Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Goob's been playing "menolade stand" with a bucket and a toy cup and a bunch of bracelets, pouring them back and forth and stirring with a stick that's the cardboard core of a roll of baking paper. (Isn't make-believe lovely?) It's got me started thinking about lemonade, and the history of it, and I haven't done a food history post in a while, and I've got nothing else to discuss (I'm still sick and the sinus has triggered a migraine, whoopee), so here we go. Lemonade, the history.

All you REALLY need to make lemonade is lemons, sugar, and clean water. All those things are available in SE Asia where lemons are native, but it took a trip to the west for lemonade to get invented. In medieval Egypt (where they were also busy inventing knitting, from what evidence we have), they made the first drink we know of that we would recognize today as lemonade: There is mention in 1104 of the trade in lemon juice, qatarmizat, that was some combo of lots of lemon and sugar (no mention of water, ack), which was bottled and drunk. It was very popular, I'm guessing because alcohol was against the rules for Muslims and also because it was probably healthier than water at the time - no germs could live in such a strong acid/sugar combo, and there was vitamin C to boot.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, the ingredients.

LEMON: Citrus of all types is native to the SE Asia area. There is of course raging debate (among plant freaks, though I personally can't get too worked up) about exactly where each species is from. Lemons specifically are thought to have come from the NE India/Burma/Thailand/Golden Triangle area. It is very likely they were first domesticated in India (very clever with plants, those Indians), and traveled along the trade routes to the west, along with so much other good stuff. Ancient Rome knew about lemons, so they made the trip fairly early, as these things go. (At least, we think so... I'm of the opinion the Silk Road, or some variation on it, was open all the way back to the stone age. Humans don't stay at home now, why think they did ten thousand years ago?) Anyway, no one in Europe knew quite what to do with lemons and treated them as medicine until the 1800s when some Arab concepts of cooking spread into Europe, and Euros as a whole got a bit more adventurous about what they were willing to eat. Lemons as medicine isn't so weird; not only do they have lots of vitamin C, they're good for circulatory system health, and is said to 'cleanse the liver'. The oil was also used as a wood polish for many, many years before they were ever thought of as food.

SUGAR: This one's tricky, because there are a lot of sources of sugar; dates (that's what the Arabs probably used for their qatarmizat), honey (if not date sugar, than honey for the qatarmizat), beets, and sugar cane. Beet sugar is a relatively modern invention (Napolenonic Wars, early 1800s), and for Euros, we were making and using cane sugar when we made our lemonade. Sugar cane is a grass (yes, really) native to SE Asia, the tropical part. There are quite a few different sub-species, some natural and some created by man trying to increase the sugar yield. The Gupta Dynasty in India was using it by 350 CE as a sugar source, and the Arabs acquired it during one of their invasions/conquests of India. Because Europe lacked the proper climate to grow sugar cane, we imported it from the Arabs (at a huge markup, I'm sure) until we gained colonies in places that could grow sugar cane; 1420s had cane introduced to the Canaries and other islands off Africa, and in the 1550s cane was introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese. That and the introduction of cane to the Caribbean islands by assorted European empires, and sugar production really took off. Growing and harvesting sugar cane and then refining it is a disgusting, nasty, dirty, polluting process (I saw some of it close up in Hawaii), and slaves were imported to sugar-growing areas to do the dirty work. The European sweet tooth drove a great deal of the slave trade. I try not to think about it over my morning tea.

CLEAN WATER: This brings us to what you'd think was the most simple of the three basic ingredients. But of course it isn't simple at all. Judging from the cholera outbreaks going on right now in Africa (we should be there helping, not bugging Iraqis), it's not getting any simpler. Clean water has been a challenge pretty much for all of mankind, for all our history, and though we're getting better at it, it's still a work in progress. Modern water-treatment plants in industrialized countries have only existed since WW2 at best, and even then they often involve imperfect systems that use nasty chemicals (chlorine) and produce nasty byproducts (the gunk they clean out of the water). Clean water has been a motivating issue for science and technology for at least two hundred years, since the concept of germ theory was introduced. Amazingly, it took a cholera outbreak in London to 'prove' germ theory; a statistician and generally Smart Guy, John Snow, used statistics and modern mapping methods to trace a cholera outbreak to a single pump in London. That's when clean water became an issue, at least in Europe, and large cities began building sewers. 1854. Industrial chemistry was in its infancy, we'd had the printing press for three hundred years, we'd mapped the globe, and we were still arguing about germ theory. And statistics was advanced enough to prove it, meaning that bean-counters had a better grip on reality than the scientists. Just amazing. It's amazing we've survived at all.

Take the juice from six fruits native to SE Asia and domesticated by Indians, add one cup of white granules refined from a grass with a dark history, and mix with sixteen cups of universal solvent cleaned with toxic gasses. Garnish with a few leaves from an invasive plant that was a water nymph who offended the gods (mint) and sprinkle in a little spice that triggered several major wars (nutmeg). Enjoy.

So there you go, the strange, wonderful international trip through history in your glass of lemonade. I haven't even included the trails of other ingredients (mint, nutmeg, carbonation). But this is why people discuss 'international cuisine' or 'fusion cooking' and I scoff. There is an international trail going back thousands of years in every cracker, glass of lemonade, or bite of chocolate. Someday I should discuss the botanical wonder of a modern produce section. But that's another post, for another day.

All this history has woken me up. I think I'm gonna go knit.

Monday, December 29, 2008

And then, yarn.

'Cause we just never see that around here.

But first, the queen:

The day after Christmas, I went out and hit a couple stores, looking for really cheap froo-froo dresses the Goob could wear for play. I found this one at the second stop for ten bucks, and grabbed it. There is a portrait of Elizabeth I of England wearing a dress with VERY similar embroidery, though I think her dress was white; she probably couldn't afford the purple dye.

I got three balls of blue Kauni Effects yarn, the stuff that does the super-long color shift.

I was going to knit myself a sideways cardigan out of it, but after looking at projects on Ravelry, I think it may turn into a two-color stranded pullover instead. Something out of the queue, like a Fassett pattern. I'll come up with my own 'cut' for the thing.

My sister-in-law got me an awesome craft bag with a bazillion pockets. I don't think I'll be hauling it out of the house much, but it's PERFECT to load the majority of my knitting gear into, and carry it along as I roam about the house, knitting in different places.

Please note the flying trilobite pin. It was a gift from the husbeast and I immediately stuck it on there. Seemed fitting.

And here is a photo of the Goober demanding a kiss during gift opening. On the off chance you didn't get enough sugar over the holidays.

My father-in-law's sweater is going into high gear again tonight (I've been taking a break, waiting for the swelling in my wrists to go down), and I hope to have it done by the end of the week. Then it's a quick lace scarf for a friend, and after that... I announce the yearly theme I usually do. You may all wonder for now, but I'll warn you in advance, it's pretty boring.

The husbeast is watching a documentary on the Sopwith Camel (old WW1 biplane, best known as Snoopy's doghouse). The fuselage was made of a frame of wood with canvas stretched over it, then varnished. They're showing women putting the canvas on and sewing it up. Amazing how far textile skills will get you.

ADDED LATER: Took me several hours of fighting with blogger to get the photos to upload, so an update. My hands are still too sore for working on my father-in-law's sweater. (I did about three rounds and was in pretty significant pain. Last week I was carrying a bottle of painkillers in my knitting bag and would take them and keep knitting. Not the stupidest thing I've ever done, but it's up there.) Instead I'm fooling with a lace scarf from Victorian Lace Today in some alpaca silk blend lace-weight. Otherwise, I caught a cold and my mother-in-law says she feels like a million bucks when she wears the shawl.

I have video here of the Goober singing "Twinkle Twinkle" with her grandfather accompanying on piano, but damn if I can get it to upload. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Babbling, and a meme.

Drove from Ohio to South Carolina yesterday... about 670 miles/1070 km. Took us about fourteen hours and the whole way I practically chanted "I am never doing this again, we are stopping halfway." to which the husbeast would reply "You pay for the hotel, babe." and I would mutter something to the effect of "You aren't dealing with the $#($*&%# kid."

Good times.

Anyway, I'm home, and now able to e-mail again so I will be answering a lot of stuff that sort of hung around in the ether waiting for me to connect to it. If you're waiting, hopefully I'll get to you soon.

This morning the Goober is the only one functioning. No nap yesterday, bed three hours late last night, up an hour early this morning. Half of me thinks "Ah, to be three again," and the other half thinks "That looks like it would kind of suck."

Anyway. Um. What was I saying? Yes, correction from the last post, it was a 500 gig hard drive I got, not fifty. (Which just PROVES the husbeast is insane, but we kind of knew that anyway, what with him being married to me.) And I knit up about 600 yards of yarn last week, not 800. I kinda lose track with those giant balls that Bendigo winds up. Anyway, I was about halfway between the armpit shaping and the shoulder straps (the EZ seamless saddle shoulder pattern) when I realized my fingertips were numb and if I kept going I'd be laid out for at least another week, once it was finished. I should certainly have it done by January 5, when the twelve days of Christmas end. (Though the spaz-along is going to Chinese New Year, which is January 26.)

The Wiggles are doing disco music at the moment, with Richard Simmons, and it's kinda freaking me out. No, it's REALLY freaking me out. Anyway, anyway. I'm babbling. Exhaustion, I think. Or insanity still.

I have photos of knitting-related Christmas gifts I hope to post sometime today (YARN!), and a photo of the Goober looking an awful lot like Elizabeth I of England (which fills me with both amusement and dread). In the mean time, a meme from over at TweeWeeWonders, where it is snowing. No, literally. The blog is snowing. Check it out. It's pretty cool.

Anyway, the meme. Go to your Pictures folder, go to the sixth folder in there, and then find the sixth photo. Post it, and offer an explanation if needed. (In my case, of COURSE it needs an explanation.)

The folder is titled "Sericulture" and is from the blog post I did on that subject. The photo is of silk, woven in China and found at Loulan, dating from around 300CE. I don't think it ever got into the blog post - I often save lots more photos than I eventually use on that kind of thing - so this is kind of a bonus.

At this stage I'm supposed to tag five people and stuff, but if it looks fun, go ahead and do it. Um, if the sixth folder is full of porn, feel free to skip to the seventh. Or tenth. Or whatever.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bloody, buggering, pig-fucking hell.

Looks like I won't get the sweater done for my father-in-law. There's just enough of a (snowball's) chance that I keep on slaving at it, but I'm barely halfway up the yoke and we leave tomorrow at seven AM, so even if I knit through the night, I've got less than twelve hours left. And after knitting up about 800 yards of yarn already (a sleeve and the first half of the yoke), well, my hand just ain't what it was last Friday at this time.

Bugger. No. Wait.


(Otherwise, it was lovely, and I got yarn, and a new crafting bag, and a fifty gig hard drive, and some other bits and bobs, and the gifts I chose were very well received by all who got them.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

With photos!

This morning, almost first thing, we helped my brother-in-law and sister-in-law pack up to go visit her family before returning home. We discovered a quail missing from the Goober's Little People zoo, and expect it to turn up in their baggage when they return home and unpack. (Isn't that always the way?) The Goober and The Cousin carried on like they were siamese twins being separated.

I greeted the dawn by telling the Goober it was still night-time and to go back to sleep. It worked for half an hour.

The husbeast spent about an hour this morning in the basement, chasing down the rumor of a drain in the floor that was tiled over (if it exists at all) before I was born. Due to all the snow, freezing, raining, and thawing, there's water coming in the basement, and a drain would be a handy thing to uncover. No luck, but he was down on the floor for a good long time with a putty knife and a wooden mallet, pulling up carpet and tile, muttering about asbestos content and ancient adhesives. (One of his first 'jobs' in the Navy was laying tile. He knows flooring.)

Meet Emmet. He belongs to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. I'm convinced he's in telepathic communication with Sekhmet.

The paper he's sitting on? The cable 'maps' for my father-in-law's sweater. Yup. Emmet, you fucker.

Sunday's family get-together included a play room that the Goob went crazy for... that's her head in the bottom right of the photo. When we pulled her out of the room to take photos, she cried.

She found a camera, and took pictures back at us. Serves us right for interfering with her play time.

I spotted a Dale of Norway in the wild.
...okay, it's my father-in-law wearing the one I knit him. But he and my mother-in-law and her sister went on a trip to Scandinavia a couple years ago, and the sister thought that the Dale he wore was something he bought in a store in Copenhagen. Heeheehee. I think he needs a Lustekofe (sorry for the mis-spelling, I've got nothing to look up the proper Norwegian in) for Christmas next year (listen to me, this year's sweater isn't done yet), but that will depend a lot on the Goober and whether she lets me concentrate this coming year. (I give it even odds.)

The Cousin (and his parents) arrived Monday, and Grandma reveled in the attention.

The kids opened a horrendous pile of presents and proceeded to go wild.

The husbeast (who may or may not live until dawn) took photos of the endowments that made him forget I'm insane and marry me anyway.

My mother-in-law opened her shawl and loved it. Here, she says, "Ooooooo. Beads."

And here she is wearing it.

She and my father-in-law spend winters in Florida and this will be going with her. She's thrilled with the color (yay!) because it will 'work' in any season, and of course, she just likes that color. (See the shirt she's wearing? Yup. Go, me.)

The husbeast and his brother took photos of each other over the dinner table.

See the crown? Yeah, I brought it along and gave it to The Cousin. I think his dad wore it more, though. Ah well. So long as someone enjoyed it.

The kids stared out at the snow - both live in the south and aren't used to it. But it was either too cold to go out, or else warm (ish - 40 F/5 C) and raining.

I am pleased to report that the almost fifty-degree temperature shift in one day did NOT trigger a migraine. I think this last medication tweak the doctor and I decided to try is working. (We upped my blood pressure medication - I figure it can't get too low unless I pass out, and he kind of agreed. My feet are puffy, but it might be from the nerve damage med, which lists it as a side effect. Hell with it. I'll put up with dreaded Foot Wobble for no migraines.)

Emmet left this morning. Otherwise I think he'd still be on my knitting pattern.

I'm starting a theory that he's really Basement Cat.

Happy holidays to one and all, regardless of what holiday it is.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bullet point post!

From the madhouse - six adults and two three-year-olds all in one house for the next few days. I think if everyone ELSE would leave the eight of us alone, it'd be a grand holiday.

-Considering any old yahoo can get born into the family, it's probably good that we like about 75% of them, right? Right?

-No, I'm not discussing the other 25%. Except to say yeeeeeesh.

-Gave my mother-in-law her shawl early, because she made pies from scratch and was wearing a shirt that matched it, and, well, just because. She loves it. There was much oohing and ahing because she knits too, so understood the insanity involved. She especially liked the beads.

-The Goob is aquiring all kinds of annoying behaviors from her cousins, including a screech that could shatter glass. (We spent Sunday at a family get-together that was attended by 17 kids under the age of 15.)

-Two years ago, in this house, the Goob fell and had a black eye just in time for all the holiday photos. Guess what happened again this morning?

-I miss my cat. (She got left in Charleston with auto-food because she's a bitch to everyone but me.)

-So far I've unloaded about half the cookies, and only eaten maybe a dozen toffee chip shortbread. That's almost good.

-Is it wrong to sincerely LIKE some of the long-term neighbors more than the long-term family?
-Almost done with the second sleeve on my father-in-law's sweater and it MIGHT get done before we leave Saturday. (This is a seamless deal, so after the second sleeve, I still join it all up at the yoke and have to knit up the shoulders.)

-That other 25%. Yeeeesh.

-Gave The Cousin the second of the two felted crowns I knit for the "Crowned" pattern. (Link in the sidebar.) Last I looked he was still wearing it.

-For those who thought I was down near Cinci, no, I'm about 45 minutes south of Cleveland. It's 15 F here right now. (Uh... -10 C, about.) Did I mention extreme cold gives me migraines? Of course it does. Lucky me.

-I'm babbling. This isn't drugs. This is mild to moderate insanity. Okay, okay, extreme.

-With luck, some photos tonight. We got my computer hooked to the internet.

-Gotta go visit with some of the 25%. Yeeeesh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Still alive and out of jail.

Arrived safely in Ohio last night, after thirteen hours on the road with a three year old who hadn't napped and had been up since five AM. The husbeast played Norwegian death metal on the trip and then when I'd snarl at him he'd tell me I needed to chill out. (I swear I'm driving home and playing Brahms the whole way, if I have to buy the damn Brahms CD.)

We're staying with the in-laws, who redid their basement recently, so we're in the lap of luxury. My mother-in-law got a hot water kettle just for me (I'm the only one in the family who drinks tea instead of coffee); see why she gets hand-knits? We just had cookies for breakfast, and I got some from-scratch cinnamon rolls made Friday, for the family get together coming up today. (Cinnamon rolls twirl clockwise; nutmeg rolls twirl counter-clockwise.)

For the Aussies: Since my sister-in-law is on a diet, I'm just handing out the chocolates I'd originally bought for her goodie bag. (She's still getting earrings and coffee and like that, but it seems rude to hand a bag of six thousand calories to someone trying to lose weight.) The Arnott's Biscuits are probably going with us to a family get-together this morning. That way I can hook a few more people on Tim-Tams. I will, as always, explain The Suck. (They will look at me like I'm insane, but that's nothing new.) Doing what I can to spread the joy of Austalian culture around the world. (No, I'm not giving out my Bendigo. Are you INSANE?)

Otherwise, not much. I've been asleep almost since we got here. The Goober goes to the Christmas tree - with presents under it - every five minutes and says "Let's open presents!" We explain no, she walks away, and five minutes later, "Let's open presents!"

I don't think she's gonna make it to Wednesday. I'm going to start pushing for present opening on Christmas eve, or as soon as the brother-in-law, sis-in-law, and The Cousin get here. I'm betting The Cousin will want to open presents too; he's only three months older than the Goob.

Further posts as events warrant. Hope everyone is having a nice pre-holiday weekend that isn't too insane.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eight egg whites.

That's how many I trashed today, making coconut macaroons that wound up in the trash. We're having freak weather here - humidity and in the seventies - and I think that's what went wrong. They're meringue based, and everyone knows meringues go funky in hot or humid weather. Which is why I was a moron to try to make them.

I mention this to make anyone feeling like a slacker, feel better.

I dyed the batik twice; the first time wasn't dark enough. The second time isn't dark enough either but I'm out of dye and the washing machine made the water too hot and started melting the wax, so it is officially done.

After the macaroon fiasco, I decided the baking was done, too.

So that leaves me with half a sweater (got the cuff started; that's the only thing today I didn't fuck up, knock on wood), the packing, and the mailing to do.


Because we leave Saturday morning.

I think I'm going to go to bed now, and pretend today was all just a horrible dream.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Snickerdoodles are a chewy sugar cookie, jazzed up with a dash of cinnamon. I've tweaked the recipe for the holidays. (Of course.) They appear to be native to Amish areas, where I grew up, and it wasn't until I moved away in my twenties that I realized not EVERYONE ate snickerdoodles. As a teen I had two of these every day for lunch, all through high school. (Along with an ice cream bar. How I weighed 115 pounds will remain a mystery for the ages. I think it had to do with never sitting still.)

-1 cup butter
-1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
-2 eggs
-2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
-1/2 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter, double this)
-1 teaspoon baking soda

-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-2 tablespoons sugar
-mix 2 teaspoons cinnamon into cookie batter, and roll in
-colored sugar

Usual drill for assembly: Cream together butter and sugar, add eggs, mix in dry ingredients. Chill dough, roll into balls, roll in sugar/cinnamon, and bake at 350F for about eleven minutes.

As done at my house, with photos:

Pour colored sugar into a dinner plate and set up an assembly line; cookie dough, sugar, baking sheet.

Skip the part where you chill the dough and scoop it straight from the mixing bowl into the plate of sugar.

Roll the blups of dough around in the sugar and place on silicon paper on a cookie sheet.

Beware marauding Goobers.

Bake as the recipe says, and enjoy. Now make some green ones.

Try to pull them out of the oven when the edges JUST start to turn golden brown. That gives you crunch on the outside and chew inside, which is optimal cookie condition in my world.

Yum. These are always a favorite, even among people who've never had them before.

Getting there.

Finished round one of the batik this morning; I need to do a quick run across the back side of the fabric to wax some odd spots, but for the most part all it needs is a dip in a dye pot, iron, wash, and dry, and I'm done. That's possible by Friday night.

Friday night is the deadline because we leave for Ohio at about four AM on Saturday morning.

I'm casting on for my father-in-law's second sleeve today, and hope to have it done by the time we head out on Saturday morning. With major luck I can knit the yoke on the twelve hour drive to Ohio; barring that, I'll definitely get it done by the time we LEAVE Ohio, so even if it's a little late, it doesn't really count. (If it's done by the end of the Christmas visit, I say, close enough. It's that making them wait until February thing that's the pits.)

Yesterday I baked twelve dozen cookies, and enjoyed 90% of the process, so that's pretty good. I've got lemon truffle filling in the fridge, waiting to be blatted through a pastry bag into individual servings, and dipped into white chocolate coating. The one fancy thing I'm making this year. I got the Snickerdoodles done, and will be posting the recipe for that, hopefully today. (I'm doing it on a separate post so it's easier to perma-link to in the sidebar.)

Oh, and I got the two gifts from hell wrapped last night - the really big ones that HAD to be wrapped because they were going to the Goober and the Cousin, and children under ten NEED to shred up paper at Christmas. Everything else is getting dumped into a gift bag.

All that said, I'm trying to figure out why I feel like I'm running in place. Last night, I was laying in bed, pissed because I didn't get that second sleeve cast on, telling myself "You baked twelve dozen cookies and wrapped those two huge presents today, dumbass." The human brain is a strange, emotional, and largely stupid thing.

Tomorrow I'm prepping anything I want to mail to anyone for the holiday, which will then go out Friday. (Post Office, at the holidays, with the Goober. Nothing but good times ahead.) I'm hopefully making a double batch of coconut macaroons, a double batch of cinnamon rolls, and pre-measuring my semi-famous homemade yeast rolls, so I can make them in Ohio for Christmas dinner.

Today is for crafting, Thursday for more baking, Friday for packing. I really hate holiday travel. Why can't everyone come to me? We need a holiday tradition where everyone I freaking know comes to my house for cookies at Christmas. That would solve everything.

Anyway. All this babbling likely brought to you by the glory of my new medication, which is making me feel like I'm moving through molasses, but it can't be true, looking at what I'm getting done. Weird.

Oh, and I tried to get the Goober to sing her holiday song. No luck. I MIGHT get her to join me in our rap version of Twinkle Twinkle. If I do, I'll try to post it. (Google is really weird with videos lately.) We're also trying to get her to yell "THANK YOU, GOOD NIGHT!" at the end of songs we video tape, like she's doing a rock concert. And she STILL won't sing Dean Martin with me. Bah.

I think this concludes today's babbling. Maybe. Except for the Snickerdoodle thing. Shutting up now, aye!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fucking swamp.

(The good moods, they are so fleeting...)


Apparently not.

I killed it by pouring liquid hand soap over it. Bah. Fucking bugs. Fucking swamp. (I know, I know. I've seen much larger spiders in my day, too. BUT STILL. It's WINTER!)

...the good mood will likely be back. The Goober has made up a song to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb. "All the way to Christmas time, fa la la, fa la la. All the way to Christmas time, fa la la la la." Not bad for three. I think she made it up because she couldn't remember the words to Jingle Bells, which she was trying to sing just a minute ago.

I can see the forest, thank you.

This time of year, I (and a lot of others) get so bogged down in details, we tend to miss the big picture. Events conspired yesterday to sort of kick my ass and make me see the big picture, whether I wanted to or not. The big picture is, of course, that I'm pretty lucky and have a nice life. I mean, I do notice it, but sometimes not as much as I should.

I spent most of yesterday doing batik, which can kind of suck because you're sitting next to a pot of liquid wax at 225F/110C for hours, sweating, and trying not to get said liquid wax on you (it hurts). (Got nearly all of it done, incidentally, or at least the first pass. I need to go and re-wax some parts on the opposite side of the fabric, but that's faster and easier.)

So I took a break to hang out in a chat room I hang out in (Life: Beliefs, Atheism, on AOL if you're interested; I'm not atheist, but there's a no preaching rule in effect that I'm really fond of, and it attracts a lot of smart people). There, I was complaining about how the Goober had said "I'm kinda cold now" fourteen times in a row that morning, and someone commented, they wished their kid would say something like that, but they likely never will because they're Autistic.


Then the husbeast came home and told me one of the guys he works with spent the night at the hospital. His otherwise normal Labrador had suddenly gone berserk the night before, and attacked their four year old child. The kid lost a couple teeth and has twenty-six stitches in his face, and the dog is on the back porch awaiting a really grisly rabies test, the least revolting step of which is putting the dog down - I think putting the dog down is the right choice, but it's still traumatic and knowing what happens to the dog next is pretty grody if it's your pet. (The dog had all his shots. No one wants to take any chances.) Poor, poor little kid. I know him, the Goob plays with him at shop parties, and he's a sweet little guy. What a lousy way to spend Christmas. I think he needs some cookies. I'll have to send some to work with the husbeast.

(The Goober just ran up and demanded a kiss for no apparent reason.)

So after that, I huddled over the batik, and the brain started going. And I came to a few conclusions.

-I'm lucky to have family I care enough about to make gifts for. And even luckier to be in a family of crafters - my mother-in-law knits and my sister-in-law sews - so I know my gifts are appreciated.
-The Goober. I'm not just lucky to have her, for herself, but her good health, and the ability feed her and house her and buy her crayons and stay home with her.
-You know, it's pretty nice that I have a kitchen to bake in, and the money to buy ingredients so I can stress over getting enough cookies baked, that my family doesn't really need anyway.
-Those presents I'm bitching about wrapping? Isn't it nice we could afford to buy them? Granted, I had to start buying them in August to fit them in the budget, but isn't it nice I thought ahead so we have all this happy stuff for Christmas?
-Sure, I hate traveling, and I really hate going to Ohio. But it's sure nice that I've got relatives that want to see me so much they'll chip in on the gas bill. Though my father-in-law claims it's really about seeing his granddaughter, and the husbeast and I are just baggage he has to put up with to get her. (He will tell us during visits, he's only there to see the Goob. It's very funny.)
-Yeah, my health sucks, but none of the problems will kill me, and I've got good insurance that costs almost nothing, and two good doctors. That new medication I'm trying? Without insurance it's $2.40 PER PILL. No way I'd afford it. I got a $240 prescription for $22. Time to ease off - slightly - on the bitching. (OH! And the pharmacy finally quit sending people with controlled substances out of the building with Bright Red Bags! It took three years, but the bitching might have gotten through! Merry Christmas!)

So, to summarize, attitude successfully adjusted, I think. I usually hit this stage at the holidays, at some point. Happily it appeared early this year. Maybe I can coast on the 'yay' all the way through to New Year's.

Oh, and another happy thing? Well. I saw a rainbow on my way home last week (late in the day; high arch, full single, and partial double, with echoed reflections because it was so bright). This led me to REALLY looking at it, which led me right back to the color theory books. I'm re-reading "Bright Earth" by Phillip Ball, and you're all likely to be subjected to more color maundering. Soon. You know, as a break in the batiking.

And since I've been short on photos lately, here's one.

Sorry for the blur, I took it with a hand-held, with a super-slow shutter speed for the low light. This is how the Goob insists on being tucked in, with stuffed animals all around her head. The rat's name is Scabbers, the large bear is BumBum, and the bear on her forehead is Little Bear (she named all but Scabbers). Occasionally, like when this photo was taken, she's so exhausted when she goes to bed, that even Little Bear doesn't move, and then you wind up with, well, this. Hilarious.

I'm also taking photos of the batik process and will subject you to a tutorial when it's done.

Okay, I'm thankful and shit, but I'm still sick of that freaking fabric. Next time I decide to batik ten yards of fabric, someone beat me with wooden #35 needles until I come to my senses or pass out, okay?

Monday, December 15, 2008

...it's not entirely in our heads.

Well, at least for those of us in the US. This sudden waking-up and yelling 'HOLY FUCK, TWO WEEKS TO CHRISTMAS!' is not entirely due to our being in a coma. Because of the calendar, and how Thanksgiving fell this year, there's about a week less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas than usual. I'd say for most of us in the US, Thanksgiving is the official sign that we need to get moving on Christmas. And this year Thanksgiving was waaay at the end of the month, instead of nearly a week back, which is more common. So, uh, what was I saying? Oh, yeah.


...on a related note, the baking. I was in the store the other day to pick up the ingredients for the lemon truffles (which are very likely the only 'fancy thing' getting made this year), and the clerk asked me what I was making. I said lemon truffles. She instantly went into an unbelievable five-minute long explanation of why she didn't do Christmas baking, like I was going to yell "SINNER!" and leap across the counter at her. Good grief.

If you don't like to bake, then for crying out loud, don't. It's a very rare person in the westernized world (which is where Christmas happens) who NEEDS some extra fat packed onto their ass. The only reason I do baking is because I enjoy it. I actually used to list baking as a hobby, like knitting or reading, and I did bake that much. (I unloaded most of it on my friends.) Due to weight gain, the move to SC, hand problems, and other issues, I've cut way back, but the holidays are a once-yearly indulgence where I cut loose and really bake. This year it's taking a hit again, due to that missing week, having a three year old, and the crafting. And I'm sure my family will survive with a little less butter, sugar, and chocolate in their diets at the holiday just fine. So will yours.


Politics lately has left me either boggled, shocked, or amused. I fear you'll have to hear about it.

First, uh, selling a senate seat? Isn't that a little corrupt, even for Illinois? (For those overseas, in the US, if a senator resigns their seat in the middle of a term - say, to become president - the governor of their home state then appoints a new senator who is approved/ratified/smooched/whatever by the state legislature.) After eight years of Bush, we're all pretty blase about government corruption, but hearing a guy state "a senate seat is worth a lot, I'm not giving it away for nothing" on a wiretap is still boggling. Just... good gods.

And the UAW. (United Auto Workers, most powerful union in the country these days, probably.) Did they just commit suicide, or what? How fucking arrogant is it to refuse to take a pay cut, when your people are making 90% more than industry average, and the corporations you're bilking are about to go under? Sometimes absolute power doesn't corrupt; it makes them fucking stupid.

AND THE SHOE-THROWING. (The Iraqi journalist that threw a shoe at Bush yesterday?) The only part about that incident that doesn't make me smile is wondering what happened to the poor guy who threw the shoe. (Hey, no harm done. Fine him for disturbing the peace, snicker at him, and let him go.) Otherwise, it's the least Bush deserves. I wish it had hit him. Has he figured out he's universally hated yet? Maybe not. He's pretty stupid. It's like having the reincarnation of Warren G. Harding in office, except Harding's wife had the good sense to whack the guy three years into his presidency.


Um, otherwise, I'm trying to finish the batik today so I can get it to a dry-cleaner and back by Saturday, when we leave for Ohio. It's about half done, and going at about 3 yards an hour. So, what, two more hours, and some dyeing. I hope, I hope, I hope.

Starting the second sleeve as a break sort of thing.

Still have to wrap all the presents. Always a pleasure, with the hand problems.

Oh, and the second dose of the new med went all right. The loopy feeling was much more mild, but lasted longer. Like, until about ten this morning. But I suspect I'll build some kind of tolerance for it.

I think I'm babbling. Yup. Pretty sure.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Comment roundup.

There've been some questions in the comments, and then there's other stuff...

-I'm sorry my sweater surgery caused some horror. I promise to unravel that chunk I cut off and use the yarn. Just not right now, 'cause I'm busy.

-The sweater for my father-in-law has been put on sorta hold right now, and I am working to finish the batiked fabric for my sister-in-law. After looking at the calendar, I have faced reality. Something's not getting done. I can knit in Ohio, but I can't do the batiking there. So, priorities first. Damn it.

-I would have to hike 'the girls' up to my shoulders to get the Hex Jacket to fit properly, and even then it wouldn't work. But thanks for the suggestion.

-Thank you to everyone who wants me to move near you. Very flattering.

-If I were a politician I wouldn't use the word fuck so much. No. Really. But the thing is, what are the odds of me ever getting elected? HAHAHAHA.

-I think the only knitting magazine that turns a significant profit is Interweave (of the three I've been discussing, Knitter's, Interweave, and VK). I think Knitter's and VK stay alive by book publishing and yes, in the case of Knitter's, the Stitches conventions. My problem - such as it is - with Knitter's is, some of the patterns are kind of kooky, but again, they aren't claiming to be anything but a knitting magazine (not haute coture), and they ARE a knitting magazine, so okay. I really like how they lay out their patterns and present the information, their tech editing is reasonably good, and they have a lot of good designers on the payroll. I wish they'd reign in Rick Mondragon, though, particularly in the books. Victorian Lace Today is a shining example of why; they should have dumped at least ten pages of full-color photos, and with the money saved, published another twenty pages of black-and-white text about how to alter lace, in the Appendix. (That section is worth the cost of the book, if you knit lace.)

Other Stuff. (I'm documenting the medication thing here so I can find it later. Please feel free to stop reading. There will not be a test later.)

-My doc and I upped my blood pressure medicine, mostly to keep my blood pressure from possibly triggering migraines. (As I put it, "Unless I pass out, the lower the better on blood pressure, right?" and he nodded and started laughing again.) That's the latest plan; I think it will work because often I can get mild migraines to go away by taking an extra blood pressure pill (which I have permission to do, from the doctor).

-Took the first dose of Lyrica last night. I was feeling pretty floaty after, but that was all right 'cause I went to bed. Laying in bed a while, I had this reaction "Something's weird... what is it... what is it... huh. My hand doesn't hurt." It appears to have turned off about 95% of the 'nerve confusion', random signals my nerves send for no reason. Hot, cold, pain, pressure, itching, you name it. (I burned my hand the other night, and the pain of it kind of got lost in all the confusion and I couldn't tell the burn apart from the general chaos.) Slept like a rock, woke up early, felt downright human. As the husbeast said, 'This is weird. Awesome, but weird.' I'm deeply suspicious of miracle drugs (I've been down this road before), and waiting for the bad side effects to hit, but so far, it looks like a miracle. Let's hope the all-day vertigo doesn't hit in two weeks. (That's my usual response to this class of drugs.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sekhmet, you fucker.

Yes, that's the hex jacket she's on. I know I shouldn't leave it anywhere she can get to it. But she's still a fucker.

Slept most of yesterday, will be back to posting way too much later today.


Still deciding if it's a good sign or a bad sign when you go to see the doctor and they laugh through 90% of your visit. Pretty sure it's good. (The computers were down on base yesterday; the doctor probably needed the laugh. I'm thinking of it as a public service.) It started when I explained I needed my old migraine medication (Midrin) back. The new medication (Fioricet), while getting the job done, would make me fall asleep. Then I would wake up with Sekhmet on my chest, meowing and ruffled, with her fur full of cracker crumbs, and the Goober laughing like an evil chipmunk. The doc has kids of his own, so this cracked him up because the same thing probably happened at his house.

When we got to discussing medication for my nerve damage, I mentioned that one I'd been on worked (Klonopin), but resulted in everything I thought popping straight out my mouth. At that point he dropped his head into his hands and started laughing. I further explained that, apparently, what I think is pretty funny, so I didn't lose any friends, but I wouldn't put it at the top of the list for drugs I want to try again. He just kept on laughing.

Klonopin is what I was on (for nerve damage then, too) back in the summer/fall of 2006 when I apparently made a series of blog posts that had people rolling on the floor laughing. And yesterday I was thinking "Well, if I wind up back on it, at least my blog readers will be happy." This is probably an indication of some blog-related neurosis or other, but I've got enough to worry about.

Unfortuantely for you guys, we're trying something new, Lyrica, which is actually designed for nerve pain. But, who knows, you may get lucky and it'll have the same effect.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Something from Vogue Knitting, no less. Remember the hex jacket (Russian Coat, according to Vogue), by Norah Gaughan? That one. It's not flattering. But I didn't knit it for flattering, I knit it because it was cool. So in that respect, it was a success.

...FYI, when an empire 'waist' line goes across your boobs? That's not gonna look right.

At least from the back, I look like I have a waist. Sorta. This was always intended as a knock-around-the-house winter cardi, perhaps a run-for-groceries cardi, so fit isn't a huge issue for me. Plus it looks better hanging open.

Other than the fit, which I knew from the get-go was gonna look much like it does now (I'm too long through the waist to look good in empire waist styles - petite women? this one's for you), this was a really cool knit. The modular part on top is all knit together as you go, and the bottom is one giant hexagon that, if you knit the top first, you can do in your sleep. All that was left was an underarm seam and joining the bodice and skirt. That part's - bodice to skirt - a little tricky and takes some fudging. In fact I'd say it's the only tricky-to-hard part on the whole thing.

TECH DETAIL FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT KNIT THIS: I substituted an I module for the H module at the wrist. This shortened the sleeve and made the point fall at the back of the hand instead of the palm. I also did it in garter, which seemed common sense, to avoid it curling up. If you actually knit this pattern, the above will make PERFECT sense by the time you get to the cuffs. Here's a photo, in case anyone wants one.

On a totally different topic, for the people asking about moving, here's the deal. The husbeast retires from the Navy in September of next year. His last day 'on the job', so to speak, is in mid-June, then he's got job-hunting leave and a slew of other similar things. (One of the very few benefits to the military.) So yes, we will be moving out of the bloody swamp. We've both agreed, we're headed north, where there are winters to kill the bugs; we both grew up in Ohio slogging through lake-effect snow, so unless we move to Buffalo (New York, as far as I know the craziest place in the world for lake effect snow), Siberia, or the Rockies, we'll be fine. No, we don't know where we're going yet or where he'll be working, or even what field he'll be working in. (He's amazingly overqualified for all sorts of high-tech industry. Yay.) Yes, we are starting to stress over this.

I have already suggested Canada, Europe, and Australia, and was sneered at soundly. Seriously, though, we'd like to stay within a day's drive of the in-laws and my father (who is in a nursing home and not in good health). Before the economy crashed, I was campaigning actively for Connecticut, where I've got a couple very good friends, but at this stage, a well-paying, safe (heavy industry, the more dangerous job, the better the pay) job anywhere that's not in a swamp.

I've got the pattern-making blues.

Years ago (YEARS? good gods, where does the time go), over at See Eunny Knit, Eunny discussed the differences, in her mind, between 'fancy' and 'plain' knitting, mostly in regards to how the knitwear is constructed. To quote her, "If the garment is going to be knit in the usual way, if the process is predictable, it's not harnessing the sun to drop in stitch patterns and the like, fussing here and there with the math to make it all work." She goes on in other posts to explain that she thinks of that type of knitting as 'pattern-making'. The fancy knits, now those are DESIGNS. And it was kind of cool to see someone legit (she's now the editor of Interweave Knits) express an idea I generally shared. Always a pleasant thing.

In this case, the pattern I'm knocking out is this:

My father-in-law's Christmas sweater. Sure, it's original, so I guess it's a design, but I can't bring myself to call it that when all I'm doing is measuring some gauge swatches and dropping some cables into Elizabeth's Percentage System.

Or rather, I should be knocking it out. Unfortunately, I've changed my mind, as I seem to do at least half the time in these 'design' situations. In this case, while sleeve-knitting (and looking at the calendar), I changed from the plan of a set-in, grafted-in sleeve to the basic seamless saddle shoulder, the same system I used on the Husbeast Gansey and the Steeked Jacket. Which, as usual, resulted in the need for a bit of alteration, in this case involving surgery.

There was so much to rip back I finally pulled out some scissors. If it turns out I need that yarn to finish the sweater (I don't think I will - I seriously over-estimated what I needed, which is also usual for me), I'll unravel that bridge when I get to it.

The sleeve took me twice as long to finish as I expected it to. Granted, compared to 1,728 stitches per round, the 91 stitches that were the largest the sleeve got was lightning fast, or seemed like it. But because the yarn and needles are heavier, and because it's a cable knit, it's killing my hands. Simply holding up the weight is hard. Add in the unholy amount of yanking and pulling and digging for stitches that you do in a cable-knit, and, well, it sucks. I fear I will wind up finishing this AFTER I give it to my father-in-law for Christmas. (However, odds are good I will be able to finish it while visiting, which is certainly better than the year I mailed him his Christmas sweater in February. It was a Dale of Norway. He didn't complain.)

Good thing the yarn is fabulous. That's all this project would need, shitty yarn. I'm knitting it with Bendigo Woolen Mills 8-ply Rustic in color Midnight Tweed. I am already plotting a major Bendigo order to take the trauma out of moving this coming summer. I will lay in a massive pile of yarn, crawl under a rock, and knit. (Actually, I tried this method when we moved from Hawaii to here. It didn't work out that well. I'm pretty sure I don't care.)

Anyway. Other than the usual, I made more cookies last night.

Snickerdoodles coming up soon, like today or tomorrow, after I make them. (That's on deck for tonight.)

The Goober decided she wanted to 'dress up' today.

You just can't stay stressed with THAT running around your house yelling "WHEeeeeeeeeeeeee I'm a PWINCESS!"

And, um, does anyone remember how I did the decreasing in cable pattern, on the sleeve? Because now I have to go knit another one that matches.

We all know how I love second sleeves. I think this makes the fifth one-armed sweater in the house.

Maybe 2009 will be the Year of Two Arms. Hmm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

You want snark?

The MSN 2008 fashion year in review.

A quote: "wide horizontal stripes are no one's friend, whether you're curvy or clarinet-shaped; never wear anything ribbed and rubber outside the privacy of one's boudoir; avoid any material that increases the possibility of hydroplaning; and when the good folks at Michelin offer to sponsor your tour, always, always read the fine print" and "[these] accoutrements put the "ha!" into haute couture."

I do think it's unfair to rag on celebrities in photos taken when they're knocking around town, though. Everyday wear, we all go for comfy over glam. But on the red carpet?? GEEZ. What are these people ON? (Okay, we know what Courtney Love's on.) And Cher? Hasn't Cher proven she's outside the law of fashion by now?

Welcome Knitty readers!

Glad you liked my article enough to click on over here and check things out. I am in the midst of holiday insanity, baking and knitting like a fiend. Explore the sidebar a bit; there's some good stuff there. Dyers should enjoy the 'Color' section.

Apparently the link to my Etsy shop is broken. It can be found here, or you can just do a search on Etsy for "SamuraiKnitter" and it will pop up. There is wool roving in stock, including my fave, Purple Trainwreck colorway. There is also a button in my sidebar, just below my profile. (And below that is a button to my Ravelry page, if you're intersted. I'm also SamuraiKnitter there.)

The sweater I'm knitting is 'due' December 20th; so far I've got the body done to the arm pits and half a sleeve. It will probably get entertaining around here as I lose my mind.

Regular readers, howdy, and if you're wondering where my article is, it can be found here.

It has begun.

The insanity known as 'the Christmas baking'. Unlike other years, I haven't made a list of baking to be done, gone off, and spent $100 on supplies, and holed up in the kitchen for a week of insanity. This year, between three-year-olds, health shit (endocrinologist appointment tomorrow, pain doc Friday), crazed knitting (almost done with the first sleeve), and did I mention, a three-year-old, the baking is going to be scaled back significantly. I'm aiming for one batch of cookies a night (doable, and a good break from knitting all day, for my hands). As for supplies, I'll buy them as I go. If I decide to make lemon truffles, I'll go to the store and buy a lemon and some white chocolate. And so on.

Last night, I made almond cookies. Tonight I'm doing a double batch of toffee-chip shortbread cookies. Tomorrow night will be Goddamn Holiday Snickerdoodles (an official name). They're regular snickerdoodles, with cinnamon mixed into the dough and rolled in red or green colored sugar. Anyone need/want the recipe?

Instead of the usual twenty pound bag of flour I usually get, I'm going to get a five pound bag like normal people and just buy more if I need it.

Last night I killed my Sideswipe. Ripped the silicon flaps right off. I am not amused.

Anyone seen that recipe for ginger bars?

(And there's REALLY nothing to report. I'm doing nothing but sitting around, knitting, with an occasional break to bake or read. Whee.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

When Sekhmet isn't a fucker.

Some sleeve.

I've got this much done on the first one:

I'm using the seamless saddle-shoulder method (just like the steeked jacket) to knit this thing, so I just need to get it to the arm pit and join it up with the body that is already done to the arm pits. I've moved it over to a circular needle this morning, which speeds things up, so that's a help. If I get both sleeves knocked out this week (possible, but nuts), odds are good for getting the yoke done next week, and having it ready BEFORE we leave for Ohio on the 20th. There have been years I sewed on buttons minutes before giving a gift, and years I've given Christmas gifts in February. I'd like to skip all that this year.

Obviously, I'm not doing much else. The Goob has taken to drawing really cute faces.

Otherwise, I MIGHT get a photo of the shawl in daylight today. I hope to. And someone asked when my next Knitty article is due out. I was told it would be in the upcoming winter issue, which was supposed to be out, uh, December 1. So, any day now. It'll be in KnittySpin, and is about dyeing loose fiber. I fear it's of limited interest to my knitting readers. But that's what's up.

Gotta go knit.

Monday, December 08, 2008


There were some questions about the shawl, so here are some answers.

-Yes, you fold it in half and wear it as a half-round. That makes it twice as warm. And makes it possible to knit it in the round so I don't have to purl back on the odd rows, which I hate. Yes, I really would rather knit twice the square footage than purl back.

-My mother-in-law usually checks in here for Goober photos about once a week, but when I start the Christmas knitting I let her know and she doesn't read again until Christmas.

-The husbeast says he knew I was insane, but he was charmed by my personality. (Okay, he was distracted by my backside. I am SO not giving a direct quote.)

-I found the notebook under a ribbon flower in my office and am now about thirty rounds into the first sleeve. Size nine needles seem huge and heavy and unwieldy after three months on those little lace needles.

Dye job.

For those of you who asked, here's how I dyed the shawl. But first, for those who AREN'T interested in the gory details, here's the finished product, as it blocked last night. As always, I stuck my foot in for scale.

The photo is crooked because after two hours crawling around on my hands and knees to block that SOB, I was in pain and drugged. I am boggled to report that it is 80 inches/2 meters and change across. Hopefully it will suck in a little bit as the fibers relax, post-blocking, because I was shooting for seventy inches on this bitch. Oh, and it contains a mile and a quarter/2 km of yarn. Good thing I wasn't keeping track as I knit it. No wonder this thing took me three months. I told the husbeast, "Next time I knit something this elaborate, I'm doing it on quad zeros so it blocks to the size of a place mat." he said "You're crazy. You know that, right?"

So. Dyeing it.

Saturday afternoon, I got a five gallon/19 liter bucket and filled it with water and about a quart/liter of vinegar, stuffed the shawl in, and left it to soak overnight. It's almost impossible to soak too long, but the water starts getting grody after a couple days.

I included the Goob's bath toys in the photo for your amusement.

Sunday I prepped the dye bath while I left the shawl soaking.

Salt is something I don't generally use when dyeing wool, for various reasons. Salt slows the uptake of dye into the fiber, and by that mechanism, evens out the uptake and reduces the uneven splotching that can happen when you hand dye. Normally I like splotchy, but not on finished products. Don't get me wrong; no matter what you do, a hand dye at this level will come out with uneven color. But salt will reduce that to slight, interesting variations, instead of something that looks like a mistake. Generally you should use kosher or pickling salt (no additives), and about the same weight of salt as you have of fiber. I didn't have enough kosher salt to spare, so I used iodized (regular table salt) instead. It's a little more obnoxious to wash out at the end of the dye process but otherwise fine.

There was no way I was going to dissolve two pounds of salt into the amount of water I could fit in my dye pot, so I just dumped some salt into a sauce pan, perhaps two cups' worth.

I put it on the stove to boil it and dissolve it. Unfortunately there wasn't enough water and I wound up with a super-saturated liquid.

Which is kind of fun from a chem geek point of view, but a pain in the ass in the dye pot. (What happens is, there is too much salt to fit in the spaces between water molecules. When you heat the water, the spaces get bigger and more salt can dissolve and fit into those spaces. Then when you reduce the heat, the space constricts and you can watch the salt crystallize out of the water and fall like snow into the bottom of the pan. Like I said, cool if you're fooling around, but a pain in the ass for dye purposes.) I poured off as much of the liquid as would STAY liquid, into the dye pot and filled the pan with salt with more water. Once that heated, I mixed in the dye.

I used a heaping 1/8 teaspoonful of Wilton's "Sky Blue" dye (which is pure Blue 1 food colorant). I have no idea what that is in metric, so I took a photo of the measuring spoon.

Actually, I used half a spoon of it first, dyed the shawl, decided it was too light, and put the whole thing back in the dye pot with the heaping measuring spoon full of dye. Always remember - you can always re-dye but you can't make it lighter.

The dye was mixed into the boiling water, just to make it easier. By now the husbeast was in the kitchen, leaning over my shoulder, and snapping photos.

And I'm supposed to tell everyone, when he saw the amount of salt going into the dye pot, he said "It's a shawl, not a cured ham." (As for that loaf of bread in the background, remember - food coloring = food safe, so I don't have to care about safety.)

Anyway, that pan of dye and salt ALSO went into the dye pot, and I topped it off with cold water so that it was room temperature.

It's murky like that because of all the salt in it. (And remember, I actually skimped on the salt. Boggling.)

After that, I went and fished the shawl out of the soak, ran through the house with it still dripping, and plopped it into the dye pot. I sort of kneaded it to make sure the dye was squished through the entire thing.

Since I was using my roaster, it was a simple matter at that point to apply heat, and I turned it on to 200 degrees F/93 C. I left it that way for an hour and a half, prodding it with a wooden spoon every fifteen minutes, trying to squish the dye through it to keep the color even. This part is a balancing act, and the tricky part; too much squishing, and you felt it. Too little squishing, and the dye is uneven. Well. MORE uneven. After that I turned it up to 250F/120C and let it go for half an hour, again squishing every fifteen minutes.

Once the color was what I wanted, keeping in mind the color is darker wet than dry, I pulled the shawl out and left it balled up in a metal mixing bowl to cool for about an hour. The dye pot had not exhausted. I did not care. It doesn't matter much, except that you have to be more careful with washing to get out all the unbonded dye. Forgot to get a picture, sorry. Imagine a wadded up, dripping blue shawl in a bowl, here.

After that, I washed it just like you'd wash any woolen, in the kitchen sink with room temperature water and a PH neutral soap (dish washing detergent, because it was there). I did three rinses, about two more than usual, because of the unbonded dye and all the salt. Once the water in the rinse stayed clear, I blocked it. (No trip through the spin cycle of the washing machine this time, because I wanted it to stay wet until it was blocked properly, and I knew this blocking job was going to be a bitch.)

So that's what I did. Routine blocking, except for the fact that it was huge and the blocking wires didn't reach across the entire edge of the octagon. I faked it on four of the sides, and used wires for partial edges.

The husbeast brought in one of his shop fans with a heat option, and blew it on the shawl and it was dry in time to pull it up before bed. (The Goob is known to get up for drinks of water in the middle of the night and no WAY I was having her stumble across that. Or worse, decide to play with it.)

So there you have it. How to dye a project, after it's finished. Simple enough, but not for the faint of heart. Or sane.

I am pleased to report the shawl is almost the same color as a scarf I knit for my mother-in-law two years ago, and she loved the color of that. So I think it was a success.

Now I need to get working on my father-in-law's sweater. Anyone seen the notebook where I wrote down the pattern? 'Cause I can't find it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I am documenting the process, for those of you who requested it.

For now, I think I'll go breathe into a paper bag and tell myself over and over "You've done this a million times before, it will be fine."


ETA: The husbeast just asked, "If I hear screaming, should I grab the Goob and run out of the house?"

I'm telling myself the only real danger is having it dye unevenly, and then it will look hand made.


The day that lived in infamy.

And still does, in some circles.

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which led directly to the US entering World War Two, and to Hawaii becoming a state. (In Hawaii, the second fact is sometimes considered more significant. For the indigenous Hawaiians, I think statehood was more traumatic.)

I spent my ten years living in Hawaii within sight of the Arizona Memorial; the first place I could see it from my back yard (and in fact a house up the road - up the hill - had been used by the Japanese during WW2 to spy on ship movement in the harbor), the last two places, we couldn't see it due to buildings in the way but were close enough to hear the base play Taps at night if it was quiet.

I regularly met people who had lived through the attack, the subsequent martial law that was declared (Hawaii was not a state yet) and the eventual forced statehood that grew out of the military protectorate issue. A friend of mine worked in a building that had been used as a hospital after the attack; he, a confirmed agnostic and non-believer, insisted the building was haunted. The husbeast worked in an area where there was a warehouse that had bullet holes still in it. Everyone who boated in Pearl Harbor, recreationally or for business, gave Ford Island (where Battleship Row was) a wide berth, due to chunks of wreckage still in the water. And as you can see, on a clear day, from up hill, you can still see the Arizona sitting on the bottom of the harbor, holding the remains of the 1,177 sailors that went down with her.

The morning of December 7, in Hawaii, always started with a flyover from the US Air Force, of a group of fighters doing the Missing Man formation. They did it at 7:48 in the morning, when the attack originally started, and it was always a shock, even if you remembered what day it was. You'd be drinking tea and having a piece of toast, or studying for a math exam, or any of a million other normal things, and those planes would go over and the sound would give you a jerk. Then you'd realize on the original December 7, the sound was accompanied by shooting. A lot of shooting. During the attack, civilian targets were also attacked, and portions of Honolulu were shot up. There aren't reliable figures for civilian casualties, but everyone agrees they did exist.

Then there's the funny bit. Because it's Hawaii, and that's just the way the clash of cultures always shakes out.

Before the attack, Hawaii was a protectorate of the US, not a state. So legally, things were kinda iffy. In particular, the prostitutes of Honolulu got treated badly, and the chief of police in Honolulu made a mint, charging them a fortune to stay in business and avoid police harassment. The women were allowed to go to one beach on the far side of the island, and forbidden from nearly all public areas.

When the Pearl Harbor attack hit, two things happened; prostitutes from the red-light district near the base took injured sailors into their own beds to nurse them. And law enforcement for the entire island fell to an enlisted guy over on that Navy base, the Master at Arms.

Well. The MA saw the prostitutes as nice girls - they helped out, didn't they? - and vital to morale. So he struck down all the laws discriminating against the prostitutes, gave them equal rights to everyone else on the island, and fixed the price for, ah, 'visits' at three dollars an hour. (At one point, the madames asked if they could raise the price to five dollars, just because they were sick of handling so many single dollar-bills. He said no.) The prostitutes' response to this was, of course, to take good care of all the military guys going through Pearl Harbor for the next five years of the war, and everyone was happy.

Except for the chief of police. He'd lost a huge source of income when he lost the right to shake down the prostitutes, and now they were making more money than ever, and it made him mad. There were various false arrests and other harassment, and it eventually led to all the prostitutes GOING ON STRIKE and PICKETING THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. (Is it any wonder I love this place?)

After a few days of that, the military stepped in AGAIN, on the side of the prostitutes, told the chief of police to get stuffed, and all was, once again, well.

At least until Hawaii became a state and prostitution became illegal.

If anyone looks for this information, they aren't likely to find it. I've searched for it myself for years, because SOMEONE needs to write a book about it. To my knowledge, there's one documentary about it that's shown at three AM on local-access Hawaiian TV about once a year. And there's a single book, in the University of Hawaii archives, a self-published memoir from the leading madame of the island during the time in question (and one of the women who got thrown in jail unjustly, which led to other women going on strike). Rumor has it the local paper, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, has photos of the women picketing the police station, but they looked totally blank when I asked about it. Too bad. It's a good story.

It's interesting, how living in a place makes the history of it yours, even after you move away and think you've forgotten about it. But Badass of the Week did an article on a guy who died during the Pearl Harbor attack, and immediately brought back memories of those early-morning flyovers, and me sloshing tea out of my cup and thinking "Imagine if there was shooting, too." And now I'm going to push 'Publish' at just about the proper time for the flyover.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


-I put the shawl to soak this morning. First, I rinsed out the dye bucket because I last used it to dye cotton and I was worried about soda ash, which is used as a fixative with those dyes (and is caustic, so can't be good for wool). I put in about six inches of water, swished, and poured out BRIGHT LEMON YELLOW water. Apparently there was still dye in there. Oh my gods, if I'd accidentally dyed that shawl lemon yellow, I'd have to kill myself. Anyway, I scrubbed out the bucket and it's soaking now.

-I've got one of those rubber flooring deals that goes together like puzzle pieces, and covers about forty square feet. I'm hoping that's big enough to block this shawl on. It won't get THAT much larger than the shawl already is, because unlike when I work with plant fibers, I won't stretch it out until it's tight as a drum head. (A lesson learned the hard way with the Popped Stitch of 2006.)

-Was just discussing the morality of government with someone who doesn't read this blog. He called me a post-modern anarchist in denial. He's probably still wondering why I found that so hilarious. And agreed with him.

-I just changed my blog header... anyone know how to make the damn thing fit across the entire column instead of hanging there like a misfit?

Knitting magazines.

(This is partly cross-posted from a board on Ravelry. If you've already seen it, my apologies.)

The only reason magazines exist is to make money. Let’s be honest among ourselves. And I’ve no problem with that. The way they make money is advertising revenue. And the way they make advertising revenue is directly based on their circulation numbers, or how many magazines they sell. Subscriptions and sales to the consumer barely cover the cost of printing, if they’re lucky. (I used to work at a newspaper. Same deal.) So to bottom-line it further, they need the consumer (us) to stay in business and make a profit. More, they need us to buy a lotta magazines.

To do that in knitting magazines specifically, what they need to do is publish patterns that are reasonably flattering on a decent percentage of the population. That’s not a matter of my own personal tastes or anyone else’s, individually. It’s economics. When I do my reviews, I am in fact looking for those patterns - the ones that are flattering on a good portion of the population - not what I LIKE. I don’t LIKE 99% of commercial knitting patterns. It’s why I so rarely knit them, and so often design my own stuff.

That said, I poked around on the Ravelry database (I freaking LOVE Ravelry) and came up with some interesting numbers. Here in the US, the three major knit mags are Interweave, Vogue Knitting (VK), and Knitter’s. I also threw in Knitty for comparison, though it’s kind of unfair to compare a free on-line, international web site to sometimes locally distributed magazine. But it gives an idea of how popular a pattern can get for comparison.

Of the fifty most popular patterns on Ravelry, Interweave had three, VK and Knitter’s had none. Knitty had fifteen. That sounds about right for me, because Interweave is the magazine that consistently delivers the most wearable, reasonably flattering patterns (not what I LIKE; what is wearable and knittable). And I believe of the three in-print mags, they have the highest circulation numbers. Not a coincidence.

Then I found the top five most popular patterns from each magazine, and added up how many people had knit each of those patterns. Again, it underlines the issue. Interweave had 17,178 projects, VK had 1,232, and Knitter’s had 1,204. Interweave had about fifteen THOUSAND more projects cast on than either of the other two magazines. (To round it out, Knitty had 34,388.)

So when I’m reviewing, it’s not about what I like. It’s about technical skill and what’s wearable. Because truly, to stay in business, these magazines NEED the wearable patterns, no matter what they claim about high fashion or cutting-edge. (The recent shakeup at Knit1 is a fine example. They changed their slant because they realized they wouldn’t stay in business trying to sell patterns that only teenagers could or would wear.) We can’t get the information, but I will bet you if we could add up the profit margins of each of those three magazines, the statistics would be nearly identical to the popularity figures I just gathered.

It’s not all about me with the patterns. But I do wonder how VK plans to stay in business when the majority of their patterns are unwearable. Rumor has it they’re in financial trouble off and on, regularly. Go figure.

A few other thoughts:

-Knitty is run by a plus-sized woman and produces a lot of wearable patterns in a wide spectrum of sizes. Coincidence? I doubt it.

-Many of these magazines are run by non-knitters, who don't understand that for most knitters, if we're going to invest forty or sixty hours in a project, we want to be able to wear it for more than one season. The magazine with the most real knitters on staff ('real' meaning people who knit their own clothes or accessories) is Interweave, and they're the ones who offer the most classic, un-dated styles. Coincidence? I doubt it.

-The vast majority of knitting designers that KNITTERS love, knit themselves. Make their own clothes (Meg Swansen), or accessories, or knit some of their own samples (Annie Modiset, Nicky Epstein), or whatever. I can't think, offhand, of one 'real fashion designer' who does the usual drawing and then hands it off to an assistant to actually construct the garment, who is truly beloved by knitters. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Hot off the needles. That's my foot in there for scale.

I hope to have it dyed and blocked by the end of the weekend. HopeIhopeIhope.