Monday, June 30, 2008

Exceeded expectations

Not to brag or anything, but I've been to a few yarn shops in my time. I've been to every Stitches for the last decade. I worked at a yarn shop for five years. I sell yarn out of my house! And so when I tell you, nay admonish you, that you simply must go to WEBS, you must believe me.

My expectations were high, I'll admit it. So when I drove up to that cheery blue awning, I was a little nervous. Could a yarn shop possibly live up to all the hype? I mean, this place has "" as its URL. Would I be disappointed?

I didn't have to worry. For inside was the biggest, most amazing yarn shop I've ever been in. Ever. When I tell you that WEBS has everything, I mean everything: from Araucania to Zitron with everything in between. It is truly a knitter's nirvana.

The first thing I saw was a lovely table (with fresh flowers!) with Knit So Fine beautifully displayed on it.

I was distracted from the huge selection of yarns in the front room by some of the kindest, warmest people that ever graced a yarn shop, like Karen and Cirilla (did I spell it right? it's such a pretty name to go with that gorgeous face) and Gail (we're going to talk dye) and I even got to meet Pixie the crochet goddess, of webcast fame.

They plied us with popsicles (what we Philadelphians call "wadder ice") and lemonade and chilled spring water, and didn't make fun of me at all when I spent fifteen minutes looking around me with wide eyes, blubbering incoherently in shock and awe. But I had been forewarned by my crack research team to go straight for Teh Back Room, so as soon as I regained the power of intelligible speech, I asked Karen if she'd pretty-please take me there.

I'd heard, you see, that there are grocery store shopping carts (what old-school Philadelphians call "coaches") in Teh Back Room and quite honestly, I thought people were just joshing me (you know, like when you tell someone that the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary?).

There are shopping carts in Teh Back Room.

Gentle readers, I filled mine.

My able assistant Elvis, who did a bang-up job of reading the map the whole way (saved me about twenty bucks' worth of gas in wrong turns, too) helped me traverse the aisles. You can't imagine what it's like. You look up one aisle,

and it's all Adrienne Vittadini closeouts (did I miss the announcement that they are no more?) in those luscious subtle colors they do did so well. Across from you are discontinued colors of some amazing yarn, say Berroco Pure Merino (you were right about that one, Franklin, it's a great yarn). Then something catches your eye and it's some fab Rowan yarn that you can't live without. Then, of course, I simply had to throw in a couple skeins of Nashua Superwash for the homeless veterans (you know how much I love my country).

It was insane.

Elvis, who is not the seasoned yarn shopper that I am, retired to the couch area to eat homemade brownies (thanks, Carol!).

I then tried to work my way through the front part of the store, but it was really just too much, even for me. I managed to snag some pattern books that I'd been ogling -- the new Elsebeth Lavold, Norah Gaughan No. 3 and Noro Joy were among them -- and then I met Hyphenated Carol's posse.

Kris and blogless Sara (no 'H') were fun and I've loved Carol for a while now, and I greatly, greatly appreciated that they drove all the way from Boston to see me. I also made a new friend, Knitting Dragon, who was on a massive road trip of his own:

And I got to meet Some Bunnys Love who is a Ravelry pal. (FYI, Mr. Some Bunnys Love: she did the right thing in bringing all the bunny photos. I loved them!)

Karen gave me the full tour (yes, WEBS is so big there are entire WINGS in addition to the store and Teh Back Room) and did everything but teach me the secret WEBS employee handshake (maybe next time?). I quite love Karen. I gave her three hugs before I left and I still think I owe her about two or three more hugs.

So when I tell you that you simply must go upstairs right now, pack a little bag (only a little one; you want to make sure there's lots of room in the trunk for all the yarn you're going to bring home) and pull out the atlas and find the fastest route to Northampton, MA, I'm not kidding. Even if you live in Togo or lower east Anchorage and you think you don't need to go to the real shop, because WEBS has a kick-ass website, let me tell you a little secret: there's stuff in the shop that is not on the website.

It's true.

Even Elvis wants to come back. After some amazing ice cream in charming Northampton, a dip in the outdoor pool AND the indoor pool

and several quarters in the Austin Powers pinball machine later,

he was in heaven, too. The next morning, I found Elvis filling out the hotel "How was your stay?" postcard. Where it said "How likely will you stay in this hotel again?" he had checked "Very likely."

Something tells me Elvis and I will be making that drive again real soon...

Thanks, Kathy and all the WEBS folks, for such a special visit! And thanks to the folks who came to the booksigning, too! Y'all rock.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Meet me tomorrow at WEBS!

I am so excited. Tomorrow, Elvis and I are leaving at the crack of dawn to drive to WEBS. I've never been, and I suspect this is one of those milestones in a knitter's life, like your first Stitches or Rhinebeck or something. I am going to be signing copies of Knit So Fine at 3 p.m., so if you are close enough to come, please stop by and say hi!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Care to help out a homeless veteran?

I belong to a Ravelry group called Knitters for Obama. I first looked at the group more out of curiosity than anything else; I wasn't quite sure where my decision to support a particular political candidate intersected with my love of knitting. Oddly, though, I've come to treasure the group. By and large, it's full of smart, caring and funny knitters and crocheters. They keep me well-informed about current political developments, and they often make me laugh out loud.

We are currently working on a charitable project, making items that will be donated to a couple of shelters for homeless military veterans. We were inspired by reading about the shocking statistics regarding homeless vets: e.g., it is estimated that one-third of the homeless population -- 1/3!! -- are military vets. The Veteran's Administration estimates that over 150,000 U.S. vets are homeless on any given night. I suspect the number may even be higher. You can't drive half a mile without seeing a zillion cars displaying "Support the troops" magnets, but if we're all so busy supporting the troops, why are so many of them sleeping in cardboard boxes?

Anyway, our Knitters for Obama group is working in conjunction with a couple of homeless shelters, finding out what kinds of items they need and what guidelines they wish us to use. Right now, we are making hats, scarves and washcloths. It's important to me that we provide items that will be of beautiful quality and that will be suitable and useful for the recipients. So we've come up with some guidelines for participants to follow here.

If any of my readers would like to help, I will gladly collect any items you make and send them along with mine to the collections point(s). You can email me through the link in the sidebar when you have a finished item or items and I'll give you my mailing address. I understand that not everyone enjoys knitting for strangers, especially in connection with a politically-motivated group. But I would be deeply grateful for any items that you care to send that match our guidelines. (In fact, I would be so grateful that I would draw some names randomly from anyone who sends me an item and award a BBF prize or two...)

Thanks in advance for your support.

Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP: George Carlin

"I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin

I remember my brother somewhere getting a recording of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" routine. It was a real Beavis and Butthead moment for him: "he said shit, heh, heh." As I grew older, I came to appreciate George Carlin's wit and sense of absurdity even more than his pottymouth. It saddened me to hear of his sudden death this weekend. He managed to skewer the minor irritations of life as adeptly as the major contradictions of humanity, and that's quite a talent.

Well, if crime fighters fight crime, and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?

Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.

If a deaf person swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A strange anniversary

Long-time readers may recall that I am an ACoND: an adult child of a natural disaster. (I made that acronym up; someday I will write a self-help book and become the Dr. Phil of natural disasters. Except I won't be a mustachioed, cliche-spouting arsehole.). Thirty-six years ago tomorrow, the Susquehanna River flooded its banks, and a bazillion gallons of muddy water came gushing over the top of the nearly-forty-foot high levies. I remember the way, all that spring, it seemed to rain day after day, without end. I remember my mom taking us for a walk on top of the levy near my house and seeing the water so high, so close, you could almost touch it. I remember my brother and mother trying to put valuables up in the attic, the highest spot in the house, thinking that at most, we'd get water in the basement. I remember that surreal vigil the night the water was at its highest, my mom telling me to go to sleep while I was painfully aware that something was going on that had to do with "cresting" and it wasn't good. I remember the police cars driving through the neighborhood at two in the morning, shouting through megaphones: "Evacuate immediately!" I remember getting in the car after that, and driving to my grandmom's house, which sat on a higher part of the city, a neighborhood too far away and too elevated to be subject to flooding. I remember looking out the back window, wondering if I was going to see a tide of water rushing after the car. (I didn't.)

Our family lost everything except the bare-bones structure of the house. We lived in a HUD trailer for the better part of a year, while my parents and whatever contractors they could scare up rehabbed our house. It took my parents years to recover from the financial blow.

So when I see images from the Midwest of flooding, and people being rescued in boats, and sandbagging efforts to shore up levies, it hits me hard.

I know money's tight for most of us, and you have a lot of demands on your discretionary funds, but if the spirit moves you, maybe you can spare a couple of bucks for the flood victims in Iowa and other states. Here's the Red Cross link. If you're an animal lover, you might want to consider the Humane Society, which has sent crisis response teams to rescue stranded pets.

I hope none of you ever have to celebrate a similar anniversary.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

School's out for summer

Since my kids are out of school, but haven't started day camp yet, I've spent the week moderating debates of critical importance to world peace, such as: If you have to poop in the middle of your turn on Wii, does your mother have a moral obligation to give you five extra minutes on the kitchen timer to make up for the run to the john?

Monday, June 16, 2008

A scoop: Vintage Baby Knits

One of the extremely fun things about TNNA is getting a sneak preview of some of the wonderful yarns, books, fibers and other knitting/crochet accoutrements that will be introduced this coming fall. I'll be giving you some previews of what's coming for fall in the next few weeks, beginning today, with my first real-live, GKIYH scoop: a preview of a knitting book that is coming next spring.

At TNNA, I happened to run into Kristen Rengren (known to many of you as “Retroknit” on Ravelry). I’ve been corresponding with her a while but this was our first face-to-face meeting. You know how when you have an on-line acquaintance with someone, and you think you’d get along wonderfully in person, but you aren’t 100% positive because, well, sometimes people sound normal on teh Interwebs and then when you meet them in real life, they’re a little cuckoo?

That is NOT what happened with Kristen. She is every bit as charming and funny in real life as she is on-line. (Phew.) I cannot vouch for whether she thought I was a little cuckoo, however.

When I first saw Kristen, she was walking around TNNA with a suitcase. She was at the Mission Falls booth, and she opened up her suitcase and it was filled with some truly gorgeous baby stuff. I knew Kristen was working on a book and I figured it'd be good, since Melanie Falick is her editor, but I had no idea how adorable her designs were until she showed me some of the sample garments. With the permission of her editor, she was able to share a few photographs with me:

I was especially intrigued by the fact that Kristen's designs were inspired by vintage baby patterns from the twenties through the fifties. Here's how Kristen describes them:

The book is 42 all original vintage patterns, retooled to varying degrees for gauge, size, fit - a few I basically just reknit and called it a day, but most required serious re-working in some form or another (and a couple patterns were so bad that we just threw the original pattern out and reverse engineered the garment from scratch.) The book has tons of sweaters, plus booties, caps, soakers, bonnets, toys, etc -- enough to keep any new mom more than occupied for the first year or two. The size range is 0 to 24, although most patterns come in 3 or 4 sizes only - so some garments go 0-12 and others go 6-18 or 12-24.

I love vintage patterns and I love that Kristen has done all the work for us: instead of being instructed to find a skein of “Glossila” or 12 oz. of a fine cotton and some small whalebone knitting pins, you will find yarns that you know, and modern lingo, gauge instruction, etc.

And since Melanie Falick is editing it, you know it’s going to be a gorgeous book.

I don’t think the book is on Amazon for pre-orders yet, but rest assured that as soon as it is, and as soon as I have pre-ordered my own personal copy, I will post the link.

Oh yeah, did you notice that Kristen is putting the ridiculously large number of forty-two (42!) patterns in the book? And fine yarn fans: many of the designs use the skinny yarns that we know and love. This is definitely one to look for next spring.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

And one more. . .

Today it's our last blog visit, in which Lisa stops by the blog of Woolbearers -- discussing the always-timely topic of substituting yarns.

We hope you enjoyed our blog tour -- learning more about us, the book and some of our favorite skinny yarns. A huge thank-you to all of the bloggers who helped us, our publicist, and all of you dedicated readers who followed us from place to place!

It's up!

My interview with Dolores is live!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Be patient!

It's Saturday night, you know: Dolores probably has the poor man hog-tied in a closet so she can have her filthy way with a Mongolian acrobat from Cirque du Soleil. I assure you that the interview will be well worth the wait.

Lucky 13: Me 'n' Dolores. Bonding. (No, Dolores, I did NOT say "Bondage.")

Oy vey. After inviting Franklin Habit to be a host for the blog tour -- we all know how well-mannered, erudite, charming and full of grace and class he is -- I was informed that the interview will instead be conducted by Mme. Van Hoofen herself. I don't know quite whether to be insulted or flattered. I do know enough to be scared. So fasten your seatbelts, pour yourself a champagne mojito and go to The Panopticon for A Very Special KSF Blog Tour Stop.

Update: Franklin and I have been experiencing some minor technical difficulties with Blogger, so if his post isn't up yet but this one is, please don't fret -- he will post as soon as he is able. Thank you for your forbearance!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Allons chez Ve-Ve! Toute de suite!

Do you love it when I speak French (paging Gomez Addams)? Today one of my heroes and girl-crushes, VĂ©ronik Avery, hosts the KSF Blog tour. Like everything Ve-Ve does, her blog is beautiful, artistic and in exquisite taste. She will be visiting with Laura today. Please note that Mme. Avery just announced on her blog yesterday that she is working on her next book. Woo-hoo!

And for those of you lucky enough to live within driving distance of WEBS, I am thrilled to announce that Laura and I will be there for a book-signing on Saturday, June 28th, mid-afternoon. A visit to WEBS? It is a dream come true. . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Last night Elvis and I had a talk about some of the other kids in his class. Now, while Elvis is incredibly smart in a book sense, he has a hard time deciphering some of the social cues that his schoolmates give off. He was telling me how certain classmates make him feel weird, and how he doesn't quite get what they're talking about all the time. After my heartfelt explanation of how when you're in school, you get stuck with kids in your class and if you don't get along with them, you just have to suck it up until you're an adult and can choose who to hang out with, and the importance of finding your tribe, and how sometimes people can be intimidated by really smart kids... it became clear to me that the nub of the problem (this time) was slang.

Apparently there is a kid who sits by Elvis who says things like "Oh no, you did-n't!" or when Elvis laughs and his face turns red, tells him he's having "a red crayon moment." Sometimes when Elvis says something, Matt will say "Inappropriate content" (whatever that means; that one's not in the Urban Dictionary). We had a laugh about it -- I couldn't help but crack up and then he realized that maybe it wasn't social death to not understand this strange pre-adolescent lingo -- and then I did the only thing a self-respecting mother could do:

I taught him the Z-snap and told him to tell Matt he's a hot mess.

Day 11: Meet the FitterKnitter

Are any of you old enough to remember Rowan Botany? (I know some of you are old enough to remember, but I thought it was polite to ask.) For those of you who have taken up knitting more recently, Botany was a great fingering weight, 100% wool yarn from Rowan. (Its technical name was Rowan True 4-Ply Botany.) I probably still have some in my stash, but lo and behold it was discontinued. There were many knitters who, after rending their garments and gnashing their teeth, weren't convinced a suitable replacement could be found. But Rowan introduced 4-ply Soft to take its place, and although 4-ply Soft is different from Botany, it's still good. Very, very good. Really quite very good. So join me as we take a trip to visit The Fitter Knitter, and talk about 4-ply Soft.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Threadbear Fiber Arts is our host today

Woo-hoo! I got to meet Rob and Matt, the Threadbear guys, at TNNA! They are amazing and wonderful and I wanted to kidnap them for a couple of hours and rub my cheek up against that sexy beard and talk yarn with them until the sun rose, but, alas, I got hypnotized by Abby Franquemont (who in addition to having a great name and being incredibly nice and fun) kept whipping her spindle around like a fibrous Cirque du Soleil act -- minus the Lycra.

I suppose it was lucky for all of the rest of the TNNA-ers that I didn't do a Kathy-Bates-hotel-room-kidnap thing, so Rob lived to knit another day and to blog with Lisa today about skinny yarns.

P.S. If you are ever in the mood for some spectacular yarns, skinny or otherwise, and have some cash burning a hole in your Paypal account, I highly advise a visit to Threadbear's website.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 10 of the Blog Tour: TurtleGirl

Meet TurtleGirl and her Bloggy Thing, the host of today's Knit So Fine blog tour. Our skinny yarn of the day is the ever-delicious Koigu...

But before you go, check out this lovely stole here. Now apparently this stole is entered in some sort of newfangled web contest (you know me, I'm a humble housewife with a station wagon who doesn't always understand these knittin' kids and their interwebular rivalries) but it seems to me that is one kick-ass shawl so if the spirit moves you, go on over and vote for it.

Then I'll see you at Turtlegirl's!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Things I Learned at TNNA this year

  1. The shuttle bus ride from the economy parking lot to the airport is often scarier than the plane ride. Adjust Atavan dosing accordingly and repeat as necessary.
  2. Do not go drinking with Trisha Malcolm. Or you will wake up with the mother of all hangovers. Seriously, it lasted TWO DAYS.
  3. Sherry from The Loopy Ewe is way taller than she looks on her blog. You would not believe it possible, but she is also even prettier and nicer in real life than she appears on her blog. (I know, right?)
  4. You are not allowed to curse while taping a teevee segment that will air on PBS. Thank God for the miracle of tape editing. Corrollary to this rule: Even if you give the cameraman twenty bucks, he cannot make your ass look smaller on teevee. (But at least you can swear about it.)
  5. Fans of Jillian Moreno and Amy Singer don't mess. If you jokingly try to heckle their booksigning, they will squash you like a bug.
  6. You say "Oooo-nee", never "You-nee." If your daughter has a stuffed unicorn named "You-ni," and berates you if you call it "Oooo-nee," and you are terrified that you will call Eunny Jang the wrong name and then she'll never, ever publish any of your designs in Interweave Knits (not that she has yet, mind you, but still, one can always hope), then when you meet Eunny Jang, you remember how to pronounce her name by saying "Oooooo, it's ooooooni."
  7. The ten-minute massage you splurge on at the CyberCafe is the best ten bucks you will ever spend.
  8. Columbus is plagued by roving bands of young men driving up and down the main drag by the convention center yelling rude things at innocent conventioneers in the crosswalks like "Hey bitch, could ya walk a little slower?" Columbus needs to invest in some midnight basketball leagues and a few good traffic lights.
  9. The really cool yarn companies love designers and sometimes give you color cards and/or free balls of yarn to swatch with. The not-so-cool ones act like you are a boil on the butt of the stitching community and blow you off. Ve-Ve knows what I'm talking about.
  10. Franklin Habit is the most talented man in the world. Proof of this:
  11. When you are a humble housewife who drives a stationwagon, and you go to TNNA, you will come home exhausted, dehydrated, hungover, overstimulated, with swollen blistery feet and a sinus infection, and you won't care a bit because you just had the most wonderful weekend in years.

Connie Chang hosts KSF today. . .

Sorry I'm late -- I got in last night from Columbus and apparently got some kind of nasty germs on the plane because now I'm sick. I have so much to tell you! I got lots of dirt on the new yarns, patterns and books that will be coming out in the coming months for fall '08. And of course, me being me, I made lots of new BFFs along the way (although no one will ever take the place of my original TNNA BFF, Ve-Ve).

In the meantime, cool designer Connie Chang is the host of the KSF blog tour today. Laura will be chatting with Connie over at Connie's blog. (See how diabolical I am? I gave poor Laura the day after we returned from Columbus. But she does get to chat with Connie Chang, whose patterns are amazing, so I hope that makes up for it!)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Still more stops on the KSF Blog Tour. . .

DK, the Nautical Knitter, is today's host of the KSF Blog Tour. We will be chatting about the fabulous Rowan KidSilk Haze. DK creates and runs the Secret of the Stole Knit-a-longs, and as a laceknitter (check out some of her patterns here) I bet she's got some interesting things to say about KidSilk Haze.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Day 6 of the KSF Blog Tour

KnitGrrl extraordinaire Shannon Okey is today's host of the Knit So Fine blog tour. Lisa will be visiting with her today at the KnitGrrl blog. Shannon's celebrating the release of her new book, How To Knit In The Woods: 20 Projects for the Great Outdoors, which I haven't seen yet, but I hope to score a review copy from Her Nibs this weekend. Through the miracle of the Web, Shannon, Lisa, Laura and I will all be in Columbus partying working hard while you are reading this. . .

Friday, June 06, 2008

KSF Blog Tour continues

Today, through the magic of teh internets, I am simultaneously on my way to TNNA in Columbus AND having a virtual chat with LynnH of ColorJoy. We'll be talking about the versatile laceweight yarn Zephyr. So come on over! In the meantime, I promise to collect lots of good gossip for you from Ohio. . .

Thursday, June 05, 2008

KSF Blog Tour Day 4: Kat Coyle

It's particularly fun for me when I get a chance to meet a designer whose work I have admired from afar. Kat Coyle has lovely designs that are often featured in Interweave Knits and KnitScene, and she also has a highly adorable book of kids' knits, called Boho Baby Knits: Groovy Patterns for Cool Tots that was released last fall. Today, Laura is going to chat with Kat on Kat's blog so let's go see what's happening there!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More KSF Blog Tour: Day 3

Today I visit with Faina Goberstein, of Faina's Knitting Mode, to talk about Dale Svale, the yarn used for the main body of the Skater-Inspired Sweater. I did not know Faina before we started planning the tour, but I'm very pleased to get to know her! Faina and her co-author, Dawn Leeseman, have a book coming out next month, called Casual Elegant Knits. See you at Faina's!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

KSF Blog Tour: Day 2

Most of my regular readers know that I'm a proud alum of Rosie's Yarn Cellar. Today, the KSF/Skinny Blog Tour visits the Rosie's shop blog, RosieBlogs, for Lisa's visit with Courtney Kelley. (Love the new blog header, Courtney and Kate!) Both Lisa and Courtney are masters of fine yarn, so they should have some interesting things to say.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Don't forget: KSF Blog Tour starts today!

While the clematis bloomed

I have been busy writing blog entries for the Knit So Fine/Skinny Yarns blog tour!

Fourteen consecutive days -- fourteen blogs for you to meet (or revisit if they are already old friends).

Some of the entries will be written by me, but my wonderful co-authors, Lisa and Laura, will also be writing some posts so you don't get sick of me yammering on for two straight weeks.

Each day will take a peek at one of the skinny yarns we used in the book, and other inside details about the creating of the patterns, or interview questions supplied by the bloggers, extra photos, reviews of the book by the bloggers, and so on.

Today we start with Andrea of The Fiber Forum, and look at one of my all-time favorite skinny yarns: Zitron's Trekking XXL. So head on over there and check it out.