Friday, June 29, 2007

Origami Fun

I've always considered knitting to be kind of magical, in that I can create fabric using yarn and needles. Similarly, I've always found origami to have that same kind of appeal.

Complete Tangent
I was entering all my knitting, spinning, weaving and crochet books into, as Marilyn had suggested, and one of the books that was in my craft library was a big, colorful book, called Practical Origami, by Rick Beech.

Just flipping through the book out of boredom, I found a design for a covered box, with a divider in it, and decided to try my hand.

I was quite pleased with the result, especially with how small I was able to make mine.

Don't get me wrong, this is a relatively simple design, and I'm not overly talented at origami, but I found this fun to do. I don't plan on replacing my knitting with origami anytime soon.

I couldn't find an on-line design for the box with divider, but here's one with just the box and the top, if you'd like to try it.

Current Knitting
In addition to the two scarves mentioned on my last blog post, I've completed yet another fucking scarf. Here are the three scarves to bore you silly.

This one was a repeat of a previous scarf, using the Louisa Harding yarn. For a mostly nylon blend, I find this a very appealing yarn, and would gladly consider making a garment or a baby blanket or something else with it...oh, not baby's got mohair.

This one will probably be one of the first scarves to sell. It's black, it's big and it's warm.

Finally, this one is by far my favorite color scarf so far. I always seem to like colors that I couldn't possibly get away with wearing...why is that?

Contest Update
Marilyn has a great "open mic" topic on her blog right now about asking blog readers for money. I never realized what a difference of opinion folks could have on this. Naively, I just thought most folks felt pretty much like I do.

Along those same lines of being completely deluded, I have to say the QueerJoe contest benefiting Year Up is going extremely poorly, and I'm not exactly sure why.

I know the prizes aren't great, but that's never been a big factor before. I'm not sure if folks don't agree with my choice of charities, or if folks are just tired of supporting blog charities in general.

To maintain my current level of delusional denial, I will just believe that folks haven't gotten to it yet. I include the link for direct contributions again, and the PayPal button for my account just in case folks do want to contribute, but haven't.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks for personal stories of the need to address urban education. While I find them disturbing as hell, it confirms for me the need to have more attention and money focused on this issue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School Violence

One of my favorite NPR shows is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Yesterday, she interviewed two Philadelphia teachers who were attacked in two separate incidents, and seriously injured by students.

I heard one of these guys interviewed a while ago...the math teacher who sustained a broken neck, broken shoulder and a brain injury. I was also speaking with a recently retired teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was telling me a gruesome story of having a high school social worker stabbed and murdered right outside her classroom door by a student she had just disciplined the day before.

I can't help but be incredibly disturbed by these stories.

For one, I consider education to be one of the critical solutions this world has to the many of its problems, especially poverty, class differences and even crime.

But without a safe environment for students to learn, there will never be a chance for education to take place successfully.

I've been wanting to have a blog contest for a while, and this latest interview with Philadelphia teachers has prompted me to use a blog contest to support a charity called Year Up, one of the more well-run educational charities that is doing excellent work with inner-city education.

Blog Contest
Blog Contest is simple. Make a contribution, or in some way support Year Up (they have local volunteer opportunities, or the ability to donate goods, etc.). Just let me know via e-mail at that you've done something to support them by July 15th at midnight, U.S. Eastern time, and I'll enter you in a drawing for one of three modest prizes:

Prize one: A copy of Kaffe's Classics
Prize two: A knitting project bag from KnitPicks
Prize three: A copy of Marianne Kinzel's Modern Lace Knitting

Please note in your e-mail which prize you would prefer, and I'll try to match the winners to their prize preference.

If you'd like to make a contribution directly on their site using a credit card, I don't need any verification of your donation...just your word that a donation has been made. If you contribution is less than $25, and/or you'd prefer to donate via PayPal, and you don't care about the tax benefit of your donation, you can make your donation to my PayPal account, and I will send all donations received this way to Year Up in one lump payment.

Click Here To Donate Via PayPal

I know the prizes aren't anything spectacular, but I do appreciate any support you could give to this very worthy cause.

Current Knitting
I finished two more scarves...I'll post pictures of them in my next blog entry.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Boteh Scarf, Glen writes, "I was wondering if I could get the knit version of the pattern from you, because I haven't a clue as to how to convert a crochet pattern to knit or vice versa."

Actually, I don't have a specific knit pattern written up for this scarf, and I don't think I'll be writing one...sorry. But here's why, first, I don't like how it looks in knit format, and second, I don't want to take away from Kathy's lovely crochet accomplishment by bastardizing her design.

Regarding the knit/crochet scarf I did in Kaffe's Kid Silk, Franklin asks an exceptionally inciteful question, "I'm curious, does the crochet edging have a noticeable effect on drape or stretch?"

A little on stretch, and none on drape. I mimicked the looseness of the knitted fabric with the crochet, so the drape would stay the same (very loose and drapey). The crochet edging does provide a little more structure than the original knitted edge, and will definitely help keep the scarf in it's original shape.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Religion and Science

By a show of many of you have seen What The Bleep Do We Know!?

Or, More Recently...
...the more recently release, What the Bleep!? - Down the Rabbit Hole (QUANTUM Three-Disc Special Edition)?

I have to admit that this stuff just fascinates me.

My version of spirituality incorporates many ideologies. Everything from my religion-of-upbringing (Catholicism) to A Course In Miracles and even self-improvement seminars, like est.

All of the paths I seem to follow, all end up having a certain indescribeable commonality, that I choose to continue to investigate as part of my search for spirituality.

The recent What The Bleep movies have added another dimension to my ideas of what constitutes spirituality and understanding of who I am. I was very glad they came out with the follow-up DVD set, because I still have difficulties understanding much of what was covered in the initial movie.

Current Knitting
I had an impromptu birthday dinner I had to attend for a friend with three cats, so I put scarf production on hold for a while to create this little package.


I just felted up a few little mice for her cats to play with and tossed them around in a little cat nip. Her kitties loved them.

I've also continued to work on more scarves, and I think they're getting better and better.

This one is made with Kaffe's Kid Silk, and uses a combination of knitting on the bias and a crochet edging. I think I will make a couple more like this.

This one is done with some silky-soft yarn from Louisa Harding called Impression (84% nylon and 16 mohair). I will also be making a few more of these.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Glen asks, "Where can I get that WONDERFUL pattern you used for the Boteh Scarf?"

I've mentioned it a number of times, so I'm not sure if this is a sarcastic question, but the pattern is available in the most recent Interweave Crochet magazine, the Spring 2007.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Scarfing and Barfing

With all the scarves I've been knitting, I thought Mel's clever turn of the phrase was an appropriate title for today's post.

First of All...
...I want to assure everyone that Nico's health is just fine. I was joking about the eating disorder, and other than gagging on some hairballs, he doesn't barf at all.

I was pleased that Mel noted some of the fallacies about hard cat kibble. Thaddeus did an enormous amount of research on the best thing to feed cats, and it turns out that soft food is usually better, especially if it's mostly animal protein.

Thaddeus determined that one of the best commercial brands is Wellness canned cat food. Not that Nico is very picky, but he seems to love the poultry and beef flavors the best. Fish, oddly, doesn't seem to be his favorite.

Current Knitting
As noted in the header of today's post, I've been continuing to work on scarves. I finished two more. The first one I hate, and I will give it away to anyone that wants it.

I tried using an old remnant cone of deep blue mohair yarn along with one of those carry-along yarns, and I hate how it turned out.

The second one I finished, is by far my favorite so far.

Yes, I did another Boteh Scarf, in a similar color to the one they published in Internet Crochet. I used a couple of old balls of Jaeger baby yarn that I had from somewhere in my stash. This is an amazing's very rare when such a successful design gets published...I found it so amazing, I tried to see if I could replicate it in knitting.

I used a much bulkier yarn, and the knit version is no where near as fine as the crochet. I also tried a couple of different methods, and the center few triangles seemed to be the most successful.

Overall, even though it's faster to knit for me, I think I'll stick with Kathy's original version.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Fredda (of Knitting Vault fame...I continue to sell a ton of my Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf pattern every month...amazing!) writes, "Regarding Nico's video, I have never seen a more brilliant cat in my life. But does he fetch?"

Yes, actually he does. He has a number of toy mice that he will fetch and return a number of times before he tires of it. Actually, the videos of him bag-diving are a result of me throwing one of him mice toys into the bag.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Yes, Dr. Mel has given my poor cat an F.E.D. (Feline Eating Disorder) with his insensitive remarks about Nico's body shape.

Cat Body Image
Actually, Nico is very differently shaped than our two previous cats. Nico is very long-bodied, and also quite solid. When he curls up into a tight spot, he looks quite a bit more "fluffy" than he really is.

Gage weighed about 9 pounds, and Nico is about 12 pounds. Quite a bit of a difference. Our local vetinarian didn't seem to think there was any weight or nutritional problem.

Hopefully, we'll be able to convince the poor cat to stop purging every serving of cat food he ingests.

But until then, if you have the patience to download a Nico video of him doing one of our favorite tricks, click here.

If that wasn't too painful, and you'd like to see a different angle of the same trick, feel free to click here.

Current Knitting
I'm still working on craft show scarves. I've got one more complete and three more in progress.

You'll see I opted to make a bulkier version of Kathy's Boteh Scarf from Interweave Crochet. I used an Alpaca yarn (7.3 times as warm as wool...ask Mel) in lovely, tweedy shades of green, and I'm quite happy with how it came out.

Current Reading
I just finished my latest Patricia Highsmith book, The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I am even more impressed with her writing. She was a true artist in her craft, and this is just another example of it. I am fearing that one of my commenters might be exactly right about her writing, in that there are no likeable characters in her novels. I have three more to go through, so I hope that's not the case. I usually prefer to have at least on protagonist...someone I can route for or empathize with.

Toronto Wants Us

Toronto is the next tourist destination, whose tourism bureau has increased its budget to specifically attract gay visitors.

Can Canada Get Any Better
Toronto is a wonderful city. It's been about 10 years since I was there last, and it was for business, not pleasure, but it had a lot going for it.

It was inexpensive compared to many of the other places I had been to. It had hotels that really understood what service meant. The people were incredibly friendly. It had incredible restaurants, and it was easy to get around.

I will definitely have to take a look at Toronto as a place to re-visit as a tourist, instead of businessman.

Current Knitting
I got a few more of the novelty scarves finished this past weekend.

You'll note I still have some loose ends to weave in, but with this new stitch pattern, the scarves knit up very quickly.

In answer to TallGuy's and others' questions in comments, the reason I didn't include the pattern stitch is because it's not mine to publish. But fortunately, if you have Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (which you should have, if you don't already), you can find it there. It's called Twist Brioche, and it's on page 126.

There is a mistake in the pattern stitch. It calls fo an even number of stitches, but it should actually call for a multiple of 3 stitches plus 2.

Spoiling The Cat
Thaddeus is incredibly good at showing a cat how well loved he is, and it's amazing how well cats respond. Nico has turned out to be a wonderful little guy, and we feel really lucky to have found him.

Here's a picture of Nico burrowed into the colorblock cardigan and the novelty scarves I had finished.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Anne Marie of Philly writes, "In looking at your picture of the felted bowls, I noticed the mosaic pieces behind them. Are they vases or candle holders? Did you make them?

They are candle holders, and they were purchased, and given to us as a gift, if I remember correctly.

Fredda writes, "Thaddeus' clogs look great. Did you use anything on the soles to prevent slipping?"

No, I really don't find the felted clogs that slippery, even on our hardwood floors. As Thaddeus and I get more old and decrepit, I made need to start dabbing the bottoms with something so we don't break a hip or something.

Thanks everyone for their suggestions on espresso (and thanks anonymous for the correct spelling). I plan on trying a few of the brands folks mentioned to see if I can find anything that is better and/or cheaper than we currently use. I agree with Fredda and Marilyn on this so far. Thaddeus does make the best espresso, and if I can't get that, I do enjoy Starbucks espresso beverages (although I hate their coffees).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reader Survey

I've been spending a lot of time at home lately, and making my share of esspresso drinks. I'd like to know what readers think is the best brand of esspresso beans.

My Current Brand
Currently, I use Illy brand Dark Roast. A number of folks in Italy used this brand when we were there, and we like it very much.

Recently, while in Zurich, I had a lot of Swiss "coffee," which is just another name for esspresso, and I liked it as well or better, but I don't know any of the brand names.

Please leave a note in comments as to what you think is the best brand, and I'll do my own taste test.

Current Knitting
With a newfound stitch pattern that works well with novelty yarns, I've decided to make a few novelty yarn scarves, in case I'm asked by my friend to be in another craft show.

These two scarfs are made with Dune by Trendsetter. The thing I like about this stitch pattern is that it lays flat, and is the same on both sides. In addition, it knits up quickly and there are only three rows in the pattern.

I also forgot to mention that when I felted the purse to put in the Artmobile, I also felted a couple other things.

These are Thaddeus' felted clog slippers that were finished a while ago, but never felted. I also experimented with making a couple of felted bowls using leftover scraps of yarn.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Ria notes, "You must live near the best flea market in the world."

The flea market is in Lambertville, NJ, and it is a pretty decent flea market. I was just there again today, and got some other old needlework magazines for a whopping $3.

Thanks for the suggestions on how to sell off a dead knitter's stash. I like both of Marilyn's suggestions about (if it ever comes back on-line) and also inventorying my stash in Access. I also quite like Karen's idea of using as a clearinghouse for dead-knitter stash. I got a lovely e-mail from one of the gals that does this, and she was very respectful not to mention herself in comments, so as not to appear as advertising. I always appreciate that.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Stash Or Nest Egg?

Many compulsive knitters get to the point where their yarn stash, or their knitting book library, or their tools and equipment are worth a significant amount of money.

Where Will It Go When I Die?
I have a huge library of knitting books, including valuable ones, such as many vintage pattern books from the early 1900's, early Rowan books, a number of Alice Starmore books, and, of course, Principles of Knitting.

I also own closets full of yarn. Again, lots of Rowan yarns, multiple sweater's worth of fine wool and cones and cones of various yarns.

Included among my stash of knitting tools, I have more Addi Turbos than I can count, lots of fine wooden needles, crystal stitch markers, an original pink Chibi (just a joke), a couple of umbrella swifts, yarn winders and tons of other standard tools, like needle gauges, measuring tapes, darning needles, scissors, etc., etc., etc.

If I add in three flat bed knitting machines, an antique circular sock knitting machine with ribber attachment and stand, as well as my two spinning wheels and all my spinning stash, I honestly wouldn't be able to even estimate what all this stuff is worth...neither to me as its current owner, nor to potential new owners if it were to be sold.

I'm thinking that Fredda at the Knitting Vault, or some other knitting business should try to come up with some clearing house to help surviving knitter-widow(er)s to properly sell their knit-belongings when they're gone (or before they'r gone if they decide they'd like to get rid of it).

Current Knitting
I've been knitting two things this past weekend, using the same stitch pattern, neither of which I can really discuss on the blog because of what they're being used to make, and for whom they are being made.

Here's a closeup of the stitch pattern for each project.

It never ceases to amaze me how different the same stitch pattern can look using different needles and different types of yarns.

Adding To My Nest Egg
A recent visit to the local flea market allowed me to increase my vintage knitting pattern library (actually, knitting crocheting and tatting library) with almost 40 new booklets.

For a mere $10, I was able to pick up booklets from 1914 through 1930.

With my recent interaction with the German woman who tatted, and some of these booklets, I'm considering teaching myself to tat.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Be Inspired...Be Very Inspired

As if the 2007 graduates of Harvard didn't have enough fortune in their lives, they got to hear Bill Clinton speak at their Harvard ClassDay.

Listen to it here if you have RealPlayer

His speech starts at about the 1 hour/36 minute marker, so you'll have to fast forward unless you care to hear all the speeches before him.

Amazing Speaker
There aren't many folks that seem to have the same influence over me when speaking as Mr. Clinton. I am never ceased to be amazed at his ability to speak the language of his audience in way that inspires passion and action.

This country is clearly looking for leaders to emerge to help oversee some of the troubles we're dealing with both nationally and internationally, and I'm incredibly glad to see that Mr. Clinton is calling on the group of Harvard graduates to heed the call.

Current Knitting
I was recently asked to loan a piece of my work to a travelling art exhibit, called Uncommon Threads.

Organized by a local tapestry artist, this exhibit is a large trailer truck that travels to over 40 schools in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to help local students learn about various aspects of the arts. I was thrilled that she asked, so I decided to do a felted purse for the exhibit, using some of the vibrant colors of Manos del Uruguay yarn.

Here's the piece before felting.

And the piece after felting.

I also made two small swatches, one felted and one not, so that students could see the different between the original unfelted fabric and what a washing machine will do to it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks for all your comments on multi-tasking. It gave me a lot more clarity on a couple of different definitions. Doing three things at once, versus alternating between three tasks are both valid definitions of multi-tasking. The first one, I still contend is impossible, and the second one being a valuable method of juggling multiple priorities for those who have the ability.

Emmy asks, "Your grocery store has copies of Spin Off?"

Actually, it's not my regular grocery's actually not a regular grocery store at all, it's a Wegmans. If you don't have them in your area, you should wish you do. Their magazine selection alone is huge, and they often carry magazines that I can usually only find in bookstores otherwise.

Anonymous/CMS asks, "Joe, when are you (going) to stop letting your unpleasant encounters with individuals lead you to make sweeping, and usually negative, generalizations about entire categories of people?"

Never, homos are just like that.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My Latest Nemesis

The busy multi-tasker. I ask you, when will folks realize that multi-tasking only lets you do a lot of things very badly.

Women Are Much Better Multi-Taskers Than Men

Neither men, nor women can do multiple tasks very well. Take the suburban driver who thinks she can look for toll money, check the grocery list and listen to her 3 year old son in the back seat, all while trying to negotiate a left-hand turn at the four-way stop sign at the local supermarket parking lot.

She can't possibly have enough hands to use a turn signal, so the driver across from her assumes she's going straight and can't make a left turn until she's through the itersection. She hasn't enough attention to monitor her pace, so her turn comes at a glacial speed (and that's glacial prior to global warming), making the other drivers wait all that much longer for her. Using only one hand to turn the steering wheel, while the other searches for purse change, she has to cut off the corner of the turn, making any vehicles coming from her left hand side screech to a halt, or swerve to avoid being hit by her.

All this, so she can have a half-hearted conversation with her son that will have no impact whatso-fucking-ever, read through a list of grocery items that she won't recall, and will have to re-read whilst she navigates a shopping cart, and getting her fingernails filled with purse lint, because her husband has already snagged every coin from her purse to pay for his drive-through coffee at Starbucks the prior weekend.

Please people...realize that multi-tasking is a myth...there is nothing better than focusing on a task at hand until it's done, and done well. And the way most of you drive, you should clearly give driving your highest priority anyway.

Current Knitting
For lack of any new ideas that excite me, I've continued to work on the kid alapaca bed spread.

Talk about moving at a glacial pace. But it does continue to just doesn't make for very interesting blog material.

New Magazine
I picked up the latest issue of Spin-Off at the grocery store today, and as usual, I read it from cover to cover.

There are some interesting articles, that I found very enjoyable to read. I only casually glanced through the article on creating self-striping yarns (the cover story), and it requires a much more detailed read to understand the concept.

Current Spinning
Speaking of spinning, I started working on the Corriedale roving. This is the fiber from the Corriedale fleece I bought at Rhinebeck last year, and had processed by Fingerlakes Woolen Mill.

I'm purposefully spinning this very loosely and very unevenly with a lot of thick and thin spots. I'm hoping to end up with an interesting two-ply yarn, although I have no idea what I'll do with all the resulting yarn.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Sandra asks, "Were you able to bring your needles on the plane out of Zurich?"

I flew from Philadelphia to Frankfurt and then to Zurich. Then from Zurich to Munich and back to Philadelphia. The entire time, including in the waiting areas at the various airports, I knit, and no one mentioned anything about it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Zurich Trip Recap

Left home last Monday at 5:00 PM, Eastern time, arrived hotel at 2:00 PM European Time.

- Left sunny and warm, arrived cold and rainy
- Was fed lousy food on the plane
- Knit a lot and met lovely German tatting woman on the plane (see below)
- Worked long days and slept short nights until presentation on Thursday morning and ate pizza, Thai take-away, etc.
- Thursday afternoon, toured old Zurich city for about 2 hours
- Other than the one picture I posted looking out my hotel window, I took no pictures

Left Zurich Friday morning at 8:00 AM, arrived home at 8:30 PM

Business travel often sounds like a great thing to folks that don't do a lot of it, but it is usually a long, arduous travel schedule, a lot of work, in an unfamiliar locale, with a different sleeping and eating patterns, and often very little time to enjoy the local flavor.

However, it does expose me to different cultures, for which I am forever grateful. I often pity the American who isn't able to experience other countries, which usually results in an ethnocentricity that is very unattractive to folks in other countries.

As for my flying companion on the way to Zurich, she was a lovely German woman, who was quite pleased to be sitting next to a knitter. She didn't knit, but she did some lovely tatting. She pulled out a spectacularly beautiful, fine linen handkerchief that she had tatted a simple, but exquisite lace border onto. Like Buffie, in comments, she also likes the color of the bedspread/coffin cover, and thought it would look quite fine over a nice Italian or Irish linen bed cover. I think I have changed my mind about the color, now that I can visualize it as she describes.

Current Knitting
As expected, long flights and waiting in airports allowed me to get quite a bit of knitting done.

At this point, I've completed about 20 inches, and I will need at least another 45 inches before I can consider the main section complete. Suffice it to say, I still have a long way to go.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the trip to Zurich, Mel notes, "I'm with Carol on the chocolate thing, but I would also add a recommendation to go have some cheese fondue."

Our one team dinner where we went out to a restaurant, was to a fondue place, where we had two big vats of cheese fondue for dinner. I've decided that, while I like cheese fondue, I would prefer it as an appetizer, rather than a dinner.

Regarding the bedspread, Barb B. asks, "It's tough to see accurate colours due to monitors etc. Does it have that kind of orangey overtone so much brown alpaca has?"

No, the yarn has no orangey overtone at all. It's much closer to coffee with just a touch of cream.

Hilde from Germany writes, "If you have some free time, you should try to get to the yarn shop "Hand-art" at Neumarkt 10, and of course to Caf´e Spr√ľngli!"

Thanks for both recommendations. Our brief tour of old city was with a large group, and surprisingly, not one of them wanted to go to a yarn store. But I did get to hang out in Caf´e Spr√ľngli and get some of the famous Swiss chocolatier's wares.