Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A fine-lookin' doggie

Say hello to Hopcyns, an extremely adorable Corgi:

We spent Sunday with his people, and hoped to see fireworks that evening, but we were thwarted by an unexpected thunderstorm. By the time it dried out enough to start the fireworks, the kids were all ready for bed.

If you haven't seen Liz's Clapotis, take a look. Okay, I'm prejudiced since I dyed the yarn, but she did a spectacular job.

I'm working on a new book review, and knitting feverishly on deadline, so I'll sign off for now. I hope to have the book review up later in the week.

Monday, May 28, 2007

An appreciation

Maybe it was a childhood filled with MatchGame '75, or those classic performances on The X-Files, or maybe it was his unapologetic and openly gay (at a time when that was pretty controversial) persona,

but I always liked Charles Nelson Reilly and was sad to see that he died this weekend. Rest in peace.

And of course, it would be remiss of me to not include words of gratitude and appreciation, inadequate though they be, to all of those who have sacrificed by serving in our armed forces on this Memorial Day. We owe a sacred trust to these men and women. Let us honor their sacrifices without words designed to further a political agenda.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A quick rant

So I go to the grocery store this week. I'll freely confess that I've been hating on our local grocery store for some time now. It used to be owned by a local family and it was superlative, as far as supermarkets go: spotless, great produce and meats, all kinds of unusual products from small makers, friendly staff. Then the family sold it to a huge national supermarket chain, and the chain promptly ruined it. It's filthy (instead of asking me if I need help carrying a loaf of bread to the car, could they mop the frickin' floor?!), they discontinued most of the interesting stuff to substitute Safeway generic crap instead, they have the place crowded with junk like plastic lawn chairs and ugly stuffed animals, and -- more to the point of this rant -- they let go of most of the friendly staff and hired really bizarre people.

I'm in line, and the bagboy (okay, he's really a bagman -- at least fifty years old if he's a day) starts talking about the Radnor Trail. The Radnor Trail is a brilliant and wonderful thing: the township purchased the land and rights-of-way to an old, unused railroad track, removed the rails, paved and landscaped it, and turned it into a recreational trail for bikers and walkers. So in the interest of making chitchat, I say something about how much I love the Radnor Trail.

Big mistake.

The bagboy starts freaking out, saying things like "Are you crazy?! How could anyone say the trail is great?" I laughed nervously, and he said "What are you laughing at? It's not funny! Oh, sure, part of it is okay but have you ever seen the upper part? It's all fences, like a cattle chute! It's worse than Auschwitz!"

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that likening a recreational bike trail to a Nazi concentration camp is an inapt (and inept) comparison.

Plus he put all my groceries in plastic instead of paper, and the orange juice bottle smooshed my bread.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quick rabbity entry today

If you absolutely, positively cannot wait until my next Etsy update, which will be Thursday or Friday of this week (lots of sock yarn), you could try Rabbitch, who has opened her own shop here. She's not as good a dyer as me, but at least she realizes that. Plus she has fridge magnets.

In the meantime, I leave you with a plethora of disapproving rabbits. (Thanks, Lee Ann!)

And since both Rabbitch and Lee Ann are Canadian, I suppose I should wish my Canadian readers a happy Victoria day. Whatever the hell that is.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Catching up

Here, in no particular order, are a bunch of things I've been meaning to mention on the blog but keep forgetting:


I received two great packages in the mail recently. One was from Carol B-R, who blogs here, and contained Charmed Knits, by Alison Hansel. Not only is it hot off the press -- it's autographed, to me, by the author. Thanks, Carol!

I also received a box of undyed merino yarn from blogless Barb K-Y (these ladies with the hyphenated last names rock) from a small farm near her in western New York state. I can't wait to get it into the dyepots. Many thanks!

You guys are the best.

Thinking Blogger

Eons ago, two blogging blogreaders -- that Italian broad Bridget and sleepycat -- nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award. I'm sorry it took me so long to acknowledge it -- I am very appreciative. The idea is to nominate five blogs that make you think, that have real merit and substantive content. Several of my first choices have already been tagged, and I'm going to try really hard not to duplicate, so I will nominate:

1. The Hanged Man, my friend John, who is one of the most intelligent and hilarious people I've ever met in my life. He's also a damn fine photographer and writer. Plus, he spills things on himself a lot.

2. The Girl From Auntie, who is a kick-ass knitter and designer, but also makes me think about pointy-headed things like copyright law, sometimes so hard my head hurts. But in a good way.

3. The Knitting Curmudgeon, my friend Marilyn (who I thought was tagged but wasn't). I've learned a hell of a lot about knitting from her, and even though I don't always agree with her completely (although I often do), her posts are irreverent and usually hilarious. Check out her sidebar for some excellent tutorials, like the ones on blocking and lace.

I'm going to reserve the right to add some more if I can find some that haven't been mentioned already -- so many of my faves already have.

Little League Socks

Book knitting proceeds apace, and is likely to run, ahem, a bit behind schedule. However, my mindless Little League knitting resulted in this:

It's Trekking ProNatura, a 75% wool/25% bamboo blend. No particular pattern, just a rib variation on my usual mindless, patternless sock. The yarn is interesting to knit with. It's a bit splitty and fuzzes a little if split, but overall it has a nice hand: crisper and more like cotton than pure wool, but not as stiff and without the white plies that a lot of cotton-blend sock yarns seem to have. The color won't photograph well: it's shades of aqua and light teal with taupe. I think these socks will be wearable much of the year, and the bamboo content will make them a bit cooler to wear in hotter months. Its mate is on the needles.

Reader Questions

Several astute readers introduced me to Stacey, the knitter of those fabulous socks I saw at Maryland. I'm looking forward to seeing what she creates next.

Many of you commented on Charcoal's harness and leash (we will ignore the opthalagomorphobes among you; clearly some of you drank your Haterade this morning) and asked how we got Charcoal to put up with it. I don't really have a good answer for this. Charcoal is an extremely friendly and trusting bunny. I think some of it is just his personality, and some of it was the environment in which he was born (he lived in a big shed with a bunch of farm animals, including squawking chickens and curious kittens), and some of it is the fact that we handle him a lot and he trusts us. He wiggles like mad when you put the harness on, but once on, he seems to understand that he's going to get to see a bit of the world. I do notice that after a short while outside, he seems ready to go back to his cozy pen and stretch out on his fleecy bed, overwhelmed by it all.

Ah, the life of a beloved -- and ever watchful -- bunny. (I suppose this wouldn't be a good time to tell you that bunnies often sleep with their eyes open, would it?)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pulling from the center

Okay, let me 'fess up: I hardly ever pull from the center with center-pull skeins of yarn. I know this is contrary to the conventional wisdom (pull from the center and your ball won't roll around!) but every time I do, I end up with a tangled mess. The outer part of the skein collapses into the empty center and I spend half an hour trying to detangle it. Feh. This just happened to me, and I swear, I swear, I am never pulling from the center again. So there.

In other news, guess who went for a walk around the yard this weekend?

Why, yes, that is a rabbit harness/leash.

And that, my friends, is one cute bunny.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy mother's day

to all those celebrating it.

Don't forget: tomorrow is the next update on my Etsy shop.


Post office prices go up tomorrow, but I'm going to charge you the old rates for this update ONLY. I can't control the Post Office, but using priority mail allows me to keep costs down by eliminating the need to buy envelopes, gives free tracking and saves time by allowing me to do mass processing of shipments. (The more time I save, the more time I have to dye....)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Overheard, while watching "Thomas the Tank Engine"

Five-year-old No. 1: I hope it's not Alec Baldwin! I like George Carlin.

Five-year-old No. 2: Yeah, Alec Baldwin sounds like a guy who is driving his motorcycle and too many bugs fly into his mouth.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No-Bull Book Review: Family Knits, by Debbie Bliss

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Debbie Bliss. The first pattern book I bought after I returned to knitting was one of her baby books. I remember being charmed by the patterns: simple, elegant designs for children that weren't excessively gee-gawed, that used lovely elements from adult designing (fair isle panels and cables) and top-quality yarns, and didn't rob a child of her dignity (as contrasted with, say, that climbing vine onesie abomination in the last Vogue Knitting). I still like Debbie Bliss' design sensibility quite a bit, and notwithstanding last year's brouhaha about alleged fiber content, I also have, by and large, been very pleased with her yarns. Especially her palette: her robin's egg blue is one of my all-time faves.

Bliss is prolific, turning out at least one or two books a year, as well as several smaller booklets that go with her yarns. Her latest offering is Family Knits: 25 Handknits for All Seasons (St. Martin's Press), MSRP $29.95.

Family Knits is a hardcover book featuring really gorgeous photographs. It's got wider pages and more photos than most knitting books; sometimes it seems as though every page has a photo on it. The photography (by Tim Young) is a combination of the artsy -- close-ups of flowers and scenery -- and the practical -- multiple shots of each garment. In that respect, I think Bliss has improved upon prior books, which often showed dramatic shots of part of a garment that didn't give the knitter a good sense of certain of the design elements or overall structure. But in this book, we even see side-by-side shots of some garment, like this lovely cabled jacket:

At times, there are so many photographs, and so many that don't have anything to do with the knitting projects (full-page photographs with no knitting in them?), that it almost seems like too much. But given how lovely the book, and its photography is, that may be a very nit-picky quibble. Schematics are included for each garment, too, also an improvement upon some prior books which did not include schematics.

The patterns are organized into three chapters: Beach, Picnic and Country. These categories seem more editorial, a way to organize, rather than especially stylistic. The Beach section features a child's sweater with a textured sailboat motif; a child's hooded guernsey; this baby jacket with a front zipper:

a men's guernsey (although if you didn't mind the boxiness, it could very well be worn by a woman); a child's striped cardigan with contrasting button bands; a women's zipped jacket with a patterned yoke; a simple striped rollbrim baby cap; and a pretty "patchwork" aran jacket.

Picnic features a baby's ballerina-style wrap top; a child's long jacket; a toddler sun hat with lace brim; a women's rib and cable cardigan; a men's (unisex?) cricket sweater, or what Americans might think of as a tennis sweater; a young child's fair isle cardigan (so fresh and pretty);

a women's wide-necked, buttoned, ribbed cardigan; and an A-line jacket.

The last section, Country, includes an interesting cable and rib sweater (I like the patterning of the ribs and cables in the front);

a cabled/bobble scarf; a child's seed-stitch beret; a men's (unisex?) zipped jacket; an adult fair-isle beanie; a child's seed-stitch jacket with zip and mittens; a lovely long cabled coat;

an aran bag; and a cute pair of lacy socks.

If you like Debbie Bliss's style, you are likely to want to make these patterns. The cabled garments in particular are quite lovely, the pink fair isle jacket is adorable, and the adult garments are a mix of some classic and some more contemporary styles. It's hard for me to be objective about them, since I've always loved Bliss' design sensibility. If I had one major criticism, it's that there is a certain same-i-ness about some of the designs compared with her previous books. Take a look at these two brown seed/moss-stitch sweaters (oh, the poor test knitters! I feel for you, ladies):

(the top one is from a prior book)

The cricket sweater on the bottom is from a previous book.

This may well be a function of owning pretty much every book Debbie Bliss has ever published, or how prolific she is, but I do sometimes feel like I've seen some of these designs or design elements before.

To sum up, the breakdown of patterns is as follows:

  • 6 kid's sweaters
  • 2 baby sweaters
  • 3 men's/unisex sweaters
  • 2 child's hats
  • 8 women's sweaters
  • 1 baby hat
  • 4 adult accessories (bag, hat, scarf and socks)
  • and a child's mitten pattern.
Or to put it even more generally, eight kid's patterns, three baby patterns, 10 adult sweater patterns and four adult accessories (more or less).

Sizing is all over the map. A few of the accessories come in one-size-fits-most. The baby sizing is generous, and runs from 3-6 months through 12-18 or 18-24 months. The kids' patterns seem to be divided into preschool patterns (say, 2/4/6 yrs) and a few for elementary-age kids (say, 3-4/5-6/7-8/9-10 yrs). Some of the more complex patterns, like the long cabled jacket, are shown in two size ranges, 32 to 38/40 to46, which will lead to imprecise fit for some people. Others are written in a more traditional range, like 36-38/38-40/40-42/44-46. In the past, some of the Bliss books only went up to around 40 inches, so it's nice to see some more sizes added to make the patterns available to more knitters.

All of the designs are shown in Debbie Bliss yarns, but could easily be substituted.

All in all, I'd say this is a good, solid collection of wearable patterns from a very talented designer. If you -- like me -- are a Bliss fan, you'll want to pick this one up. I've already got my eye on one of the jackets for me...

Monday, May 07, 2007

More Maryland

I did head for the Knit Blogger meetup on Saturday. I think I need to figure out some way to improve my mixing and mingling experience. I sat on the grass with Liz and Ann of Crossroad Knits (I already knew and loved Liz, now I know and love Ann), and they introduced me to Amy [ack, can't find the blog link] and PepperKnit. Other than that, I didn't get to chat with many other folks. There seemed to be little groups of people, all giving each other sideways glances, and I'm sure some of them were saying to themselves "Do you think she's a knitblogger?" But, alas, there was no mechanism for identifying who was and who wasn't. Eventually I just left. But not before seeing this bitchin' pair of socks:

In my wanderings, I enjoyed watching some of the craftspeople who were keeping traditional skills alive, like this basketmaker:

When I win the Powerball (I always call it "Rollerball" which drives my husband crazy), I'm going to buy an antique sock knitting machine:

Right now, the $500-1000+ pricetag will stop me from even considering it. (I'll just fantasize about it, especially when gazing upon my overflowing queue of sock yarns.)

My photos from the winners' building didn't come out well, except for this photo of a bohus-style sweater:

I ran into my favorite podcasters, Knitty D and the City, who had established a base camp on the lawn. I feel remiss in that I haven't posted them on my blog, so here:

Quite a tongue on that Knitty D, eh?

My purchases were -- for once in my life -- not excessive. In addition to some undyed stuff for the Etsy shop, I picked up some Opal Neon & Panda Cotton (on the right); some Spirit Trail yarn, also for socks (on the bottom);

and some Fiber Company yarn that was discounted (Hah!). That's it. A model of restraint, wasn't I?


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Maryland Sheep and Wool '07

I just got back from the Rosie's bus trip, and as usual, it was quite a day. I was on the early bus; we were on the road by 7:40 a.m. The weather in Philadelphia was sunny and gorgeous, but as we got closer to Maryland, it got more overcast. My overall impression of the festival was that it seemed much more crowded than in the past, at least in the morning; that all of the usual suspects were there -- except the Koigu ladies (apparently Maie has a broken leg); that the Socks That Rock line was extraordinarily long (already, at 9:30 a.m.!);

and that there seemed to be fewer small farms and natural/unprocessed yarns as opposed to knitting shops and handdyes. I just discovered that I had some kind of smear on my camera lens, which means my photos didn't turn out nearly as well as I would have liked. I've tried to sharpen them up with PhotoShop, but....

See this adorable baby goat? The little bastard bit me.

Now this provided much amusement for Goat-Boy here:

and you can imagine the snickering that went on about city slickers who don't know enough not to put their fingers in the livestock's mouth. In my defense, I would like to say that the goat didn't have any front teeth, and was very sweetly gumming my fingers, putting me off my guard, so that it could unleash a mighty molar from the back on the unsuspecting knitter-lady. Since the injury will not affect my knitting, no harm done. (Except to my dignity.)

Here, lovely Laura (one of my co-authors and my co-bus captain this year) poses with her sister, the also-lovely Sasha:

The day wouldn't be complete without some fuzzy-wuzzy bunnies, like this beauty:

And while we're at it, how about some camelid porn?

[Before you email me to tell me it's not a camel, please use the Google to look up "camelid."]

As always, the food selection was, um, eclectic:

Hee-Haw fans may enjoy the "Fill Yer Own" old-fashioned soda cart

complete with Daisy-Duke inspired server fashion (will someone please introduce the Muffin-top Twins here to Twisty Faster?)

And before I return to the dyepots to dye up some of the stuff I found, I leave you with today's Political Correctness Sensitivity Quiz:

Is this sign offensive to Appalachian-born Americans? Discuss.

More (slightly smeary) pictures Monday.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day

In honor of spring, I present the maypole:

courtesy of the twins' preschool.

Maryland Sheep & Wool

I have been informed that there'll be a knitblogger meetup at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the grassy field next to the building where the Koigu donnybrook takes place.

I'll stop but believe it or not, I find these gatherings overwhelming (especially since last year, no one had ever heard of my blog). So look for me and say hi.

Book Report: April

1. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries This was an amusing look at the world of obituary writers, including lots of hilarious quotes from classic obituaries. (It's way funnier than it sounds.)

2. Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw, an account of the investigation into Rudolph's bombings, the manhunt leading to his capture, and a pretty thoughtful look at his biography. What frightened me most about this book was the realization that there are some mighty scary, violent people out there whose view of the world and our country and what is and isn't moral is so vastly different from mine.