Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Holiday Respite

I celebrate Christmas with family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I celebrate Christmas with friends on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. In between, I rest.

Christmas Gifts
I got some extraordinary gifts this year. Some things were exactly what I asked for, and others were items that I didn't request, but should have. So far it's been a very successful gift giving and receiving time of year.

One of my favorite quotes of this year's holiday season comes from Thaddeus. Anytime a child would be acting up, he'd admonish with, "You just made the baby Jesus cry!"

He could have said it a thousand times and I would have laughed each time.

Fiber Related Gifts
In addition to the gift certificate for WEBS that I showed in the last entry, the same sister-out-of-law gave me this book:

It's "Spinning Designer Yarns" by Diane Varney.

On first review, it looks to be a very well done book. I can't wait to try out some of the techniques and hopefully apply some of them to my non-designer yarn spinning as well.

And of course, I opened James' thoughtful gift, all the way from New Zealand. It was a great t-shirt with the following logo:

If you can't read it, it's Shep's Sheep Shearing, Auckland, New Zealand...He "Shave(s) wool with his big tool". Thaddeus got some of the amazing chocolate that James' friend makes. His was flavored with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh...yes, it actually had gold flakes in it, and it tasted wonderful.

Thanks again James, this is very cool.

WEBS Experience
I have to say, that the after-Christmas sale at WEBS is overwhelming. I spent less than an hour in the store and walked out with a big bagful of things and a hangover from the experience.

Suffice it to say, I spent more than the $50 gift certificate.

My first purchase was a new yarn of theirs that is very similar to Manos, called Malabriga.

I bought enough to supplement my current stash of Manos so I can make myself a Manos throw like I made for my mom.

Then I bought a couple of basic yarns for making more of the felted slippers.

The Cascade 220 will be used to make the tops and the Lamb's Pride worsted will be used for the soles and bumpers.

Finally, I purchased that last item on my list of things to purchase.

After having experienced a little bit of handcarding at the Great Wheel spinning workshop I participated in, I decided I needed to get myself a pair of handcarders so I could do more. Now I just need to buy some fleece to play with.

Once I had my shopping list complete, I looked around for anything else that screamed at me louder than the rest of the fiber. First I saw this...

The picture doesn't do the color justice. It's a little over five pounds of what appears to be light, worsted weight tweed wool in a vibrant green color. This will make a fantastic sweater.

The last thing I picked up was some more KFI Cashmereno.

These two bags of soft yarn will also be made into a spectacular sweater.

Now I can say that I've been to Mecca.

I did virtually none of the above over the Christmas weekend. I'll provide what little update I have in the next entry.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A Few Things

First of all, Merry Christmas...hope everyone had a great holiday.

Second of All
I meant to include Selma in my list of staunch defenders. Thanks Selma.

I'm off to Webs for the first day of their After-Christmas sale.

And look what I got:

Now I have a justification for my addictive spending :)

Pictures of my extensive purchases to come.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Blog Guards

I have to admit, I love that some of my friends and faithful blog readers defend me when they think it's necessary.

Good Friends
Many of you know that I was a complete geek all through grade school and high school and college...hell, I still am.

One of my biggest defenders all through school was my younger sister, Kathy (not to be confused with knit-friend, Kathy).

My sister was always cool, and hot and big-chested and the guys would do anything for her. Even if that meant not picking on me. All it took was one bitchy little word from my sister, and the cool guys would see me as an ally, rather than a repulsive nerd.

Now that I play in the blog world, I really don't need defending. As Crystal points out, I desire strongly stated opinions in my Newcomer Rules.

However, I LOVE the fact that faithful friends like Kathy, and Marilyn and Lisa and Carol S. will all come valiantly to my rescue and fiercely defend me when they think someone is attacking me.

And they are awesome at it. Listen to Lisa when she says don't rag on Kathy in this queer-boy's world.

Thank you.

Back to Knitting
Carol S. put it best when she said she'll wait to see the Noro Ganpi yarn in person before she weighs in on it. The monitor pictures are pretty accurate, but until I see a garment on the intended wearer, I can't always be sure the color and the style will work.

I finally made it up to the sleeve holes and I'm working just the back.

I'm thinking that I'll just keep working each side of the front (when I get to the neck opening) and keep crocheting right over the shoulders. I don't think it will be noticeable when I crochet the front top to the front bottom?

Is there a crochet equivalent to the Kitchener stitch? Or do you just single crochet the to pieces together? I'm having trouble picturing it, but I'm sure it will work out fine.

I really went to town on the green merino. I shouldn't send customers to this company, because they're competitors in the Surina needle business, but I will anyway because their prepared fibers are so nice (and besides, you folks have given me a ton of orders since my last post...thank you all). Check out Paradise fibers, especially if you're a new spinner. Kate, the owner, I think, is extremely helpful and patient with morons like me and she'll help make sure you get what you need (thanks to Carol S. for that recommendation).

This green is an even nicer color spun up...deeper, a little more blue...I may even need to get a couple more pounds of this after I'm done with all the sock yarn to make a full sweater's worth of yarn.

Webs Sale
I used to ignore the comments on the various list about the Webs after-Christmas sale, because I never planned on going. But now, since I'll be right up in the neighborhood, my sister-out-of-law has said that as my Christmas present, we're going to the sale at Webs.

As stupid as it sounds, I'm VERY excited at the thought of it.

Anyone else going to be there?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Shopping - Done!

With only one minor "grinch-like" event during our holiday shopping, Thaddeus and I finished our gift buying this morning.

Good Gifts
We had a list of items we wanted to buy, but we weren't sure if some were available as we headed out the door this morning.

Fortunately, not only were all of the gifts available and at excellent prices, but I also thought of a perfect gift for our friend Nora that was in one of the stores right next to where we were shopping for other family/friends. It turned out perfectly.

All sales people were extremely nice to us. The only incident which had tempers flaring was when a guy pulled into a parking spot that Thaddeus had been patiently waiting for. All it took was a few horn beeps and a slightly confrontational yelling through car door windows, and he realized the error of his ways and backed out of our spot...yay!...we didn't even have to threaten him with a broken windshield.

Other Movies
I forgot to mention a couple of other movies in my list of all time favorites:

Donny Darko - Amazing piece of work with a very unusual storyline
Something About My Mother - My favorite Almodovar movie

Also on the "recently seen list:
Closer - Yes, I saw this and enjoyed it, but I've always like Julia.

Lisa's comment about a family night showing Happiness had me howling with laughter. That would have to come with sedative-filled snacks for the family.

Side Business
Regular readers know that I run a small (VERY small) side business of selling Surina wood sock knitting needles on the web.

I just got in another order of some of the more popular 5 and 7 inch doublepointed needles and some padded cloth cases for holding the full set of nine needles.

I just did some quick accounting, and after all my expenses were tallied, and excluding the value of inventory, I've had a net lost of $132 on this venture so far...lol.

I figure that's a small price to pay for so many needles and cases, even if I never get another order.

Crochet Jacket
I just finished some quick calculations on my current project as well, and I need to do 20 more rows of crochet on the Noro Ganpi jacket before I can start shaping for the arm holes.

The combination of crochet and this yarn makes my wrist hurt, so I've been taking many breaks. Here's a closeup of the work so you can see all the individual colors. Who would have ever thought that this combination of colors would work?

I also did some additional work on the green merino top.

When I finish with this color, I'll start winding the singles onto toilet paper rolls (I've been collecting them for a little while now and have about a dozen).

Readers' Comments/Questions
Peter asks WAY too technical questions of a movie like Anacondas.

You and Thaddeus would enjoy chatting about movies together. As the boat roared over the waterfall, his comment was, "I thought they were headed upstream?". That to me is just an indication of how not wrapped up in the movie Peter and Thaddeus were. Quel surprise.

Carol S. mentioned some enjoyable movies, but movies that would never make my all time faves. I did love Mean Girls...it was so "fetch".

RJ and James also mentioned some excellent movies. Triplets of Belleville was magnificent, as was Whale Rider

Monday, December 20, 2004

Free Movies

I'm not sure if readers know this, but my partner Thaddeus works at a video rental place. So we get to see all the new releases early and free.

Movie Review
We also see a number of movies in the theater. Here's my list of excellent movies:

Recent Viewings

Finding Neverland - Wonderful movie that won't offend anyone.
Napolean Dynamite - Saw it in the theaters and just re-viewed it on DVD. Still love it
Shawn of the Dead - Very funny and entertaining, but I wouldn't watch it twice.
De-Lovely - Amusing if you like his music...not a big Kevin Kline fan.
Anacondas - If you didn't like Anaconda, this is worse...no surprise there.
King Arthur - Boring and awful

All Time Favorite Movies

House of Yes - Dark, incredibly funny comedy that even makes an actress out of Tori Spelling.
Happiness - Great twisted famiy story.
American Beauty - My favorite general-release movie ever.
The Winslow Boy - Magnificent cinematography and acting...not sure if it translates to small screen.

I finished knitting and felting the clog slippers from FiberTrends in a little over two days.

These babies knit up very quickly, which I like. But I have to admit, I had forgotten how hard the pattern is on my hands. There's a lot of picking up stitches and working around curves on circular needles. Not to mention using double strands of yarn on US13's.

But, they always come out looking great...one of the best patterns I've ever seen from the folks at FiberTrends.

Knext Knitting
I did some additional work on the crochet jacket, but seemed to go nowhere. There's no way this will be a Christmas gift, but I'm going to continue on it till I finish or get bored again.

I finally finished the first color of singles for the sock yarn I plan on making.

I've also made a small start on the next color.

I keep forgetting that spun yarn is darker than the roving or the top it gets made from. I'm overall glad that it's darker, because I think the striped socks will look better on a guy if the colors are darker.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. asks why it would be surprising that Kathy would have an interesting party, with interesting people and interesting children.

The only surprise was the children part, and the surprise was not that she would have them, but that I would find them interesting. I'm usually not a big fan of children...even semi-adult ones.

Kathy asks me to be kind with pictures.

I'll leave it up to the readers...here's Kathy surrounded by a crowd of reveling partiers. The party was a lot of fun...food and folks were perfect.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Back With Old Friends

Whether it's picking up an old forgotten WIP, or getting together with friends, the Holidays are always a time for reuniting.

Holiday Parties
Despite all the stress of trying to guess who will buy me a gift and who will send me a card and if/how I will respond in kind, I always find the holidays enjoyable time to spend with friends and family.

Tonight, I am scheduled to take my mom and her husband out to dinner for a belated birthday, which meant I wasn't going to get to go to my friend Kathy's annual holiday party (in addition to the most amazing sweets, her party is chock-a-block full of fun and interesting people, including her two children, believe it or not).

When I realized that my mother and her husband love early dinners and that I would be able to do both, I was very glad indeed.

Family and friends in one night...ideal.

Despite concerns expressed by Allyson, I was able to successfully wash and block the Morehouse Merino Evening Wrap...

The picture is lighter, and not as good at showing shaping and lace pattern, but it finally shows the colors a little better than generic "dark".

My biggest hope is that this garment gets used a lot by my sister. If she wears it a lot, it will mean both that she likes it and that she's got a lot of opportunity to wear something so fine.

Knext Knitting
I picked up the crochet jacket project again and started working diligently on it (despite the fact that it looks VERY similar to how it looked when you last saw it in October.

I've completed about 12 inches so far, and I want to get up to 15 before I start shaping for the armholes. I'm trying unsuccessfully to delude myself into thinking I can finish it this week and give it as a gift for Christmas (in addition to starting and finishing a pair of felted clog slippers).

Try not to depress me with realistic comments about what can and can't be done in a week.

Readers' Comments/Questions
As for wrapping presents, I enjoy it and I spend a lot of time making them look special.

I think there's something about it on my 100 Things About Me list, but I'm too lazy to look.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I Like Christmas

Despite the fact that expectations for this one day can never EVER be met, I still enjoy the anticipation and the warm glow the holiday gives me.

Go ahead, call me dweeb.

Holiday Gifts
Thaddeus and I have gotten most of our Christmas shopping done, although we have a few key gifts that still need to be decided on and purchased.

Overall, I'm very happy with the gifts we've picked out (Thaddeus is extremely good at this...me, not so much). I'll look forward to having my family and friends open their gifts this year.

I only have 7 more pattern repeats to complete on this project. I added the fringe to the cast-on edge so I could make sure I have enough yarn to finish the wrap and the fringe, and it doesn't look like I'll be even close to running out of yarn.

I'll look forward to completing the knitting for this project this week, although the fringe will have to wait till I get home on Thursday night.

If I finish before I leave for home, I've also brought the Noro Ganpi crochet jacket to work on. Even if I don't finish that in time for a Christmas gift, I'd like to get it off my WIP list.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Marta asks how I'm liking Bill Clinton's autobiography.

I'm very torn when I get asked this question because even though he's sold millions of his book, I'd like to see him sell more.

That being said, a person would have to love Bill Clinton a LOT to enjoy his book. I really like him, and think he is an amazing man and politician. Unfortunately he's not an extraordinary writer. The book is pretty dull.

She also asks if I've read Hillary's book.

I have, and I enjoyed that one much more, although it's not stellar in the writing category either.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Gifts Already Under The Tree

Yes, can you believe it, Thaddeus and I have already received our first Christmas gift. If we had a Christmas Tree, it would be under it now.

Blog Generosity
James has always been exceedingly generous. All the way from New Zealand, we received a card (opened) and two wrapped gifts (not yet opened).

I already know what the small one is (for Thaddeus), but I'm not sure what my gift is.

Thank you very much, James for your thoughtfullness and generosity.

The Morehouse Merino, lace-weight, evening wrap is moving along quite nicely. I should have it completed sometime this week, so I'm very pleased.

I'm still not sure who this will be for.

Once this is complete, I have to complete a pair of felted clog slippers for Thaddeus' niece, and I'm debating on whether or not to pick up the Noro crochet jacket and try to finish that in time for a Christmas gift for our friend, Nora.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Jenni asks what book I got the pattern for the evening wrap. It's not one of my favorite books, and no where close to my favorite lace book, but I have to grudgingly say, it did have a simple pattern similar to what I was looking to make.

It's Jan Eaton's "A Creative Guide to Knitted Lace".

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Conventions of Courtesy

My last blog entry broke one of those rules. You shouldn't mention something to folks where if they agree with you it's insulting.

My boss just mentioned the recent glut of articles relating lack of sleep to being overweight. Since she sleeps very little, she said, "at least now I know why I'm fat."

How does one reply to that?

While she is very attractive, and dresses well and carries herself very well, she is, in fact, overweight.

Realizing that there was no polite response to her mentioning this, made me realize I was either fishing for compliments with the comments about my weight, or putting folks who agreed in a difficult situation.

My comments were basically trying to have other folks relate to seeing themselves in a picture and having it be a wakeup call. That's what it was for me.

Lisa asks which ball gown I will wear the evening wrap I'm knitting with the laceweight merino I got at Morehouse Merino. I'm thinking it would go with any of my non-sequined gowns (including the two black ones, and the royal blue one). It also wouldn't go very well with the slutty, red one.

It's coming out very nicely, and I think this will be a gift for either of my two sisters, or Thaddeus' sister. I'll try to figure out who would like it and use it more.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. asks how she would know if she was in the dweeb-authors group, or the cool-authors group.

For readers that don't know, Carol is funny, sharp and witty and would definitely be in the cool-authors group. However her comment was either:

1. A fishing expedition for compliments
2. A pathetic demonstration of extremely low self esteem
3. A clever and generous example of how funny she can be in a self-deprecating way.

I'll elect to believe it's number 3.

Finally, as I started to read the admonitions of a reader with personal experience in group writing, I should have realized immediately that it was Kim who was writing this.

I think I will take her sage advice and realize that this group writing thing has been done already and stick to selfishly publishing my personal opinions in blog format. Pass the cookies, please, indeed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Out of Control

I just can't seem to maintain any level of balance in my eating. I'm either eating all protein or glutting myself with sugar.

Weight Issues
I've known for a little while that my weight was getting out of control, but I didn't realize the extent of it, until Thaddeus snapped this picture.

Like the old joke, I have more chins than a Chinese phone book.

This is the worst time of year for me with folks constantly offering cookies and candy. And since I'm a stress-eater, and the holidays always bring an added level of stress, curbing my eating becomes even more difficult.

So, from now until the beginning of the year (a completely manageable time frame), I will be eating a more balanced diet, reducing any of the "white" foods (sugar, flour and rice) and increasing vegetables and fiber.

First the good news.

I completed the first Christmas hat and it looks cool. Not so sure it looks so great on an actual person.

As Marilyn mentioned, the decreasing was bound to interupt the one by one color change. I kind of like the interruption.

Julianne also asked if I could have done this as a slip stitch pattern. An excellent question, and the answer is definitely yes. Since I can do two-handed knitting, it was just faster for me to do it in Fair Isle fashion.

Now the bad news.

I got totally bored with the wool/hemp sweater and just couldn't stomach working more on the sleeves. The lack of color was so egregious, I couldn't stand it one second longer.

However, I did start a new project with the laceweight merino I got at Morehouse Merino. I've decided to make a simple, lacey evening wrap.

I'm using a simple pattern from one of the lace-knitting books I had at home. The original pattern calls for a white tape, but it's coming out quite well using the merino.

I wish I could show you the deep, smokey colors in the merino. When I finish this beauty, and block it, it will be stunning.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks for all the feedback and the links regarding the writing project.

With all this new information, I'll need to think through how I want to proceed (or not). I may think about doing a mini-experiment by inviting a bunch of knitdweebs to write one book and my blog readers to write the other one and see how they turn out. Kind of like adding a control subject to the experiment, no?

Pubah asks about my self-striping sock venture by inquiring if I could just spin equal two singles alternating each color evenly and then ply them evenly to get the effect I'm looking for.

That was what I considered doing first, but I think mixing the colors during plying will be easier to regulate. I'll let you know in a year or so.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

You Should Write a Book

How many times has someone said that to you? Has it ever held any appeal?

I have dabbled with the idea of writing a book, but honestly, I don't think I write well enough, nor do I think I have anything worthy of writing about in a way that would speak to people. It's also a lot of hard work to pull together a book. The project seems daunting from the start.

That's why I blog. Short little spurts of writing I can deal with.

I have wanted to try a writing experiment, and one day I may, if I can figure out the structure around it. The idea is something like this.

Get a group of people that want to participate. Establish an on-line place (such as a shared blog space) where all participants could access. Then, as a group, start to collaborate on writing a book.

Rules would be pretty simple:

1. You can write anything you want, as long as it's consistent with what's been written so far.
2. Everytime you add a new character to the book, you have to complete a character profile so others writing about the character can know who they are.
3. You can edit any other participant's writing.
4. You can collaborate/gang up with any of the participants to forward your ideas.
5. All authors must agree when writing is complete.
6. A final editing would be completed by a smaller, select group of the authors, who would title the book.

I'm not sure if it should work by having one author "owning" the book for a period and then passing it onto the next, or whether it should be able to be worked on by multiple authors at once. Or perhaps, the book could be sectioned off, and you would have to check out a section to work on that part.

Any thoughts/ideas out there?

I've started the first sleeve using the "magic loop" idea (what a stupid name).

I did some more work on the Christmas hat and it's looking quite fine, if I do say so myself.

Here's a closeup of the single stitch Fair Isle I'm doing with constantly changing colors.

The gauge is tight for this hat, so the wooden needles are making it quite a lot more enjoyable to work with.

Kathy asked for more details.

I saw CC from Simply Knit working on one of these hats, and I'm not sure where she got the idea, but I liked how it was looking. The best part is it doesn't require much thought at all to color combinations. Just keep changing one of the two colors every four rounds of knitting.

I also haven't decided how I'll shape the top of the hat yet, but I think I'll just do a front and back shaping of four decreases every round (two in the front and two in the back). I'm hoping it will make it look like a ski hat shape.

Readers' Comments/Questions
First off, thank you for all the spinning advice. As a newbie, I'm still amazed at the amount of knowledge out there.

Here's what I think I'm going to do:

1. Spin up a bobbin of each color of merino and for each color, wind the singles onto two toilet paper rolls cut to size.

2. Double Ply a length of one color, and then switch to the next color during the plying process.

I'm not sure if I'll measure the length of each color, or just let it be random so the stripes won't be uniform. It will depend on how difficult it is to keep it even.

Suffice it to say, I'll have plenty of spinning to do before I begin the plying process, since I have so many colors to work with.

Diane asks about the Surina Wood needles.

Many sock knitters don't enjoy working with five doublepointed needles and are more comfortable working with either one or two circular needles. There are others that wouldn't think of doing socks on circulars. My hands are also large, so I prefer working on the 7" needles (the 5" poke the heel of my hand when I'm working with them). I will say that the wood needles are far superior to the metal needles. Lighter, a nicer glide of the yarn and warm in the hands than metal.

Thanks to Kim Salazar for her alternate review of Knitters.

That kind of thoughtful writing is the main reason her blog is one of the few must reads on my list of blogs.

Camille mentions that she likes the wobbly ribs.

The only thing I liked about the wobbly ribs is the stitch pattern itself. There are three different versions of sweater using this pattern stitch and not only is the finishing awful, but the shaping (or lack) of these sweaters is boring and amateur.