Saturday, February 28, 2009

The first Saturday of Bike Week.

Yes. That's what it is. We're one county north of the madness in Daytona. (For further explanation, click here.) See?

We're up in Palm Coast, at the top. Daytona is down in the lower left. Not really too far, as the bird flies, or the chopper rides. Every RV campground, beach camp site, hotel, rental condo, and front lawn is full of people with motorcycles, and everywhere you go, there they are.

(That's a buncha bikers at an intersection. We were on our way to Target to buy tooth brushes.)

Now. For those just tuning in, you may think this is going to turn into some anti-biker rant about the counterculture and black leather and things that go vroom in the night. But it's not.

It's a whining post about times gone by.

I make occasional (perhaps regular) references to my hand problems around here, but I don't think I mention the source too often. The source was what I call an auto accident, because by the gods, the accident was caused by an asshole in a car (that fucking bitch... don't get me started). But I wasn't in a car. I was, in fact, riding a motorcycle. Someone pulled out in front of me and I hit the side of their car at about 15 mph. (Uh... 24 kph.) That doesn't sound like much, but when your protection is denim, leather gloves, a helmet, and a pair of boots, well, I'm lucky to be walking around. (Seriously. I have doctors even now read my medical records and say "Are you SURE your back doesn't hurt??")

So, you see, I am a biker. Or used to be one. I may never ride regularly again, but I take the occasional spins on my nephew's dirt bikes, and may some day ride dirt again. But never again will I hit the streets; not with the hand problems and a three year old I'm responsible for. That really bugs me. I've given up a lot due to the hand problems - clothes with buttons, shoes that lace, contact lenses, movies in theaters, drinking - but giving up the motorcycles is the biggie that really bothers me.

For me, Bike Week is like waving an open tequila bottle under the nose of a recovering alcoholic. Or offering a big slice of Linzertorte to a diabetic. If I'd realized it was Bike Week right now (I thought it was later in March), I'd have re-arranged the visit here.


I think I'm gonna hole up in the apartment and knit. Yeah. That sounds good.

Tonight we're going down into Daytona to eat at a favorite restaurant that is favored by bikers (or at least bikers with good taste in food). We have reservations. It will be chaos. Wah.

I want another tattoo. Of Tank Girl. Wah.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sock Roulette!

May all the gods be willing, I have finished up the mailings for who needs to mail socks to whom. If you don't get an e-mail and think you should, give it a few hours and let me know.

Then I will shriek for help and we'll have to change things around.

And another thing...

Badass of the Week is particularly entertaining this Friday.

So is the Yarn Harlot. I'm pleased she admits to mistakes. It's so comforting for the rest of us.

Still here.

Really. I've been hunkered down knitting, and the in-laws had some long-time friends of theirs visit for several days, so I've either been kid wrestling or huddling under a rock. But I'm here.

This morning we went out to a little beach-shack diner/bakery sort of place for breakfast. Bells requested food info, and I didn't have the nerve to take flash photos of my food in the restaurant (believe it or not, some places are banning that, but this didn't seem the place, it just seemed rude). But I got a photo of the menu.

Across the street was the beach, and beyond that, the shrimp boats were out.

And it was all terribly atmospheric if you go for that sort of thing. (Apparently I'm not an Ohio farm kid any more. Twenty years ago I would have thought it was all very romantic. Now I look at the fishing boats and think of pollution and overfishing and feel rather surly.)

The food was really good, though. We intend to go back when the husbeast is here, for the bratwurst breakfast. He will weep joyous tears of beer.


Otherwise, not a lot going on, which is just how I like it on vacation. The Goob's been having a good time.

That's her, blowing bubbles on the porch, and putting on makeup with Grandma. (She got the works - eye shadow and everything. And lipstick. She's big into lipstick.)

For those who'd asked about how Chico gets to the top of the cabinets, he does it the usual way; he jumps up to the counter top, then to the top of the fridge, and from there it's barely a hop up to the cabinets. He's a youngish kitty, barely two.


Information will be going out today, on who is sending socks where for Sock Roulette. I really am on it. Srsly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chico, you fucker.

This place, where the in-laws are staying? There's a ledge on the top of the cabinetry in the kitchen, and Chico, my mother-in-law's cat, has figured out how to get up there.

He likes to lay there, and watch the hoomins go by.

It'll give you a hell of a start, though, to look up and see the little booger hanging there like a vulture, looking at you.


Sunday I drove down here, of course, and I snapped a few photos as I drove.

Trish, do you remember this lovely pit? That's supposed to be the sign for Waffle House, off I-95, but I was driving and didn't want to run into someone while concentrating on the photo. I sort of hung the camera out the window, hoped, and pushed the button.

Then we got on the highway itself, and it looked like this:

For four hours. (It's an hour to I-95 the way we drive it, so all in all, a five hour trip with nothing but trees, except for the short bip through Jacksonville.)

These are our current digs, or at least this is the area of the current digs. It's a nice, gated community, all over-designed and self-contained. Some say they're a blight on the landscape. Some say they're a wonderful alternative to down-at-the-heels little beach communities. I see both sides of the argument, and while I think these are nice places, and certainly well maintained, I've also got a sentimental fondness for shabby little beach shacks. Either way, it's nice here, and the in-laws are happy here, and really, that's what matters.

For now, I leave you with sunrise photos, taken this morning at the unholy hour of six-thirty AM. The Goob's excited as all hell and has been getting me up at five-thirty every day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sekhmet you fucker.

I'm trying to pack to get us to Florida, and you see the help I get. (Yes, of course I packed the knitting first. Doesn't EVERYONE?)

In related news, Goober, you little shit.


As I was packing things up last night - electronics, clothes, toys, medications, computers - I said to the husbeast, "Remember the good old days, when you packed for a trip by grabbing some extra underwear and another tee shirt and jumped in the truck?" to which he replied, "....underwear?"

That's my husbeast.


So, anyway, Florida. Headed there, today, obviously. Five hour drive in a Jeep with a three year old and no other adult as a safety net. I can't begin to describe my excitement. (The Goob, however, is on a tear at the idea of grandma and grandpa.) Bells has told me to take lots of photos, so I shall. Her wish is my command. (Plus, exotic is wherever you aren't, and there are lots of blog readers out there who've never been to Florida.) There appears to be an internet connection down there, and my new, super whammo-dyne computer hooks up to the internet come hell or high water (really, even without me telling it to do so - it's quite amazing), I should be able to blog somewhat normally.

Here goes nothin'.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Overheard at my house.

Yesterday I got a notice/invitation/announcement sort of thing in the mail (etiquette is a foggy area for me), telling us that one of my uncles (who I don't hear from much) was getting married to a woman I'd never heard of before. Hm.

So I'm sitting there, puzzling over the announcement, kind of worried at the obvious evidence of scrapbook-o-lunacy (punched corners, ribbon, etc), and wondering just what my uncle had gotten himself into, now. And this conversation came up:

HUSBEAST, thinking of gasoline to Florida and other assorted expenses: So do we send a present or something?

ME: I suppose we should, since we got an announcement.

HUSBEAST: So what do we send?

ME: I'm thinking I'll grab some crochet cotton from The Pit, knit some doily or other while I'm in Florida, block it when I get home, and chuck it in the mail.

HUSBEAST: I love you.

I guess knitting is a welcome neurosis in my house. At least for the day. (Scrapbookers, don't get offended. You're all nuts. It takes one to know one. I'm an insane knitter. Nice tameetcha.)

When I got married, going on, what is it now, seventeen years ago? I didn't change my name. So I still have the name I've had my entire life, forty years now. Wouldn't you think my family - whom I've also had my entire life - could get it right? Is that such a crazy expectation? Oh well. They cared enough to send the announcement. That's what I tell myself.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Getting there.

I have performed the Mystic Rite of Heel Turning, picked up my gusset stitches, and am headed on down the foot.

It'll go faster now, won't it? Won't it?? Right?


I love books. It probably shows. To discuss further, and also comment on comments, here's some further thought.

First, yes, I agree that while books in the home will lead to smarter children, I suspect the books themselves aren't the cause of the smarter children. People who read/love books are generally more intelligent and more intellectually involved with their children from the get-go, so I think the books are really more of a by-product. A lovely by-product to be sure, but not the initial trigger for the smartness. Plus of course you can get into genetics and just what is inherited and how I'm convinced big-brained people breed more big-brained people and while that doesn't equal smart, it's a darn good starting place.

When I visit other homes and don't see books, it kind of weirds me out. What do they DO? I imagine them like some kind of android, walking in the door and shutting off until they go out the door to work or school again in the morning (let it be said I never denied having an over-active imagination). On the other hand, visiting people WITH books is like an automatic topic for chit-chat. Years ago we visited with some friends of the in-laws who'd kindly invited us all to dinner. After, we wandered into the living room for drinks and there on the coffee table was a book on the history of electricity; I'd never had any idea our one host was interested. The husbeast and I immediately were off on history and technology and we had a wonderful time with our host that wouldn't have happened without him leaving that book there, and without me spotting it.

Even the husbeast, who is dyslexic, has a foot-high stack of car mechanics magazines next to his easy chair.

I also think that if anything, it's more important to have a child SEE you reading, than to read to them. Because the one leads to the other. If I'm reading, as often as not the Goober will turn up with a book of her own, or if there are pictures in what I'm reading, will simply lean over my shoulder and ask questions and point and demand words. (She's the only child I've met who will announce "I don't know the word for that." and point.) Of course it all works out far better if there are books there for the child when they DO ask to be read to. But having the kid see parents reading as a normal thing to do with spare time is a huge behavioral trait they pick up on, very early. And thank goodness.

Oh, and that crate full of books in the photo yesterday? Those are only about half of her books. The good books, with paper pages (instead of 'board books' with cardboard pages) are in her bedroom on a real shelf. She's got more books than some adults; I feel very sorry for those adults.

Anyway. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine was casting about for something good to read, and he asked several friends to make a list of 'thirty books you dig'. Fiction, non-fiction, it didn't matter. He did say that if it was a series of books, to just count it as one. I was one of his victims, and he gave me one other rule: no knitting books. So I put together a list and sent it off.

I thought it would make a fun voluntary meme sort of thing, to give all of us ideas what each other read, and good stuff we haven't seen yet. I won't say NO knitting books, but go light on them; we all know the good knitting books. Let's branch out into other stuff. Annotation isn't required; I put in comments because, let's be serious, I can't shut up. Here's my list.


-Kushiel series, Jaqueline Carey. Smut and philosophy all in one place. Gotta love 'em.

-Cook Wise, Shriley O. Corriher. Cook book by a biochemist. She can tell you WHY things work the way they do. And how not to mess it up again.

-5,000 years of Textiles, Smithsonian books. With pictures! Makes me want to build a draw loom on the back porch.

-A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson. Yes, it's brief, and barely touches some topics, but he humanizes it and makes it entertaining. And explains geologic time and evolution in terms anyone can understand. Also Made in America and Mother Tongue. Or, really, anything he wrote. A Walk in the Woods is one of the funniest non-fiction books I ever read.

-Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. He follows four plants and discusses how mankind has forced them to evolve for our own purposes.

-Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien. I know, I know. But it still kicks ass.

-World History, Dorling-Kindersley. It's newly published, one of those committee things. Kicks ass. I read it through cover to cover. Best part is the by-country history appendix in the back.

-Baking textbook, Cordon Bleu. With this you can bake THE WORLD.

-'In Death' series by J D Robb. Fluff, but entertaining fluff.

-Cod, by Mike Kurlansky. And also Salt. Pop history at its best, making things interesting that we had NO IDEA were so interesting.

-The Phantom Toll Booth, Norton Juster. Kid's book, the first book I read to my kid though she was three months old at the time. It's about learning for fun, and obviously had a huge impact.

-Anything by Jenny Crusie. "Chick Lit", but good chick lit. Guaranteed feel-good reads. Sometimes a girl needs that. Not so much 'empowering' (I hate that shit) as 'fucking hilarious'.

-Ditto for the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich.

-Amelia Peabody novels by Elizabeth Peters. These are about a family of Egyptologists. The books begin in the 1880s, and the last one was set in 1927. The author is an Egyptologist and puts in 'inside jokes' that you really have to know Egyptian history and archeology to get. Good stuff.

-Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond. Anthropology 101, but interesting.

-Food in History, Reay Tannahill. Best food history book I know of, makes a serious effort to cover all cultures, and is readable by people without history degrees.

-Botany for Gardeners, Brian Capon. I had a horticulture professor actually use this as a textbook, once. Best laypersons' discussion of botany I've ever seen.

-Children's books by Sandra Boynton. If I've gotta read the same damn book five times in a row, at least these are cute and funny and well-illustrated. I've got several memorized (One hippo, all alone, calls two hippos, on the phone). Hippos Go Berserk and But not the Hippopotomus are personal favorites.

-Don't know much about the Bible, Kenneth C Davis. Goes through the Bible book by book, giving a history of where the text came from, what they were thinking when they wrote it, surrounding historical and cultural pressures, and contradictions within it and with other books.

-Ancient Inventions, James and Thorpe. An honest look at what went on in our past, through texts, archaeological remains, etc. Contains info on the Baghdad Battery, etc.

-The Story of Stupidity, James F Welles. You'll have trouble finding this one unless its been reprinted. It's from a small university press and I picked it up in a college book store. Anyway, it explains WHY people do stupid shit and finally really got me to understand how others' brains work.

-A History of Art, Borders Press. Another conglomerate/committee type book. About four inches thick, but not bad for a general overview. It's fairly snooty and obnoxious, but you get that from art historians.

-The Arts of China, Michael Sullivan. Know the art, know the culture. Though he does go on a bit more than necessary about the freaking ink drawings. I don't CARE how popular they are.

-The Universal History of Numbers, Georges Ifrah. Just what it says. The guy should have an honorary PhD from SOMEWHERE for this book. Starts in Sumeria and branches out; there are chapters for each region and culture as needed.

-Bright Earth, Phillip Ball. Another book by a chemist, this one about art, painting, dyeing, and color. All in layman's terms, and wonderfully interesting.

-Collins Atlas of Archeology. A series of articles by a bunch of specialists. Maps AND archeology. What's not to love?

-The Battle for God, Karen Armstrong. The history of fundamentalism in the modern world, why it happens, and to whom.

-Women's Work, Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Sure, some of her conclusions are debated, but still. It's the only really approachable work of it's kind, a history of textile production and the people (women) who did the work.

-Mad Scientist's series of books, by Bertrand R. Brinley. Old - from the sixties - and kind of dated, yet still hilariously good young adult fun. Really smart kids getting into trouble, essentially. These are waiting for the Goober. I read them too.

-The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff. Also The Te of Piglet. If you want Taoism explained in a way you'll understand, these are the books for you. Gentle, funny, peaceful, much like Taoism itself.

There you go. Anyone who would like to join in, feel free. Hit your shelves, see what you've got out, in progress, and share your favorites. I can't wait to see, and find more things to read.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm getting old.

For about three months, the keyboard on my laptop has gradually been giving up the ghost. Mostly it was the space bar getting more and more temperamental; then I started losing vowels, and I decided it was time to get another keyboard. So I gave the part number to the husbeast - who is the eBay king - and asked him to get me another one.

After about half an hour, he re-appeared and informed me "Your keyboard is on the way. It's attached to a new laptop."

He knows I hate that thing - bad video card, lousy memory, and the keyboard - and apparently had found a good deal.

So today, the new laptop arrived in the mail.

I should be thrilled. I really should. I feel guilty that I'm not. But all I can think about is what a flipping pain in the ass it is to change everything over to the new computer. Mind you, this is with most of the files on a 500 gig external hard drive and 'moving' that is a matter of unplugging it from one computer and plugging it into the other.

The husbeast, of course, is geeking out all over it and has apparently gone off and bought himself another - at a very good deal - to replace his own laptop.

So I get my dream, to beat the old computer to death with a ten pound sledge hammer. I'm sure I'll take photos and post them.


Still knitting on assorted little things I want done before I leave for Florida, I think Sunday will be the day. Pretty sure. (I'm not big on schedules. I'm sure no one noticed.) One more baby booty to sew up, some more wet blocking to do, and it's all in the mail. Yay.


There have been several studies showing that children who grow up with books in the house are smarter. (I wonder about cause and effect in these studies. A whole lot.) The newest claims (I'm not convinced) are that for every five books the kid's IQ goes up ten points or something.

So I guess I'm raising Einstein. The hair's right, anyway.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Estonian lace, and socks. Well, one sock.

Yesterday at the book store I picked up "Knitted Lace of Estonia" by Nancy Bush.

It's an excellent book, well-documented, well illustrated, with lovely photos and lovely projects and easy to read patterns. Which is exactly what I expect from Nancy Bush. (I'll pretty much buy anything she's done, because she did it. I've got sock books by her, and I don't even knit socks.)

There is a history section on Estonian lace, which of course I was interested in due to my ongoing obsession with the history of knitting. Turns out that, unlike a lot of knitting traditions, Estonian lace was ALWAYS about the money. It developed in several coastal towns that were resorts for Imperial Russia, and/or ports where passenger ships (full of rich Russians and Scandinavians) stopped. So the very smart ladies of Estonia started knitting lace to sell to the tourists and make a buck. I in no way think this cheapens or commercializes the tradition; I think it's brilliant. You go, girls; that's my thought on knitting traditions founded for monetary reasons.

Anyway, what I found interesting, in the context of my Backdoor Theory of Knitting Migration, is how the shawls are worked (very short, single point needles with no in-the-rounding like Shetlanders used), in ways that have more in common with Orenburg lace than with North Sea methods. Which might validate my theory, inasmuch as it's possible to validate anything eight, nine hundred years after the fact.

But it's interesting.

As for 'should you buy this', well, I'm of two minds. I suspect most lace knitters already have more lace patterns socked away than they can knit in a single lifetime, or possibly two lifetimes. (I personally could spend one lifetime just knitting lace in German.) So to tell people they need more patterns is a little hare-brained. But this lace is different. It's more textured than any other laces I've seen, and I think I've got at least a nodding acquaintance with every major lace tradition. The only thing I've seen come near it is Azores Lace, and that's little doilies, not wearables. So this stuff really IS different. So any lace geek would be pleased with the book and find it worthwhile. You'll have to decide if it's something you'd want, I guess. Myself, I'm pleased with it. But I'm a lace geek.


I spent the weekend knitting. A long weekend - Monday was an 'off' day for government workers like the husbeast, for President's Day. (We spent our lovely holiday dealing with a backed up sewer line. I'll skip the revolting details; the city fixed it because it was city pipes that were clogged, but EW.)

I wanted to knock out the sock for the Roulette swap. Yeah. About that. While I am still firmly convinced it is possible to knit a sock in a weekend, especially a three day weekend, I failed to take a few things into consideration: It may not be possible to knit THIS PARTICULAR SOCK PATTERN in three days. And MY skill set for sock knitting is... not extensive. Doilies, yes. Socks, no.

There are four inches/ten cm of leg done. Four to go, before foot shaping. So, what, a quarter done? Oy vey.

It's a textured sock, with little twisted-stitch 'cables'. I figured this would be nothing for me, considering I just got done knitting a gigundous allover cabled sweater. But you know what? Cabling stuff on size nine needles is different than cabling it on size twos. Grand revelation of the weekend. Yeah. It's pretty pathetic I had to have this revelation after, what, twenty years of knitting. That's me. Real fast on the uptake.

When the sock frustrated me over the weekend, I worked on baby stuff. I got a pair of booties almost done (they need sewing up and buttons - so cute they give me stomach cramps), and a BSJ needing one shoulder seam and a frog. I put frogs on baby clothes instead of buttons when at all possible... I've got this hangup about buttons on baby clothes. We're all entitled to be neurotic about something.

I leave for Florida this coming weekend, probably Sunday, for two weeks with the in-laws. I'd REALLY like to have the sock done by then. We'll see.

How is it, no matter what, I manage to drive myself insane with deadline knitting? Even when the deadlines don't exist??

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I'm so sophisticated.

Last night I placed my first international yarn order, at Bendigo Woolen Mills. (Kickass yarn. Now that I know how to do it, I may order from them all the time. Oh, and Bells, worry not. I'll swap for this yarn ALWAYS. You just let me know when you're in the mood. I bet 3-ply makes nice lace. Oh, and thanks again for the shade card.)

So, I ordered the yarn for the Christmas knits for the in-laws this year. The blue cable-knit for my father-in-law last year was knit with Bendigo (Rustic 8-ply, color "Midnight Tweed". Lovely color, and not one knot or hinkey spot in the eleventy million yards I knit up). It got many admiring comments and my mother-in-law (a knitter, you recall,) LOVED the yarn. This year it's a pile of Classic 5-ply for some stranded-color sweaters. (Yes. I'm insane. You'd just noticed?) So I filled out my order, and clicked to check out, and, well, there was the total.

I breathed into a paper bag for a while until the dizziness went away. Then I reminded myself that for two sweaters it really wasn't too bad, and the in-laws deserve the best for everything they do for us, and I clicked 'pay' (or whatever), and that's when I saw it. The total, followed by "AU".

Oh, right. Australian dollars. Haha. Silly me. I'm ordering internationally.

The charge just went through our own bank, in USD. It's positively reasonable and almost a third less than what I thought when I clicked 'pay'. Haha. Australian dollars. Righto, then.

Shoulda ordered more yarn.

I'm gonna go feel stupid now.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sekhmet, you fucker.

Please note the hand-knit cat bed right behind her.

Stuff. With a side of thingies.

I finished the Faux Russian Starf. (Stole plus scarf equals starf.) It is twenty inches wide by seven feet long, and so it hovers between stole and scarf sizes. If you pull it wider, it gets shorter. If you pull it longer, it gets narrower. Truly one size fits all.

These photos are blurry because, to get the color right, I had to go with no flash, and for me to stand still without swaying on this medication is like having the earth stop spinning. I like how it turned out. And I don't think the beads screw with the traditionality of the whole thing. Sort of adds some sparkle without being obnoxious or overpowering.

There was some question about the name and structure of this, and I'll attempt to explain. The reason it's Faux Russian is because it's based on Orenburg lace, but the materials (and I don't think patterns) are terribly traditional for the Orenburg laces. (Orenburg uses a combination of silk and 'goat down'. The pattern calls for Jameson & Smith jumper-weight.)

As for the structure, well, here it is.

You cast on the edging, with something provisional (red jiggies on the photo). Knit the edging sideways (as it turns out), blue arrow. Then you leave the edging stitches on your needle, and pick up stitches for the body of the scarf all along the just-knit edging, yellow arrow. When you arrive at the provisional cast-on, you pick it out and put those stitches on the needle, too - yellow wavy line. Then you knit upward, both edgings and the body, all at once - green arrows. At the other end (I didn't take a photo, they look the same), you knit the edging sideways onto the raw body stitches, then at the other edge, you graft the two edgings together. I think mathematically you're doomed to be off by a row so there's a barely noticeable line in the edge where the graft is, but it's such a neat job, I can't bring myself to care. There's no cast-on edge, and no cast-off, to pull in or wave out or anything; it's a consistent selvage the entire way around the scarf. Really quite clever. I doubt I'll ever knit more Orenburg-ish lace (that damn garter stitch), but I'll likely use the edge trick on some project or other, down the road.


In other news, I'm nearly done (will surely finish tonight, barring natural disasters) with one BSJ, will knit matching booties, and then move on to the Roulette Sock over the weekend. (Pray for the sock. Pray for me over the sock. My lifetime output of socks is, uh, four. So if the pattern is hinkey, I am doomed.) After that, another BSJ and more baby booties.

After that, back to the lace design I'm working on, for submission to somewhere, sometime. And I think the Russian Prime needs bloody well done by now.

I'm getting ready to order the Christmas yarn. Very early this year, but I'd like to get at least ONE of the two Christmas jumpers done this year before we start moving around in September. (Two would be good. But I'm realistic. I'll settle for one.) They will be stranded color. Oh, boy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Roulette button! Finally!

Here it is, in all its alleged glory:

If you like, link it back to the original post explaining the knit along, found here.

I also put links to everyone who is participating, in the sidebar. If you aren't there, I need an e-mail to SamuraiKnitter AT to sign you up. (Amy Lane, THIS MEANS YOU.) Signups are open until February 27, if you can knit a sock overnight. (It is physically possible and I wouldn't put it past some of you.) I will send out the addresses of who you need to mail to, on February 28. Hopefully, socks will go in the mail March 1 or thereabouts.

Those of you without blogs who are on the list in the sidebar, I put links back to the original roulette page, because the Blogger widget made me put in a link. The idea of coding all this in HTML made me want to swoon, so I cheated. Of course, if I screwed up your name or blog or anything, please e-mail and let me know and I'll fix it. In some cases I used aliases instead of real names because I think they're more easily recognized; if you want your name instead, or if your name is there and you want an alias, say the word.

At the end of March I'd like to do a post showing photos of all the pairs of socks we've produced. I'll keep an eye on blogs, but for those of you without, you could e-mail me a photo of your masterpiece. That'd be great. If you decide to not knit the mate of the sock you get, or take too long or whatever, that's okay too.

I've got the gauge swatch done for my sock and will be knocking it out this weekend. I think I'm going to race myself and see how fast I can do it. I hate to sound like a snob or a jerk, but compared to 0000 needle doilies, socks seem pretty easy. (I haven't knit that many.) That said, watch this sock turn into something horrific. (That's why I'm doing it early... just in case.)


Otherwise, uh, yeah. Ran into problems finishing the Blueberry Puff and am sick and tired of looking at it. It is on needles, awaiting bind off, end-darning, and a fastener, flung in a corner of my office. Bah.

I've finished (as in grafting and end-darning and everything) the Faux Russian Scarf - which may yet be a stole, it looks pretty big - and it is soaking in the sink now for blocking later this evening. I will get photos, and several people have asked questions about lace and I'll try to discuss them then.

Apparently everyone I know is giving birth at the same time - soon - so I'm knocking out a couple quick gifts for that. I can't show them because some of them read the blog. But I've got a really cute BSJ about half done, and I'm using Etsy shop stock to do it, so it's two birds with one stone. Anyone know a good pattern for a baby squid hat?

Now I'm going to crawl back under my rock with some knitting. I like it under there.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Quote for the day.

ME: You are a squealing piggie.

GOOB: No, I'm a whining poo head.

Maybe she does listen when I talk to her. Huh.


The news out of Victoria today is horrifying. I've been worrying over every Aussie I know for three days now, and will continue to do so. I know the fires are supposedly dying back, but there's still the aftermath to deal with. Damn. My thoughts are with all of you, even those in other parts of Australia who have to watch the news and worry over distant family and friends-of-friends.

We get firestorms here in the US, in southern California, but I don't think they move as fast, from the sounds of it. They're also driven by hot winds and made worse by drought. We used to get a mild version of them in Hawaii, and watching those out the window (a mere camp fire in comparison), was bad enough.

Anyway, I'm thinking of you guys.


In knitting knews, such as it is, I fear I will not be making the Feb. 20th Twist Collective deadline. But I'm designing something that may well be suitable for their winter or even spring issues, so I'm keeping at it and am actually very excited about the project. In fact, the project has spawned another idea. Heaven help me.

For years people have told me I should write a knitting book, and for years, I've said that if I could think of a knitting book that hasn't been written yet, I'll write it. And hello, while working on one of about fifty lace swatches, it hit me. Nobody's written much of anything about designing lace patterns, or how lace WORKS. Yeah, there're a couple, but I've got them and they aren't that useful once you dig into the elaborate stuff. And the only book that really explains HOW knitted lace works is out of print ("Knitting Lace" by Susanna E. Lewis. Yes, I own a copy. No, Alwen, you may not have it). Even that book, while excellent, doesn't get into design too much, though it is the best I've seen at how the structure works.

So. It's an idea. I've even cooked up a new method of swatching for lace (well, a new method of 'doing the math' with the information you GET from the swatches), so if it works, I may be on to something.

In the mean time, I'm working on a doily-knitting article for Knitty. That'd put the information in the hands of most of the people who'd want it.

While thinking of all this, I actually couldn't face knitting laceweight yarn any more. Three months on the shawl for Christmas, then immediately turning around and spending a month and a week knitting the Faux Russian Scarf (it's done, by the way; I need to take photos), and, well, fifty-hundred lace swatches and a sample, I just ran out of steam. Instead, I cast on some super-bulky (yes, you read that right), and am working on a poncho for the Goober. She needs something light to put over tee shirts on spring days, and a poncho would fit her for more than one spring, unlike the jackets we keep buying every time we turn around. I'm using stash (and hand-spun stash), so it kind of counts for the "Finishing" deal. And more than that, the Goob's all excited. She's calling it the "Blueberry Puff", and I may well name the pattern that. The pattern will be available for free, one size fits most, with a collar and neck opening for kids with big heads (like mine).


It appears I am more of a pack rat than I realized. (Gee. There's a big shock. I bet you're all swooning.) I keep finding yarn in odd corners and pokey places (often behind books, go figure), and inevitably, those motherfucking carpet beetles have been into it. I've pitched about ten skeins of yarn in the last month or so. But I've found something interesting, that may be useful to those of you with carpet beetle (or other bug) worries of your own:

Moth-proofed appears to also be beetle-proofed. Wool yarns I know to be moth-proofed (such as anything from Brown Sheep), are untouched.

Superwash also appears to turn their stomachs. It's possible that because of the extra processing required for superwash, the yarn manufacturer just sort of throws in moth-proofing, but you'd think they would mention it on the label as a selling point. But balls of yarn that ARE superwash that are NOT marked moth-proof, have also been untouched.

My hand-dyes also are mostly untouched. It appears to have to do with the vinegar smell; on yarns I know I practically pickled, the beetles haven't touched them. Hand-spun yarn I dyed in the wool seems to be especially distasteful to them.

And of course, they still hate the lavender. No damage done to anything in the Yarn Closet.

Anyone know how to torture carpet beetles? Stomping them just doesn't seem good enough. Anyone?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Arts and crafts.

Or possibly arts vs. crafts, depending on your viewpoint. I get kind of surly on the topic, myself.

(Still got nothing IRL - in real life - to blog. This is one of my favorite topics to kick around with art majors and other folks who know art history, and I can't believe I've never dumped it here, so off we go.)

For most of human history, the concept of art that we have now - as some kind of exclusive, mystical creation that only the select, talented few could create - didn't exist. It was all considered a craft. Mosaic for your palazzo? Fresco for the temple? Ceramics for your kitchen? All produced by craftsmen, who apprenticed like all other crafts from metal working to carpentry to glass making. You hired a guy to tile your floor or paint your walls the same way you hired anyone else. There were contracts and everything. We've still got some contracts from paintings done in the middle ages, and they even spelled out what pigments were to be used. The consumer/patron dictated everything, and the painter shut up and painted it.

By the 1500s, painters such as Leonardo Da Vinci got fed up with being craftsmen and began arguing that they were Artists, and what they did was a Great Skill and tried to get their abilities listed among the great topics for study in University - at the time, geometry, music, rhetoric, and astronomy. (I assume the Leonardo argued that Art was a branch of geometry.) Sculptors (who were often also painters at the time) got in on the act, arguing THEY were also Talented, too. And before long, they had their way, and painting and sculpting were considered High Arts and everything else got shuffled off into a dark corner and called a craft, implying craftsmen were nothing but interchangeable workers and one did the same job as another.

And here things sat, philosophically, until the 1800s.

(Incidentally, when I hear the term "High Art" I think of marijuana and assorted other... substances. Because they've gotta have chemical assistance to REALLY think painting and sculpting are the only arts.)

In the 1800s, the world industrialized. And there was the inevitable backlash to industrial production, that is mostly lumped into something called "The Arts and Crafts Movement". If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. It spawned William Morris and Frank Lloyd Wright and Art Deco and Art Nouveau and - personal opinion, this last - modern fashion design, especially haute couture. As well as the modern approach to design in most industries, and a host of other things.

The position of the Arts and Crafts Movement stated that art was not limited to paint and sculpture, and implied that ANYTHING could be an art, if the proper amount of care was given, and creativity applied (which I and I think most other people agree with in this era). Then they blew it by only paying attention to specific disciplines and ignoring many others.

Most of the movers and shakers of the movement were socialists, and one of their goals was to provide useful (useful - I love these guys, even if they blew it), beautiful things for the average home. Then they blew it again by having such high production standards and unreasonable manufacturing requirements (everything made entirely by hand with the best possible materials), that the cost of their products was beyond the budget of most of the everyday people they claimed they designed for (though the rich were happy enough to snap them up). The vast majority of them treated their workers well; I will give them that. In fact they were a big influence on later workers' rights movements.

But it was a good start. Even if they ignored knitting. They insisted that anyone could produce a useful, beautiful home, yet the only kits they provided for women to actually DO that, was for embroidery. (William Morris' wife and daughter were both expert embroiderers. Coincidence? I doubt it.) Blew it again.

So, even though they blew it in a lot of ways, the Arts and Crafts Movement did sort of break down the "High Art" walls and get some respect for disciplines other than painting and sculpture, though some of the snobbier museums and curators have yet to get on board with the idea. Most people who aren't snobs will agree that ANYTHING can be art, if enough care, attention to detail, and creativity are lavished on it.

On a good day, knitting can definitely be art.

For fun, links to some other art that isn't high. (It'll pass a drug test!)
Architecture. (I remain a fan of what I think of as 'non-square buildings', in other words, modern, usable spaces that aren't in a freaking box.) The link goes to Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi, but the web site contains photos of all kinds of other cool stuff.

Ceramics. Humanity's been making cool-as-hell stuff from clay ever since the stone age. I've discussed this before. If that's not art, I'll eat it. (The first link goes to Kyocera, the company that made my ceramic knife. A better link for a total world overview is probably the second one to my own blog post, or the Wiki article.)

Textiles. Knitting was developed for a practical purpose, so even knitted art is usually fairly practical. (Sorry, but it's true. A jumper can be art, but it's still something you wear.) Some other textiles, particularly laces and tapestries, were ALWAYS art, if you ask me. Here are other links that are cool, since we're all fiber-heads. Chinese, Ottoman, Macedonian, Oriental Carpets, American Quilts, and, well, you get the idea.

I was gonna also put in links to glass making, blacksmithing/metallurgy, book making and illustrating, and a couple others, but I'd be here all day. So I'll quit now. But I think we all agree, the only High Arts are in people's heads - with or without chemical assistance.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Bad design and why it annoys me.

(For those wondering, I am in the midst of a rather run-of-the-mill emotional crisis and am dug in under my futon, knitting super-bulky yarn and breaking knitting needles. Regular blogging to resume, well, now, I guess.)

I was raised by an eminently practical woman. Feet on the ground, rock-solid common sense. I'm adopted, so I can't say the attitude was hard-wired into my DNA, but whether by natural inclination or thirty-odd years of exposure, I came to share the attitude.

You never pay full price for anything if you can avoid it. (One of the many reasons knitting appeals to me. You CAN save money with it, if you try.)

You don't buy something expensive unless there's a good reason for it. (A $200 leather jacket, maybe. A $200 cotton jacket, why?)

Anything purchased should have a USE. (Furniture, books, hobby items, clothing, kitchen gadgets, doesn't matter.)

Notice that last one? Yeah. I think that one right there is what makes me foam at the mouth when reviewing Vogue Knitting. See, by my view, clothing serves two purposes: It keeps you warm/covered, and it makes you look good. There are lots of ways to accomplish those two goals, some more elaborate than others, but I think we'll all agree that's the real point of clothing.

That's why this:

Offends me more than this:

The yellow one is fucking useless. It doesn't keep you warm (look at those open sleeves flying around; wearing it would be like standing in a wind tunnel), and it sure as hell isn't flattering. Serves no purpose. None.

The purple? Well, it's ugly, but it's warm. If the knitter chose a good color for them, it may be slightly flattering for that reason. So while the design is still pretty crappy (bet it doesn't drape for squat), well, at least there's a purpose there.

Art for art's sake never tripped my trigger. Don't get me wrong, paintings and sculpture are all very well, and certainly take talent to create, and GOOD paintings or sculpture speak to the viewer. But what do they DO? Originally they were there as a form of conspicuous consumption; not terribly valid in my eyes. (Okay. Originally it was the stone age, and we don't really know why. But in the middle ages when painting 'took off' in the western world, it was a way to show you could afford the paint.) Yes, I've got prints hanging on my walls. They cheer up the house, so I guess that's a purpose. But $140 MILLION for a painting that doesn't say much of anything? WHY? I think we're back to showing off. (Incidentally, I don't dislike Pollock, or modern art particularly. His stuff just doesn't speak to me. And I sincerely wonder what it says to others.)

So, where was I going with this. Oh, right. I've got this (belligerent, I admit it), entrenched viewpoint that form follows function, and therefore CLOTHING SHOULD BE USEFUL. Keep you warm, keep you from getting sunburned, keep you from getting arrested, at the least, make you look good. SOMETHING. So I see things like this:

And I get a little insane because I can't see a reason for them existing (they don't suit any of those purposes I listed), let alone PAYING someone to create them. There are so many good-yet-little-known designers out there, producing things that ARE warm and flattering, I sincerely don't understand why the fashion world produces this stuff. They go on and on about design and originality in the Real Fashion World, yet isn't the founding principle of design "form follows function"? What's functional about some of this stuff?

Yeah, I've been at the art history books again. Someone should take them away. That's my deep thought for the day. Such as it is. I'm gonna go crawl under the futon and suck my thumb now.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I has followers!

The new Google reader thing registers regular readers as 'followers' in Blogger. Which is kind of a hoot, 'cause 'followers' makes me feel like a religious figure. (I know, sacrilegious, but funny.) Anyway, hi, new folks.


Needle Tart, my buddy Trish also has big feet, and is offering to swap socks with you. Anyone else wanting to go with a women's large/ex large size, send me an e-mail at with "Large sock" in the message header and I'll do a secondary swap within a swap for you guys. Sorry, I hadn't realized how many of you out there wanted larger sizes or I'd have proposed it right away. I'll update the Sock Roulette page with the added info.

There was another question... yes, when you get the sock in the mail, it's yours. You knit the mate and keep the set. Yours for life. What you're doing is letting someone else pick the pattern and yarn for you and knit the first sock. I'm thinking it could be a great learning experience. Or just crazy. You know. Depending.

When I arrange who mails to whom, it will very likely NOT be a direct swap. Meaning, you'll send your sock to someone, but that person will probably not be sending back to you, but firing off THEIR sock to someone else. That'll keep things more entertaining, I think. And I hope make it easier for me to move socks around. I think I've got a system figured out; we'll see if it works.


Photos off the camera!

Here's the sweater my mother-in-law knit.

She knit it for her husband, and it was in progress when I started MY cableknit (the dark blue I just finished) for my father-in-law. He assured us there was no such thing as too many cable knit sweaters. So we both made him one, and they're so different that I can see why he wanted two. I'm the one who taught my mother-in-law to knit, just four years ago, so I'm quite proud.

And here's the 'let them eat cake' photo. Still working on getting video.


Today I did a drawing, giving the general idea of what I want to do with this wrap design. It's both more and less complicated than I was planning. The good news is, I'm pretty sure I know how, technically, to accomplish what I need to do, to get it to look the way I want. The bad news is, unless my design plan works almost perfectly at the first go (what are the odds?), I won't have time to get the proposal together for Twist. At least not now. It occurred to me, there will be winter and spring issues too, and this wrap is appropriate for all seasons but summer. (Even summer, in some areas.) So even if I run late THIS issue, there's still hope for the next two.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Welcome to the latest attempt to beat the February blahs. Amy Lane and I cooked this up over a year ago, but what with one thing and another, it never happened. But this year! Ah, this year's gonna be a GOOD TIME!

Sock Roulette is Amy's way of beating second sock syndrome. I volunteered to run it, just for the sheer in-your-face of it all. Here, then, are the rules/guidelines, such as they are:

-sign up by sending me an e-mail at I will need your name and mailing address, and blog addy if you have one.
-knit a single sock. This can be as simple or as complicated as you like; I vote complicated, just for the fun of screwing with each other.
-at the end of February, you will get an e-mail, containing the address of another participant in Sock Roulette. Mail them the sock, the pattern (or a copy thereof), and the yarn needed to knit up the mate. It'd be nice to add any notes like what cast on you used, etc, but it's up to you, how much you want to torment your recipient.
-at the start of March, you will get your own sock in the mail from someone else, and wonder how on earth you're going to knit a mate to whatever complex piece of art has shown up in your mail box.

Sound fun? Good. I think so.

Here are a few things to remember.
-only I and the person mailing you a sock will wind up with your address. No one else. And I promise, I don't have the time or money to stalk anyone, even if I were so inclined. Though if you piss me off, I'll send you a really complicated, stranded-color sock.
-size everything for women's medium-to-large.
-FOR LARGER SOCK SIZES, we will do a secondary swap. Size for women's extra large, and when you e-mail me to join, put "large" (large size, large foot, large sock) in the message header.
-don't join unless you really will mail off a sock. It's really disappointing to join in and not get one, yourself.
-I will be going for distance when I decide who should mail to whom; if I can't match EVERYONE to different continents, at the least, I will go for opposite coasts of the same continent.
-I seriously doubt that mailing someone a copy of a knitting pattern so they can finish a pair of socks is a copyright violation. If anything, it's probably advertising (you like the pattern, you buy the book). But if the idea bugs you, use one of the eleventy-million free sock patterns available through Knitty and/or Ravelry.

I'll be making a knit-along button as soon as I get myself together; hopefully tonight, tomorrow latest. If this is a rousing success, I'm leaning toward doing it every year.

All right then. Start knitting!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Better news.

The fingers are not so screwy that they slow my knitting, much. I have finished the half-pattern repeat that was the goal of the day. One more pattern repeat tomorrow, and about a foot of knit-on edging, and it's done. So the rest of the deadlines are looking good, too.

Thanks to all who offered all the great advice for burn treatment. I (unfortunately) have a good bit of experience with burns on that hand, because of the nerve damage and the fact that I do a lot of cooking; I just can't feel heat that well, and so I don't notice something's wrong fast enough. The crowning glory is a scar on the back of my hand. It looks like someone put out a cigarette on me, but really it's from a third degree burn received in a Pot Roast Incident (back of hand against inside wall of oven that has been on for four hours at three hundred and fifty degrees; I didn't notice for about two seconds). Physical therapists regularly ask about the scar in a tone of voice that says "someone put out a cigarette on you? tell me who so I can call the cops".

Anyway. After I touched the cookie sheet today, I stuck my fingers in a bowl if ice water for about half an hour. Though it DID hydrate the tissues, that wasn't really my first goal; the idea was to neutralize the heat, a la thermodynamics. For the rest of the afternoon, whenever I felt pain, I would stick my fingers back in ice water for fifteen minutes to half an hour. It minimized the blistering and now I'm left with the odd situation that is a second degree burn without the blisters. The skin has turned very rough and thick and tender and smooth, but it's sealing off the injury better than a band-aid so I'm leaving it alone.

I'm not feeling much pain, I think thanks to the nerve damage. Occasionally something gets through, but it's reasonable.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, and I'll be able to get batteries for the camera so I can download photos and show all of you the awesome sweater my mother-in-law knit, and the Goob doing a Marie Antoinette imitation (I was working on getting her to say 'let them eat cake' on video when the camera died), and maybe a scarf photo.

Babble babble.

Bloody, buggering, pig-fucking hell.

I was doing so well. I had all these deadlines (Twist submission, Faux Russian scarf, etc), and I was plugging away, and I even had a workable schedule. The plan was to finish one half-pattern repeat of the Russian today, the last one tomorrow, plus the last of the edging. Yarn for the Twist submission should be showing up Monday or Tuesday (I got beads yesterday, you can all just wonder about that), so I'd literally finish the scarf and start on the gauge swatches with nary a hitch. If there was a bit of a delay, I could use the time to sketch and chart.

Such a nice plan.

Then I burned myself.

The husbeast wanted the last of the perogis, so I told him to put on a pot of water at medium; by the time it heated I'd be ready to cook. He put the pot on the back burner, brain farted, and turned on the FRONT BURNER. And then we both ignored it for half an hour. While I was kind of kicking around in the kitchen later, getting ready, I put a heavy aluminum (aluminum transfers heat very well, damn it) cookie sheet on that front burner that had been on for half an hour, that neither one of us knew about.

Then I put my right (bad, nerve-damaged, with less sensation) hand on it.

Thankfully, my fingers hit first, rather than my whole hand, and for once, the message got through the nerve damage before the rest of my palm went down (I'm thinking the new nerve damage drug, Lyrica, is responsible for this). Unfortunately, the cookie sheet was REALLY FUCKING HOT, so even a millisecond or three of contact was enough to fuck me up.

The upshot: The tips of my middle three (index, middle, and ring) fingers are burned almost entirely, to the point of blistering.

No idea how this is going to affect my knitting. Since I knit Continental, I carry the yarn in my left (good) hand, but most of the needle movement is done with the right. Which obviously is going to be a problem. There's little pain, but because of the blistering I've got almost no feeling in them.

At the least, this is going to slow me down significantly.

On the other hand, if I lose my fingerprints, I could turn to a life of crime. (Ha.)

And the husbeast, eating the last of the dud perogis made with the weird/nasty dough, has commented "You're right... these suck." Then he ate another.

A fine, fine day.