Sunday, December 30, 2007

Are We Trying To Make Enemies?

When Bush hitched his wagon to the Musharraf camp in Pakistan, and stuck to his guns (so to speak), mightn't he have possibly expressed some concern about the safety of Benazir Bhutto?

Still Sticking
Even with the shocking assassination of Bhutto, this administration still refuses to even acknowledge that they might have possibly made another alliance mistake.

As all the television pundits trample over the despair and bereavement of Ms. Bhutto's killing to discuss the impact of her death on the U.S. primary caucus in Iowa, they keep asking which candidate is more prepared to deal decisively with this kind of diplomatic nightmare. I haven't heard one of them mention how ill-prepared the current president is to deal with the situation.

On a related note, I am asking myself why the assassination of a woman seems so much more awful to me than a similar male assassination might have been. I would like to believe that if a man had been so outspoken and critical of the Musharraf dictatorship in Pakistan, that his assassination would have been equally as shocking to me, but I'm not sure that's true.

Current Knitting
Not wanting to commit to a large, complex project, I decide to focus on the pair of mittens using the remaining Alpaca Herd Jacket yarn.

Thaddeus sniffed dubiously at the idea of mittens, so they morphed into gloves. I worked them on the fly, so they're not perfect, but the look acceptable and they sure are warm. As you can note from the "in progress" picture, the gloves (including each finger) was knit in the round on double-pointed needles.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kenny bemoans all the "knitting porn" in my last post, and then asks, "BTW, do you like my new hat?"

Yes, very much. If folks haven't gone out to see it, you should. For his first design, it is very nicely done.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Friday, December 28, 2007

Knitting Ambivalence

I'm jumping between a lot of new projects that I'm not thrilled with and avoiding some current works in project at the same time.

Unsure What To Do Next
I'm not sure I want to start another sweater at the moment, but small projects are feeling very satisfying either.

I started a pair of socks using Carol's gorgeous yarn.

Then I decided to use up some scraps of Cascade 220 to make a Tychus Hat from Knitty.

Finally, I started a pair of mittens using the David and Mel Alpaca Herd yarn.

I can't bring myself to pick up the crochet tablecloth and figure out where I made yet another mistake and extract it from the fabric.

I should really finish the cable sweater I started a while ago.

Maybe I'll just focus on the kid alpaca bedspread/coffin cover until I figure out what I want to really knit when I grow up.

New Books
Part of the order from Amazon were three new books I ordered for myself.

Knitting For Him by Storey is a beautifully edited book with lovely models. Most of the sweaters and scarfs aren't items I'd make. Many of them are either impractical (such as scarfs you can only show one side of) or require a certain style to be able to get away with wearing them, or are just plain boring.

I love the Kaffe Knits Again book. It brings back tons of Kaffe's best designs in current Rowan yarns. Like they were in the past, however, they are for very slender men, unless you modify the pattern to make them for someone more my size. He also includes a few one-side scarves in intarsia. What does the other side look like?

Finally, I also got Kaffe's latest quilting book, Kaffe's Quilts in the Sun. I know it's not knitting, but it is truly spectacular. Liza has a quilt in the book called Perkiomen Valley that is breathtakingly beautiful There are 20 designs in this book and all of them are amazing to look at.

A New Zealand Flavored Christmas
Finally, big thanks to Kiwi friend James for his wonderful knit-bag full of gifts (yes, I did wait until Christmas to open it this year).

New Zealand pencils and a pen, a sheep pencil sharpener, a beautiful bookmark, the ever-useful New Zealand 2008 picture calendar, and of course, the huge bar of Kiwi Fruit Chocolate. There is some water-expandible object I haven't figured out what it is yet.

Many thanks.

Readers' Comments/Questions
About the Alpaca Herd Jacket, Seanna Lea asks, "Will it be too warm to wear on a regular basis?"

I wore it to my mom's house at Christmas, and it was to warm, and yet I wore it all day in my house yesterday, and it was fine. It will definitely be handy to have around for use when I need it.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On-Line Delivery Complaints

This year I heard a lot more complaints about bad customer service and awful delivery stories for gifts ordered on-line.

Amazon Tip
If you want to guarantee that a package arrives from Amazon in less than two weeks, definitely don't choose free shipping.

I ordered two supposed Christmas gifts and a few books from Amazon on December 11th, and they finally arrived yesterday...the day after Christmas.

Fortunately, I was able to purchase one of the gifts at the mall on Christmas Eve day (a nightmare) and the other one wasn't that important.

My sister-out-of-law also noted that she will never order from Brookstone again based on her gift ordering experience.

I order a lot of my gifts on-line, and I've had some issues in the past, but this year seems to have a lot more problems than usual.

Current Knitting
I finished the Alpaca Herd Jacket this past Saturday. I ended up being at an AC Moore, and picked up buttons that worked very well.

I the sleeves were longer than I'd hoped, so I ended up removing the decorative finish I had originally intended, and just used a roll-edge.

The sweater is very heavy, but also incredibly warm and oh so soft. I will be wearing this sweater often.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Teresa writes, "he jacket is just gorgeous and I hope you find buttons soon, but what is the status on your tablecloth?"

I picked it up again after thinking that I had removed all the messed up motifs. I started re-crocheting the ripped out ones, and it appears I didn't fix all the incorrectly set stars...ugh!

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Two R's

Writers and Reading.

First issue. How can the late-night show guys justify being such unfeeling scabs?

I heard Kimmel say that "other people are financially dependent on the show." Well, why the hell don't they push the networks and the writers to resolve this more quickly? In my mind this is an unjustifiably bad choice.


Second issue. I've been running into a lot of publicity on eBooks, eBook devices, and electronic reading. Despite all the blog reading and Ravelry reading I do, I'm not sure how useful this whole concept would be.

New eBook on Knitting
I got an e-mail from Cheryl Brunette, the author of Sweater 101, which is no longer in print, but is available as an eBook.

Since the book was available electronically, and I've always wanted to see how useful I'd find something like this, I thought I'd read through Cheryl's eBook to give it a try.

There are lots of benefits to having this as an eBook, besides the obvious reasons of quick access, no space requirement on my book case and saving trees. The first is that you can link all through the book by clicking on internal links, and obviously get to outside web sources through external hypertext links. I never realized how nice it was to have an automated index. Another benefit that is perhaps specific to Sweater 101, is that Cheryl uses forms for designing sweaters that can be filled out electronically and saved.

Overall, this eBook is an excellent compilation of all of the information (plus some) that I have gained from other knitters, books and experience. This would be a perfect resource for someone in the earlier stages of designing their own sweaters, but certainly would also provide even the longtime knitwear designer with tips and tricks.

As for the verdict on eBooks in general, my jury is still out on that one.

Current Knitting
Sorry about not posting a picture of the Alpaca Herd Jacket yesterday as promised. But here it is now.

The good news is that I was able to finish the one side of the button-band and sew it on. The bad news is that I have no buttons for this jacket, and until I buy some, I won't be able to knit the buttonhole side of the button-band (and I can't pick up stitches for the collar until the button-band is complete).

I've been working on the secret crochet project in the interim.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Knitting Project Bags for Men

The Queer Ravelry forum on Ravelry had a string of posts on project knitting bags with some new and interesting ideas.

A Manly Bag
Since I carry my knitting projects with me to hotels each week, I prefer something to carry them in that's better than a brown paper sack, but not too purse-like. I end up using those cotton/canvas/handle/tote bags.

One of my favorite search terms for knit-project bags is in "Gardener's Bag"

I also love looking through Lowes and Homo Depot for Tool Bags

Both of these sources seem to be good for non-standard project bags. They often have flat/hard bottoms that stand on their own and they have lots of pockets.

One of the guys on the Ravelry group put this excellent knit-travel kit together.

I bet he could market that.

Current Knitting
I finished the sleeves and the sewing up of the Alpaca Herd Jacket.

---------Picture Will Be Posted Tuesday Morning...Sorry---------------

When I try it on, the neck opening is wider than I planned (again!), so I'll have to compensation for that with whatever collar I decide to make for it. David's One Herd Alpaca Yarn is incredibly warm and silky soft, and the small pattern stitch I used in the garment worked out perfectly for a slightly bulky yarn.

Holiday Cards
Thaddeus is getting as bad as I am about my knitting obsession. He found out that the post office had knit stamps this year for their holiday stamp offering.

Knowing that I wouldn't send my cards out with anything less, he bought a couple of sheets.

Smart man.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol asks, "Are you hinting for Thaddeus to get you a handheld GPS for Christmas?"

No, not really. The truth of the matter is that 92.3% of my driving is done to places that I'm already familiar with, so I wouldn't need a GPS. It's the 7.7% of the time that puts me in a cold sweat.

I got a couple of e-mails asking if DAD was a real disease. Mostly from folks that were glad to have finally had a way to label their panic at getting lost.

I actually made DAD up, but most of my symptoms were true.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lost, Not Wandering

I have a terrible sense of direction. Almost assuredly if you ask me which direction I think we should go, you would be 93% correct in going in the opposite direction.

Dislocation Anxiety Disorder
Well, if everyone else on the planet can have a condition or disease, I can have one too, and mine is DAD.

A number of symptoms affect me dreadfully with this disease:
1. If my directions say "go approximately 1 mile and make a left on Main St.", and Main St doesn't appear after .72 miles, I turn around thinking I must have made a mistake. My breathing gets shallow and I begin to sweat.

2. If any of my directions seems to have an inconsistency, I start to make up my own. My breathing gets shallow and I begin to sweat.

3. I incessantly check my gas gauge to make sure I have at least enough gas to follow the Eastern sun back to the New Jersey shore, as I can usually find my way back home to Pennsylvania from there. My breathing gets shallow and I begin to sweat.

4. Even though I'm a male of the species, my natural instincts are overridden by this disease/disorder, and I stop and ask for directions.

5. I have Bonfire Of The Vanities flashbacks. My breathing gets shallow and I begin to sweat.

6. I have significant resentments for those folks who can recite their exact latitude and longitude at any moment and can find there way to any other location with ease and delight.

7. I have DAD-rage for those folks that don't mind getting lost because "it's an adventure."

Excuse me, I have to go put my head in a paper bag and breath deeply. This has been quite traumatic for me.

Current Knitting
Here's the progress I've made so far on the second sleeve of the Alpaca Herd Jacket.

I'm hoping that I get most of the sweater done this weekend, but I'm still not sure what I'm going to do about the collar and button band.

Xmas Gifts from Kiwi-Land
Yes, James has been up to his holiday tricks, sending out New Zealand gifts to brighten my holiday.

As with his other xmas gifts, I will wait until the actual holiday to open it, although I always read the card immediately. As you might imagine from his blog, he writes a very thoughtful and lovely holiday greeting.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Get Christ The Hell Out of Xmas

Thaddeus and I typically spend our xmas celebrating time at the houses of various family members, so we don't usually go to the trouble of setting up a xmas tree. This year, Thaddeus somehow got inspired, and we did some decorating.

Inspired By Frugality and Kitsch
Earlier this year, Thaddeus found one of those '60's or '70's aluminum xmas trees at the local flea market and bought it for sentimental reasons, and because it only cost US$15. His thought was that it would make a perfect outdoor decoration on our small front porch, and also satisfy the xmas tree requirement.

He knew that the tree would be less than beautiful without one of those lovely "color wheels" to light it, so he scavenged eBay until he found this beauty.

So, now that outside of our house looks like this.

Or this.

You get the idea.

Current Knitting
I finished the first sleeve, as expected and now I've started just the very beginnings of the second sleeve.

Of course, no pictures...but I really haven't had a lot of knitting time. Work at this time of year is all about holiday outings and the like, so I've been busy during normal knitting times.

Irrelevant Question of The Day
How is that the cost of those GPS devices is so cheap now?

Readers' Comments/Questions
Leslie writes, "Great Kitty Pron - your second or third calling could be as a "Glamour Shot" photog for felines."

Actually, Thaddeus took that diva-like picture of Nico. He has an excellent eye for that kind of thing.

Calamity Rach asks, "What did you think about Clinton saying that students in Iowa shouldn't be allowed to caucus because that should be reserved for citizens and taxpayers of that state?"

I didn't read or hear about this, so I'll have to google it to find out what happened. On its face, it seems like a ridiculous thing to say, and I guess even my idols are able to make mistakes.

Regarding the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, Tricky Tricot writes, "Just got the email from Ted that this was definitely on - I'll absolutely certainly be there and am so looking forward to this! When do you suggest we book our rooms by?"

There has been a significant amount of interest in this event, and a handful of guys have already booked their rooms for the retreat. As of now, there is only one other event slated for that weekend on Easton, and availability of rooms is plentiful. However, they book events all the time, and if a particularly popular event gets scheduled, it might get more difficult to book. So I guess the answer to your question is that I have no idea. To be safe I would definitely book at the latest in January (Personally, I'm a lousy person to ask about this stuff...I get nervous, so I've already booked my room).

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Monday, December 10, 2007


With the latest information on Iran's nuclear activity, and the president's insistence that we still need to take strong measure against them, I can only believe that there is some other agenda than the safety of this country.

Who Can Believe What He Says?
QueerJoe hasn't been overly political lately, but the most recent press conference has me very worried. The bull-headed man in the White House seems hell-bent on bringing us to the rapture during his term in office. It's clear now that his intentions for Iran weren't very positive. Even with evidence to support that Iran is less of a threat than we've been told, the idiot is still insisting we need to treat them as a grave danger.

Is this his way of assuring some kind of legacy other than "the stupidest president we've ever elected?"

Don't get me wrong, I think that the Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran is somewhat worse than our president in terms of his fundamentalist views and how he incites hatred. But I don't think that, in and of itself, makes Iran a threat to this country's security.

Can you impeach a president for stupidity?

Current Knitting
I worked on the Alpaca Herd Jacket over the weekend, getting done most of the first sleeve. I took a great picture of the progress, but then proceeded to leave my camera at home when I came to Wilmington this morning.

Now I just have to do the sleeve cap and the second sleeve...and of course the collar and button band. I'm quite pleased with my progress, especially since I had to rip out about 10 inches of the original sleeve because it was two narrow.

Kitty Porn
I do have a wonderful picture of Nico to share to try and make up for my lack of knitting pictures.

Ain't he gorgeous?

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Friday, December 07, 2007

Crafty Knitting

There was a craft show in the lobby of the building where I'm working in Wilmington Delaware this past week, and there were four folks selling handknit items.

I was glad to see so much representation.

My Favorite
My favorite vendor was a woman selling felted roll-brim hats. Directly above the roll-brim, she had knit in novelty yarns, which looked like a fluffy band around the hat. They looked very smart, and the vendor had a very nice sense of color. She told me she had to use a coin-operated washing machine to felt her hats, and she still only charged $33 for a hat.

She also told me she preferred using Patons Classic Merino

I had never seen this yarn before, and it seems quite inexpensive for 223 yards, and obviously perfect for felting.

Does anyone know how this stuff knits up in an unfelted way?

Current Knitting
Made the amount of progress I had hoped for on the Alpaca Herd Jacket.

This is the best picture I've been able to take of this garment so far. Since I finished the body of the sweater a little earlier than expected (last night), I picked up the secret crochet project and did some work on that. Friend Kathy has sent me the materials I need to submit a design to Interweave Crochet magazine, so I may do my first magazine design submission.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Manly Knitting Adventure

It's not often that I get the opportunity to sit and knit with other men, and I've never had the opportunity to devote three days in the mountains of upstate New York specifically to knitting. Now I get the chance to do both at once.

You can't imagine how excited I am about this opportunity.

Men's Spring Knitting Retreat
Ted and I have been trying to hatch the idea of bringing together a group of knitting men in a retreat-like setting for a while now, and we've come up with the first annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat (MSKR).

Picture this, if you will. An all-male retreat center, set on 175 beautiful acres in Upstate New York. Then picture the deck around the main house peppered with men working on their current knitting project, or treadling on a spinning wheel, or mentoring a newer knitter in an age-old technique.

Now you know why I'm so excited (or now I've confirmed what a geek I am!).

For any guys who are interested in participating in this first-of-its-kind event, please read all the necessary information on the MSKR Website.

Some of the information that's not included on the official web site which you might want to know:
1. The first year will be a very casually pulled together with no formal schedule of workshops or events. Just a bunch of guys getting together in one amazing place. If enough folks sign up early enough, we will try to put together an actual schedule of events.

2. The retreat center at Easton Mountain provides lodging and meals for anyone making reservations for the retreat weekend (at their standard room rates - room and meals will be approximately $95 per night). In addition, if we want to have a dedicated meeting space to organize workshops, we will have to get a minimum of fifteen participants signed up as quickly as if you know you'd like to attend, please book your reservation as soon as possible. If we don't get 15 or more, the event will still take place and we'll just gather informally in common areas.

3. Please let any of your guy-friends who might be interested know about the event. The MSKR web site has links to two PDF files to print off color or black and white fliers that could be posted in your local yarn store or knitting venue.

Feel free to send any questions about the event to me, and I'll be glad to reply.

Current Knitting
As I wrote on Monday, I'm devoting this week to the Alpaca Herd Jacket only.

It's difficult to see in the picture (this yarn is great, but very difficult to photograph), but I've knit up to the sleeve shaping on the right/front of the jacket. I should go much more quickly and finish the front this week.

Current Spinning
I've been focusing on two spinning projects.

The first is from the red roving that James gifted me with on his recent visit here.

Yes, I spun up the entire ball of roving, and ended up with this lovely hank of DK weight yarn. The yarn feels a lot like Shetland, but I don't know the exact breed. I will probably end up mixing this yarn with some other yarn to make socks.

I've also been working on the long-forgotten Corriedale.

I have pounds and pounds of this stuff (or so it seems), and now I have another bobbin of singles, in addition to the first two hanks I've completed.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund

Monday, December 03, 2007

An Overlap in Hobbies

Many of you know that my partner Thaddeus has a hobby of foraging for wild mushrooms. I know it's stating the obvious, but it's rare when his and my hobbies overlap.

Two Examples of Overlap
The first example Thaddeus discovered a number of years ago were a couple of mycologists (mushroom people), who used mushrooms to dye wool.

More recently, I found some knitted artwork that include knitted mushrooms in the landscapes. I found this site through Dutch Jan (who comments here often). Scroll down to see all the clever faux-nature items made with knitting.

Current Knitting
I did a lot of work on my new secret project, but I also put some work into the Alpaca Herd Jacket.

This is a picture of the left front complete and attached to the back. I've also just barely started the right front, and I'll be working on it this coming week.

It's also been a while since I posted a picture of our little Nico, so I figured I'd indulge myself a little today.

Thaddeus has helped make this little guy a wonderfully playful and affectionate cat. He's a pleasure to have around.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol writes, "Might I inquire about the link to the memorial fund?"

Yes, thanks for noticing. I'm currently working with a new coworker, Andy Spector whose brother, Adam, died of Hodgkin's this past April. To help fund research for this dreadful form of cancer, Andy set up a web site in his brother's memory. The Adam Spector fund has already sourced over $100,000 in contributions towards Hodgkin's research. I was hoping readers might be also be inspired to help out if they could.

Ted asks, "What kind of bag do you carry your knitting (and balls of yarn and needles and hooks and so on) in?"

Mostly in canvas bags I've gotten at various yarn stores, such as Simply Knit. I have projects in bags all over the house, and almost all of them are some form of shopping bag. I have small tools bag I keep by my knitting chair that looks like a small handled shopping bag as well, although it's made of plastic mesh.

Franklin writes, "Me, I applaud you doing the time-consuming fixes. It can be so annoying at the time, but have you ever, once the thing is done, regretted the time you spent fixing?"

Thanks, I hate sitting my stubborn ass down to do the fixes, but I never regret having completed them.

Adam Spector Hodgkins Memorial Fund