Monday, October 31, 2005

Dismal Failure

While we had two other gifts for our friend Charles, and I supplemented with a third one of spectacular truffles from Joseph Schmidt Chocolates, I wasn't able to finish the scarf this past weekend.


All-in-all, it was a successful birthday dinner for our friend, but it had no handmade gifts.

I added a few more inches to the scarf, but Thaddeus and I both felt it was a little skimpy for a fine gift, so I'll just finish it at a later time.

Another reason that I'm a loser, is that I left my camera, with all weekend knitting and spinning pictures at home.

And to make matters worse, I'm in Albany until Friday this week.

I'll try to supplement blog entries with pictures stolen from other places. Please feel free to donate pictures if you think they might help illustrate my blog.

Damn, if I could only draw like Franklin.

Current Knitting
After I stalled on the Charles scarf, I decided to work on the craft show scarves. I got two more done and started up on another.

The two latest scarves are quite cool (I have pictures in the camera at home). One is a very loose and open scarf of black binding thread and bright jewel-like, primary color slubs. The second is a plain parrot green scarf that looks almost like an elongated washcloth. I used a Lana Grossa yarn for the green scarf that is very soft and like terry cloth.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cynthia asks, "Do you have to have a sewing machine to put in a zipper?"

I do, but I find it easier to hand-sew in the zippers on sweaters, although I've not tried it since I got my new sewing machine.

Cynthia then goes on to ask, "Also, I finished my Manos throw and now have the three strips to sew together. Do you think I should block then sew, sew then block, or block, sew and block again?"

Ideally, you should block, then sew, and if necessary, block again, but I can't imagine you'll need to block it after you sew it.

Regarding the Charles Scarf, Marilyn notes, "That yarn appears to be biasing. If it is, no amount of blocking will save it. What yarn is that?"

It was the Indigo Farms (?) yarn I got at Rhinebeck. It was torquing a little bit, but not so much that a little steam blocking didn't get rid of it easily.

Geraldine mentioned, "Joe, you must be devastated that your favourite holiday spot has been so badly damaged by the weather!"

Yes, I actually got to see pictures on national news of the lobby of one of the Marriott hotels where we stay. It was pretty awful. We're scheduled to go back in February, so hopefully, things will be fixed and we can help support their economy with travel dollars.

Helen asks, "Also, have you ever discovered the circular knitting machine from the 1800's?"

Yes, I actually own a circular sock knitting machine from the early 1900's. I've successfully used it to make a couple of pairs of socks, and one day I will get back to tuning it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Magazine Reviews

I've decided that I miss doing reviews of the knitting magazines, so I've rethought my earlier decision and decided to do an abbreviated review of some of the magazines when I feel like it.

Vogue Knitting
Vogue's Holiday 2005 magazine is out and there is at least one very interesting surprise in the magazine.

The articles aren't overly interesting unless you're interested in learning how to do a Latvian cast-on. It occurs to me that if a pattern called for a Latvian cast-on, the pattern would describe in sufficient detail how to do this.

There are a total of 40 patterns in the magazine, although 9 of them are for pillows, and many of them are the regular crap that have been appearing in the magazines for years now. There are four designs that I felt were excellent and merited mention.

Zip-Front Jacket by Gabrielle Hamill

Simple, classic design, which is truly in "vogue" despite what the editors might believe. Excellent use of color and fabric and shaping. This would be a perfect design to base a standard zippered jacket for future projects.

Cabled Tee by Michael Kors

As part of thei designers' gift of style section, Michael has created a beautiful design using Plymouth's "Royal Cashmere". The pattern stitching is beautifully laid out and the shaping is extremely well done.

Oversize Overcoat by Vladimir Teriokhin

Difficult to tell from the picture, but seemingly a well thought out swing coat design, using vibrant colors with basic black background. While I'm not usually a fan of using black as a way to bring together color, I think this design works quite successfully, and will be perfect for a basic overcoat that is very stylish.

Nubby Little Top by Mari Lynn Patrick

Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I am highly recommending this design by MLP. It's an excellent use of silk, where she cleverly uses short-row shaping. Since silk shows all inconsistencies, short-rows would seem to be a lousy idea for this yarn, but she incorporates the stitch changes at short-rows as a nice design element. I just think this kind of design should be encouraged.

Current Knitting
I've made some decent progress over the week on the Charles Scarf.

Sorry for the lousy picture, this will obviously have to be blocked. The yarn torques a little when knit in plain stockinette stitch, but I'm pretty certain wet blocking will cure all evils. I did think the picture showed the color of yarn very well. Charles will love the color.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding early spinning, Emma asks, "What do you think (as people whose opinions I respect) my focus should be during these early stages given that my interest lies in produce yarns for knittng that are relatively fine (fingering up to worsted) rather than the super bulky novelties that so many people seem to be producing?"

This is a very difficult question since I don't know which parts you're already comfortable with and what you're not. Drafting is by far the part of spinning that I think you should master. Once spinners have a good feel for drafting smoothly, they can create any kind of yarn they want. If you've already got a pretty good feel of the fine balance of the pull and holdback of drafting, I would focus on different methods of spinning based on different types of fibers. Also, trying to work toward ways of maintaining consistency in your spinning.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nuts To You

Since when did it become dangerous to eat peanuts in public?

Headline: Childless Blogger Shocked By Ridiculous Rules
It all started with a call to a chocolatier in Highland Park, NJ. Years ago, I used to go to their factory outlet store and buy defective truffles for half the price of perfect truffles (most of the "defective" ones couldn't be distingquished from the perfect ones by mere mortals). I also used to buy "Peanut Butter Smoothies" there...a small egg-shaped dollop of the softest, smoothest, sweetest, melt-in-your-mouth, peanut butter concoction, covered in their fine chocolate. Think Reese's Peanut Butter Cups made in heaven.

Since I haven't bought these celestial delights in over 15 years, I though I'd call and find out if they still made them. I was told that the factory no longer makes any peanut butter products.

Chatting with a co-worker, she suggested that they may have decided to discontinue peanut butter products so they wouldn't have to have two separate manufacturing lines. With all the commotion about peanut allergies, many food manufacturers were opting to eliminate all peanuts to avoid legal exposure. She mentioned that her child's school dictated what students could bring to school for lunch, what food mixes that could use for bake sales and even which chocolate chips could be used in homemade cookies, if the child wanted to be able to bring any into the school.

God forbid her child should waft a cookie, with a Nestle's chocolate chip that might have brushed by a peanut in the Nestle's factory, past a student with a peanut allergy, such that the poor student goes into immediate anaphylactic shock.

Are peanut allergies new? Did I have co-students throughout my schooling that were regularly dying of peanut exposure, and I just didn't know it? Are peanut allergies just more severe than say, wool allergies?

Or have people just gotten extraordinarily ridiculous.

Current Knitting
I've just about doubled the length of the mohair boucle scarf for Charles, but I still have a lot of work to do to get this done by Saturday. Honestly, my biggest fear isn't that I won't have enough time to's that I will run out of interest in knitting a simple stockinette scarf with a seed stitch border before I get to a decent length.

As nice as the yarn is, the knitting is still kinda boring.

Knitting Meet-Up
I finally got the opportunity to meet up with one of the knitting communities proponents, Fredda Peritz.

We met for lunch yesterday (thanks again for lunch!), which was supposed to have been followed by yarn shopping. We ended up gabbing so much, that I didn't have time to shop for yarn afterwards. What a wonderfully vibrant and down-to-earth person. It was a pleasure getting to know her a little.

Fredda is the creator of The Knitting Vault, where I sell my pattern designs. She and I both agreed that her site is getting better and better as folks continue to contribute their designs. I foresee that one day, searching her site for the perfect sweater, or the perfect shawl, etc. will be an extremely convenient way of locating a knitting pattern. We both also agreed that Lucy Neatby's patterns are some of the most detailed and well-written patterns on The Knitting Vault. Even if you don't want to knit one of her designs, you should buy one of her patterns to see how a knitting pattern should be written.

Lack of Knitting Content
Since I have no photos of knitting or spinning and I don't feel like finding any interesting photos to post using Google, I'll leave you with the one picture I got that show's Franklin's ass.

This if for you Carol...sorry for the quality, it was taken at night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Wisdom of the Web

Why is it that I'm constantly amazed when readers seem to have answers to any problems or issues I'm having.

First Zoundry Entry
Based on FolkCat's enthusiastic recommendation, I downloade Zoundry, and I think I'm going to like it. Hopefully, once I have three entries published using the new software, the alternate browser issues will go away. If I get ambitious, I may even try to change the pictures to a format that worked in the past. Many thanks to FolkCat for the timely recommendation.

Other Weekend Fiber Activities
In addition to knitting on the wool/hemp sweater, the novelty yarn scarves and the Charles gift scarf, I also got in some spinning time. Since the new Robin wheel is beautiful as well as functional, I've temporarily placed it in front of the fireplace in my living room. It makes for easy access to spinning during brief periods when I'm waiting for Thaddeus, or just bored.

I did some work on the Rhinebeck roving of unknown fiber content. I do love this roving, and it's a dream to spin on the new wheel. However, since I'm spinning gossamer singles, progress is a little slower than the merino.

Speaking of which, I also got some spinning time in on the Louet.

I wanted to compare between the two wheels, and there are some marked differences. I love my Louet, and it spins amazing yarn, but I've found two things that it doesn't do as well as the Robin, and both have to do with the treadling mechanism.

The first is the smoothness of treadling. The Louet has a slight back and forth pulling motion on the wheel when I treadle that makes it rock a little bit. The Robin is much more fluid, and has no back an forth motion at all.

The other, more important (but still kind of minor), is that the arm attaching the treadles to the wheel on the Louet is subject to gravity and will settle to the bottom. This makes it a little more difficult to thread the fly wheel, since the settling action will pull the yarn back onto the bobbin. Again, the Robin has a more balanced treade-to-wheel set up that is balanced in any position.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks Kim and Marilyn and Jean for the cautions about Abbey's book on lace.

One of the reasons I was intrigued with her book is her shorthand instructions. Coming from the years where you had to fit a lot onto an 80 character punch card, I find her shorthand fascinating. Even more fascinating, I find the ego she demonstrates by telling her entire readership that they have to learn a new way of reading instructions. The gal's got spunk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blog Display Issues

Scary when the powers-that-be can't even agree on standards for HTML that are consistent across browser platforms.

Recent Changes
Lately, blogger has stopped allowing me to directly upload pictures. They are insisting that I use their formatting tools when I post a picture. It seems some browsers don't like how Blogger formats pictures.

I've made some changes to the pictures in the last three entries that might help out, but since I don't use any of the non-Microsoft products, I can't test this easily.

Fortunately, folks like Corvus and Jason have been extremely helpful in debugging this issue for me. They have been amazingly generous of their time and skills.

Thank gawd for geeks.

Current Knitting
When Thaddeus saw that I was making scarves again, he got the great idea that I should make one for our friend Charles (who doesn't read this blog, I don't think). Here's the needed to be done by this Saturday evening.

I couldn't possibly justify making him a crappy novelty yarn scarf, so I decide to used some of the mohair boucle I got at Rhinebeck to make a simple, yet elegant scarf. Unfortunately, this yarn swatched up perfectly on US3 needles and progress is very slow.

I'm working like a dog on it, every chance I get. I'm confident it will be completed in time to wrap as a gift on Saturday.

Next Project
Yes, despite multiple projects going on, I'm dreaming about my next project.

Now that I have the Heirloom Lace book, I am itching to design a lace garment that will use the Skaskas yarn I bought at Rhinebeck. When I ordered the Heirloom book a few weeks ago, I also ordered Barbara Abbey's Knitting Lace.

On first look, I think it will be very useful in my design efforts. I just have to get through Charles' scarf, a dozen or so novelty yarn scarves and the wool/hemp sweater first.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Natalie asks, "have you read "eats shoots and leaves" yet? It's pretty great."

No, although I've heard a number of interviews with the author. I think I would enjoy this book, since I always love when folks write sentences that could be misconstrued, but I doubt I'll get the opportunity to put it in my reading list.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pop Quiz

With the assumption that we're discussing American English grammar, which of the following is correct:

Question 1:
a. She exclaimed, "I've never seen something so big!"
b. She exclaimed, "I've never seen something so big"!

Question 2:
a. Turn to the "Wide Spread Section," and then review your emotions.
b. Turn to the "Wide Spread Section", and then review your emotions.

Question 3:
a. His wink made me realize exactly what he meant by the word "stones."
b. His wink made me realize exactly what he meant by the word "stones".

Surprisingly (at least to me), the answers are all "a."

It seems that American grammar states that punctuation should always be placed inside quotation marks, even when it doesn't make sense.

And do you know the reason for this?

When they used to have to manually set type on printing presses, the "comma," and the "period" characters were more likely to break when placed in their proper place outside quotation marks. So the inventive, capitalist, American printer just changed the rules of grammar.

Current Knitting
I had just started on the sleeve for the wool/hemp sweater and finished about 10 rounds...

...when I got a call from my craft show friend, who asked if I could make a bag 'o scarves for an upcoming craft show.

I put down the sweater and started making novelty yarn scarves, and then did an inventory of all completed scarves.

I only have six complete, and two more on the needles (they go pretty quickly). I'd like to have a couple of dozen scarves done in time for the show (sometime in mid November).

Readers' Comments/Questions
JoVE asks, "What have you done to the blog layout? It's gone all wide and I have to adjust the size of my window and scroll horizontally to read."

I've changed the way I add pictures, but it shouldn't really affect the layout. Is anyone else having difficulties?

Michelene says, "I like the texture of the wool/hemp sweater. Is hemp as heavy as cotton?"

It varies. There are some very fine, fiber-quality hemps around (Dzined and LanaKnits both have hemp and/or hemp/wool yarns that are very nice). The hemp in my current project is pretty coarse, and even blended in with the wool, it's pretty scratchy. I bought it in a little boutique store in Saratoga Springs, NY, and it was very cheap.

Tracy asks, "Are there any blogs that you would recommend for new knitters who are hoping to branch out of their very confined comfort zones?"

Thanks for your nice comments on this blog. As for other blogs, there are lots of good ones out there, but I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for. My suggestion is when you find a blog that meets your needs, look at the blogs that they link to. I only list blogs that I personally read, whereas some bloggers link to as many other blogs as they can find. Good luck in your quest to expand your knitting world.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Back To Boring

In my experience, knit bloggers that are extremely funny and witty don't last all that long. When they find they can't be clever endlessly, they end up just not blogging anymore.

Fortunately, my readers have nothing to worry about.

Exceptions To The Rule
There are exceptions to this QueerJoe rule (#88, in case you're cataloguing). Stephanie's blog has remained clever for a long time, and I'm hopeful that other very well written blogs like Franklin's, will continue to be well-written for decades to come.

I've never really tried to be clever in my writing. It doesn't come naturally to me, and doing it requires a Herculean effort on my part.

I do try to be sincere and straightforward, but that's about the best you'll get from me.

Robin Spinning Wheel
Eagle-eyed readers that have been coming here for longer than a year might be the only people other than Thaddeus that would have noticed that the spinning wheel I took possession of, wasn't the wheel I actually ordered.

Last year, at Rhinebeck, I ordered his most expensive wheel at the time, which was made of a wood called "spalted maple" I loved the look of the wood, and the rich color of it, but the real reason I ordered it was because it was the heaviest wheel he made, and I wanted to go for sturdy.

As I was waiting for Gil to finish his spinning lesson at Rhinebeck this year, I was describing to someone the wheel I had ordered and pointed to the "birdseye maple" wheel on display and said it looked something like that. To my surprise, I was pointing to my very own wheel.

In all the excitement, I just assumed I had misidentified the wood, but it turns out, Gil is no longer making wheels using spalted maple, and mine really is made of birdseye maple. All-in-all, I was still able to get his heaviest, sturdiest wheel, and pay a couple of hundred dollars less for it.

Current Knitting
I was able to successfully finish the first sleeve of the wool/hemp sweater, and I'll start on the second sleeve this evening.

The double pointed needles did make the work go quite a bit more quickly, and given that I carry a complete set of the Surina wood needles in the trunk of my car, I was able to quickly switch to smaller needles for the ribbed cuff.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the picture of Franklin hanging on for dear life, June asks, "Are you speeding *and* taking photographs, Joe?"

That would be, "yes". If it hadn't been dark out, you'd have seen a blur outside the passenger side winder

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Final Words on Rhinebeck

You'll note that the folks that went don't want to stop talking about it. Well, neither do I.

Still Living In My Fiber Fantasy Past
After today, I really will have to let go of my obsession with being with my friends at Rhinebeck, but the memories and my new spinning stuff will keep me in good stead for a while.

And, since I had some random picture from the festival, that I wanted to share with you, I figured I couldn't let them go to waste.

This picture was taken at the same place where I took a wonderful picture of Marilyn and Thaddeus last year.

Unfortunately, this year, Thaddeus wasn't there, so I had to make do with Marilyn's yarn bracelet.

I was very flattered by Corvus' description of a teacher. Thanks for that. Here's a picture of Rachel and Corvus talking with Franklin.

I have to say that you don't run into folks like Rachel and Corvus very often. They are two very gentle souls with quite open hearts. Teachers in their own right.

Speaking of teaching, before I knew that my wheel had been completed, I was waiting for Gil to finish teaching this woman to spin.

I usually crop my pictures a little better, but my wheel happened to be in the left side of the picture. I hope you'll excuse the poor composition. One other bright note is that the woman who was learning to spin in this picture, who clearly hadn't done much spinning, ended up ordering a wheel. I can only hope that my over-the-top excitement about the craft had something to do with it.

Finally, as we were speeding on our way home, I snapped this picture of Franklin, hanging on for dear life.

Honestly, it wasn't too long after this picture was taken that I was pulled over by New Jersey's finest and given a speeding ticket for going 78 in a 55 MPH zone. Fortunately, the officer was very professional and dispatched his duty efficiently. I have to admit, this ticket was long overdue.

Franklin's generous comment was, "Don't worry, I won't blog about this experience."

Robin Spinning
I mentioned in my post the other day that I had done some spinning with the new wheel and with the new roving, and the combination was a wildly sensual experience (and that's sensual in terms of exciting to the senses).

This roving is spinning up very finely with not a huge amount of twist. When I let it twist back on itself, it makes a very soft and lofty double-ply yarn. I'm considering triple-plying it, which will probably end up being about a DK weight yarn.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Concerning the Lucy Neatby workshops at Rosie's Yarn Cellar, Mary F. notes, "I agree about Lucy Neatby. We had her teach over a year ago at our local guild. She was an awesome teacher."

I've never personally met or taken a workshop with Lucy, but my experience with two of her patterns from The Knitting Vault made me realize just how professional she does things. Her patterns are extremely detailed and well written. I would never have concerns about buying any of her designs.

Regarding the Brooks Farms yarns I bought, Colleen asks, "Would you mind sharing with me the names of the colorways you purchased?" Christina also asks, "What is the composition of the Brooks Farms yarn?"

I don't have the yarn with me, so I won't be able to check until Friday when I get home.

About Lucy Neatby, Christina goes on to ask, "I, too, admire Lucy Neatby. Have you knit her Camelot socks?"

No, but they look spectacular and a lot of fun to knit. I'll have to figure out if I have anyone to make these for.

Wendy, the fearless pedestrian notes, "The brown/blue mohair boucle looks a lot like oak grove yarn. If so, the color in the right picture is a lot truer than that in the left picture."

The picture on the right is definitely more true to life, and the Oak Grove Yarn name sounds very familiar, so I'd bet that you're right. I am very much looking forward to seeing the fabric that this fine boucle makes.

Heidi asks, "Does 100% mohair respond to lace patterns? Or does it just felt?"

I've only knit mohair once, and it was a fine, lacey scarf that had a very open, airy quality to it. It didn't seem to felt. I'm not sure if there are more experienced mohair afficionadas on the list who could anser this better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rhinebeck Part II

Today's entry is to chat a little bit about the purchases I made whilst at Rhinebeck.

Fiber Haul
I noted in yesterday's entry that I bought quite a bit of stuff in my first half hour at the festival. Fortunately, I wasn't as enamoured with most of the other vendors, and my spending slowed considerably. Especially fortunate since I didn't know I'd have to pay for my Robin spinning wheel until toward the end of my time at the fairgrounds.

The first booth to catch my eye in a big way was Brooks Farms. There yarns had rich, vibrant colorways, and they had racks and racks of lovely skeins.

These four skeins will be made into multi-colored scarfs that I will give as gifts.

Then I left my shopping buddies and headed over to Indigo Moon Farm's booth. I don't know what they do to their fibers, but the wool roving I bought from them is glorious in both color and feel. The soft, silkiness is unbelievably enjoyable to play with.

The roving is quite tan looking, but since I needed something to spin on my new Robin wheel, I've found that this spins up to a fine gray color. (picture in next entry)

The initial destination when I arrived at this first barn/building was Skaska Designs' booth. Their yarns and shawls premade for sale were truly fine. I picked up a skein of merino laceweight to make a to-be-designed lace shawl.

I couldn't decide on whether to go with a natural color yarn or one of the spectacular colorways. This colorway won out.

I went through booth after booth after that looking for something as special as my first purchases, and while there was lots to tempt me, nothing got me to take my wallet out until I came across this lovely colored boucle yarn.

I don't even know where I bought this yarn, but I thought the color was perfect, and even though it's mohair boucle, it was fine enough that I thought it would make an interesting man's sweater. We'll have to see.

Next purchase was a diz kit from Woodchuck Products.

This is a random picture of a diz which is kind of like mine, except mine is made of a lighter wood and has multiple sized holes (other than that, they're exactly the same). It's used to create long strands of roving after the fiber has been carded or combed.

Finally, I had searched the entire vendor market for a niddy noddy, and ended up going back to the first one I found at Bay Colony Farms. I got to meet Helen, who is a friend of Harry, the guy who lives on the gay mountain retreat with my friend Stephen. Clear as mud?

I don't have a picture, but it's simple and matches my new wheel very well.

Designer Appearance
I'm bummed that I can't attend, but I though others might want to know.

One of my favorite designers lately, Lucy Neatby, will be having two workshops at Rosie's Yarn Cellar in Philadelphia on Wednesday, 11/16 and Thursday 11/17. I'm not sure if there's even any space left in the workshops, but thought some local readers might be interested.

Current Knitting
I don't have any pictures of the sweater or the Vineyard Throw edging, but I've made progress on both.

The natural colored wool/hemp sweater has a sleeve that almost completed down to the cuff. I'm hopeful to at least finish the sleeve before I get home this Friday.

I also did a number of additional "tulip blooms" for the edging of the Vineyard Throw this past weekend. I think it requires fifteen repeats of the pattern stitch and I have ten done. I should easily finish that this weekend and sew it up.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. asks, "The only picture you had of me was that one? Oh God, you DO hate me?

Yes and no. That was, in fact, the only picture I had of you, and I figured it was better than leaving you out. By far, that was the most hateful picture I posted. Kathy and Lisa have absolutely NO claims for most hated based on picture ugliness. Sorry.

Concerning my new Robin spinning wheel, Alison claims, "That's a Schacht dressed up in a tux."

I was fortunate enough to try out Marilyn's Schact wheel once, and it is a lovely wheel and spins like a dream. But trust me, saying that a Robin Wheel is like a Schacht in a tux, is like saying dressing me in a tux makes me as good looking as Jake Gyllenhaal.

Valerie asks, "Did you learn on a drop spindle first? I'm finding it very difficult, but I really WANT a wheel in a bad way after Rhinebeck."

I did learn on a very rudimentary drop spindle first, and I was very grateful for having learned drafting on it. The drop spindle is unforgiving as a teacher, and I would highly recommend trying to perfect your drafting with that first. Using a drop spindle also made me extremely aware that a spinning wheel would be much more efficient at spinning fiber once I knew the basics. I completely agree with JoVE that you should borrow a friend's wheel or see if you can borrow one before buying or join a spinning guild where someone could let you use theirs.

Rachel and Corvus both mentioned that I'd make a great teacher (regarding showing Franklin some spinning stuff).

I laugh when I read/hear this kind of comments, as I hate teaching, especially something that comes somewhat naturally to me. It takes every bit of patience I can muster not to grab a drop spindle from a newbie and just do it myself. But thank you both, it was a pleasure meeting you and I can't tell you how enjoyable it was to watch Franklin play with his new toy.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Truly an extraordinary day in every way I could have imagined.

Brief Recap
I picked Franklin up at the B&B and we drove for a little over 2 hours (he's not one of those passengers that insists on stopping to pee at least once an hour, thank goodness) and arrived about about 10:15.

It was rainy and chilly but our handknits, raincoats and visored caps kept us relatively warm and dry. Franklin's sweater looked better in person than his picture of it. His raglan shaping, his decreases and his Fair Isle lettering were all done as well or better than I would have done them. All were amazed.

We met up immediately with Marilyn who was looking for Kathy and Selma outside the MAIN gate. We decided to go into the festival and look for them, and found them almost immediately.

We began our shopping and I found yarn that I had to buy at one of the first booths I came across. I then found roving in the next booth and more yarn in a booth shortly after that.

With about 10 more barns of booths left to shop in, I figured I better slow it down a bit.

Walking out of the first barn, the rain had cleared up, it got sunny and warm, so I took a trip to my car to drop off my purchases so far and my jacket and sweater.

I don't have time this morning to blog about all that I did end up buying, so I'll fill you in with my next post. But here are some pictures of the knit-blog group.

Franklin, me, Selma and Marilyn

Bad picture of Marilyn and Lisa

Carol S. critiquing Franklin's workmanship

Lisa and Kathy displaying Marilyn's lacework shawl (stunning, btw)

Selma and Frankling with blog fan who wishes he had a brain

Meeting Blog Readers
This year, I was determined to take pictures of any blog readers that introduced themselves
and make sure to mention each one individually.

That became virtually impossible very quickly.

I just knew I wouldn't be able to remember them all. So as not to insult anyone by excluding them, I won't mention any. But it was extremely nice to meet some of the the folks whose screen names I see so often and even not so often. I'm grateful that Corvus mentioned that he and the Village Knittiot stopped by. Wait till you read on Franklin's blog what they did for him. They were extremely nice folks

When preparing for Rhinebeck, I have to admit, I had one grave concern.

Since I would be seeing Gil, the guy that makes Robin Wheels, I knew I would be asking about the status of my wheel order. I was truly worried that he would look at me with a perplexed look and, I have no order from you. I wasn't at all worried that he would have lost my $100 deposit, but terrified I'd have to wait another 18 months.

Quite the opposite happened, he looked at me and said, "You're Joe, right?"

Wow!, I needn't have worried at all.

I waited for him to help teach a newbie spinner how to spin on one of his wheels, and then he told me he had something for me, and to take a look at the plaque on the spinning wheel on display.

Yes, I am the proud owner of my very own Birds-Eye Maple, Robin Spinning Wheel.

You can't imagine how excited I was. I was giddy and giggling like a little girl (I know, it was pathetic). At one point, I was actually shaking with excitement.

In my next entries, I'll post about Rhinebeck purchases, spinning on my new amazing wheel and knitting progress (or lack, thereof).

Friday, October 14, 2005


Yes, I have pictures to prove it. Here is Franklin and Thaddeus putting Franklin's bag in the trunk of the car.

And here he is about to check in at the Bed & Breakfast.

Knitting Progress
The Wool/Hemp sweater had a setback.

I realized I have been decreasing too frequently. The pattern stitch portion of the sweater uses 5 rows of alternating slip stitches and knit stitches, and doesn't grow as quickly as stockinette stitch. As such, with 10 inches of sleeve completed, I was already almost down to the cuff size I was looking to finish with.

I ripped back about 7 inches, and I'm restarting.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

From the man who brought us the knitted Elvis wig,

Simon Thackray now has a knit-related show call "HAT" being presented on Sunday, 6 November 2005 at Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork (for blog readers in the U.K.).

Where else would you find information on knit-related performance art?

Knitting Progress
Despite the finagling with flopping circular needles, and the unweildy "magic loop" method, I did make some progress on the sleeve of the wool/hemp sweater.

Now that I'm home, I'll switch over to the Surina double point needles. Combined with fewer stitches, I should be able to finish the sleeve this weekend, despite the distractions of Rhinebeck and Franklin.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cynthia and I seem to disagree more than agree sometimes. She states, "magic loop gets easier and faster with time"

I'm sorry, I don't mean to be contradictory, but I can't imagine that the so-called magic loop method would ever be as fast as double points, although if I could keep my circular needles well organized, I could probably go much faster by just going to shorter and shorter lenghts of circulars.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Googling For Underwear Pictures

Having been exposed to the seedy underworld of sexual perversion all my life didn't prepare me for the fact that my web site would get dozens of hits each day from folks doing a Google Image search on underwear.

Knitted Underwear
Yes, it's true. The daring poses I posted in February of 2004 still account for about 50 or 60 hits each day from folks who search the internet for underwear pictures.

See for yourself. Go to Google and type in "underwear joe" (without the quotation marks) and click on the "Imgages" link above the search bar.

Sure enough, that fine buttocks is being shown off for all the world to see.

Who would have believed knitted underwear would be the preferred Google images of perverts everywhere?

Perhaps some of them will enjoy this image too.

Knitting Progress
I've added about twenty rows of knitting to the sleeve of the wool/hemp sweater.

I'm using the "magic loop" method of circular knitting, and it feels painfully slow.

I can't wait to get back home so I can replace the circular with some 7" Surina wood double pointed needles. It will go much more quickly with those.

This past weekend, I did a modicum of work on the Blue Spruce merino.

As Rhinebeck approaches, I will bemoan the fact that I have more roving in my closet than I will be able to spin in the next two years, but that won't stop me from buying more.

I know I will see some spectacular Jacob Select or Corriedale Cross roving that I will just have to have.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Concerning Rhinebeck scheduling, JoVE asks, "And how about those of us who would like to meet YOU? Can we form a separate line?"

Yes, both of you can form a line to the left of Franklin's mob. Actually, I'm hoping that a lot of folks do take the opportunity to come up and say hi.

Concerning Weavettes, Wendy, the Fearless Pedestrian asks,

"1. how many potholders would it take to make an afghan? (probable answer: too many)"

I wouldn't know. I use my two little Weavettes to practice color design for when I own my
own real loom.

and then;

"2. how come the chick on the main page is shown sitting at a full-sized loom instead of her beloved weavette?"

This is to show that even real weavers use Weavettes.

Selma of Woodstock, asks "Tell me, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming?"

All I can say is, "It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. It does this whenever it's told."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rhinebeck Dreaming

It seems like years ago when we had the Fresh Air fund for Franklin and that Rhinebeck would never arrive. Now it's this coming weekend.

Bloggers' Schedules
Franklin is scheduled to arrive in Philadelphia this coming Friday, where he will be brought to his luxurious accommodations at a quaint little Bed & Breakfast near my home in Bucks County PA (yes, sending Franklin welcome flowers or fruit basket would be perfectly appropriate).

Saturday morning, Franklin and I will head up to Rhinebeck, aiming to arrive sometime before noon. We will meet up with Marilyn, Kathy, Selma, Carol and Lisa when we get there.

Gabbing, eating and shopping will occur.

At around 2:00 in the afternoon some of us will hang out at the picnic tables outside the food concessions for anyone that would like to meet Franklin. Limited time for photographs and autographs will be allocated, although if besieged with requests, we will have to end the fan session abruptly (it's a secret, but Franklin verges on agorophobia...I can trust you not to tell anyone, right?)

Later in the day, after we're exhausted from shopping and petting sheep, we'll caravan behind Selma, as she leads us to the annual sale at In Sheep's Clothing.

Finally, we'll end the day with a dinner for the group at a local restaurant before bringing Franklin back to the B&B, and a subsequent flight home on Sunday.

Knitting Progress
Instead of working on the Wool/Hemp sweater (like I should have been doing), I did more work on the border for the Vineyard Throw (I can't let Cynthia beat me, now can I?).

I finished one side of the edging and just started the next one.

Now that I've memorized the 18 row pattern repeat, it goes pretty quickly.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding magazine reviews, Ann notes, "You could shift to quilting magazines. For instance this issue of Quiltmaker has a Cowboy boot pattern that is worthy of some abuse. However, you can't do Piecework, as the Kaffe/Liza baby quilt would be a conflict of interest."

It is unbelievable the number of magazines for quilters on the shelves at the moment, but I don't think I'd be able to do justice to quilt critiquing. And as for Piecework, I looked for that magazine for weeks after I heard about the Kaffe/Liza quilt, and I wasn't able to find it. The last crappy issue of Vogue Magazine stood glaringly on most of the shelves where I looked, but not a Piecework in sight.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Cock Revealed

As many of you surmised, I was talking about poultry, not pornography.

Tea Cozy or Willie Warmer?
During Kaffe's needlepointing days, he designed this spectacular needlepoint tea cozy and tells a funny story about it. Since it's his story, I'll let him tell it as appropriate.

Knitting Progress
With all the excitement this past weekend, I did a total of two rows on the wool/hemp sweater sleeve.

Suffice it to say, I need to put some effort into this project during the week.

Other Knitting
I made a bonehead move with the Vineyard Throw border.

I was asked if I was going to pick up stitches and knit the border, or knit it separately and then sew it on.

As stated earlier, I picked up 160 stitches and started the Tulip Bud border from A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker. It's an 18 row repeat that had me up to 400 stitches, when I realized this stitch pattern isn't knit horizontally, but vertically.


I ripped it all out and then started making the border separately, as it was supposed to be knit.

I'm liking how it looks, but I wish I were further ahead on finishing this project.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Julie says, "Tell Thaddeus we found giant puffballs a few weeks ago - right in the middle of Minneapolis. Looked outrageous, tasted not that interesting."

Edible puffballs don't have a lot of taste, although Thaddeus made a Puffball Parmagian dish once that was very good (made exactly like Eggplant Parmagian, except with thickly sliced puffball).

Kateri asks the age old question, "How do you pronounce Mr. Fassett's first name? Long A? Short A? Silent E?"

Susan is correct, in that it rhymes with "Safe Asset." And in case you care, Brandon Mably rhymes with "standin' abley" (sorry, that's the best I could come up with).

Emma states, "I have a Kaffe-related question - an article about Brandon Mably in one of the UK magazines were quite coy in the way they referred to him as Kaffe's partner - I assumed that they meant life partner as well as business is that correct?"

I do know they are business partners, but as far as life partners, I honestly don't know. I can only hope that they play for our team, because they're both amazing guys.

Cynthia and others mentioned the decision to not critique knitting magazines anymore.

The truth of the matter is that my opinions are no more or less valid than anyone else that gets to see the magazines. It's just like movie and restaurant recommendations, it all depends on whether you agree with the reviewer.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Quilter's Envy

As much as I love color, I can't ever imagine the day when I will be able to combine colors in a way that is as exceptional as the way Kaffe Fassett does it.

Visit From The Master
Liza and her husband brought Kaffe over last night, with their friend Meg (who I have met once before...very nice woman). We served esspresso, tea,and apple pie (Thaddeus makes a great pie, although he was a little disappointed that the humidity made his crust a little less perfect than was still exceptional).

The purpose of the visit was so I could show my quilt top to Kaffe, so we did.

Kaffe made some very nice comments about the quilt, noting the overall consistency of color depth and how nice the quilt made the border fabric look (one of his nicest fabrics currently available in my opinion).

As much as I enjoyed having him encourage my work, I found much greater encouragement from looking at a small sampler quilt he had with him that made use of a number of his newest fabrics. The quilt was quite simple, but the colors were exquisite. I would have shown a picture if the fabrics were available, but they're not being sold yet.

Kaffe Gossip
For those of you who know Kaffe, you know that he is a very gracious and personable man (we got along famously as a result). He regaled us with stories about his "magnificent cock" and told us the meaning of the word "fanny" in the U.K.. All in all, it was a wonderful evening.

But then he let it slip that he will be decorating the Christmas tree at the Victoria and Albert Museum this year. A great honor and an excellent choice by the folks at the museum who make such decisions.

Other Quilting News
I decided I better get the binding fabric cut and sew up the backing so that I can send this thing off to get it quilted. I thought the binding would be easy, but it was, by far, the biggest pain in the ass so far associated with the quilt.

For non-quilters, here are instructions on cutting binding fabric.

Just picture doing it with fabric about the size of a small sheet.

Here is what mine looked like at the point where I had finished marking the 2.25" cutting lines.

You can just barely see the white lines that I carefully measured and marked for cutting.

I did end up finishing the binding, but I'll have to do the backing next weekend, if I have any time after Rhinebeck and Franklin, etc.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding Kaffe's visit, Geraldine asks, "And, what precisely are you going to feed him? And why only dessert? Is the bulldozer coming through right after the mains or what? How about the wine?"

As you read, we fed him apple pie, and we only did dessert because his available time was very limited (most people have no idea how grueling it is to travel and do publicity). Liza's house is being added onto, and her kitchen is mess of construction. Otherwise, we probably would have just gone to her house to meet up with Kaffe.

And as for wine, good Muslims like Thaddeus and I don't drink or serve alcohol.

Both Emma and Anne mention knitting magazines and my reviews of them

Thank you both for your comments. I've decided that I won't be reviewing magazines anymore. It takes too much time, and the one-sentence critiques of sweaters aren't very useful to either the readers or the designers.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Separated at Birth?

Has it occurred to others that the resemblance is uncanny?

Maybe It's Just Me
Some might say I'm obsessed, but I think the Island of Manhattan is very flacidly phallic. Others might consider it very Freudian (I mean, what's up with a city that has two tunnels to get there?).

Come to think of it, Lisa lives right near the foreskin...can you say "smegma?"

Knitting Progress
Coming back to a sweater after I just abandonned it months ago is proving to be a little more difficult than I anticipated.

While it doesn't look like I've done much of anything, you'll be surprised to know that I've actually undone and reknit that sleeve portion twice now.

You can't see it in pictures, but I've put a very subtle pattern stitch into this sweater. The basic pattern is 8 rows of stockinette and then the following sequence:

Row 1: K1, SL1, rep
Row 2: Stockinetted

Repeating these two rows for a total of 10 rows.

The overall appearance is of white-on-white textured striping throughout the garment.

This is the pattern stitch that I couldn't remember what I had done, so I had to unknit and reknit a few times to figure it out and make it look consistent with the rest of the sweater.

Weekend Plans
Since Quilt Guru, Liza is having a bulldozer drive through her kitchen, Thaddeus and I will actually be hosting Liza, her husband and Mr. Fassett at our house for dessert on Saturday, at which point I will get to show him my quilt made with his amazing fabrics.

Despite Kaffe's supposed penchant for it, there will be no swooning, unless Liza's husband, Drew is so inclined. Knowing Drew just a little, I tend to doubt swooning will occur.

Other Quilting News
I do intend on trying my hand at another quilt. I've been looking through a few books I own for design ideas that will best utilize Kaffe's fabrics, and I think I've found my next idea.

As soon as the new Kaffe fabrics are available (which I think is soon), I will be starting a new design.

It will definitely not go as quickly as the first quilt top.

Barb asks, "How's your Robin wheel coming along?"

As some of you might remember, I ordered a Robin spinning wheel last year at Rhinebeck. The waiting list at the time was 18 months, so I'm hopeful that I can get a status on the wheel next weekend at Rhinebeck.

Spinning maiden, May asks, "Along the way did you learn to gently 'pet the kitty' to see which direction the roving would draft easier."

Yes, this technique is strongly recommended by the only instructor I've had formal workshops with, Nelda Davis. When I first started having difficulties with one particular color, I checked to see if I hadn't mis-petted the kitty, and tried spinning from the other end. It was only worse.

Big Alice writes, "Just so you know, though, Hobbs Heirloom is a 80% cotton/20% polyster blend, unless they've suddenly changed their formula. I do like using the stuff but it's not completely cotton."

First someone tells me that my Lambs Pride isn't all wool, and now this? My life is crumbling before my very eyes. Of course, Alice is correct, it is a blend, and I just assumed since it says "COTTON" in big bold letters on the front, that it was...well, cotton and not cotton blend. Unless Liza mandates otherwise, I will probably just use it anyway.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Presidential Woes

You'd think with all the bad press he's gotten lately, that he might consider not selecting another sympathetic co-worker to the supreme court.

It Could Have Been Worse
We could have gotten the other crony, Gonzalez.

But Miers looks like a repeat of the search for a Vice President. Dick Cheney was in charge of locating, vetting and recommending candidates for the office, and...oh surprise...he was the best person for the job. Now Miers pulls a Cheney, but at least she selected Roberts first (and now she's going to have a hard time measuring up to him as a candidate).

Maybe just once, it would have been nice if the President had just said, "Find the most qualified person for the job, whether friend or foe."

I can dream.

Quilt Progress
I've done nothing with the quilt, other than purchase the cotton batting.

It's a king size, all cotton, light loft batting.

I still need to cut the binding and cut and sew the backing. After Kaffe sees the top, I'll contact a couple of finishers about sending it off for quilting.

Other Weekend Fiber Activity
I did end up finishing the Nose Crust merino spinning and started the last color in the series, which I'm calling Blue Spruce.

It's amazing to me that some of the colors spun up extremely easily, while others, it seemed like I struggled through the entire roving. Fortunately, this one seems to be one of the smooth and easy ones.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Blog Gifts

When blog readers have sent gifts, they have always been thoughtful, beautiful and oftentimes delicious.

Do I just have incredibly creative and thoughtful readers, or do other bloggers have readers who put great thought into sending wonderful gifts?

This past weekend, I got this awesome package from Fredda:

The two boxes are handmade chocolates from a chocolatier in Albany, NY, called "The Chocolate Gecko." Fredda also sent along a very nice note (both nicely written and with a nice sentiment), basically thanking me for my support of the Knitting Vault. But specifically, she sent two candies that she knew I liked (peanut butter cups and a dulce de leche-like candy). They are both amazing (Thaddeus also agrees). Even though I would gladly promote Fredda's web business (because I think it's a great idea, and because I've sold a boatload of patterns myself), the candy was an incredibly thoughtful thank-you gift.

QueerJoe's History of The Knitting Vault
A while ago, I started receiving correspondence from Fredda, when she read that I was looking for a local yarn store in the Albany/Schenectady, NY area. She referred me to Ye Olde Yarn & Gift Shoppe, which is about 10 minutes from where I'm currently working. I have been there a number of times (see below) and enjoy their store a lot.

Then, Fredda asked me for input on this new idea she was in the process of creating, called The Knitting Vault. She described the project as basically an on-line space that would allow knitwear designers to sell their self-published designs through direct PDF downloads. I thought the idea was a great one, and encouraged her efforts (actually, I was quite jealous that I hadn't thought of it first).

As development of the web site and associated business progressed, Fredda continued to ask for input and also my assistance in beta testing the software. It was turning out as well or better than I had imagined.

Suffice it to say, I was honored to be the first designer to post patterns for sale on her site (that's why if you hit the "Search" button with no selection criteria on her site, mine are the first patterns to appear). In addition to selling my own patterns, I have also purchased patterns from the site. I am still highly impressed with what a good idea the site has turned out to be, and wish Fredda continued success.

Believe it or not, I will get to meet Fredda for the first time at Rhinebeck this year.

Yarn Purchase
I didn't do anywhere near as much "retail therapy" as Enjay (I'm also not grieving the death of a cat), but I did make a lunch-time run to Ye Olde Yarn & Gift Shoppe in Schenectady, NY and picked up the following two bundles 'o yarn.

I've never knit with Lamb's Pride worsted wool, but I loved the color, and I liked the fact that it's 100% wool. The Manos speaks for itself. I'm not sure what I'll use either for, but I just had to have both.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the proposed Vineyard Throw edging, Kim Salazar notes, "I've always liked the leaf edging, but I also think that as-is with the garter stitch top it can look clunky."

I totally agree with her, and I was thinking about either just excluding the garter stitch, or doing something along the same lines as Kim using an eyelet preparation row that would float the leaves off the end of the throw.

Also regarding the edging on The Vineyard Throw, Cynthia asks, "Would you pick-up and knit the edging directly onto it, or would you knit the edging and then attach it?"

I will pick up and knit stitches. I find this method a lot easier and I think it looks better.

Cynthia then asks about the beaded bracelet, "Beading is very pretty. Is it possible with larger beads and fiber, or is the result just incredibly ugly?"

I wouldn't know...I would think it would be possible, but rather clumsy looking. Personally, I love working with cotton floss and tiny beads and needles, and I always love the result.