Wednesday, September 28, 2005

If I Were King

Carol S. assigned me a topic for today's blog.

"What would you do, Joe, if you were in charge of Stitches 2006, to make it worth attending?"

Focus On The Solution
First of all, I think that the lackluster showing at Stitches East is because of three distinct factors:

1. Overall shitty attitude of the XRX staff to their customer base,
2. Stale format and growing disinterest of both customers and vendors in the event, and
3. Premium prices in the Stitches Market competing against internet sales

To correct the event, I would have to deal with all three issues in very serious ways.

The first issue, in my mind, is the most severe. Fixing this would require a complete re-vamping of both Knitters Magazine and the KnitU list. Changes to Knitters Magazine would require radical changes such as demanding a higher level of sophistication from designers, cultivating and encouraging new designers and negotiating more aggressively with yarn vendors to allow designers to better showcase their yarns.

For KnitU, mainly it would require the List-Owner(s) to be open for frank feedback from listers. And to be responsive to the comments, both on the list and in the magazine. I can't imagine why any of the publishers wouldn't also try to work with Knit-bloggers to garner community goodwill and to help them assess how they're doing.

Marilyn notes a number of areas that would help with the second issue. I love her ideas about bringing back some of the better instructors, even though I've never taken a knitting class at Stitches, and doubt I would. I really only went for the market. Incentives for vendors would also be a critical component to assisting XRX make the event spectacular. Some of the most successful booths at Stitches in past years were put on by yarn vendors in the name of a specific store that distributed their products. Unicorn Books/Lana Grossa/Jamieson Shetland did the booth for Simply Knit in their last year at Stitches and it was beautiful and highly successful for both companies involved. When was the last year that Rowan even had a presence at Stitches? I would love to see more cooperative booths where the yarn manufacturers could join forces with a yarn store to fully market their product lines.

I would also like to see a "Reality" event staged throughout the year prior to Stitches. Have auditions for "Diva Designer" at Stitches 2006 and have monthly contests featured in the magazine and on KnitU for participants. Have snotty judges (like me and Marilyn) and nice judges like Stephanie argue about who should remain in the contest and who to kick out. Then have the finale vote at Stitches 2007 where all attendees can have the final say in who is the winner.

If not that, then some other kind of attraction that would excite a very bored customer base.

Change things up each year. Give out an annual conference freebie, like a Chibi or blocking wires or some other promotional item that would help advertise a yarn company. Have a specific conference theme each year, such as "A Call To New Knitters", or "Colors, Textures and Design", or "Stash Busters". Have newbie orientations or workshops running all through the event so we can bring potential converts. Partner with vendors to help promote the event. They used to give a free single booth to the vendor that got the most customers to bring in a postcard. Simply Knit used to win it every year just by sending out a mailing to their customers. Expand that in ways that will encourage vendors to generate excitement around the event.

Finally, encourage or incent vendors to have "Stitches-Only Sales Events". With the prevalence of the internet for buying yarn, why would anyone possibly buy yarn or books or tools at premium prices when they could go home and place an on-line order?

Current Knitting
I made no discernible progress on the Vineyard Throw. The "spurt" has turned to a "dribble". Well, I did knit some. I'm now at row 72 of 104.

Other Weekend Fiber Activity
Okay, you know a got some knitting done. You know I got some quilting done. But I also put in some time working on my "nose crust" merino spinning.

You might be able to see how very little is left in the ball of roving. I spun like a madman this past weekend knowing that I only have one more color of this merino to spin after "nose crust".

I should be able to finish spinning this lovely fiber by the weekend, and perhaps even start the last color.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Liz asks, "So, do you get to meet Kaffe and show him your quilt personally?"

I think so. He's really quite a nice man with extraordinary talent in color and pattern design. The few times I've had an opportunity to meet him, he was extremely gracious and personable. I wouldn't expect anything less from a friend of Liza's. I wouldn't think swooning would be appropriate.

Concerning the striped binding fabric, Mary asks, "Have you considered cutting the fabric on the bias?"

Yes, that is how I will cut the fabric before sending it off for finishing. My understanding is that cutting it on the bias allows for a more stretchy and flexible fabric, which makes it easier to shape around the corners of the quilt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Demise of XRX

Knitters magazine sucks (they even tried putting a gay man in charge and it still sucks), Stitches sucks and KnitU sucks.

Pathetic Disregard
I personally believe that the XRX organization has gone so downhill over the last few years because they have completely disregarded their customer base and focused solely on their vendors and advertisers.

KnitU refuses to even post, nevermind acknowledge negative comments. Knitters Magazine persists in helping yarn manufacturers market to a very ephemeral generation of trendy knitters while completely ignoring their core customer base. And now vendor participation at Stitches seems to be on a significant downward trend.

All-in-all, it appears that the Xenakis family should take a harsh look at their inflexible policies and try to salvage what they can.

Current Quilting
In addition to getting some knitting done this past weekend, I also made some additional progress on the quilt. I got to browse the fabrics again at Liza's, looking for backing and binding fabrics.

Here's what I selected.

The backing is the fabric in the upper left and the binding will be the striped fabric in the upper right. Since the binding will only show up with less than an inch of fabric, I tried to simulate what both the front and the back will look like when it's done.

Neither picture is a very good representation, but it helped me to decide on the fabrics I would use.

Quilting Celebrities
Liza, being a quilting celebrity in her own right, knows a lot of other celebrities as well. Of course she knows Kaffe, but also dozens of other folks.

It turns out I got to meet the designer of the two Lone Star quilts in the most recent Kaffe book, Museum Quilts, Claudia Chaback. She is funny and smart, and amazingly creative. She helped me pick out the fabrics I will use to finish my quilt. She teaches in Berkley Heights, NJ, so I may see about taking one of her classes.

The other celebrity of note, is Kaffe himself. Liza would like to show him my quilt when he's in town the second week of October, so I will be holding off sending my quilt for finishing until he's seen it.

Current Knitting
I'm continuing to progress in spurts on this project. I'm up to row 65 of 104 on the last row of color blocks.

It's nice to be on the final stretch. Even though I've loved working on this project, I'm getting itchy to work on something else for a while.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cynthia says, "The last Pope at least believed in tolerence and peace and he openly spoke out against hate speech and actions against homosexuals."

Actually, not so much. The pontiff frequently condemned homosexual activity, and the Vatican launched a global campaign against same-sex marriage. In addition, the pope's condemnation of contraceptives was an affront to HIV-prevention advocates worldwide.
There were also some pretty hateful letters about homosexuality that came out of the Vatican during his reign. I'm not familiar with any comments he directly made concerning homosexuality, although the BBC reports that it was the late Pope's order for the "Apostolic Visitation" to U.S. seminaries looking for signs of homosexuality. The current Pope is just completing the order.

Let's not make a saint of John Paul II just yet.

Concerning Stitches East next year, Cynthia states, "Next year, Baltimore Inner Harbor. Again, expensive and scary area--what are they thinking."

Sorry to disagree again, but Baltimore Inner Harbor is actually not at all scary. My last assignment was down there and it is actually quite a nice place, and the hotels are nice too. It wouldn't entice me back to Stitches, but it's not scary

Monday, September 26, 2005

Weekend Busy-ness

My current client has asked that I be on-site in Albany every other Friday, instead of working from home.

Two Day Weekends
Even though I had to work from home on Fridays, it still gave me the opportunity to knit while I was on conference calls, or spend time with Thaddeus at lunch. One day less for doing those things makes the weekends fly by.

This past weekend was one of those fly-by weekends.

Current Knitting
Despite the abbreviated weekend, I was able to get through more rows on the Vineyard Throw.

Although it might not show very well, I am halfway through the last row of color blocks, or at row 56 for those of you that are counting.

Now that mornings and evenings are starting to cool down some, this lap blanket has proven to be very comfortable while I'm knitting on it.

Knitting Designs
Thank you all for the comments and critiques on the Knitting Vault sweater designs.

Evidently, the sweater in question (Passing Lane Pullover) needs a picture that will accentuate its interesting features, such as the fisherman's rib and double collar in contrasting color. Hopefully tips from Franklin will allow me to re-market this design will a little more interest.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. noted, "And if you want another good reason to be infuriated at the past (we can only hope they are past) practices of the Catholic Church, check out the lead article in today's Inquirer about the grand jury's report on sexual abuse."

Just so happens, the former pastor the local Catholic church in my hometown was listed in the indictment. I remember a time when he was highly indignant about a lot of "anti-Catholic" issues in our town. Issues ranging from no tax exemption for charging for public parking to being asked to leave the parish.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Knitwear Design - Commercial Viability

I can't imagine that even some of the most prolific designers make very much money selling their knitwear designs.

My Personal Experience
Since having offered some of my designs for sale on The Knitting Vault, I have been surprised by a few things:

1. Folks purchased way more patterns than I expected (especially the Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf.jpg pattern)

2. What I considered to be my best design (the Passing Lane Pullover), hasn't done very well in sales. I'm thinking that either:

a. It's not as good as I thought
b. Folks don't think it's worth $5.50 for the pattern
c. The pictures don't do it justice

3. Despite being probably one of the biggest sellers of patterns on The Knitting Vault, I could NEVER give up my day job to do this solely.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else with designing experience, especially if you market your designs on Fredda's site.

Fiber Friends
I got the opportunity to meet the spinner guy in Upstate New York and he is nothing short of wonderful. In addition to being a very nice guy (think perfect Southern Gentleman with an urban edge), he's also incredibly knowledgeable in the area of spinning, specifically Icelandic wool.

I was fascinated the entire time, but I also realize that most humans would have preferred chewing off their own arms rather than be with us as we gabbed about fiber.

If anyone has Knit Lit 2, you can read his story, as he's published in there.

Current Knitting
I should be at about row 30 on this last row of color blocks, but due to multiple errors and re-knitting, I'm only at row 18.

I'm so irked with this project at the moment, that I wouldn't even consider giving it the satisfaction of taking its picture.

New Blog Read
As you can see from my blog buttons, I don't read a lot of other blogs, and very seldom do I get the opportunity to read blogs other than the ones I have links for. The other day I was reading Jean Miles blog, and I was highly perplexed as to why I had never added her blog to my daily reads list before.

She is now a regular read for me.

Her knitting is amazing, although her most recent project really pisses me off for a couple of reasons. Firstly, she just finished picking up some ungodly number stitches for her current lace shawl...that's just unnatural, although I still thought I'd love to do this shawl. Second, the pattern, available through Heirloom Knits, was only sold in limited quantities (250) and they're all sold out.

I have decided that I will buy the Heirloom Knitting book, since it also seems to have amazing designs, and one day I'd like to knit like Jean.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Duffy notes, "Beautiful quilt top, Joe. Do I understand you right, it's your first?"

In actuality, I had tried quilting a while ago. Inspired by Kaffe and Liza's orginal quilt book (Glorious Patchwork), I bought a bunch of crappy fabric, and started to make a boring quilt top. Since I was hand-piecing, and it wasn't turning out at all as I had hoped, I quickly lost interest. The experience with this project was nothing like the first.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vatican II - Catholicism Revisited

Cynthia in her comments apologizes for how the Vatican treats homosexuality.

Hate the Sin...
I have nothing against Catholics, and I should have made that clear in my recent blog entry. I do have a big bone of contention with the mere mortals that run the organization. I feel that their self-righteous hatred and ignorance have a dramatic effect on many folks, especially their youth.

Can you imagine being a young, questionning gay teen who hears only that being gay is clearly wrong and all that lies ahead is condemnation? Great way to foster self-hatred.

Personally, I loved the rituals of the Church. I loved the mass, communion, confession, the hymns, and on and on. It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the Church over 20 years ago. But I felt that any participation on my part was lending validity to what the Vatican was doing, and I couldn't justify that.

Fiber Friends
I have a friend in upstate New York who lives in a spiritual community. He casually mentioned the other day that one of the guests at the retreat spins his own yarn.

Did he not realize that this is something I should have known about on a much more urgent basis?

It turns out that this guest used to raise Icelandic sheep, and he's been spinning for a while. Suffice it to say, I'm arranging a get-together to talk ad-nauseum about fiber-related topics as quickly as I can get it scheduled.

Around the same time, I got an e-mail from a fiber artist in my own hometown who was looking to pull together a knit-meet-up. From her e-mail and her blog, she sounds very interesting.

My life is expanding because of my addiction to fiber.

Current Spinning
I was inspired by the Sheep & Fiber festival this past weekend to do some actual spinning.

The Nose Crust merino is about 2 thirds complete, which means the remainder won't get done in one weekend's worth of spinning, even though I don't have quilt piecing to do anymore.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Vatican Sucks

As do many of their priests. Have you heard the latest joke from Rome? There's been an "apostolic visit" scheduled to a number of U.S. seminaries looking for 'evidence of homosexuality'.

Shooting Fish in a Barrel
I honestly don't think they'll have to look very far, but the sin of the matter is that for years, gay Catholic men have been encouraged to join the priesthood. Now that child abuse has risen to epidemic proportions in the church, the Vatican seems to be looking for some scapegoat or smokescreen to point blame somehow away from themselves.

Alas, we have another witch hunt sanctioned by the nazi Pope himself.

They think they have trouble recruiting priests now? Wait till they excorcise all the queers. If they get rid of all of them, there will be about half as many priests and seminarians.

Maybe it would be a good thing afterall.

Sheep & Fiber Festival
One follow-up to the festival this past weekend. In the one picture of women spinning, you can see reader, May in the background, with her elbow on the table and a blue headband.

Despite much relaxation this weekend, I did get some knitting done.

You'll note I've started on my favorite row of color blocks.

This row uses the same pattern stitches as the first row of color blocks, and I'm back to making errors. Damn, I need to pay more attention.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Michelene asks, "How about quilted stars within the snowballs?

Liza is going to give me a few of her contacts who do finishing. I'm going to ask the person to whom I send it for finishing to suggest something that won't be too labor-intensive, but will still make a nice quilt. For the snowball quilt in Kaffe's most recent book, Museum Quilts, Liza quilted circles in each of the snowballs to accentuate the trompe d'œil of roundness. That was quite labor-intensive, so I won't be doing that. I'm thinking that the busy-ness of the fabrics will allow a much more simple quilting pattern.

Enjay asks, "Is quilting going to edge out the knitting/spinning?"

Much to Liza's dismay, this site will never be renamed will always be my primary passion. However, much to Thaddeus' dismay, I will continue quilting (this last project took up both a lot of our floor space and a lot of my time and attention). I just went back and calculated that the entire quilt took me four weeks to complete, which I consider an excellent time-to-completion ratio.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Breath a Sigh

I work hard on both my career and my hobbies. It's nice to sit back and enjoy the accomplishments sometimes.

For any who have read my web log for a while, they know my favorite vacation is in a location where there are nice beaches, good weather and good restaurants.

This weekend, we didn't exactly have great weather, and I didn't go to the beach. But I did just kind of relax and watch screener DVD's that Thaddeus brought home and knit and quilt. I also got to go to my favorite Thai restaurant.

In addition, we did our standard circuit around the flea market on Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, yesterday, we went to the Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival.

Sheep & Fiber Festival
The Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival is a bit smaller than either Rhinebeck or Maryland...okay, a lot smaller. As an example, there was only one food vendor at the festival, and at noon, Thaddeus and I had no wait to get our lunch.

It was very manageable, and there was lots of good fiber stuff. If they can manage to double the size of the festival, it will be just about perfect.

Here are a couple of pictures.

I went looking for interesting spinning equipment, such as a dizz (sp?) or a nice drop spindle or something interesting like that. There wasn't much in the way of nice wood items, so I ended up just buying this.

This a multi-colored Merino/Silk Roving, about 13 ounces.

I'm not sure what I'll do with this, since it's clearly not enough to make a man's sweater, but I liked the color and the fiber way too much not to buy it.

Quilt Top Completed
Yes, you read correctly. I finished putting on the borders (yes, plural) this weekend.

On the sides, I only added the amazing new fabric that I got at Liza's on Friday. At the top and bottom, I also added a multi-color, pieced border. And in the corners, I put snowballs.

Gage was highly impressed.

Next week, I get Liza's final advice on fabric for the back and binding, and finishers where I can send it off for quilting.

This has been by far the most satisfying first project in a new fiber area ever.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Elizabeth asks, "Will the quilting be stippled randomly or follow the pattern of the blocks to some degree?"

I'm thinking about having the finisher just do a random pattern that will complement the tone of the quilt, but not specific to the pattern of the blocks. I'm thinking that a separate random pattern for the border versus the snowballs would give a nicely finished look.

k says, "What I don't get is the sudden explosion of bright colors in the quilt, when all the knitting is in 'conservative' colors."

I would argue that my knitting is done in some pretty vibrant colors too. The Fashion of The Christ sweater is a panic of color, and I did my multi-pattern sweater in a vibrant pumpkin color. Even the collar on the Passing Lane Pullover is done in a very bright green, despite the fact that the body is done in a deep burgundy color. And the truth of the matter is, I did not expect that the end result of the this quilt would be so bright. I like it a lot, but it was not what I initially envisioned.

Eldronius ask, "Will you let people roll around on it and giggle with delight when it is finished?

Absolutely not. It is to be admired from at least five feet, like most major pieces of art in museums. Although very few people get to see my bedroom, and they wouldn't likely roll in a quilt, nor would they giggle.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Light and Airy

Time for a little less intensity. All the discussion of disaster, politics and especially bible verses has become extremely tedious.

Pregnancy Kills Brain Cells
I'm convinced this is true. I have personally witnessed extremely intelligent pregnant women do and say some of the most inane things.

One example I have is my youngest sister.

During her first pregnancy, she and her husband were at the doctors for one of the regularly scheduled visits, which included a sonogram. Since it was the first sonogram in which the technician could determine the gender of the fetus (no voting rights yet...oops...light and airy, light and airy), the technician asked them if they wanted to know the sex. They did, so she told them it was a boy.

My sister squinted at the picture, and asked how she knew. The technician pointed at the appendage-in-question, and my sister, still looking boggled, said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't see it." So the technician actually took a grease pencil and outlined Mr. PeePee for my sister, at which point she said, "Ohhhh, he's not circumcised."

A mind is, in fact, a terrible thing to waste.

Current Knitting
I really didn't get a ton of knitting done on the Vineyard Throw this week, but I have a picture of it that actually makes it look like a throw.

I'm only at row 79 of 92, so I still have 13 rows before switching colors.

I do have to admit, the top row of colors is my favorite, so I'm looking forward to starting it.

Current Quilting
Tomorrow, I head over to Liza's to pick out border material. I think I'll also try to pick out backing and binding material as well.

Based on Kathy's comment, Liza must have something amazing on her design board. On my last visit, Liza showed me some of the new Kaffe fabrics (which I'm not allowed to discuss), and I actually considered jamming some of them in my pockets when she wasn't looking. They are quite amazing.

Readers' Comments/Questions
I've noticed that comments have gotten so boring, that even I'm just skimming through some of them, and it's mostly due to the size. Please self-edit, and limit the size of your comment, or I will take editorial license.

One point of interest in the whole conservative/liberal debate is JennAnn's comment. It made me take a look at my reactions, and I was glad for it. I don't agree completely with all she says, but I was glad for the opportunity to do a little self-check.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sheep & Wool

With events like Rhinebeck and MDS&W, I often forget that there are sheep festivals right in my own back yard.

Garden State Breeders
Thanks to a timely tip from local knit-pal, May (I actual know her much more through spinning than knitting), I realized that I could drive a mere 8 minutes from my house this weekend to enjoy walking through sheep and llama dung. The Garden State (NJ for those that don't know) Sheep Breeders are having their annual festival this coming weekend about 7 miles from my house.

How cool is that?

Actually, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to buy some spinning stuff, and while I'm not sure about what kind of vendors will be there, nor do I have anything specific in mind to buy, I would still love to indulge my spinner's urges this weekend.

Current Spinning
I focused all my fiber time this past weekend on quilting and knitting, and a little bit on flea marketing.

But alas, I did no spinning, so I have no pictures.

Hopefully, I will have some from the festival this coming weekend.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thank you all for you comments on the injustices of Katrina.

I have one more item on this travesty that is just the last fucking straw.

It wasn't bad enough that FEMA screwed up so badly.

It wasn't bad enough that Haliburton is getting no-bid contracts for clean-up.

But now I find out that the whole "taking responsibility" speach by the redumblican president belied his actions yet again.

Were you aware that Bush actually had the utter gall to suspend a law that requires federal contractors to pay prevailing wages in the gulf area during Katrina cleanup? Which means, Haliburton can charge whatever they want for their efforts, but they aren't required to even pay prevailing wages to the impoverished workforce in the gulf area. Which also means union contractors will have no possibility of winning any work that does go out for bid.

The scenario turns out like this. If your a skilled laborer in the gulf area, and want to work, the only work will be through Federal Contractors who can pay you whatever they feel like. If you don't like it, you won't be working.

Just another big fuck-you to labor unions, the hardworking laborers in the area and the folks with a "welfare mentality" who now have even less incentive to work.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Quote for the day:

"When mothers name their children Richard, how do they know that they'll turn out to be Dicks?"

Blame Game

The most recent Redumblican repeat-word trying to dissuade press and citizens for determining who screwed up.

Time Line
There has been a significant amount of misinformation distributed about the poor handling of Katrina, but one thing can't be fudged by the likes of Karl Rove.

The timeline for this disaster makes it very clear that everyone followed proper protocol and procedure until it reached the offices of FEMA and Homeland Security.

Did you realize that the Governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency on 26-August-2005, a full three days before Katrina made landfall, and FEMA was given full authority to respond to Katrina on the following day?

Seems pretty clear who was supposed to be in charge, no?

Check out this site for the best description of the shocking timeline of this disaster.

Can you imagine how stupid the president feels for saying what a good job the incompetent head of FEMA was doing just days before they relieved him of all his duties?

Current Knitting
Despite despairing over the state of the country, I made a boatload of progress on my current project.

I'm up to row 72 of this row of color blocks. Go Joe, go.

Weekend Flea Market Purchases
Thaddeus and I hit the flea market twice this past weekend, and there was a vendor there who had a whole box of vintage knitting booklets for $1 each. I ended up passing on some really hideous stuff and limited myself to these 7 booklets.

Homoerotic Knitting
My favorite booklet was the Jack Frost designs for Men.

Every picture included two men, and they were often somewhat affectionate or downright lewd.

I mean, what is that guy in the last picture staring at with such awe (much to the delight of the object of his attention, no less)?

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kathy asks, "...what does Thaddeus not like about your quilt top? Colors? Certain fabrics? The idea that you must be working every day around the clock to get this far? Spousal types can be so tedious, non?"

He made some general comments about it being "okay". He mentioned that I used too much of a light, tropical green color. He critiqued my points not matching, saying it was a "mess". I personally think he felt slighted by my rapt attention to a fiber project. Oui.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

What the Fuck?!?!

If military police are instructed to arrest frustrated victims of Katrina for swearing at the Vice President, perhaps the VP should be held and detained for his similar comment to Patrick Leahy.

From Merriam Webster's on-line dictionary:

1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

He can dish it out, but he sure can't take it. But lucky him, he has the largest, most powerful armed services at his disposal.

As awful as Mr. Cheney's behavior was, the worst part of it all is that he made it clear that his visit to Louisiana was just a publicity opportunity. Otherwise, he might have understood and addressed the frustrations of the folks in Louisiana.

Next time, just stay home.

Current Knitting
Evenings and early mornings made it cool enough to continue knitting what has become a lap blanket.

With a total of 96 rows in this round of color blocks, I'm up to 52 and going strong. I also just re-took a look at the composition of colors, and I'm satisfied it will look quite fine when it's done.

Why do I always question myself?

Well, it seems I've finished with all the main patchwork of the snowball quilt.

I still have to do the border and the backing. Both will require a trip to Liza's to check out appropriate fabrics and designs.

After all is said and done, I don't think Thaddeus likes the quilt very much. Hopefully the finishing touches will change his mind. I would hate to see this bed cover languishing on the guest bed.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Perfect Knitting Weather

As the nights start to get cooler, I'm enjoying the soft warmth of my current knitting project laying on my lap.

Go Knit Something
Carol S. is right (as usual), the sweaters on the current issue of Knitty are quite good. I don't even mind the fanny pack. Not because I would ever make it or wear it, but because I thought the colors were quite fine.

I'm realizing as the weather moves more and more toward autumn, that my fingers itch to pick up a sweater project. The idea of spinning becomes even more appealing and the thought of a quilt on my bed sounds comforting.

Current Knitting
Since yesterday's post, I haven't done an enormous amount on the Vineyard two rows.

Despite how much I hate the Winter season, I can actually picture myself wrapped in the final blanket, with a cappuccino in one hand, and a book in the other. At least I have something to look forward to in the awful season.

I don't have an update on my new quilt, but I did get my own personal copy of Kaffe's Museum Quilts.

It seems Gage has decided to become the unofficial spokes-cat for this latest book. Gage has always had better taste than I do.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Marilyn adds, "I think buying books is almost worse for me than yarn. Is that true for you, J? You seem to read as much as I do.

Not really. I don't read as much as I would like to, and now that I have my own personal shopper at Barnes & Noble, I let him pick out my reading material. So far he's done an excellent job, except for one bad pick. After I yelled at him for the bad pick, he's being much more careful to only pick out excellent material, so I don't end up buying tons of books.

When I stop travelling for a living, both the book store and the library will become very familiar haunts for me.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fiber Cheating Again

Despite all that I got done this past week with regard to my fiber addictions, I still stole time away for a different guilty pleasure.

Current Reading
I have been making time to keep up on my reading. I personally think that reading is one of the most enjoyable ways I have of expanding who I am and what I know, and so after years of pushing it aside for other leisure activities, lately I've been reading quite a bit.

This past weekend, I finished one of the best books I've ever read.

The Tricky Part by Martin Moran has two extraordinary characteristics.

First, the story is brilliant and interesting and told from an unlikely perspective that expanded my understanding of life in a way that very few stories could. I was constantly amazed at how a forty-something author could recall so vividly his experiences as a young teen, and even more amazed at the memories it brough back in me.

Second, Martin Moran's writing is astonishingly well done. One of the book flap quotes puts it best, Terrence McNally says about Moran, that "...his book is art."

I'm not sure if I was so absorbed in this story because I had some similarities to the author (the story is autobiographical), or whether the core emotions he describes are universal in a way that all would relate to them.

It's the first book in years that I've read that I will, at one point, go back and re-read.

Current Knitting
I had an opportunity to get some knitting done last night, and I'm happy with the progress I made. I have about 60 rows to go before completing the current row of color blocks. I will be glad to start the last row of colorblocks so that I can confirm my layout of colors.

But, even if the color combination turns out to be hideous, I will enjoy covering myself with this throw for years to come.

Tonight I head over to JoAnn's to see if I can get a piecing foot for my sewing machine. I'm also going to pick up a couple of replacement blades for my Olfa rotary cutter and some thread.

Believe it or not, I've already used up a full spool of white thread and I'm on my second one.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Margaret K. says, "Hand quilting is relaxing.... and I bet your work would be beautiful. I hate to see you send it out."

My purpose in making this quilt is twofold. First, to have something beautiful for my bed, and second to be able to say I made it.

Since sending it out for quilting allows me to meet both those criteria, and I already have plenty of "relaxing" fiber activities, I think I'll wait for a smaller quilting project to do my own hand quilting.

Steven states, "It takes a lot more guts, gumption, and conviction to approach a stranger on his/her territory than spouting off to no one in the media or, even more pointless, to people who already believe the same as you."

I agree with Steven that it takes more guts to approach a stranger than spouting off (as in a poli-knit blog). But I do find it interesting that even though he no longer does evangelical work, he still seems to think that a rude reaction to an unrequested/unwanted "salesperson" is not a perfectly acceptable response. I get the impression that he still thinks that evangelicals offer something of value in their door-to-door work.

Binky asks, "Joe, are you willing to dish on the name of the particular "quilting women with a speech impediment" you mean?"

It is Nancy Zieman, although I had to google search to find her picture to confirm. Just like Thaddeus can't click past a SciFi movie or show, I can't click past Nancy.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Main Entry: pros·e·ly·tize
Pronunciation: 'prä-s(&-)l&-"tIz
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -tized; -tiz·ing
intransitive senses
1 : to induce someone to convert to one's faith
2 : to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause
transitive senses : to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause

Convince Me By Your Actions
I have nothing but scorn for folks that try to convince me to take on their opinions, especially when it comes to my opinions on religion.

Spouting biblical references for the sake of converting souls is one of the most self-centered, self-aggrandizing exercise I could imagine (other than blogging, perhaps).

Did I ever tell you about my repellent for door-to-door Jesus-freaks?

One Saturday morning a number of years ago, I was lazily drinking coffee in my den, when the doorbell rang.

I was dressed in ratty shorts and a t-shirt that I had slept in. My hair still stuck out at unattractive angles.

My decision was whether I should answer the door or not, and my decision process went something like this:

"I'm nosey, and want to know who's at the door."
"I look like hell."
"If it's a friend, they won't care how I look."
"If it's not a friend, I don't care how I look."

I answered the door, and standing there holding out a religious leaflet, was an exceedingly handsome man, standing next to the most dowdy woman on the planet.

He introduced himself, saying that he and his wife (he could have done much better) were going around the neighborhood discussing issues of world-wide concern, such as hunger and Bosnia. As he continued with his spiel, I noticed he kept alternating his eyes from directly into mine (his were crystal blue) and down to my t-shirt.

He was clearly distracted, and started to stumble over his words as his eyes darted back and forth.

Then I realized my shirt t-shirt had the following "logo":

When he finished his proseltyzing with a question, I politely told him, "No thank you.", he immediately replied, "Okay, bye.", and walked briskly away.

Now, if I could just find a deer repellent that would work so well, I could make a fortune.

Current Knitting
I'm now up to row 25 of about 100 for the second row of color blocks. Next progress picture won't be until the weekend, earliest.

Other Weekend Fiber Activity
In addition to the significant work I did on the quilt, and the insignificant work I did on the Vineyard Throw (not to mention all the tanning I squeezed in), I also got some spinning done.

You'll notice I didn't make any significant dent in the "nose crust" merino, but I didn't want it to go unmentioned that I was very productive this past weekend.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Franklin, discussing the quilting tip, astutely notes, "Heck, Joe, that sort of "tedious" explanation is the reason I started reading your blog in the first place."

He then goes on to ask, "Does piecing this quilt together and gradually building up your facilities bring back memories of learning to knit, back when everything was new?"

No, there's a big difference. I didn't know how much I didn't know about knitting and just did it without thought as to how difficult it might be. I worked on tiny needles, and my first multi-color garment was a Kaffe intarsia design. I had no idea these were supposed to be beyond my abilities as a new knitter.

Quilting, on the other hand, makes me painfully aware of all that I don't know, and how uncoordinated I feel when I'm using a sewing machine. And the infinite web resources only point out my inabilities even further. Would that ever stop me from taking on a "over-my-head" quilt project? Not a chance.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Quilting Efficiency

A few folks have asked me about some of my efficiency methods that have increased my patchworking speed, so I thought I'd put in a small tutorial for the biggest time-saver I've found, in case anyone is interested.

Continuous Sewing
Years of watching that quilt woman with a speech impediment on television have helped more than I could have imagined. She taught me a very important lesson when machine piecing, which is to try and sew continuous pieces so that you don't end up with long lenghts of thread on all your patchwork pieces.

The difficulty with the Snowball design, is that you have to keep all your snowballs in order and make sure the corners are all sewed on in the correct place. Each snowball is actually a square piece of fabric with four smaller squares sewn into the corner of the larger square, and each small square has to match the three adjoining small squares.

The corners are then cut off leaving a 1/4" seam, and the smaller square is pressed outward, completing the square with what will be one section of the diamond in between each snowball. After sewing the small squares, my nine-patch looks like this.

Since I have to lay out nine snowballs at a time, and lay the smaller squares in each corner, I have to keep track of 36 little squares, and make sure they get sewn into the correct corner, and my snowballs don't get out of order.

All that while trying to do continuous sewing.

I started out by working on two snowballs, and sewing the first small square on snowball-1 and then the first small square on snowball-2.

What ended up happening is that the small squares from snowball-1 would stick to the back of snowball-2, or fall off in back of the sewing machine.

By merely alternating sewing to the outside of the needle and to the inside of the needle on the sewing machine, I was able to eliminate the overlap, and much of the problem with falling squares.

Believe it or not, this almost doubled my speed during this part of the machine piecing.

I'm sure some of you experienced quilters found this description as tedious as someone describing how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting, but hopefully it will help out some other newbie quilter like me.

Current Knitting
I promised a progress picture, so here it is.

Still plugging along on this project, and fortunately, I'm making much fewer errors on these three color blocks.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Diane asks, "How are you planning on quilting your quilt? What is the back going to be?"

The quilting portion of the quilt will be done by a professional. I plan on having her do a repeating pattern over the full quilt, with perhaps a different pattern for the border section. I figure that most of the quilting will be lost in the busy-ness of the patchwork anyway. The backing I haven't decided on yet. When the top is complete, I will beg Liza to indulge me once again, and browse through her huge inventory of fabric and buy something appropriate. I'm currently thinking something in a deep green with a small pattern, but I'll have to see it to be sure.

Seanna Lea mentions, "I can't really think of any reason to mind being a newbie on a craft-related list, but this is mostly my ignorance showing. I figure that there are plenty of idiots on these lists that will ask my questions for me (or I look in the archives). It's just a matter of getting out before the inanity is just too much to bear."

She summed it exactly as I viewed it, but put it much better. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Catholic Guilt

I can't imagine how long it will take me to shake the guilt of living a joyful life that I learned in my religion of my upbringing.

Labor Day
For the entire weekend (for non-U.S. folks, we had a three day holiday weekend) the weather was nothing short of perfect where I live, and the entire time, I couldn't help but feel guilty enjoying such fortune, over the folks suffering in the Mississippi Gulf area.

Susan did bring up a good point in her comment, and that was to encourage donating to hurricane relief efforts.

In the past, I collected funds for charity through this blog, and then realized as I was writing a check for the donor organization, that all the folks that contributed wouldn't have the tax benefits of contributing...I would. I decided at that point to just encourage folks to donate themselves.

I didn't think it was necessary to encourage folks about donating to this cause, because the horror of the situation seemed to make it obvious.

Current Knitting
I did some additional work on the Vineyard Throw (I'm up to row 20 out of about 100 on the second row of color blocks).

I'll post a progress picture in my next post.

I'm thinking that the current color combination is very off-balance, but I'm also thinking that the third row of color blocks will fix this.

I'm making what I would consider to be incredible progress on the quilt. I added six more nine-patches.

Now it's 92 inches long and about 62 inches wide, and it's getting very difficult to photograph. Just 20 more inches of width, and I'll be deciding on how to border this masterpiece.

I am quite amazed at how much progress I can make on a quilt compared to the kind of progress I make on knitted projects. I didn't realize that a quilt could move along so quickly, and it's very satisfying.

I have also gotten more and more efficient at cutting, sewing and pressing, so that the quilting process is getting even faster. I keep thinking that if I was a member of the QuiltList (or whatever the KnitList equivalent is), there would be dozens of tips that folks could provide to make my work more and more efficient. I just can't stand the thought of being a beginner on a fiber list.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kathy asks, "Don't you love visiting happy Lizaland and rummaging through the shelves upon shelves of gorgeous color? And gazing at my Benoit monuments and shrines?"

I am truly one of the fortunate people that Liza allows into her home/business to browse and shop for fabrics. Folks can't imagine how amazing it is to be surrounded by bolts and bolts of the most amazing colors and patterns.

As for Benoit, I think Liza has removed all evidence that you were ever there. The world is better off.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Now You Know How I Feel

As conservatives join the chorus of anger about how the federal administration has drained resources from important federal organizations like FEMA, all I can say is that there are many who have been warning about his for years.

Hurricane Katrina has been an awful disaster in this country, and could have been handled in such a way that our citizens would have been proud. Much like the patriotism folks were filled with after September 11th.

But instead, it's' been a disgraceful demonstration of underfunding important projects that keep our citizens safe, so that our president can boast about tax cuts.

Well, at least Mr. Bush won't have to worry about Cindy Sheehan for a while.

Current Knitting
I'm keeping busy trying not to watch coverage of Louisiana and Mississippi, and I've been knitting quite a lot.

In addition to finishing up the first row of color blocks, including the border stitches, I've made a bit of progress on the next row of color blocks as well.

I visited my mother this past weekend and got to see the last Vineyard throw I made, and I was reminded again why I wanted one of these for my own.

Current Quilting
As Liza mentioned, I continue to add on to the quilt and it continues to grow..

At this point, the patchwork portion of the quilt is as long as it will get (92 inches). So far, it's 46 inches wide, and it will need to be about 80 inches, so I still have quite a bit of work to do on this.

My oldest sister, is someone who has sewn all her adult life, and she's very talented with a sewing machine. Like my knitting, she has always picked extremely difficult projects for her sewing. Early on, it was out of ignorance, and when she didn't know that something was hard, she just worked on it till it was right, and then would find out after the fact what a challenging project she had taken on.

I have a newfound appreciation for her sewing work now that I'm doing a very simplistic sewing project like the quilt.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kateri asks, "Why not save hundreds of $ and quilt it yourself?"

If I were going to do the quilting part myself, I probably wouldn't use a sewing machine, I'd buy a small frame and hand-quilt it. But I have to say, I'm no where near that ambitious with my quilting desires. Like many quilters, I enjoyed patching together the top, but I really have no time or desire to devote to such a time-consuming project.