Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Start 'em early.

In this big old world, there's a lot of systems. And a lot of ways to rebel against them. I've tried many of them, though not all.

Back in the day, I had an anthropology professor float the idea that the TRUE rebels were the Ted Kazynskis and the Jefferey Dahmers. THOSE were the ones truly living outside society's rules. He had a point.

I had no desire to rebel quite so extremely.


Sometimes, be it school, or the legal system, or the government, sometimes, you've just got to let them know that you think something's bullshit. There's an art to it. To make the point, make it well, but do it in such a way that you don't completely fuck yourself over in the process.

Hence my letters to congresstwats and senatetwits.

And so, this brings me, inevitably, to raising the Goober.

I firmly believe that children need outlets. You can't expect them to behave ALL the time. So it's best to channel the misbehavior, than to let it spew forth randomly. She's allowed to go outside and throw things, and run around yelling, and we've even made up a nonsense name to call each other and everyone else (sillyhead). With public school easing up next fall, I'm working on teaching her how to deal with all THAT nonsense, as well.

Then, in her school work, a ridiculous project cropped up. A group of six year old kindergarteners were supposed to make up a "Presidential Action Plan" and write it down. It was meant as a writing assignment, so I figured, so long as she writes SOMETHING and turns it in, it's completed. So I wrote up a little thing, and had the Goobie copy it onto her paper.
Oh yeah. I'm totally ready to be That Mom.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nothing owrks.

Was gonna fix that typo in the title, but I thought, no, that's really how it's gone around here.

I finished the yarn.
Can't decide whether I'm gifting it, or keeping it, or flinging it. It's spun really unevenly, and there are fuzzy bits where the plying went wrong or there was gunk in the single:
Not my best work. Not close.

But, screw it, it's done, at least. Now I think I'm going to get going on my annual winter socks that never got done last winter. I've got the raw material.
It's merino silk blend. And when spun right, the silk acts like nylon.


Not much else. We're slogging through school, and the annoyance of it. Had a major migraine hit, made doctor's appointment, am working toward seeing a neuro. (Plus there's that maybe-seizure maybe-migraine WTFery at the movies last week). Blah, blah, fuck, hell, poop.

Anyway. Some Goob funnies.

First, I had a pair of scissors out on the porch this morning. (Because there was a KNOT in the yarn I'm using to knit this color-gradient scarf, and cutting it out DESTROYED the color flow, so I am FURIOUS, because THE COLOR SHIFT WAS THE ONLY REASON I WAS WORKING WITH THIS CRAP YARN.) Ahem. Scissors. They're little-kid safety scissors, the blades maybe an inch and a half long. I keep them around to cut steeks and stuff like that. They were laying on the seat of the swing, next to where I was working. The Goob says "Can you please move those scissors so I don't sit on them and accidentally cut my butt off?"

You gotta love a request like that.

Then, I was making dinner, and she spotted a can of bread crumbs. She looked inside and said "Oh, chicken powder!"

Now I'm imagining instant chickens, just add water.

Bock bock, motherfucker.

Monday, May 14, 2012

...but is it ART?

(Still recovering from the movie. Is going to require a visit with doctors, and may turn into quite an annoyance. Or nothing at all. Still, the movie rocked. If I got fucked up, at least I got fucked up watching an excellent movie.)

And so, inevitably, I come to "Art Yarn". I've been pondering this post for, oh, at least a year now, and still don't really know what to say. If you like, you can go read what I've said about art before, HERE. I've never quite gotten "art for art's sake" as a philosophy, applied to ANYTHING. In fact, I greatly prefer art that's useful, so I'm a huge fan of the decorative arts. Related, I'm never going to say a yarn or a textile or something made of fiber can't be art. Anything can be art if enough thought and effort and skill are applied to a project, and everything lines up just right, and the magic happens.

But that doesn't mean you can just call something art and I'm gonna believe it. (Please look at the Dada art movement if you want the foundation of my side of this argument. I get that they were trying to get people to look at things differently, and in that they succeeded, but Duchamp's "Fountain" is still a freaking urinal.)

The point of this blog post isn't to point and laugh. I'm using pictures of yarn (credited, of course) that is up for sale. I believe that when you put something up for sale, you offer it for critical examination, so for us to look at these yarns in such a way is fair. It's not like digging through someone's Ravelry page, finding their first spun yarn and sneering at it. And I'm not posting pictures of the really ridiculous stuff. You can hit Regretsy for that, or just search Etsy yourself.

So. Art yarn. Here's one I ran across last night that I thought legitimately fit the term:
This is called "Koi Pond" and can be found HERE. The spinner herself calls it a "Themed" yarn and I really think that's a better term - She tried to capture a koi pond during feeding time, and did quite a good job of it.

Themed yarns. I like that term. It covers a lot of relevant ground without going all "I'M AN ARTISTE!"

For instance:
This is "Vitreous Humor" from Insubourdiknit.

Or another of my favorites, "Clouds":
From Moonrover, HERE.

Is it art? Or just really cool themed yarn? I sincerely can't decide. The same goes for textured handspun. Is it "Art Yarn" or just nice, textured yarn?

I do think a lot of sellers are doing themselves a disservice by using the term "Art Yarn" because many people have begun to roll their eyes at the term.

I have a theory, or an analogy, or something, about yarns like this:
(From Pluckyfluff HERE.)

It's like freeform jazz. You can observe it, and you can appreciate the skill involved, but it's really more about the act of creation itself. It's a celebration of taking fluff and turning it into something else.

Maybe the celebration of Making Stuff is the basis of all art.

What's prompted all this thought is a set of books.

"Intertwined" by Lexi Boeger/Pluckyfluff:
And "Spin Art" by Jacey Boggs/Insubourdiknit:
Intertwined is an examination of the creative process, more than it's a spinning book. There is instruction in there, about technique, but it's mostly about inspired-by and upcyled-that.

Spin Art is one of the best technical spinning books I've ever seen. It's up there with Judith MacKenzie and Abby Franquemont. Really. There is physics and science in there, and a great deal of tech and detail, all presented in a way that's a thousand times more accessible than The Aldon Amos Book of Spinning. Seriously. Jacey explains the potential problems of twist in thick-and-thin yarns with two diagrams and a couple sentences that make way more sense than Amos' full page on the subject. I've already improved my regular spinning just reading the book.

Conclusion? I still don't know if it's art. But some of it's pretty cool, and the textured yarn techniques are interesting.

At least it's not a urinal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spinning fluff.

I'm spinning, and blogging, early today. Later I'm going to see the Avengers and expect to spend two days drooling into a pillow while my nervous system tries to recover. This is why I see maybe one movie a year in theaters. But for the Avengers, I'm willing to drool a bit. (Thanks to RDJ, I will probably drool DURING the movie, too, but for a different reason.)

Okay, fluff. When I say fluff, I mean the usually short-staple, very small micron count fibers that float all over and get stuck to everything when you try to spin them. It doesn't entirely have to do with staple or micron count, though. Wool, for instance, usually doesn't fluff and float, because of its molecular charge and the scales on the surface of the fibers that work much like microscopic velcro.

No, fluff is the stuff you accidentally trail through the house, stick to your husband's Navy uniforms (that was amusing - for me, not him), get in your eyes, your mouth and nose. In my experience, they include nylon, bamboo and carbon fiber, silk, some camelids and angoras. In the case of the protein fibers, it can depend on how they're processed, too. Alpaca top, for instance, has been smoothed, combed, and steamed or ironed flat. Flat on a single-fiber level. With no crimp to help the fibers hold on to each other, you're back to fluff, and finding it in the cat's eyes.

Currently I'm battling the nylon in the top I'm spinning. Here's how I'm mostly winning.

Weapon one:
A lint roller. Don't know how common these are outside the US, but here you can get them nearly everywhere, even the grocery store (in the pet aisle, usually). It's essentially a wide strip of sticky tape, wound up on itself with the sticky side out. Roll it over yourself, and it picks up lint, cat hair, and, woohoo, fluff. I keep one on my spinning table, and when I'm done spinning, before I move at all, I go over myself AND THE CHAIR to pick up the fluff before I track it all over the house. Make it automatic; before you get up for anything short of the house being on fire, de-fluff yourself. On bad days, I even roller my hands and hair.

For all the little knotty bits and snarls you pull off the fiber as you spin, there are two, no, three options. One, you can stick them on the lint roller. Two, you can stick them to your clothes and roller them up with the rest of the fluff. Or, you can have an auxiliary spot to stick the gunk. Wool works best. Currently, I'm using a Crazy Zauberball, because it was there.

You can see a little string of pink fluff sitting on top of it. No, that's not a marble, there. It's a quartz sphere. I can't be the only one with a crystal ball on my spinning table, can I? That's also paper medical tape in the green thing - handy for wrapping around sore fingers so you can spin anyway.

A related issue is fluff in the eyes. My greatest trick, that I'm passing on to you: NEVER SPIN WHITE OR BEIGE FLUFF. Ever. Once it's in your eye, you can't find the damn stuff. Colored fibers usually show against your eyeball and are much easier to pick out. It also pays to cultivate your eye doctor; many are willing to take you in between appointments and pick out fibers you can't get. Knit them a scarf for Christmas, they'll be your slave. (The one time I resorted to the optometrist, he didn't even charge me.)

Most of this stuff can be applied to knitting, as well. For instance, when I pick blobs of unspun lint out of the yarn I'm knitting, I stick it to the arm of the couch. Once I'm up and moving later, it's very easy to grab the lint roller and run it over the couch a couple times. It might even dislodge a few cat hairs, as a bonus.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

And then, silence.

Or perhaps crankiness. And a shitload of rain.

There's a blog post in the works for sometime this week, an international knitting knews kind of thing. But there's more research to be done, and at the moment I'm whacked out on Benadryl from all the freaking allergens and general crap.

And so, I ramble.

Today the Goob's schoolwork vaguely discussed the moon landings and the concept of astronomy and the study of it. Which made me snort, because the kid and I have been reading her astronomy book for a week or so now, with details on the Hubble Space Telescope and the Large Megallanic Cloud and all sorts of DETAIL.

Next year I want to try "real school" for the Goobie. I figure, before I can REALLY say whether it's working or not, we need to try it. Sort of a comparison study. We've done guided home schooling, now we're going to try school schooling. If that doesn't work, I may try completely-off-the-grid schooling, meaning I make up the curricula myself. But, the kid soaks up information like a sponge, and is already ahead of the game in science and reading and social studies. The real issue is where she'll thrive. We'll figure it out, yet.


It looks like maybe I'm going to the Great Lakes Fiber Show at the end of May. Traditionally, every time I try to go to some kind of fiber frolic, something horrible happens like having to replace the hot water heater or the engine in the husbeast's truck, or I've had a month long migraine, or something. Very tentative. But I mentioned it to my mother-in-law, and she wants to go.

The discussion was rather amusing. I sent her the link and gave her the date and asked if she was game. She was sort of like "well, I don't know... it's like a county fair? animals and stuff?" I said (paraphrasing this roughly) "There's a market place." My MIL paused. "There's YARN?" she asked. "Yes. And spinning fiber, and many other good things." That was all it took. MIL was in.

With luck, we will both make it, and will be there Saturday morning and early afternoon. We hope.

Unless the heat pump/AC unit in the house goes out.

Knock on some wood, people.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Continued adventures!

Such as they are.

Lately I've had a major case of Blog Choke. People tell me my blog is fun and they like it, and the more I hear it, the more I feel like I should be doing Important Writing. So I try to come up with earth-shattering topics, and stall at the six-hours-of-research phase. Glub.

A couple weeks ago, I went through and read random blog posts I've done, and, as YOU know, I blog about all kinds of stuff, from Important to nothing to WTF?? It seemed to work. My brain is random enough, I guess.


The bloody damned rocks. Remember the goddamn rocks?
The goat fucking, shitball rocks?

They're mostly still there. Fuckers.

I thought I'd be able to pick up the rocks around the edges (kinda did that), then use the landscaping fabric underneath to haul it all out in a clump. BUT NO. THE DAMNED FABRIC IS ROTTEN. I get up enough of an edge to get hold of, lift, and THE FUCKER TEARS OFF.


So we're down to raking them into shovels and lifting them out that way. Which will only take THE REST OF THE FUCKING SUMMER.

Fuck it, we're gonna rip out another of the beds that DOESN'T contain rocks, so we can actually plant some damned broccoli before September.

At any rate, in the midst of my mutterings and rantings, I was thinking about wheelbarrows and other assorted bits of equipment I could use to haul the damned rocks, after I got them out of the flower bed. It all came down to memories of my mother gardening. Instead of a wheelbarrow, she used my wagon. It was one of those nice, sturdy sixties-built wagons, of heavy steel. She hauled peat moss, plants, weeds, you name it, all over the yard with that thing. As often as not, when I'd climb in it to play, there'd be dirt in there from Mom hauling stuff around.

I mentioned this to the husbeast, and we wound up at the farm supply store soon after.

Yes, we're so far out in the boonies we have a farm supply.
It reminds me of where I grew up; I can speak this language. Other than some mild culture shock, it's quite fun.

After some poking around, the husbeast and I found a little wagon-type dealie in the back of the store. Bearings on the wheels, squishy air-filled tires, a plastic waterproof bin with a really slick dump feature. You can even take the handle off and hitch it to a tractor - which we already have.
Mom would approve.

To christen it, I need to haul the Goober around in it.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Because the hub turned on a show about it tonight, and metal is an ongoing interest of mine. And because you probably have aluminum knitting needles and/or crochet hooks. So it's nearly kinda-sorta relevant.

Aluminum is the third most common element on our planet. Unfortunately, it is VERY reactive, likes to combine with other things, and is almost impossible to find in pure form. For that reason, even though it is EVERYWHERE, aluminum was, for many years, more expensive than gold or platinum. No, seriously.

Because of the reactivity, and the rarity of pure aluminum, the history is really weird.

Alum - aluminum mixed with potassium and sulfur - goes way back in our history. It was used medicinally, and as a mordant for dyeing fibers and fabrics. Still is. It's used in pickling, in preserving, all kinds of stuff. But because of all the crazy molecules it likes to form, it wasn't until the 1820s that aluminum was identified as its own little atom.

Not long after, they realized there was aluminum in bauxite:
But it wasn't until the 1880s that someone figured out a way for it to be extracted from bauxite in any useful way. So for that sixty-ish year period, aluminum was a big fucking deal.

The Washington Monument is capped with it:
Because, really, when you're building giant phallic symbols to celebrate how awesome your nation is, what else do you put on the top, but the most expensive thing you can think of? At the time, it was the largest piece of aluminum ever cast. (Given the hub's background in industry, looking at that now, I find it completely hilarious. I'd love to see their reaction to a giant hunk of milled aircraft aluminum.)

In 1886, the Hall–Héroult process was invented. It pretty much revolutionized industry methods and products. For all people like to go on about steam engines and electricity, without cheap aluminum, the world as we know it today would not exist.

In 1888, the world's first aluminum plant was opened, right here in Pittsburgh. They couldn't refine it fast enough - no matter how much they made, the world wanted more to use. And luckily for us, since it's so common, we've been able to continue refining it with no end in sight.

Not just industry. Limeys? You know this statue?

The Anteros statue in Picadilly Circus was cast from, yes, aluminum. One of the first known statues of its kind, made in 1893. Since we can just refine more, we won't have to melt it down for beer cans, like the Romans did to their statuary.

So, next time you're knitting with aluminum needles? Show them a little respect. And wish it was 1850, so you could sell them and go on a round-the-world tour with the proceeds.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Or rather, kid books.

About, oh, six weeks ago, I bought this:
It's a book about the periodic table of the elements. It's from the Basher Scicence Series of books, and aimed for, oh, eight year olds? Thereabouts.

It was intended for me. I'm still working at teaching myself chemistry, and thought maybe a children's book would lay out the periodic table in a way that, finally, made sense to me.

No luck.

I think I'm going to start treating the periodic table as a sort of map - a picture of stuff, so to speak, rather than an actual chart put into sensible grids. It's the damned electron shells. I keep trying to UNDERSTAND them, and really, I've learned from algebra, I need to give up on understanding and just memorize the damn stuff.


But then a fun thing happened. The Goober got hold of the book. And since it had illustrations and cartoons in it, she decided it was HER book, and insisted I read it to her. For a couple weeks, every night we would take a group/column from the periodic table and read about them. I have no idea how much of it she really understood, but I feel we're probably one step closer to a particle accelerator in the basement.

With all this in mind, I got a couple other Basher science books and let the kid pick which one she wanted to read, first.
We've run through the planets, the space probes and rovers, the Oort Cloud and the Kupier Belt. Now we're on to stars - types and formations and constellations. She's loving every minute of it. With all the books in the series, we're probably set on bedtime reading material until Christmas.

I feel like I'm dealing with a miniature version of my own brain. Which is both very cool, and kind of intimidating.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Seed stitch VS. Moss stitch VS. other stuff.

Over on Twitter this morning, we were discussing, well, seed stitch and related stuff. And, I don't know if it's a US to UK to Australia terminology thing, or if it's a two week migraine melting my brain, but I thought I'd clarify in more than 140 characters. With illustrations!

For the purposes of this discussion, I is a knit stitch, * is a purl stitch. AS YOU LOOK AT THE FABRIC. Not necessarily according to direction knit, but what type of stitch is facing you when you look at it.

This is the scarf I'm knitting. It's, gods help me, seed stitch:
It's K1, P1 across with some slipped stitches on the ends. BUT. The stitches look like this:


It's like a grid, every other stitch in all directions.

For comparison, K1 P1 rib, which we all know, would look like this:



Moss stitch, on the other hand - this is where it gets weird - is also K1P1, but it's offset a bit:


Three different patterns, all K1P1. Knitting is a trip.

THEN! We can get into K2P2 fun!

K2P2 rib:


Broken rib (there are twenty billion variations, but this is a common one), ALSO known in some worlds as Irish Moss stitch, which is not ALWAYS the same as the Moss stitch above, but sometimes is:


Maybe we should start specifying American Seed, or Australian Seed, or WTF, but I'm not sure it would clarify things a damn bit.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


The way lunatics do!
Yes. I drove the Jeep into the back yard, the hub wrapped a tow strap around the pine tree with mange, and we ripped it out. Also the testicle topiary, and a couple things at the other side of the porch that looked like ass. We dragged them all back to the compost pile, and now I've got this to work with:
It's still going to take days to get all the damn landscaping rocks out of there. And I'll probably be raking up little bits until the end of time. But my very gradual plan is very gradually going. Next step is to get a wagon or wheelbarrow to hall this crap around in.

With luck, our insane rollercoaster weather has finally leveled off, and this two week migraine is gone. (Because if it's not, I'm resorting to a neck tourniquet. Or trephination. I've had it with this shit.) Then things will get moving again. I've also cut way back on the drug that makes me zone out and stare at walls. Woo.

So. Here goes something. I think.

Gratuitous spinning photo!

This is Frabjuous Fibers' merino sparkle blend, in "Purple People Eater". It's almost Purple Trainwreck - just needs a dash of aqua. I love this fiber blend so much (65% merino, 35% firestar nylon) that I went and got two more hunks of it, this time in "Iris" and "Deep Space".
Now if only someone would have the jumbo flyer/bobbin set in stock for my Kiwi, I could really do some damage.