Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Random Leftovers

Here are some additional activities that have been wandering about looking for a proper blog posting.

Canadian Sweets
In addition to having my favorite peanut butter, Canada also has some good candies we don't have down here in the states.

Thanks to both Barb and Ted, I was the happy recipient of two of Canada's candy options unavailable here in the states.

Barb asked Ted to be her mule and transport both Smarties (M&M-like candies) and Wine Gums. She sure knows how to make a man happy.

Also, Sean at Woolcott & Co sent along this nice gift along with my yarn purchase.

The product is Soak and is specifically for handwashed yarns and knitted items. I can't wait to try it out on my next sweater soak.

Current Knitting
I finished another two rounds on the inner border of the Ichida lace project. I'm now officially up to 1,000 stitches per round. I'm hopeful to get a lot done this weekend, but I don't know if I'll be able to finish it.

I anticipate the next picture you see of this garment will be the one where it's blocking.

Current Spinning
Here's what happen when you take your two spinning wheels with spun fibers on the bobbins to a fiber retreat where there are guys that want to learn how to spin.

This is both the tussah/cashmere spinning and the Black Bunny fibers laceweight I've been working on with some other attempts at spinning random fibers on top of them.

Sometime this week, I will unravel all the new growth and recommence spinning at least one of these projects.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kate of scarf exchange fame writes, "did you ever hear anything about the project you left on the plane?"

I spoke with a number of folks at the airline and one nice woman there actually looked through everything for my project and was able to confirm it definitely wasn't there. She was very helpful and apologetic, which is quite unusual for U.S. Airways at Philadelphia airport. I have mentioned before that I will re-knit this project, as it is probably my favorite in the two Ichida books.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Random Things

With most of my focus on the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, I've had a few things building up in the queue.

Fiber To Scarf Exchange
One of Ted's other projects (where DOES he find the time?) has been a Fiber to Scarf exchange. He basically got a group of spinners/knitters to agree to send him some roving and in exchange, get someone else's roving and make them a scarf from it.

I stupidly ignored the intimidation factor of spinning someone else's fiber and then making something creative in the form of a scarf...I ignored it at least until the fiber arrived, and then I was like, "shit...what can I make with this?".

It was even more intimidating not knowing which of Ted's extremely competent readers/friends I was spinning/knitting for.

It was even more intimidating when, I found out it was for Kate...someone who's been around on-line knitting forums forever, and also works and instructs and designs for a yarn store.

Oh well, now that it's over, I can share with you the full story. Read about it here.

Current Knitting
I have been working diligently on the Ichida lace project. I grafted together the two center sections, and picked up a bazillion stitches around the outside.

Over the weekend, I was able to complete up to round 14 out of 64. It takes a while to do each round since there are now over 800 stitches on the needles.

One nice aspect of the border sections is that the repeats are short and easy to remember without constantly referring to the graph.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks everyone for the information on Knitting in the Old Way: Designs and Techniques from Ethnic Sweaters. Now I realize I have to own it as well.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Until Next Time

I find myself thinking of little else the last couple of days than the retreat last weekend, looking for any reference to it in blogs or on Ravelry or MenWhoKnit.

Leaving You With This
One of the best detailed accounts of the event came from Paddy. His recounting of the retreat gives both an account of what happened, as well as a sense about what made it special. My favorite picture is of Alan smiling so broadly. Since Alan is a wonderfully reserved and quiet guy, his expression is priceless.

I know it would be difficult to write about yourself without sounding completely arrogant and self-centered, but I would have loved to read Paddy's assessment of himself at the event. He is the kind of guy that garners immediate respect because of his ease with being around other people and how personable he is. He turned out to be another very important component of the success of the weekend.

I guess we had 32 of those components, and I just keep focusing on the most recent one in memory.

As I've written to a few guys from the weekend, I'm counting the days till we do it again.

Current Knitting

Yes, I tinked back what seemed like dozens of rows (it was probably 4...but it is lace fergodsake), and with some time to focus last night, I finally finished the second half of the center of the Ichida lace table runner.

Here's a bit of a detail picture.

Now I have to graft/kitchener stitch the two pieces together, pick up the appropriate number of stitches and begin the first border section of the piece.

It's back to "favored status" for this project now that I've fixed all my errors.

Book Desires
Two of the guys received the book, Knitting in the Old Way: Designs and Techniques from Ethnic Sweaters as a doorprize at the retreat:

The books were generously donated by Nomad Press, and I was thinking that if Ted wanted this book, it must have something of value. I would love to read what others think of this book who own it, or have seen it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Lisa writes, "Please share more! Including more of what Thaddeus thinks about the weekend. Asides about him always slay me :)."

Thaddeus is so over hearing about this past weekend. He and I give each other time limits for discussing our various passions in public. If we're with other people, and I'm discussing knitting or he's discussing mushrooms or his 1983 Mercedes 240D for more than about five minutes, we try and cut the other person off to prevent everyone on the planet thinking we're as boring as river silt.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Retreat Stuff

Like Thaddeus and my friends and co-workers, y'all are probably already tired of hearing about this knitting retreat, but it's all I care to think about anymore.

A Few Pictures
I sent Thaddeus the link to these pictures so he could get a better sense about what went on while I was away, and his response was, "I'm even more glad now I stayed home."

Don'tcha just love him?

Here's a web page that has about 40 of my pictures from the event with a few little captions.

Ted links to a few of the other guys that blogged about the event with pictures as well, so you might want to check his site out if you're not already as fed up as everyone around me.

Ted and I are already starting the initial planning for another event in the Spring of 2009. As soon as it's ready for prime time, I will announce the details publicly.

Current Knitting

Tinked back to my mistake and was well on my way to finishing this simple, little section of the Ichida lace and realized a big mistake right back where I tinked back to last time.


My New Love
Being acquainted with a few of the guys from the retreat through their blog, or through Ravelry postings or on the MenWhoKnit web site, I often get a good sense about who they are through their writing.

My impressions of Sean from Boston were completely off from what he's like in real life.

Anyone that doesn't know Sean, should get to try. If you live in Boston, visit him at his yarn store (yes, he OWNS Woolcott and Company in Boston. He has secret stashes of the Malabrigo Silky Merino yarn he can personally show you in his back room. I'm wondering why it's not in his on-line shop. I think I'll call him personally to order some. I need it badly. If you're not in Boston, try to read between the lines of his blog writing to see through to his true self.

A lot of guys were also wonderful at the retreat in many ways, and I should really do a rave review on all of them, but Sean was the most different from what I expected.

Love him.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tired, Fat and Deliriously Happy

The entire weekend was beyond delightful in more ways than I could possibly describe.

Perfect Balance
On many levels, this event was brilliant...not because of any specific aspect, but because of how it all melded into an incredible experience.

The People

This was by far the most amazing aspect. We had an incredible diversity of guys at the retreat. Diverse in age, in philosophy, in education, in knitting experience, in background, in careers and every other possible aspect you could imagine. And they weren't just diverse...they were wildly diverse. And yet the group still came together in one of the most balanced, well-working group I have ever been with. Each person brought their best quality and threw it into the mix and the result was extraordinary. I fell in love with everyone there.

The Venue

Easton Mountain is quite an amazing place. It's in a stunningly beautiful location and the philosophy and rationale for the retreat center permeates all groups that stay there. They also have a chef and kitchen staff that prepare three amazing meals each day with plenty of excellent food.

The Program
The agenda was relatively loose and informal, allowing guys to take part in participant-led workshops, just hang out, or go off privately and meditate (i.e., nap).

The Sponsors
Ted has a lot of respect in the knitting and fiber community, and as such, when he's involved in an event, there are a lot of folks that want to have their products represented there. 17 yarn/fiber businesses generously donated some of their products to the participants of the event in exchange for having their business card, flier, catalog or coupon included in our handout materials. It helped make the event a huge success by surprising the retreaters with gorgeous yarn and fiber prizes.

And BJ of the Mars company will forever be my personal "Dove" for helping us out with sweet snacks for the guys. Those CocoaVia chocolate bars you sent were EXCELLENT.

Current Knitting
I was one of the few attendees of the retreat that barely picked up his knitting needles or put his foot on the treadle of a spinning wheel.

In fact, the one time I picked up the Ichida lace, I made a mistake and I need to correct it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Finally Here

Yes, today, I head up to Upstate New York to meet up with a bunch of guys to spend time relaxing and knitting and spinning and teaching...okay, perhaps there won't be quite as much relaxing as I initially anticipated.

Wonderful Delights
I don't want to spoil anything for anyone reading this who will be there, but many yarn and fiber companies, as well as one very generous reader have sent little gifts that Ted and I are allowed to give to the participants.

Reader BJ has been extremely generous by helping keep the guys supplied with sweets (and very NICE sweets at that, from M&M/Mars). Look what she sent...

Yes, customized Dove chocolates. BJ is now my personal sweetie (you'll note I had to open one of the candies to realize what was inside...I HAD to make sure they hadn't gone bad in shipping...right?).

Current Knitting
I've made very little progress on the lace knitting. I've completed the second of two center squares and I'm just working on the extension of the square that makes the piece oblong.

Sorry for the bad pictures, I'll get a better one soon.

I've also had to work on putting together samples and exercise pieces for a workshop on turning heels on knitted socks.

This picture shows three disembodied heels, turned in three different ways that I'm using as examples for the workshop (Short-Row Heel, Andersson Heel and Dutch Heel).

Can't wait to see the other guys, and the projects they're working on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Carol's Book Tour

Here's the long-awaited interview with Carol on her latest book, Knits So Fine which recently started shipping and arriving in knitting households across the country.

Interviewer's comments:
I have always been a big fan of small yarn and small needles. I find the precise, intricate process of knitting fine-gauge fabric to be much more enjoyable than any other kind of knitting. I was glad to find a book that spoke to many of the reasons I enjoy fine knits.

QJ: Welcome to your virtual book tour and thanks for stopping at QueerJoe. With your newfound literary talent, is there anything you'd like to express about how much you like my blog (feel free to get as flowery and sycophantic as you'd like)?

CS: Well, Joe, you know it is not a stretch at all for me to be sycophantic where YOU are concerned. Yours was one of the first knitting blogs I started reading (you, and the Knitting Curmudgeon, and Dangerous Chunky – does anyone remember Dangerous Chunky?). And you encouraged me to start my own blog after I guest-hosted (guest-monopolized?) your blog while you were on vacation. So in a very real sense, everything I am today in the knitting world, I owe to you.

And Gage.

QJ: I'll start off with a real hard-hitting question. It's been rumored that you had the choice of either becoming the editor for "Knit 'n Style" or publish a book with your two co-authors. What made you choose the book?

CS: Actually, Joe, that is a misconception. I chose to write a book after Crochet Fantasy turned me down when I begged to become their editor.

(Anyone who’s ever seen me crochet is now laughing their ass off.)

Lisa and Laura are both tremendously talented designers and I am honored to have designs in the same book as them. We all worked together at Lisa’s knitting shop, Rosie’s Yarn Cellar, and Laura was the one who broached the idea about writing a book devoted to knitting with skinny yarns. As we mention in the book, we helped a lot of customers at Rosie’s who were terrified of working with skinny yarns. This surprised us because some of our all-time favorite yarns – Koigu, Zephyr, Black Bunny, Kid Silk Haze – are yarns that knit at a fine gauge. After Laura suggested the topic, everything else seemed to fall into place.

QJ: You've accomplished so much in your life...received your undergraduate degree, went on to get your JD with honors, and then your MRS degree (with a hot man, might I add), had a successful career as a lawyer before settling down to raise three lovely kids. Has the publishing of such an amazing book finally given you enough self esteem to be able to rub your in-laws' noses in it? Feel free to provide examples.

CS: I will forever be grateful to my in-laws for bringing my husband into this world. My life before I met him was like the black-and-white part of the Wizard of Oz.

QJ: Here's your softball question...if you knit a sweater in fine yarn for Barack
Obama, what sleeve treatment would flatter him most as he spreads his message of hope across the country?

CS: No, no, that is a trick question.

If I were to knit for Barack Obama, it would be socks in my special Obama-inspired colorway, Audacity.

But I have no business knitting for any other man, even hopeful Barry (Michelle doesn't mind that I call him that), until I knit something for my own husband, who, as you correctly note, is rather hot.

QJ: Wasn't it a helluva lot more difficult to meet your knitting/publishing deadlines, since you had to knit such fine gauge garments, or did you just swatch and let someone else knit your garments for you?

CS: Yes – I mean both.

We were on a pretty short time line due to our editor’s request that we have the book ready for the spring 2008 catalog, and I’m afraid we gave her a bit of stress when we, um, stretched our deadlines out and needed more time. One of the most difficult things to deal with is when a garment just doesn’t work the way you envision it. For example, I anticipated that the ruffled scarf would be fairly easy and quick. I’d swatched it pretty extensively and knew exactly how I wanted it to look.

Unfortunately, the yarn disagreed. When it was knit in full-size scarf form – by a wonderful test knitter, Judy – it just didn’t lay right. No matter what we did, it curled in on itself. Poor Judy re-knit it and tweaked it, and I knit many swatches at home, and for whatever reason, the scarf consistently behaved differently when it was full-size than it did when it was just a little swatch. Judy had planned a trip to Israel to see her son, so I had a second test-knitter (Mindy) pick up where she left off, using a different (although very similar) yarn. It took months for us to get a scarf that worked – and in the meantime I was knitting some of the sweaters.

All together, I knit the Bohus, the silk vest, the ribby vest, the beret and the sleeves of the skater-inspired top myself; while my wonderful test knitters knit the lace raglan, the scarf, and most of the skater top.

QJ: With three author/designers, how did you make decisions like for instance about how much text to include in the book, versus the choice you all obviously chose; to pack it with patterns instead of excessive editorial commentary?

CS: We were very fortunate in that we all had the same mind’s eye view of the book: we wanted to have some good substantive information in the beginning to help our readers who were not accustomed to working with fine yarns – but we wanted the patterns to be the central focus of the book. I hope we struck the right balance!

QJ: Could you see yourself going solo next time, or would that be more work than you'd be willing to put into a project?

CS: Yes! Ha!
I am working on a book that will be published in January that is a multi-contributor book. I am writing the text and contributing one pattern, but over 17 other designers have also contributed their patterns. I’m really excited about it, especially since some of my knitting idols, like VĂ©ronik Avery and Ann Budd, have contributed patterns.

But I am also hoping to convince my editor that Laura, Lisa and I should do a sequel…maybe a sequel with at least some men’s patterns?

QJ: I love the Ribby Vest done in different Trekking yarns. I could easily see this as a great man's vest...I guess there's not a question in this...uh...non-question.

CS: That’s one of my favorites, too. I love the way that certain colorways of Trekking have those plies that change color, and when more than one ply changes colors at different rates, you get these gorgeous blends of color that shade into one another. That’s why I wanted to design something that used those Trekking colorways. It’s fun to pair two different colorways and see how different combinations create different effects.

CS: Which of the other designer’s garments did you like the best? I have difficulty picking between Laura's Eyelet Halter (I LOVE the center bodice shaping) or her Lattice Lace Pullover, but with Lisa, by far I prefer her Zip-Front Hoodie.

That is a tough one. I am partial to Lisa’s Kimono Top; I love the lines and the way she paired the bamboo yarn with the Asian-inspired style is luscious. On the other hand, Lisa’s gloves and legwarmers are stunning. I am in awe of the stitch patterns.

I am with you on the Lattice Lace Pullover, but I have to say that because it’s all about me, Al Franken, I do love the lace stole that is knit in Black Bunny laceweight yarn. The Asymmetric Cardigan is awfully great, too, though.

Finally, how did you push yourself to the front of the line to bogart the cover design?

A combination of sleeping with anyone who would have me (not nearly enough people, sadly) and bribing them with BBF yarn.

Thanks for giving us the straight (so to speak) poop on this great design effort. I know this book will become a classic in many a knitter's library.

Friday, May 09, 2008

It's Official!!!

Franklin is a published author...Amazon says so and is allowing pre-orders on his book.

It Itches by Franklin Habit

I Love When Friends Succeed
It's so great to see someone as talented, funny and smart as Franklin succeed at something he's so good at.

I've already placed my pre-order because I'm sure his will be one of those books that will sell out the first Amazon purchase.

On Monday, we'll get an intimate look at the other successful author, Carol Sulcoski. Can't wait.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Official Blogging

When I do something like an actual interview, I feel as though I'm getting much too official in my blogging.

Upcoming Book Tour Stop
Carol of "Go Knit in Your Hat"
is doing a virtual book tour to promote her new book, Knits So Fine, and she'll be making a stop at QueerJoe to endure some intimate scrutiny of her work.

As part of my research, I decided to check her Amazon sales to see how she ranked among other Knitting book sales, and as of Monday, May 5th, she was fifth on the list. I could kind of understand that Stephanie's book beat her out, and even Elizabeth Zimmermann's...but the other two I have trouble understanding that.

Current Knitting
I've started the second "center square" (no, not Paul Lynde) of the lace project from the Ichida book.

I'm up to round 50 of around 80 rounds. These sections go relatively quickly. When I have to pick up stitches all around these two center pieces and work multiple repeats of two separate border rounds, it will go a bit more slowly.

Current Spinning
Despite all that's going on, I was able to fit in about 2 hours of spinning on the BBF roving.

At one point, I may have to weight what I've completed so far to make sure I have approximately half of the roving spun onto one bobbin. I think I have a while to go before that happens.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Ichida lace, Betty in Jacksonville, FL asks, "What are you knitting it with?"

It's a cone of size 20/2 cotton that I've had lying around for years. I'm knitting it on US1 needles.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Working in Spurts

When it comes to getting things accomplished, I am much more a sprinter than a long distance kind of guy.

Workshops, Logistics and Knitting
In addition to coordination a lot of the upcoming Men's Spring Knitting retreat, I've also been trying to pull together hand-outs and knitted examples for two workshops I've volunteered to lead at the retreat.

But that hasn't stopped me from getting quite a bit of knitting completed (see below).

I'm teaching a class in how to turn three different kinds of heels, and I just finished created three disembodied heels in the various ways. I've also been working on generic instructions for each heel to give to the participants. I haven't even started pulling together the information I need for the basic spinning class, but I think that one will be a lot less formal anyway.

Add to the two workshops all the nametags, logistic sheets, agendas, class rosters...etc., etc. Thank gawd I had a lot of coffee this weekend.

Current Knitting
Despite all this retreat activity, I also got quite a bit done on my latest lace project from the Ichida book.

Here's a picture from the book of what the final piece will look like.

And here's where I am so far.

If you can't tell, I have one of the two center squares completed and one extension to the square. I've just started working on the second square, which I will graft to the first one before starting the first of the two outer sections.

It's moving along more quickly than I had expected.