Friday, August 31, 2007

Worth It?

Would the site of this in the stall next to you make you want to give up your life as a respected senator?

He's Cute, But...
...yeah, not that cute. I'll keep my job as senator, unless this guy decides to become a mass know how much I crave male mass murderers.

This is Sgt. Dave Karsnia, the man that enticed Senator Larry Craig to do things in a Minneapolis airport men's room. While the two men disagreed about what happened in the bathroom, the honorable senator entered a guilty plea for disorderly conduct. If you have time, check out the official report that Sgt. Karsnia filed, to which the honorable senator admitted by pleading guilty.

Current Knitting
I wasn't overly ambitious in my knitting the last couple of days, but I was still able to finish the first sock in the second colorway of the Kaffe Regia yarn.

I was hoping more leg would satisfy enough readers that no more knitting would be necessary.

Current Reading
I was able to finish my latest book by Patricia Highsmith, Ripley Underwater. Another book in Ms. Highsmith's series of books detailing Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley, this book details his time living with his wife in a beautiful-sounding town in France. I must admit, I'm getting kind of tired with these stories of a man constantly threatened by the possibility of his past rearing its ugly face, but I will never tire of how wonderfully Highsmith writes.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Concerning Larry Craig, Kathy writes, "And I don't like that his primary message has been to deny homosexuality rather than address the charge against him: lewd public behavior."

This is an excellent point, and I appreciate you separating these two issues that most media, and myself have kept entwined. His "disorderly conduct" wasn't being a homo.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Am Not Gay

...uh...yeah...right. Can't a man get any privacy in a public restroom anymore?

I actually feel sorry for Senator Larry Craig (Republican).

He clearly hates who he is, and has been a strong proponent for laws against all things he hates about himself.

Despite hating who he is, he can't stop doing what makes him who he is.

He's trapped himself in a dreadful life, and now it's all tumbling down on him.

On the positive side, he's at least helping to get Democrats elected, who like men like him more than he can like himself.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I focused most of my energy on the crochet lace tablecloth, and got quite a bit done.

You can see I've been able to finish 21 pattern repeats, and I even started to make some of the filler stars, although I didn't get them all done in time for blog publishing today. Just think...only 119 more of these little stars!

I have been able to finish turning the heel on the first sock using the second colorway of Kaffe's Regia yarn.

I didn't think I'd like this colorway as well, but I was wrong. It is going to make a spectacularly good looking sock, that I can't wait to wear...even more so than the first colorway pair that I've completed.

As soon as I've finished this pair of socks, I think I'm going to make two additional pairs of socks, using the patterns in The Knitting Man(ual) by Kristin Spurkland. She has one pattern that actually uses a pattern stitch that I think will work with a man's sock, and also a great hiking sock in a heavier weight yarn.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why I Love Knitting

Nothing else in my life gives me the consistent sense of accomplishment as knitting.

Pride of Accomplishment
It's an amazing thing to be able to create fabric. Persistently adding stitch after stitch to a swatch and watching it grow into something can be wondrous. It's even more amazing when you can shape that fabric into a creat a perfect neck opening, or to turn a perfect heel, or to execute a spectacular cable pattern. Then add colors to this process, and you have the perfect craft.

When it all comes together in exactly the right way, and you have combined all the components of a perfect knitted garment...the drape and hand of the fabric is just right, the fit, structure and shaping of the garment is exactly how you'd hoped, and the colors come together in a composition that is harmonious and beautiful.

How much better can it be than to look at such a garment, and say, "I made it."

I honestly believe this sense of pride in doing something worthwhile, is one of the major pieces missing from most folks' lives in society today. I believe that folks' drive to make money and have all the things that they think will make them happy, allow them to forget to take the time to appreciate the value that they can bring by doing a job they can take pride in.

I don't mean to get all Ayn Rand on your or anything, but for me, knitting gives me the opportunity to appreciate all that I've been able to do.

Current Knitting (and Crocheting)
I finished the first pair of Kaffe/Regia socks over the weekend, and I am very pleased with them.

Can you picture how spectacular it will be when my the gap between the bottom of my chinos leg and my shoe reveals a small portion of these amazing colors? I've already started the first sock in the other colorway, and I think I am going to be equally pleased with those socks as well.

I completed another few stars on the crochet tablecloth.

I was going to continue added to the row of two stars until it was as wide as I was going to make it, but the length started getting a little unruly. I can't imagine what it's going to be like adding sections to this tablecloth as it gets to be over halfway completed and more.

Readers' Comments/Questions
k writes, "And Joe, your sock are not identical. I so admire you. I cannot do that."

There are some patterned sock yarns that require the socks to be identical. I didn't feel as though this was one of them. Although, I really like how the toe of the next sock looks, so I may decide to make the second pair identical.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Selective History

I love when our president lectures the World on the dangers of historical repetition...such as withdrawing troops too early from Viet Nam.

How Transparent
If there was as much transparency in the internal affairs of this administration as there is in his pathetic attempts to sway opinion on the war, the congress wouldn't have had to subpoena half of his staff for questioning on issues such as the attorney firings, or the unwarranted surveillance of U.S. citizens.

With the upcoming report of General Petraeus, this little history lesson can only be his way of starting to lay track for why we need to stay in Iraq. Isn't our president so clever?

However, it seems like his history lessons are rather selective. Why didn't he mention his father's war, Desert Storm, and how he left Saddam in power over a country in chaos? Seems like a similar enough comparison, no?

This White House administration has been a complete and utter disaster, and it only seems to care about making it worse and worse.

Current Knitting
I've added two more stars to the tablecloth, but not the filler section.

I was able to memorize the star pattern after the fifth time doing it, but I still can't remember exactly how to do the little filler star. I think I'll just do a bunch of big stars before I do any more filler stars. That way, I'll be able to remember the filler pattern more easily.

I've also just finish turning the heel on the second Kaffe/Regia sock.

It shouldn't be long now before I'll be wearing this pair of socks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blog Privileges

Even though I'm a relatively low-readership exclusive-readership blog, I am sometimes asked to take free stuff to promote it on my blog.

Completely Honest Book Review
Despite getting this book for free from the publisher, I have to say The Knitting Man(ual) is the best knitting book I've ever read.

Okay, so that's not exactly true, but I actually did like much of this book, but first I'll give a couple of complaints. The least likeable thing about the book, I thought was the lack of discussion on color for men. Men can be the most picky bastards when it comes to the color of their clothes, such as only finding blue, black and gray acceptable for a sweater. There are many ways to get around this, and none were discussed, and some of the patterns would never pass muster in that area.

Also, I thought a couple of the patterns were way too homemade looking for a man to wear. The colorblock scarf was one item that comes to mind.

Finally, a minor complaint about the book is a completely personal one (as if the first two weren't). Designs that use complex pattern stitches only use charts to describe how to do them. Marilyn and I had this discussion this past weekend, and I am not a big fan of charts, and would much prefer text.

On the good side, I have some big positives about the book as well. First, I thought the patterns were an excellent mix of classic designs (which men adore), funky/interesting patterns (which some men adore) and vintage-like designs that men would actually wear.

Second, I thought the publishing quality was quite high. Even though the models were knitter-friends or family of the author, the photos and the layout were quite appealing. I actually read most of the text part of the book, which is very rare for me, and found it concise and interesting enough to be worth reading.

Finally, I think the book will be very useful in two ways. One, I will actually be making at least one or two of the designs in the book. Second, this would be an excellent book to give to a budding male knitter in your life. It has all the beginner's information on how to knit at the beginning, and it is extremely well-written and documented with clear pictures.

Overall, if I had never received this book as a gift, and I had taken some time to review it in bookstore or yarn store, I would definitely have bought it. In fact, I will probably be buying at least one or two copies whenever I meet a new male knitter or a female knitter who complains about patterns for men.

Current Knitting
Well, I finished the first sock, using the Kaffe Fassett Regia sock yarn.

I used a modified version of Judy Gibson's "You're Putting Me On Socks" pattern. I love the way it came out, and can't wait to get the other three socks finished so I can wear them all the time.

I also got some additional work done on the crochet tablecloth.

In comments, Evelyn asks, "Can you give us an idea of the scale of the doily thingy?"

Yes, here it is in relation to the chair on which I photographed it.

Actually, this is quite a lot of progress for me. I'm enjoying the pattern so far, and I have high hopes (at the current moment) of actually getting a tablecloth completed.

Readers' Comments/Questions
mimi (who doesn't even use capital letters in her name in comments) asks, "Might there be an extraneous comma in your sentence below? The sentence would mean something different without the comma.

(I have never entered Deb's store, and left empty-handed)."

Yes, that is a stellar example of how not to use a comma. How possibly could I have never entered Deb's store, and also left the store empty-handed? That doesn't even make sense from a boolean logic perspective. Thanks for pointing it out.

Glen writes, "I know you've mentioned knitting and crocheting for the Rhinebeck Festival in October, but are you attending the Dutchess County Fair this month?"

No, I won't be going to the fair. I usually only go to two fiber-related fairs a year. The Garden State Sheep Breeders' festival, which is next month, and the NYS Sheep & Wool festival at Rhinebeck.

Barbara writes, "That must have been a popular crochet pattern. My grandmother used it to make 4 full-sized table cloths. I remember her sitting by the window always working on one of those stars. Where did you find the pattern - and what's it called?"

I got the pattern from an old crochet book, called "The Complete Book of Crochet," and they list the pattern as #7405 or some such thing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Curmudgeonly Visit

Nothing like spending a few hours with a someone who has the same level of passion for knitting and fiber.

Visit Details
Marilyn came down on Saturday for an espresso, lunch with Thaddeus and I and a visit to Twist. She wore her latest completed project, the Campanula, and also showed me the same sweater in progress for her daughter. Both were beautiful, and much nicer looking than even what she shows on her blog. It was a perfect day.

First off, she came bearing a gift.

This is the UK Knitting Magazine that Jean had told me about, that referenced my blog in a KnitBlog article. I never expected to actually see the magazine here in the states, but Marilyn was able to find it at B&N. It was a very complimentary paragraph.

Second, I got a chance to buy some yarn (I have never entered Deb's store, and left empty-handed).

This is the Kaffe Fassett Regia sock yarn that I had heard so much about. I have seen this on the web, but two of the colors were too difficult to resist when I saw them in person. Here's a closeup of the two colorways.

While at Twist, we got the chance to chat with some fun knitters. Steve, who works there is always fun to be around (and stunningly good looking, if I haven't mentioned it before), and Deb has hired a new woman to work there as well, who is very nice (Susan, I think is her name). Cissy was also there, and she is always either working on something interesting, or talking about something interesting, or both.

Finally, we got a chance to eat at my favorite Thai restaurant. All-in-all, it was a wonderful time.

Current Knitting
Even before Marilyn came for a visit, I had totally abandonned my Aran pullover, to start a crochet lace tablecloth that caught my eye, of all things.

I'm glad for the progress I've made so far. I'm not sure I can maintain this pace for the entire tablecloth (I'll need about 134 more of these stars), but I'm enjoying the fine crochet.

Then, as soon as I got the new Regia with Kaffe colors, I had to start on that as well.

These socks, when finished, I will wear with great joy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Where Is Defense of Marriage When you Need It?

The experts in this administration are blaming the incredibly high (and growing) number of suicides among our military on "Dear John/Jane" letters from home.

Can We Blame This On The Gays?
Increasing the deployment time for our soldiers from 12 months to 15 months has put an incredible strain on the men and woman who defend our country, as well as their families. It wasn't bad enough that we send them into a war that has no foreseeable end, and just the simple act of driving a supply vehicle can be terrifying. But then, to meet their recruiting goals, they lower the standards of what it takes to be a soldier. And then, they tell them each deployment is now 3 months longer away from home. Have you ever had to travel for business over 3 weeks? Consider what 15 months must be like.

This dizzying array of stresses brings clear pictures of the lunatic from "Full Metal Jacket" into my mind.

Seems kind of ingenuous now that they wanted to blame the divorce rate on the gays when talk of a constitutional amendment was being considered.

Current Knitting
I've been able to finish the front of the Aran pullover.

I'm a little concerned with the size of the neck opening. I may have to go back and make it a little bigger, but I'll know whether it's necessary relatively quickly, and making the change won't take all that much re-work.

Current Reading
Over vacation, I got tired of my current book, and picked up my Sister-Out-Of-Law's book that she had to read for her book club.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes isn't something I would have ever continued reading if I felt I had something else better hanging around. The beginning of the book starts with some sophomoric sounding metaphors, and I didn't hold out much hope for this book. But, it was vacation, and I figured, "what the hell." The story and the characters became more and more intriguing, and by the time I got halfway into the book, I was finding myself enjoying it. That same level of enjoyment continued through to the end. If you're looking for modern literature, this book is a far cry. If you're looking for an enjoyable read, I'd recommend this book, especially at the low-low price of US$5 right now on Amazon.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the button hole tips in my last post, Evelyn writes, "Nice explanation with great visuals. I'm not sure whether I like the looser look or the somewhat puckery look of the second version, but you give us plenty of information to make our own choice."

My photography makes it very difficult to show the difference in button holes, but I do highly recommend trying out a few different types of button holes before settling on whatever the pattern calls for.

Both Charlotte and Marilyn mentioned Barbara Walkers "one-row button hole" as an easy alternative button hole.

First of all, the button hole instructions are in Barbara Walker's A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and it's buried with hardly any reference on page 354, in case anyone wants to find it. Googling for instructions is much easier. Second of all, this button hole does a good job of eliminating the sloppy side stitches, and using a cable cast-on is a very neat way to add back stitches. It doesn't eliminate the lip on the lower edge, and it also can distort the stitches on either side of the button hole.

If you do the one-row button hole from the reverse side, it severely reduces the lip at the bottom. Maggie Righetti also published a one-row button hole that I found during my investigatioins that seems to incorporate all the best. Here's an on-line version of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Button Holes

The standard button hole in knitting, is simply a process of casting off stitches on one row, and adding them back on the next row. Most knitters would say, "How hard could that be?"

Problems With Knitted Button Holes
I met another knitter on vacation this past week, and she complained that her button holes look messy. When she made button holes as specified in knitting patterns, they came out with a "lip" at the bottom of the hole, and two loose stitches on the sides of the button hole. Depending on the yarn content and the tightness, or looseness of the gauge, the button hole could get very messy.

With all my understanding of the knitting stitch, I set forth and decided to see if I could build a better button hole.

First I knit a swatch with four button holes, a 2-stitch, 3-stitch, 4-stitch and 5-stitch buttonhole. I cast off the number of stitches, on the right side, and then cast on the same number of stitches on the back side over the cast off stitches.

The picture doesn't look that bad, but if you look closely at the top button holes, you'll see what I mean about the lip and the loose stitches.

I tried a number of different techniques for both casting off and adding back stitches including:

- casting off on the wrong side
- casting off using a K2Tog or SSK at the beginning and end of the first button hole row.
- twisting stitches at the beginning and end of the button hole
- casting on stitches using a knitted cast on (turning the work around and knitting into a stitch, and then placing that stitch on the left-hand needle)
- casting on stitches using a long-tail cast on (using a small piece of waste yarn)
- knitting/purling into the front and back of the first and last stitch of the cast-on row

After trying a number of different combinations, the two most successful methods I tried were:

- casting off on the wrong side (reduced the lip significantly)
- knitting into the front and back of the first and last stitch on the second row of the button hole

Here's a picture of the result, although it might not show a big difference (it might help to click on the picture to show it full size).

QueerJoe's Button Hole Recipe
When making a button hole in a stockinette stitch fabric, here's what worked best for me:

Row 1 (Wrong Side): P up to where button hole will be placed, and cast off X stitches, purl-wise, P to end.
Row 2 (Right Side): K up to last stitch before button hole. K into the front and back of the next stitch, cast on two less stitches than you cast off on Row 1, then Knit into the back and front of the next stitch, K to end.

On a 16 stitch swatch, with a 4-stitch button hole in the middle of the swatch, the instructions would be:

Row 1 (Wrong Side): P6, cast off 4 sts purl-wise, P6
Row 2 (Right Side): K5, K into front and back of next st, cast on 2 sts, K into back and front of next stich, K5

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

Back home from vacation, with all the e-mails, bills, laundry and other sundry tasks that need to get done.

This is a picture of Thaddeus fishing in the back yard of his sister's was sublime.

And All I Want To Do Is Knit
I took a vacation from all knitting this past week.

I brought a hank of custom-dyed yarn from Carol at Black Bunny, thinking that I might want to use it to make a Boteh scarf for a gift (I would never sell a scarf at a craft fair using Carol's's much too fine). The point is moot anyway, as I didn't do any knitting while on vacation, except for a couple minor exceptions.

I gave my sister-out-of-law the Lavold-inspired pullover as one of her birthday gifts.

I knew the arms would be too long, so I brought some tools to adjust the lenght while I was there. The sweater now fits perfectly, although, I didn't think to get a picture of her in it.

One of her neighbor friends asked me if I could show her how to make a decent button hole, so I used the leftover yarn from shortening the sleeves to knit up a swatch with five different types of button holes to show her.

Again, no picture, although, at one point, I will probably do a tutorial on button holes, and tips for making them neater looking.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cynthia writes, "It would be great if you could talk a bit more about drape/holes when knitting with ribbon. I have tried a variety of needle sizes, but have yet to get a good drape from ribbon without it being all holes."

Actually, I'm not a big fan of knitting with ribbon, and even the stitch pattern I used on the latest scarf doesn't create a very interesting fabric. I will practice a little more with it to see if I can come up with any other tips on how best to use it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Exercises In Fabric Structure

I know novelty scarves don't make for very exciting blog entries (for most knitters), but I've found the exercise of making multiple scarves very enlightening in many ways.

Gauge, Drape, Texture, Appearance, Function
It has taken quite a bit of knitting knowledge and skill to make many of the scarves I've been knitting over the past month or so, and it's been nice to be able to practice and gain lots of repetetive experience in some of these skills.

Gauge, drape and function are some of the areas where I've gained the most knowledge.

I can't tell you how many times I've picked up a new novelty yarn, or combination of yarns, and I've needed to try out a number of different size needles to get the kind of hand to my fabric that I want it to have. Deciding on whether the yarn will make a better accent scarf or a scarf that will actually be used to keep warm in the Winter is another big factor in how I decide to knit up a yarn. I have to also keep in mind that scarves need to look presentable on both sides, and keep some form or shaping, so they don't stretch to five times their length with ongoing wearing.

Finally, knitting these scarves has also been an exercise in maximizing the scarf I get for the amount of yarn I have...especially since I need to factor in the cost of the yarn when I calculate the cost I will sell the scarf for.

All-in-all, this has been a very educational period of knitting for me, and being able to experiment on a smaller scale has been quite useful.

Other Internet Oddities
Amazing what useless things can be created using the internet. Here is what I look like after being "Simpsonized".

It takes a little while to get through this process, so don't link to it unless you have a little time. Credit to Jean Miles for showing me this link.

Current Knitting
I got a few more rows done on the front of the Aran pullover, but not enough to merit a picture on the blog. Just look at the last post's picture and envision the last open diamonds at the top completed.

I did take time off from Aran to make a couple more scarves (as you may have cleverly intuited from my blog intro for today). The first one is an accent scarf, made out of multi-color ribbon.

This was once of the most challenging yarns I had to work with in my entire stash. I wanted it to come out without being too holey, but also have some drape to it. The other scarf I finished is a deep red scarf made with microfiber chenille-like yarn.

I thougth you might want to see what the yarns looked like for these two scarves, so here's a closeup.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Who Says?

I'm going through one of those periods of my life where I try to question every assumption and underlying rationale for what I do.

When questionning who you are, where do you stop and say, this is the foundation, the core of who I am? I sometimes envy very religious people. They seem to convey a lot of certainty that their religious persona is the bedrock of who they are. The bible or the Koran (Quran, Quoran?) or whatever holy book they use defines many.

Without that kind of certainty, I have to rely on some common humanity that we all share. I don't know that I can put my finger on it exactly. In fact, I'm sure I can't put my finger on it, as I've tried, but I think there is a commonality among us that is, at its roots, who we are from the most base perspective.

If I can stand to focus on that aspect of who I am, all the other aspects of who I consider myself to be seem to show up as optional, and subject to my determination.

I guess it's too much to hope that at its core, all humanity shares knitting as a common trait? So being a knitter is still up for questionning.

Current Knitting
Despite a minor four row setback, I was able to make some progress on the front of the Aran pullover.

I missed the second cable crossover on the open diamond pattern stitch, and didn't realize it until about four rows up. I considered dropping those 7 stitches and laddering back to fix it, but there was too much complexity in terms of single transferred stitches and twisted stitches. It was easier to just unknit four rows and recoup my losses.

I also finally got around to felting (fulling) the felted bowls I will sell along with my novelty scarves at an undetermined craft fair.

I love how these turned out, and since they were all made of leftover yarns that I wouldn't have ever used, and they don't take very long to make, I can sell them pretty inexpensively. I feel it's always good to have some inexpensive items on a craft show table that buyers can pick up without too much guilt.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Franklin notes, "I seem to recall a previous vacation to the Vineyard when you didn't bring yarn stuff with you, but wound up improvising a spindle to spin dog hair."

Yes, that was the last time I was there. I used an old plastic paint brush and the top of a cole slaw container from the grocery store. Their dog's hair at the time spun up quite nicely, but it was so disgustingly dirty, I found it wasn't as pleasant as I might have hoped. That was like two or three years ago...good memory on that Franklin.