes forced me to sit down and write. Worked great, but doing what was essentially occupational therapy AND advanced algebra at the same time, really sucked. (Oh, and try writing on unlined paper. Part of what gives my hands cramps is trying to fit all the numbers in those damn small little spaces.)
-Spinning has greatly improved my pinch strength, from having to hold the fiber as I draft it.
-The ribbon flowers thing I started up with is going to help my super-fine motor skills. I can tell already. Any type of very small-scale sewing would work; beading, embroidery, etc.
-I suspect any future oboe playing (provided it's propped on something and I don't have to hold it up with my right thumb) will help with the overall motion, much the same way the knititng helps. Just keeping the ol' fingers moving around.

If anyone has suggestions of their own, I'd love to hear them. Even if I don't use them now, I'll keep them in mind for later.

So there you go, food for thought, and possible excuses to take up a new hobby. Don't forget to take a five minute rest every hour, give yourself hand massages, and not punch any walls. Or people.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Something new for the hole in my head.

Lately I've been worried that I'm losing manual dexterity. The knitting is great for regular motion, but the really fine-motor stuff, not so much. At least not for me; I've been knitting too long for it to be a challenge (sorry). So for the last month or so, I've been kind of brooding on something I could do that would be more fun than real occupational therapy (which usually comes down to really boring excercises involving ball bearings and tiny little holes). While I was at it, I wondered if I could make some money at it. So I've been poking around Etsy, seeing what is lacking. And I wanted something I didn't have to special-order supplies from Siberia to do.

Then, yesterday, there was that sale at the craft store. Sooooo... well, here are the photos. I started with spools of ribbon, needle and thread, and some scissors.

The rose is kind of impressive, if I do say so myself. I'm gonna put together some stock and make a new section of my Etsy shop. As-is, or by request on barettes, pins, etc.

My fingers are all tired now. That means it's working. And the husbeast didn't have a stroke or anything. He thought it was kind of cool, then I mentioned the Etsy shop and he was quite pleased.

The Goob wants to keep them all.

For those of you who don't understand the magnitude of "I bought more crochet cotton", I took a photo.

The new stuff is the little ecru ball at the lower right. The rest is stuff I have compulsively picked up in the past. My current estimate is nine miles of crochet cotton in there, and at the rate I'm knitting it up, it'll be used up in, um, fifteen years.

Thanks to everyone with the suggestions on where to get good gear for the dressup box. I do intend to hit Goodwill - more than once - and I also hope to clean up on the post-Halloween costume sales. That's why I've started this so early. Depending on prices, I'm probably going to put together a box for my nephew, too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Ran out to the craft store today for a button and some needles and thread. Everything was on sale. I went insane. Good news is, I think I've got everything I need to make all the Christmas presents I want to make.

Bad news is, I bought more lace/crochet cotton. Because nine miles of it isn't enough. I swear it's an addiction. Then I came home and shopped at Lacis. Somehow that's Alwen's fault. Not quite sure how.

Among other things, for Christmas I am trying to put together a dress-up box for the Goober. And today they were running a 50% off sale on feather boas. So I got a couple. Every little girl needs some feather boas, right? One is screaming pink and the other is white with strings of glittery mylar.

So I'm drifting around the store buying stuff I don't need, and there are two men shopping for uphoulstery fabric who see the feather boas over my arm and start speculating over what I'm going to do with them. And one says "Well that magenta is the WRONG color for her." and I couldn't stop laughing. So I explained it was for my two year old daughter to play dress up with. And the men agreed that oh yes, it would be PERFECT for her, because "two year olds know how to work it".


Now there are feathers drifting around my office. Argh.

In the random category... There are some of you out there who are... entertained... by how my brain jumps around. The real problem, far as I can tell, is that I don't understand how to separate subjects. For me it's all one BIG subject (that I usually lump into 'history'). For instance, at the moment I'm reading "The Grammar of Architecture" (oh, that's the other problem - curious about everything). In this book supposedly on architecture, I have learned about Egyptian geology, hordes of engineering stuff, Babylonian mysticism, astrology, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Japanese and Chinese city planning, gardening... shall I go on? All is one. One is all.

Pass the bong.

And for the Goober addicts among you:

The husbeast's been letting her play with the camera again.

Oh, and the husbeast has just informed me that tropical storm Fay should be at my house by Thursday. With the storm tracking accuracy lately, I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh, and this summarizes my day.

TO: Dish Network customer service.

FROM: Me, giving contact info with phone number and e-mail.

I am getting THREE PHONE CALLS A DAY from your goddamn auto-dialer promotion system. TAKE MY PHONE NUMBER OFF YOUR CALL LIST. After this bullshit, if I did have Dish Network, I would TURN IT OFF and ORDER REGULAR CABLE. As it is I WILL NEVER VOLUNTARILY DEAL WITH DISH NETWORK, EVER, IF IT MEANS NO TELEVISION AND READING BOOKS ALL DAY. Are you getting this? Let me repeat it. GET MY PHONE NUMBER OUT OF YOUR BLOODY DAMNED AUTODIALER BEFORE I PROSECUTE. In case you can't keep track of the number I've already entered, here it is again: xxx-xxx-xxxx.



As I've said before, this blog does double duty as a log of the Goob's cuteness (and evilness) and an easy way to share photos and video with the family. So you guys are left suffering through a montage of cuteness.

She was watching TV in her box, again.

When she saw the camera, she climbed out and insisted on posing for a shot.

The teen years are gonna be some picnic, let me tell ya.

The husbeast has been giving the Goober occasional horsie rides. The video's badly lit, so I'll share a photo first.

And the badly-lit vid:

The other day, the Goob came up to me with a pretend cup of 'menolade' [lemonade]. So I said thank you, and pretended to drink it. Then she said "That will be three coins."

At the moment she's sitting in her box, watching TV and singing 'row row row your boat'.

Otherwise, I've been stressed to the gills and doing nothing exciting. Still knitting, still spinning. Details hopefully soon.

And have I mentioned lately, Elizabeth Zimmermann was a freakin' genius?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Notes from the weird side.

A friend of mine keeps telling me that when the Goober grows up, she's going to write a tell-all book about me entitled 'Mummy Weirdest'. I wish her luck. Can't wait to read it.

I owe all my blog readers an apology. I fear I vastly underestimated your knowledge. For years I have resisted posting most of my free-association thoughts, figuring no one would track on them. But seeing how many people laughed coffee out their noses on the VK review's Piet Mondrain comment, from now on I promise a stream of consciousness. May the gods help you all.

A quick cruise on Ravelry shows the most popular patterns from this issue of VK are Jared's green mittens (the pick of the litter, if you ask me), and the gold pullover with the giant cables made of twisted stitches. I'm curious to see how those hoods turn out.

There is one tiny raincloud in the entire state at the moment, and it is parked over my house. (That's okay. I like rain.)

On Sunday, while dealing with a mild case of heat stroke (apparently my medications mess with my ability to sweat), my father-in-law called to tell me it was 65F/18C at his house, he was wearing his favorite lopi sweater I'd knit him, and he was nice and toasty warm. I called him several names. One of these days I'm going to have to knit a copy of that sweater, because I give it another year, tops, before it falls apart. (It's the silver and blue Ram's Head Cardi on my Ravelry page, knit in '03. He's worn it every day of every winter, since.)

I have ditched all other knitting to crank out a quick gift for someone (who reads this blog, so no more mention). I am using some Bendigo Colonial 8-ply that Bells sent me ages ago. I'm thinking of the color as 'giggling little girl purple'. Does anyone know if Bendigo dyes in the wool or after the yarn is spun? 'Cause this sure as heck looks like it was dyed in the wool.

The husbeast has suddenly become aware of the term 'stash' as applied to yarn stockpiles. (That's what I've always called it, the stockpile.) So now he's making many marijuana-related jokes about my yarn. Last night he called some yarn clippings 'shake'. He thinks he's really funny.

Uh. Still raining. There's a cat face mashed into my ankle. There are so many toys on the living room floor you can't walk through without tripping or stubbing your toe. The Goob is flinging stuffed animals so she can sit inside her toy basket. Seems like everything is normally weird around here.

Oh. Video of the husbeast and Goober playing horsie, coming up soon. The cuteness will make you gag.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vogue Knitting Fall 2008

Here we go again. As always, I use the pattern numbers in the magazine instead of page numbers for the patterns. Anything in quotes if from the magazine, all else is my editorial commentary. All photos from the Vogue Knitting web site unless very obviously not. (You'll know.)

I've been reading histroy books (still? Again?) and that has bled over into this quarters' review. As has the design research. The lag on this review has been finding certain photos. But anyway.

This issue's issue is not so much the patterns - most are pretty decent - but yet again the schizophrenic "We're Vogue Knitting and we're super cutting edge and fashionable, and Oh, look! Norwegian mittens!" I wish they'd make up their goddamn minds.

ARTICLES: First, I can't help but note that the 'sweater map' thingie is gone. That lasted, what, three issues? One of the few technically useful things in the magazine. Of course they killed it.

There are two allegedly technical articles with sort-of patterns attached. One by Nicky Epstein showing how to make scallops:

And another one discussing miters (very cutting edge; we've been doing modular knitting for what, fifteen years now?) with a sort of cool cape pattern in it.

Ravelry has made the big time; there is an article about them which is kind of nice. Another one on the fiftieth anniversary of Schoolhouse Press (Elizabeth Zimmerman's company, now run by her daughter Meg). Some sucking up to Kaffe Fassett, and another article on knitting in Canada, presenting it like it's news.

Nothing from Lily Chin, which is too bad. Her articles were good. Basically the only reason I was glad to buy the magazine, in several instances. Did I mention I paid seven dollars for this piece of shit? Oh, and the letter from the editor is a long, maundering page of drivel about 'back to the future' and how wonderful it is that everyone's knitting again. HELLO. OLD NEWS. FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT. Gah.

Judging from the ads, once again yarn manufacturers are attempting to make super-bulky knitting popular and 'in'. No fucking idea why. It's ugly, looks stupid, is unflattering, finishing is a bitch, and worst of all, COLD. I assume there's a bigger profit margin for bulky yarn? Why else push it like this? Some of this shit is one stitch to the inch, for crying out loud. The husbeast commented 'they might as well just knit it out of manila line'. Manila line is the really super-thick hemp rope they use to tie up war ships.

I don't know who is designing over at Moorehouse Merino, but those lobster claw mittens are fucking hilarious.

PATTERNS: Whole lot of 'uh' this issue. Brace for it.

1. "Kaffe: spheres of influence"

A couple paragraphs of sycophantic ravings about Fasset, claiming this idea was cooked up out of Japanese prints. Mostly he's riding on his own coattails. And as always, there's no fit; the body is a box with drop shoulder sleeves. Anyone else had submitted this, I bet it wouldn't have made it into the magazine. Oh and look. A full-page Rowan ad on the opposite page! What a coincidence!

Mitten patterns: "Haute in Autumn. Our richest fall harvest yet". Barf. They're fucking MITTENS. Some are NICE mittens, BUT THEY ARE GODDAMN MITTENS TO KEEP YOUR HANDS WARM. Bah.

2. 'Yellow Harvest' mittens knit at 14 sts to 10cm/4in.

3. 'Green Autumn' mittens by our buddy Jared over at Brooklyn Tweed. Knit at 32 sts to 10cm/4in.

These two mittens make a fine comparison for 'what not to do'. The yellow ones have visible holes between the stitches and the bobbles are so big they'll snag on everything. The green ones, knit at a much smaller gauge, not only look and fit better, but the bobbles are properly decorative and not snaggy, and the yarn traps enough air - without holes - to keep your hands warm. Go, Jared. Way to knit some mittens.

Of course I can't help but point out both these syles are FOLK STYLES that have been knit for HUNDREDS OF DAMN YEARS and are about as cutting edge as I am. That's the editor's fault.

4. Who in hell is going to knit and wear elbow length gloves covered in oak leaves? Seriously? A Druid with hand problems?

5. Yet again with the folk styles. They've been knitting variations on this in Scandinavia for hundreds of years. Nice, but Vogue, my ass. Considering how many knitters I know knit because they hate sewing, I think the modern response to all that embroidery is likely 'no fucking way'. But whatever. All that extra wool will help keep your hands warm.

6. I never understood the English term 'twee' before. Now I do. Excuse me while I go throw up.

7. Convertible mittens with fingerless gloves underneath. Nice, useful, and a really old style.

8. Traditional Norgi mittens. Fucking brilliant. Totally new and amazing and cutting edge. And whoever knit these, think you could have avoided laddering the knitting where the double-points meet? Sheesh. You're submitting to Vogue, for crying out loud. (Look at the back of the right hand mitten.)

MADE IN CANADA: "From the land of the maple leaf and the Mountie hail many of today's most gifted knitwear designers." No shit. Really? They KNIT where it's COLD? Holy fuck. Let me write that down. Oh, and they're using the VERY MOTHERFUCKING VOGUE packing crate photo shoot again. The little play button symbols on the photos means you can hit the Vogue Knitting web site and watch a fashion show video of the sweater. No. I'm not linking to it. It's bad for my blood pressure. (Terby, I owe you a smack in the head for that link, you booger.)

9. Green tunic thingie. Very Vogue, Very Eh. Done it, seen it, what's wrong with the neck?

10. Damn. NEVER seen ANYTHING like this before. How cutting edge. (It does come in plus sizes, and would be flattering.)

11. Green caridgan. Ditto on 'never seen anything like this before'. Don't know what in fuck's up with that belt, either. Looks like it belongs on a Viking Berserker. Nice enough if you want a tweedy knock-around cardi; comes in plus sizes. So Vogue it gives me a migraine.

12. Fiona Ellis comes through with something flattering and wearable that looks interesting. Dunno if I like the bow on the neck, but that's personal and easily fixed. What in FUCK is up with the leaves and the LEIDERHOSEN? SHOOT THE STYLIST!!! TWICE!

13. Koigu jacket. This thing is, essentially, a sleeveless kimono. (Everyone together now, never seen that before.) They have done everything possible both in the magazine and on line to disguise the bottom edge, which is ribbing and sucks in so the whole jacket looks like a mushroom. I'd put in a hem if I were knitting this, personally; or garter stitch to match the side edges. And there is an actual intarsia color pattern knit into the body, but there's so many colors screaming you can't tell. Maybe, I don't know, use two colors that CONTRAST?

14. Felted bag. You say Vogue, I say Oh please. Honestly, I like this. I might knit it. That as much as anything else says 'not Vogue' to me.

15. Floral socks. You have got to be fucking kidding. Okay. Yes. They're cute. Yes. I like them. But if those are high fashion, my ass is a paint sprayer.

16. Beige cable-knit cardigan. Goddamn. Never seen ANYTHING like this before.


17. Fucked up black dress. First thought on seeing all those necklaces; what's wrong with the neck line? I suspect if you fixed the arms and knit it with something that draped, it would be okay. If you were into knitted dresses.

18. Sleeves too short, hem isn't straight. The collar? It's symmetrical, according to the pattern. You just can't tell, looking at it. Oh yeah, let's knit something that looks like a mistake. BUT IT COMES IN PLUS SIZES!

19. "Dynamically duotones, a short-row shift emits mod magnetism." There are probably ways to make this flattering. But I'm not knitting anything with Big. White. Arrows. pointed at my crotch. And get over the Audrey Hepburn thing, you aren't pulling it off.

20. Oscar de la Renta on crack.

No Zoolander. Snap.

SIGNATURE STITCHES: "Just as Seurat had his dots and Degas his dancers, today's greats knit mood and muse into fabric distinctly their own." Yeah. My pudgy white ass.

21. Too much. Too much color, too many bobbles, too many leaves, too many cables, total visual overload.

22. Twinkle foists yet another super-bulky piece of shit off on the world trying to tell us it's high fashion. And you know what it looks like? What it really looks like???

That's a re-creation of an outfit pulled out of a Danish peat bog and dated to the bronze age. THE MOTHERFUCKING BRONZE AGE. THIS IS NOT CUTTING EDGE, BITCH, THIS IS LAZY DESIGN. GET OFF YOUR ASS AND DO SOMETHING ORIGINAL. Ahem.

23. Tunic cardigan with a nice drape, slight ruffle, and a bit of lace across the back. Nice. Really nice. Perfect for fall when it gets a little chilly. And sort of stylish. Oh my gods, I may swoon.

24. Too bad Elsa Schiaparelli isn't still alive. Then she could sue.

AN ENGLISH GARDEN: "Lushly cabled cardis transform you into an Austen heroine ready for a proper turn about the bedgerows with your very own Mr. Darcy." Do I have to be tiresome and point out that cable-knit cardis didn't exist in Austen's era? No, of course not. SHOOT THE COPYWRITER!

25. Looks like Martin Storey ran out of yarn before he put on the peplum.

26. Run of the mill cabled cardi. There are deliberately run stitches that I always think look like mistakes. And they don't do shit to keep you warm, which I assume is the point of a cardigan. (Oh, excuse me, I'm sure Vogue would tell me that warmth is not an issue, it's about LOOKING GOOD.) Anyway. Yet another cable-knit cardi. Can't get enough.

27. Have I mentioned that texture stitches get lost in variegated yarn? Yeah. Yeah, I have. Have I mentioned designers should KNOW this? Yeah, probably have.

28. Giant cables faked with twisted stiches. Cool. Semi-original. I'd find a way to replace that hood with a collar, though; there's something not right going on with that hood.

29. COCO CHANEL RIPOFF. You see this??? The color, the cut, the STYLING with the fabric rose and the junk jewelry and the FREAKING HAIR CUT. Coco Chanel. 1920s. Vintage. Classic. My grandma dressed like this. It's a good to great look, but about as original as... as... STEALING FASHION IDEAS FROM A DEAD WOMAN. Grrr. Argh. Grrr. My grandma's gonna come back from the dead to register a complaint at the Vogue offices. Watch for reports of zombie attack in NYC next week. She'll be wearing her gunfighter wig (pulled down low on her forehead, 'cause she means business). Fuckers.

30. Slouchy cardigan. Is it symmetric? Is it not? We can't tell, because THE PICTURE IS SHIT AND THERE'S NO SCHEMATIC FOR THE PATTERN. Vogue, you assholes.

31. Yoked cardi knit in pattern-disguising varigated yarn. I could swear I've seen this before... wait... wait..

Why yes, I HAVE seen this before. It's Mrs. Weasley!!

32. Yet another totally average, done-before cabled cardi. Nice enough. Comes in plus sizes.

THE OL' BOYS CLUB: "Sharp takes on men's wear, altered oh-so-softly to fit a woman." Yeah, maybe if the old boys were boys in the 1980s. Bah.

33. Hat. This pisses me off for several reasons. First, the styling. The hair, the eye shadow, the sleveless blazer with the collar turned up, the plaid, the pins. This is EXACTLY how I dressed in 1986 when I thought I was fucking cool. (Except my hair would have been pink.) Oh, and the hat?


34. Slouchy, unflattering knit coat. Eh.

35. Ohmigawd. It's almost... Vogue. Flattering, unusual construction, fashionable without being silly. I'd change the colors and make the sleeves longer, but that's just a personal thing.

36. If Piet Mondrain got dysentery and shit out a sweater, it would be this one.

37. Scarf. Eh. Interesting texture pattern, and in a muted color like this it would make a nice Christmas gift for a guy. I'll probalby use it with some of this carbon fiber.

There you go. Lots of cool stuff this issue, really, but not much of it 'high fashion'. I'm good with that, I just wish they'd quit claiming it was high fashion. This was probably the most wearable issue this year. And if you've got an urge to knit fifty slightly different cabled cardigans, this is the issue for you.

I need a drink.