Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

Just taking a moment to wish all the folks that come here a healthy and satisfying 2009.

Looking Forward
2009 looks to be filled with some large challenges, but there is also a lot of hope and energy to go along with it. My biggest wish is that the groundswell of support that President-elect Obama got while he ran for office, continues on through his eight years of leading this country.

Here are some personal things I'm looking forward to:

- Finishing the stranded sweater before Winter is over
- Having the second annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in May
- Having another successful work year (I'll be heading down South a lot in 2009)
- Reaching the half-century point in my age

I'll have to see about adding to this list later.

Current Knitting
I have to admit that I took a short rest from knitting after finishing Henry, but it wasn't long before I dragged out the stranded sweater and tried to figure out where I had left it.

For those of you who forgot as well...I was about to start the detail around the short button band. I really needed to plot this one out before I could knit it, so I came up with this in Excel.

In intended to do a steek in the center of this to create the no-button button band. Here's where I've gotten so far.

It was nice to take a break...I'm enjoying knitting the sweater a lot more now that I've had something else to work on for a bit.

Readers' Comments/Questions
A reader contacted me privately to let me know that flashing graphics, like the daily mug shot composite can wreak havoc with folks with epilepsy or are prone to visually triggered seizures. As a result, if folks care to see my daily mug shot, they'll have to go to that site to see it.

JellyDonut asks, "One question--was there a need to block Henry? I have not worked with Malabrigo yet."

I washed the scarf, removed all visible cat hairs and laid it out on a towel with light blocking. The ends of the scarf are a bit wider than the mid-section, so I adjusted that, but it easily could have gone with no blocking at all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

All Caught Up

Well...not quite...but at least most of the Christmas celebrating is over and I've even caught up on my sleep.

One More To Go
Each New Years Eve, we celebrate Christmas with our friend Charles. It entails an early dinner at a nice restaurant and exchanging gifts. This will require that I wrap the completed Henry scarf before tomorrow sometime.

This year, I wasn't feeling overly joyous as the holidays approached, and I didn't send out many cards or gifts. I'm feeling quite a bit better now, so I figure I could send out personal notes to the folks that were thoughtful enough to send their greetings. Most years, the cards and/or obligatory gifts seem so impersonal to me, but this year, many of the folks that sent me cards or gave gifts were quite personal and thoughtful.

Current Knitting
Finally finished the bind-off on the Henry scarf, and the scarf is ready for gifting. I don't know that I'd really recommend this scarf. The result is a lovely scarf, and using the Malabrigo, it's luxuriously soft. However, I'm not sure the effort is worth the result. Here are some final pictures.

If folks do decide to make this scarf, I would HIGHLY recommend using someone else's description of the tubular bind-off. I wasn't able to decipher the one published in the Knitty pattern, and I know what I did isn't a tubular bind-off, although it looks fine. I wish I had used the TechKnitter's version of the tubular bind off, which makes much more sense to me.

Daily Mug Shot
I saw the Daily Mug Shot widget on Sean's blog, and decided I must have it. If I'm able to keep updating it, I'll keep it...otherwise, it'll be toast.

- It never occurred to me that quickly changing photo montages, like my Daily Mug might have an effect on folks with epilepsy. I've decided to keep updating the Daily Mug shot, but to remove the widget from my left frame. Thanks to those that mentioned this.

Readers' Comments/Questions
About the new comments functionality, AliceQ writes, "PS Disqus doesn't like the URL for my Livejournal knitting posts."

I looked at my settings to see if there was any changes I could make that might affect this, and there didn't seem to be any. I also looked in the help functionality and there was nothing about this. If folks have other issues like this that become annoying, let me know and I'll got back to the old commenting through Blogger.

Knitchick Paris writes, "I have a question that has been on my mind.... your retirement calendar caught my eye. Do you hate your job? Just a question!"

Not at all...I actually quite like what I do. I may even continue to do some freelance work after I formally retire as long as the opportunity looks good. Retirement means not having to work in my mind.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Xmas

Just a quick blog to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday.

Some 2009 Changes
Folks will notice some changes to the blog. First, I added the Twitter widget. Not sure how much I'll be using this feature, but I figured I could always delete it if it got annoying.

I also changed how comments are coming in by using a commenting function from Tychoish called "disqus" - again, not sure how well it will work, so that may get jettisoned as well if I don't like it.

And just to keep the blog fresh, I'll be adding a new feature soon with a daily mugshot animation.

Current Knitting
Well, I finished row 168 and then realized I had 3 more rows to do before starting a ridiculously complex tubular bind-off.

You'll note I've only bound off a few inches so far. Anyone who's thinking about doing Henry might want to actually try practicing the last 3 rows of the pattern and the bind-off on a swatch before doing it on their prize scarf that they've worked weeks on. First of all, the pattern description of the last three rows is wrong (I think)...specifically the last two rows. The numbers just don't add up. And then the description of the bind-off is practically incomprehensible.

I committed to a specific way of doing the bind-off, and will complete it consistently. It's looking fine, but I have no idea if it's what the designer meant.

New Book

Has anyone see this relatively new book yet?

Need a Men's Version
Just noticed Knitting Goes Large: 20 Designs to Flatter Your Figure
by Sharon Brant, Wendy Baker, Jennie Atkinson, and Martin Storey was now available. The 20 designs are just for women, but I bet a lot of knitters would like to have a similar book published with tips and patterns to flatter the stout male.

Readers' Comments/Questions
PuffTheMagicRabbit writes, "The scarf is looking great- bet those last 10 rows will be the longest, though. And that roving you got is gorgeous (but mines prettier- na na na na na na)"

Actually you're wrong on both counts. The last 10 rows flew off the needles, and I'm sorry to say, that CLEARLY Carol sent me the nicest of the batch. But I guess I should be nice to Mindy, because she just starting working at a new fiber processing mill and she will probably be working on some of my fleeces in the future. I can't tell you how envious I am of her.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Almost Christmas

Someone mentioned yesterday that it was only four days till Christmas...again, I was surprised at how close the holiday was.

Wasn't Thanksgiving Just Last Week?
Maybe it's because the days are shorter and shorter up through December 21st, so Christmas just seems to come way too fast?

That's the theory I'm going with.

Kiwi James must be extremely organized, as he again sent a lovely package of international goodies this year.

Up top is a lovely tea towel that James purchased while in Ireland. It has descriptions and symbolic meanings for various Aran stitches. At the bottom is the best Cadbury candy, orange candy-coated chocolate. And my favorite gift, is the lovely Vintage Purls sock yarn, custom-dyed specifically for his yarn store, Joy of Yarn (check out his new web site if you need some of that sock yarn!). This will be tons of fun to use.

Thanks've made my Christmas delightful already.

Current Knitting
The Henry scarf got quite a bit of attention this past weekend, and it will definitely be completed in time for Christmas.

This progress pictures shows what the scarf looks like after knitting 158 rows. Yes...just 10 more rows to go and it's finished.

Current Spinning
Focusing most of my time on Henry has not allowed any time for spinning lately, but that won't stop me from showing off my latest Black Bunny Fiber club installment of roving.

This shit is gorgeous. It's a 50/50 merino/tencel blend and the soft, silky lustre of the fiber is perfectly matched with Carol's dyeing skill.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Mand writes, "Surely that's not cured navel beef - surely it's cured naval beef?"

No, it's really called "Cured Navel Beef", and stop calling me Shirley. I tried looking around for what it really means, because it's not a cut of beef from the belly button.

Also speaking of the boiled dinner, James writes, "That looks like what we call "Corned Beef" her in NZ."

We have corned beef here in the states as well, and the cured beef is seems to be a different cut...corned beef is usually the brisket and this definitely isn't seemed to be more like the meat around the short ribs. The brine is different as well...cured beef has nothing but salt, while corned beef has other pickling spices.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Carol's My Hero

Remember how I wondered why Debbie Stoller's book
was the #1 knitting book on Amazon? Now it's not.

Now Carol's Book Is!

Yes...Amazon ranks Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn as the top selling knitting book on Amazon.

Not surprising, but very nice. You can see all the other rankings here.

Congratulations to one of our own on such a well-deserved recognition.

Current Knitting
At row 124 and counting down.

44 rows sounds a lot better than 75% complete to me. Not sure why but it does.

Other Miscellany
My Newfoundland coworker found out that I had never had salted beef (also known as cured navel beef), so she schlepped a vacuum sealed package of it into the states just for me.

Thaddeus was able to make an excellent and traditional "boiled dinner" from it.

It was quite good, but I honestly prefer corned beef.

Also, found on a recent trip to the flea market, this collection of baby and children's knit books.

I have to stop collecting these booklets before my book shelves start to collapse.

Monday, December 15, 2008


This is another area of life that I know too little about to have an informed opinion.

Uninformed Opinion's what I think should be done.

Who gained most by having the U.S. auto industry focus mostly on large SUV's, CUV's and pick-up trucks?

Who bought patents for electric cars and cars that use gas in extremely efficient ways, and then refused to let those cars be made?

Who has been getting annual bailouts in the form of subsidies from out government and still makes profits in the billions?

Yes...the oil companies
. Why doesn't Detroit go to them for their bailout? They've been bedfellows for decades now, and one is doing extremely well, while the other is struggling. Seems like the perfect solution that the car companies should go to the companies that they supported all these years and ask for help before asking the American people to pony up.

Current Knitting
In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I hoped to finish the red Henry scarf sometime this past weekend. I can't imagine what I was thinking.

I'm up to row 118 with a total of 50 rows left to complete.

It is going faster as the rhythm gets easier and easier and even when I get drowsy while knitting, I'm not making mistakes that require tinking.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Twinsetellen writes, "Knit men's underwear? I need this pattern. I'll check your Ravelry projects, but if it isn't there, please do tell!"

I already sent Ellen this information, but the pattern for the men's underwear are in the left frame of my blog. There's even a picture of me modeling the results somewhere in the history of the blog...February 2004?...I think...yes, here it is...god, I used to look good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God I HATE The News

Constant announcements this morning on the mail that Sarah Palin got with a suspicious powder substance.

Playing The Palin Card
I know that Sarah Palin was able to attract huge crowds and that she is very popular...either because she's well-liked, or because she's controversial...but for gosh darn sake, could they at least come up with a news story that actually was about her?

The package with the powder (which was determined to be innocuous), wasn't even sent to Sarah Palin. It was sent to the previous governor of Alaska, as well as some other governer's.

But since it went to the office of Sarah Palin, the news can shout her names from the rooftops.

And they call me a hit whore!

Current Knitting
I honestly think I could have completed a full Fair Isle sweater in 2XL size with all the knitting I've been doing on my current project. I mean folks used to marvel at the fact that I made knitted men's underwear on small needles, but that was nothing compared to Henry.

I have completed over half the scarf, as I'm officially at row 85 (of 168). I really do hope that I'm able to finish this project up by the end of this coming weekend, so I can get back to the stranded knitting pullover.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kerry asks, "How do you find the texture of Henry? I tried it last year but disliked the very firm texture of the scarf, so ripped it out."

Most woven-like stitch patterns are much more firm than what you'd typically get on the same size yarn and needles. I'm working with a much finer yarn than what's called for in the Knitty pattern, but I didn't go down a needle size. The resulting drape and feel of the fabric is very nice.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Diligence, Persistence, Perseverance

That's what Henry seems to require, and I have been fully dedicated to Henry since I started it.

Fine Gauge - Very Slow Progress
I think even Lady Carol of the Fine Knits would throw this garment down and pick up a space-dyed sock project.

It's kind of like when I'm exercising on a treadmill, and after a mere 2 minutes, I'm already exhausted. I say to myself...just run a quarter of a mile, or just keep going until the next commercial finishes on television. By the time I get to my next milestone, I've gotten a bit of a second wind and I carry on. If I can keep that up for my full workout, I complete what I've set out to do.

So it is with Henry.

Current Knitting
Since my last blog post, almost a week ago, I've only been able to get to row 69 (yes, my lucky number), which is less than double the number of rows I had when I last posted.

And it hardly seems like I've made any progress, and I still have 99 rows to go.

I still adore this yarn, and I know the final result will be a spectacular scarf.

Friends In High Places
I found my copy of Interweave Knits
, Winter 2008 this past weekend at my grocery store.

Two friends are highlighted in this issue, which is very exciting.

Carol, has an article about her new book, Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn, and a pattern from said book. Amazon has a surprisingly low price for this book which is available in February, so I pre-ordered my copy right away.

Sean of Woolcott & Company also has a hat pattern in this issue that looks particularly good, and I will definitely end up making.

It's so nice having such talented friends!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'm Totally in LOVE...

...with a yarn called Malabrigo!

Well, At Least The Lace Weight
I decided to fall prey to the pressure-filled concept of having one of my xmas gifts be hand-knitted this year. Someone on Ravelry suggested that "Henry" by Mareike Sattler published in Knitty was a classy man's scarf. It seemed like the perfect gift for our friend Charles. With a woven look, using a fine-gauge yarn, it would look spectacular, and still have the special quality of being handmade.

I started off using a merino/cashmere blend of yarn I have on a cone, but I didn't like the gauge, so I restarted using Malabrigo Lace (100% Baby Merino), and I was completely in love.

This yarn is so soft, and yet it has quite a bit of tensile strength for a one-ply laceweight. It's make the perfectly warm and soft fabric.

The only downfall to this project is that it takes forever, and I am making it longer than the pattern calls for. Each row on my scarf is 516 stitch and there are 148 rows in the pattern for the scarf. The pictures show that I'm up to row 36 at the moment. Quite a bit more knitting to finish before xmas...well, actually New Year's Eve, because that's when we celebrate xmas with Charles.

Amazon Best-Selling Knitting Book
How is it that this book stays at the top of Amazon's bestselling knitting books?

Stitch 'N Bitch by Debbie Stoller doesn't seem to get that much press in the blogs and forums that I read, and yet, it stays on the top of this list and has for quite a while.

I would have thought that Franklin's bookwould have been a little higher on the list as well...don't get me wrong...#9 is pretty amazing when you're up against the ever-popular Stephanie's library of books...and I guess his book hasn't been available for quite as long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Okay...What Would You Do?

Last half-day at work before a four day holiday weekend, virtually none of my co-workers are in the office and I've completed all critical tasks and gotten ahead on future tasks.

Should I Blog?
I have virtually no knitting content or progress to boast about, and I typically do my blogging outside of working hours. I can't knit at work, but blogging activity could be perceived by casual passers-by as productive work.

Such a quandry, and you KNOW how I hate being bored.

I even tried catching up the typically reliable time-suck, Ravelry Forums, but there was hardly any activity out there either.

Sheesh...what's a slacker supposed to do?

Current Knitting
I do have a pathetic progress report on my current sock project.

So far, no knots in this ball of Kureyon Sock, but I know I shouldn't get my hopes up for the second sock will surely not be as knot-free.

I have also done a few rows since the last blog on the stranded knitting sweater, but a progress picture would just look like the last one.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the stranded sweater, Barb B. asks, "Are you doing buttons kind of like a "henley" style?"

Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to describe...thank you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Can't Shake It

If you came here to get cheered up, I'm afraid you've made it to the wrong blog.

Winter-Time Blues
I've never been a big fan of Winter and cold and snow, but this year I seem to be dreading it worse than most...and it's still only Fall!

Add to that, a bunch of personal crap, and I am definitely not enjoying this season so far at all. It would be nice to just go to sleep until March...even knowing that I'd have to deal with the worst case of dry-mouth ever.

At least I am enjoying my knitting, and I'm hopeful that my current sweater project will help keep me warmer this Winter.

Current Knitting
As I'd hoped, I made it up to the sleeve shaping and started a steek there.

Shortly, I'll be getting to the place where I'll have to start the pattern design around the button/collar opening. This will require a bit of planning and paying attention...I want to make sure I don't have button/collar patterns on both the front and the back.

I also started a new knitting project that has to remain a secret, but it shouldn't affect my ability to make progress on existing projects.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks everyone for their good wishes and congratulations on the anniversary.

Sean writes, "I would love to see a picture of you two from back then."

I posted this picture a while back, and it's not quite 25 years old and it's a picture of a picture...but it gives you a good idea of what we looked like back then.

ChickInParis asks, "How was Morimoto's?"

It was ridiculously expensive, but exquisitely good. We both did tasting menus, and one of my courses was the most amazing halibut I've ever far.

Barb B. of Wild Geese Fibres asks, "Now, ummm, don't know if I should ask but, on the second set of motifs from the bottom, #3 from the it different by plan? Are there more like it I can't see? Shutting up now."

Hopefully you'll notice that there is a bit of randomness in the pattern design. Even if there wasn't, I would have claimed there was.

Seanna Lee asks, "When you mean the first vertical part of your ankle are you referring to the front of the foot where the instep slopes up to the shin or are you referring to the front of the ankle bone itself?"

I meant the beginning of the instep slope up to the shin. But like you said, it's not a very exact science...socks are very forgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Anniversary

The ever-wonderful Thaddeus and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this past weekend.

Quarter Century Club
Yes, it's amazing even to me that it's really been 25 years. We celebrated by going to an exceptional restaurant in center-city Philadelphia, Morimoto's. Despite torrential downpours on our drive to the restaurant, it was a wonderful way to mark this joyful milestone.

I say it often, but we've been very lucky.

Current Knitting
Taking progress pictures of my current sweater has gotten to the point where it's starting to feel like watching paint dry, but I still post them and make you read about it...sorry!

I really have gotten more done on the just doesn't really look like it.

So, I'll spice things up a bit by showing you the INSIDE of the sweater...yes...don't hyperventilate...I know this is exciting shit.

I have completed about 12 or 13 inches on the body of the sweater, and I'll soon be starting the steek stitches for the arm holes.

Readers' Comments/Questions
JellyDonut asks, "Joe, are your socks always done toe to top? I've only done it the other way. How do you decide when to start the heel?"

In answer to your first question, no, sometimes I do cuff-down knitting on socks. There are a couple of reasons I do toe-up. First, it allows me to make the longest sock with whatever yarn I'm using...I can just stop when I'm a little less than halfway through my yarn. Second, I love using the Andersson heel, and I haven't gotten my shit together enough to revise the instuctions to make it in a cuff-down fashion. Finally, I like the look of the toe of the sock using the figure-eight cast-on. I decide on when to start the heel based on my rows-per-inch gauge and how many rows it will take me to increase for the heel gusset. If I do a short-row heel, I just keep trying on the sock and when it gets to the first vertical part of my ankle, I start the heel.

Evelyn asks, "How are you knitting a blue sock out of orange yarn??"

It's Noro magic...well actually it's purple, blue and teal and then's what it's looking like now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Promoting Friends

Sometimes it pays to have a web site that generates a little traffic, and hopefully it will help two friends to accomplish their goals.

Two Promotions in One Blog
First shameless promotion is for knitter Kyle out in California, who was a huge proponent and participant of the West Coast Men's Fall Knitting Retreat. He's trying to pull together a book of men who knit in each state of the U.S.. Check out his web site here and volunteer your artistry and story. Click on the "Get Involved" tab to see if your state is in need of representation.

I also wanted to promote a friend who is completely non-knitting related. Pete Cerqua is a personal trainer who I've worked with extensively in the past, and he's put out a new fitness solution that you might want to check out.

It's called The 90-Second Fitness Solution: The Most Time-Efficient Workout Ever for a Healthier, Stronger, Younger You, and I've already ordered my copy.

Current Knitting
Last week wasn't a very productive week for knitting. I stalled a little on the stranded knitting pullover and decided my ADD needed a new project, and started working on another pair of Noro socks.

Here's my progress on both.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cabezalana Mel asks, "So is that vertical panel in the center of the pullover a side panel or a faux button placket?"

Actually, the vertical panels will be on both sides of the sweater, underneath the sleeves, although the idea of a faux button band leading up to the the real buttoned neck opening is intriguing.

Ron writes, "I hate doing corrugated ribbing. How deep is yours and did you go down many needle sizes?"

I'm not a very big fan of corrugated ribbing either. I find stranding behind ribbing takes away the elasticity and even curls...which in my mind defeats the whole purpose of ribbing. Mine isn't corrugated's just all black 1x1 ribbing. I did about 2.5 inches of it and only went down one needle size. I may decide to re-do it after and go down another needle size...we'll see how ambitious I get.

Fiberqat asks, "BTW, is it intended that in the second motif row of the panel that the third block from the right be different from the others? Since we can't see the back or the chart I'm assuming it is because I can't imagine you making such a big mistake."

This is the part of the Motif I stole from Marianne Isager's Knitting Out of Africa, and I'm just following her graph exactly. You'll note from the cover of her book, that it does change on that row of motifs.