Monday, November 30, 2009

Re-Doing, Re-Tooling

One of the guys at the last Men's Spring Knitting Retreat (hey Vince!) taught a class on continental knitting and purling. I've been practicing it on and off since May, and just got the perfect excuse for doing a LOT of practice.

The Mom's Cardigan
After doing endless ribbing on US0 needles, I finally made my way up to the stockinette stitch of the cardigan I'm working on.

It only took an inch or two of knitting to realize that the fabric was going to gather way more than I planned as it transitioned from the ribbing to the plain fabric. I considered it to be completely unacceptable and I couldn't think of any way to fix it, so I realized I had to start all over...which meant re-doing all the ribbing.

My practice in doing ribbing in the continental way paid off, as I was able to re-do all the ribbing (actually about 10% I wouldn't get the same amount of gathering).

I'm quite pleased with my progress so far. In fact, I'm pretty certain I will have to link to Ravelry for the remainder of my photos of this project so that my family won't get to see the project until my mom does at Christmas.

Here's a video describing how I do continental ribbing, in case there are those out there interested in learning it.

Four Days of Love
One of the best parts about four day holidays like this past weekend's Thanksgiving holiday here in the States, is that I get time to spend with my two loves.

Unfortunately, only one of them will let me take a picture of them!

Actually, Nico takes a bit of time getting used to me each weekend when I get home from work travel, and four days in a row with him and he turns into a complete love-bug.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Knitters - The Nicest and The Meanest

I had the great fortune to be able to meet up with the "Presto Knitters" this past Monday (they meet in downtown Wilmington on Monday nights for anyone interested), and they are a great group of women. We were discussing how the on-line knitting community has introduced us to both the most amazing people, and the most awful people.

Clearly the Presto Knitters are part of the former group!

Social Knitting
As anyone who has ever observed me at the Men's Knitting Retreats will tell you, when I'm around a group of knitters, I end up being WAY more interested in socializing than knitting.

The same was the case this past Monday. Here are pictures of the group.

I figured since I would only be going to this group once, I wouldn't bother myself with learning names.

The one in the center here is devilishly funny...ask her about Flamingo Bob if you ever meet her.

The woman on the right is Meghan...I promised I would link to her blog, Running With NEED to scroll down and check out the picture of her dog...she told me it was a chihuahua and something mix...can't remember the other breed, but he's a complete is Meghan.

The man in the corner was there for over 3 hours, completely surrounded by knitters and never once felt compelled to move to a quieter area of the cafe. I was astounded.

And finally, the devilishly funny one...I had to go all "papparazzi on her ass" because she was getting a bit too sassy. Although she did suggest a new video series, "Knitter Girls Gone Wild" where we'll get a bunch of knitter women drunk and have them flash for the video camera.

It was a great time, and I was sad to have only discovered this weekly group the last week of my stay in Wilmington!

Current Knitting
I've almost doubled the amount of work completed on the new project. doubled isn't so much...but once I get past the ribbing, I'm expecting the sweater to zip along.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the cardigan, Ron Huber asks, "Are you going to make set-in sleeves? And if so, how do you calculate them?"

Yes, the sweater will definitely have set-in sleeves. I usually calculate the set-in amount at about 10% of the width of the sweater. I then come up with the number of stitches to cast-off each row at the sleeve hole opening that will give it the correct looking shaping. In the case of this sweater, I will have to carve out about 2.5 inches which equates to about 33 stitches. This will end up being binding off 8 sts on the first row of the arm hole, 4 sts on the next 3 rows, 3 sts on the next 2 rows, 2 sts on the next two rows and 1 st on the next three rows...or something like that. If the result doesn't look right, I'll re-do it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Intent vs Letter

I know it seems a lot easier to have a world that's black and white with no grays, but as most of you know, life just doesn't work that way. Looking at what policies, rules and laws intend may take a bit more work, but it accomplishes what was originally....well....intended.

I have a friend who is very conservative, both politically and socially. He rages against folks that don't use turn signals, and can't abide folks that can't make snap decisions about things like sending troops into Afghanistan.

We were at lunch one day in a restaurant, and he loudly berated the waitress for some minor infraction of server etiquette. It seemed to me the ultimate in hypocrisy.

Etiquette, to me, is the set of rules by which we show civil politeness to each other, and yet my friend was willing to throw out all attempts at being fact he was quite insist that someone follow the rules of politeness.

The irony was lost on my friend when I tried to explain this.

I know it would be easier to just blindly follow the rules and pressure people to do the same, because a world of absolutes is so much easier, but the more experienced, sage folks among us will always tell you that there are no short-cuts. The easier, softer way will only lead to needing to fix shit later.

Current Knitting
I started a new project this week (as if I didn't have enough on the needles). A week or so ago, my mom asked me if I would make her a heather-gray cardigan for Christmas. She couldn't have asked for a nicer gift for both of us.

I measured one of her existing cardigans, did a bunch of test-swatches and then calculated out the majority of the pattern.

You can see I haven't gotten too far on the bottom ribbing, but based on the picture below, you'll note I'm working on quite small needles.

Fortunately, my mom is petite, so it shouldn't be too difficult getting this all knit up and finished in time for Christmas.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks to all who commented about the new recommendations on breast cancer screening. As always, I found your ideas interesting and thought-provoking, and I was mostly glad to be able to read perspectives from women. I was particularly grateful to hear from the women that shared personally incidences.

Regarding my latest gossamer lace project, Kerry writes, "That lace design is interesting. Is it one of your own designs or is it commercially available?"

It comes from one of my lace books...I think it's from Gossamer Webs by Galina Khmeleva. I can't remember the pattern stitch name at the moment, and I don't have it with me...I'll check when I get home on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Are Women Saying?

With the recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (an independent panel of government-appointed experts that reviews medical research and recommends ways to reduce the risk of illness and death) that mammograms women (who are not at high risk for breast cancer because of family history) should start at age 50 instead of 40, I was wondering what women feel about this change.

Personal Experience
Knowing a few under-50 women who were successfully treated for breast cancer because they followed current standards, I was at first very concerned about these new recommendations. But then I realized that the women I know, were all considered high-risk for breast cancer.

Even though the task force who made these recommendations is sponsored and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, I still got the impression the results were impartial and based on statistics and actual history of breast cancer detection. They also must have understood the shit-storm of response this recommendation would get.

So...I just wondered what the folks who are most affected by this decision think. Does it seem reasonable if the numbers add up? Or is this the latest in ways that bureaucracy have denied women adequate health care for years...or somewhere in between?

Current Knitting
I finally got around to doing a quick, careless blocking of my latest new project so I could get a picture of it.

Yes, I decided to start making myself a lace wrap using the Shetland gossamer singles I bought at Rhinebeck.

I'm glad I stopped to check my work through to this point, since I found a pretty significant error that required me to pull all this work out, and start again.

I'll keep you updated.

Readers' Comments/Questions
LesleyD and others have asked about the hand-spindled lace-weight, "Love the laceweight too!!! What's the lace weight's destiny?"

Not sure yet...I'm thinking about a nice lace scarf, but it definitely won't be for anything too big!

Regarding the political fighting over health care in the U.S., Canadian Barb B. asks, "Can you point at something that would help me make sense of this?"

Not really...most folks are mostly afraid of what they don't know...or they fear that a government run health plan might raise their taxes, reduce their existing (government-run) Medicare benefits or make them wait excessively for a necessary medical procedure. Dealing with the devil they know (the current for-profit insurance companies) is less scary than the devil they don't know...or in other words, it may be shit, but at least it's warm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Traitorous Bastards

The Republicans are now well beyond bi-partisan politics...and even beyond obstructionists...they're traitors...trying to undermine the President and the U.S. government at every turn.

Throw The Bums Out
Remember how "unpatriotic" you were if you didn't support George W. in every one of his decisions?

Remember how many conservatives who were disappointed with the last presidential election claimed that they would support this president and see what he could do?

Do you think the Republicans are hoping that the country will be in worse shape by the time they come up for elections and the Democrats will be blamed.

Well, I say the Republicans in this country are acting like treasonous jerks...sacrificing the country's welfare for their own selfish, power-hungry motives. They would rather see millions in this country go uninsured, rather than pass a health care bill. Hell, they'd rather see this country fall into ruins, rather than have the President look even the littlest bit successful.

I can only hope the folks that truly have this country's welfare in mind, will reject this bitter, unpatriotic nastiness, and tell their representatives that it won't be forgotten next time they're up for election. Hell, perhaps they should be tried for treason!

Current Knitting
Using up some of the left-over Berrocco Peruvian yarn from The Expedition Pullover, I started a new scarf...mostly because I didn't feel like getting into something overly complex.

I'm using what I thought would be a very interesting looking stitch, but it's turning out rather ordinary looking. Oh well, the scarf will look good and keep someone's neck warm even if the complexity of the stitch isn't evident when looking at the stitch pattern.

Current Spindling
I finished plying up about 120 yards of the laceweight I've been making on my drop spindles.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how this project is turning out so far...but even more pleasing is the new niddy noddy I got from Bosworths when I was at Rhinebeck. This little delight is a thing of beauty, and works just perfectly for the more delicate yarns I can create on a drop-spindle.

Readers' Comments/Questions
RowsRed, in responding to the yarn store in Livingston Manor, NY, asks, "Did you mean 'the Catskills'?"

In fact, I did. Van's store is in the Catskills. Sorry for my geographic gaffe and getting your hopes up.

Ted (the inspiration for my spindling project), asks, " are you plying that yarn? The best method for spindle-plying (IMO) is described by Abby Franquemont in this article:

I'm really just plying on a larger spindle, directly off the two smaller spindles. I read through Abby's great article, and will probably try it her way next time. Or perhaps I'll just keep spindling singles till May, and have Ted show me at the next retreat!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is It Worth $9.00?!?

Especially when there's a a Marvel Comic book called "Going Rogue" that goes for $45.99!

The Book's Not Even Out Yet
Yes, Sarah Palin's oeuvre (I think that means "rotten egg" in French), will be available for shipping from Amazon on November 17...less than a week...are you as excited as I am?

And even without a book on the shelves, the retail prices has gone from $28.99 to $9.00 on

Current Reading
I haven't posted about my reading pursuits lately, because I've been in the process of reading the first 5 of the Harry Potter series (still don't own the last two yet!).

For the most part, I've quite enjoyed reading the Harry Potter's been a relaxing and pleasant read, requiring very little of my concentration.

In the middle of the five books, I also took a little time out to read Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin. For those of you familiar with Maupin's Tales of the City series
of books, this one is a very pleasant ride down reading memory lane. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Back to knitting in my next post!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Perfect Coat For A Consultant

When you travel a lot, and go between climate zones and need to be prepared for cool weather, cold weather, rain and still have a coat that will go over a sports jacket or a casual shirt, there is no better coat than this.

Looks and Versatility
...No...I'm not talking about myself here.

This is the Barbour® Active Bedale Jacket. It's a waxed cotton coat that is water resistant, and can be worn on cool and somewhat cold days. You can also get an extra hood and a zip-in lining that makes it perfect for rainy days or days that get quite cold. It's very light to carry around and onto airplanes and can be crumpled up in a suitcase without getting it irreparably wrinkled. It also has quite a bit of pocket space.

Plus, it looks great in basic black.

It's an expensive little item, and care for the coat can be a bit fussy...especially if you send it away to have it re-waxed, but it is completely worth it.

I can't imagine how I lived as a consultant for years without it.

Current KnittingSpinning
I have been working on a new knitting project, but it's still not overly ready to photograph...not even sure it's going to work out at all.

So I did a bit more spindling of the lace-weight yarn from Black Bunny Fibers roving.

I've started plying the two singles onto my spindle from Tilt-a-Whorl. The resulting yarn is coming out very nicely, but I have to admit, it take a long time to spin such a fine yarn on drop-spindles!

Catskill Area Knitting
For those of you in the Catskill area of New York State, there's a Wednesday night knitting group at Mountain Bear Crafts. The store is located at:

8 Pearl Street
Livingston Manor, NY 12758

Say hi to my friend Van if you get to go!
Stop by and bring your current project for an enjoyable night of knitting.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Are You a Misfit?

I'm reading a lot lately of folks that consider themselves to be misfits...even among their own self-identified group of people.

Not Since High School
I haven't felt this way since High School.

There were certain areas where I had a lot of confidence in high school...French class, my part-time job, and at times with my friend Colleen. But for the most part, I felt like a complete misfit. Part of it was rejection by those peers from whom I sought some sort of validation...but the larger part was a self-identified isolation.

As a gay man in an allegedly predominantly heterosexual World, and one who has adopted a hobby that is certainly not mainstream, I think being a misfit would be a likely result. But when you take away the self-identification part, I find that those aberrant characteristics only serve to make me more interesting and multi-dimensional.

Or perhaps self-delusional.

Current Knitting
Was glad to get home to finish my latest sweater project, and I am very grateful to Todd for pulling together such a great pattern (he's also pulled together a Men's Knitting Retreat for this upcoming weekend in the Midwest...busy guy!).

I made a slight change to the sleeve. I figured since it was going to be a pretty warm sweater used on colder days, then I would rib the sleeve cuffs. I'll see what I can do to try and get Thaddeus to model the sweater for y'all...but don't hold your collective breath.

Readers' Comments/Questions
RaenCT asks, "Whats Birmingham like? My husband finally found a job in Birmingham (after a year of unemployment) and will be leaving in a month to start and find a new home for us. I have never been."

I've been down there quite a bit, and it's like most places...there are some wonderful parts and some less than wonderful parts. My experience of Birmingham is very limited...I stayed a great old hotel (the Tutweiler) and walked to my client. I went to a couple of very nice restaurants (John's City Diner and Little Savannah), but other than that, I can really only discuss the airport (which is small, but easy to manage).

Lesleyd271 writes, "In Birmingham AL still? That's where I am! shoot me an email if you want to catch a drink and some knits!!"

No...I actually just finished at that client, and most probably won't be back. Sorry to have missed you.

Monday, November 02, 2009

So Busy...So Important

Yes...if you could stop with all the camera flashes for a second, I'll breathlessly tell you all I've been doing. Along with my regular knitting and spinning (and irregular blogging about it, of course), I also had to fly to my client site last night and then take an early morning call to be interviewed by Swedish National Public Radio.

International Knit Fame
Every once in a while, a friend really will say something that will indicate that they envy my life, and I always think of something a wise person told me years ago, that helps me when I feel envious of someone or something:
"Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides."
Don't get me wrong, I really like my life, but like everyone else it has it's wearisome aspects.

I really did fly to my client site for the week but what I didn't mention is that I had to leave my house after dinner last night to make a 9:15 flight to Alabama, which was delayed for 2 hours, getting me into my Birmingham hotel at 12:30 am (thank goodness they're in a different time zone at least, so I could get 6 hours of sleep before my radio interview!). Jet-setting really isn't what it used to be.

I really was interviewed by someone from Swedish Radio. Lovisa Lamm will be airing a five-part series on knitting and other fiber arts sometime in December, and was very interested in the Men's Knitting was a delight to speak with her. When I googled her name and translated one of the Swedish pages about her radio programs, she did a series on how to survive using street smarts, including the following topics:
Så blir du din egen polis (How to become your own police)
Så överlever du som soldat (How to survive as a soldier)
kurs: Så blir du strippa (Course: How to become a stripper)
Jeanette: Så lyckades jag ta mig ur en gruppvåldtäkt (Jeanette: So I managed to get me out of a gang rape)
kurs: Så slår du ner en våldtäktsman (Course: How to turn down a rapist)
Hopefully the knitting programs will be a bit more sedate...I'll make sure to send out a link when it gets aired at the end of the year.

Current Knitting
I've been working on three projects since last I blogged. I ripped out the lace ribbing at the end of the Mini Mochi scarf, so I can add some more center repeats. I started a new lace project that I have to see if it pans out before I blog about it. And, I got more done on the Expedition Pullover...:

You can see I've finished the first sleeve, and I've started the second, and I've also added the buttons, which I thought were PERFECT for Todd's masterpiece of a design. The buttons are from Nature Buttons and they're lightweight, recycled ceramic buttons with a great mottled gray glaze on them. The color and the shape are exactly what this sweater needed.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding my latest spindling project, Wendelene asks, "Do you find it hard to keep your plys the same weight when you spin them on different spindles? I've bought several spindles over the years, and just can't seem to get the hang of them."

I'm surprised to read this. If anything, my spindling is a bit more even than my wheel spinning...I've always felt like I had a bit more control using drop-spindles than when I used my wheel. It's a little easier for me when I spin any fiber as thin as it allows...especially when the fiber is as evenly carded as this roving is. My only complaint with spindling is it takes me longer to get a similar result as the wheel, but I am truly enjoying both my latest spindles.

Pam writes, "The pink Chibi thing is just disturbing on several levels. Cheap plastic needle case selling for HOW MUCH(!!) because it happens to be pink?? And people were actually paying?"

Actually, the Chibi craze was an artificially created fad by someone on the KnitFlame list who wrote up some excellent eBay offerings and KnitList postings that gave the original color pink Chibi an amazing amount of snob appeal...she made it sound like you weren't a real knitter if you didn't have one in the original pink. What she didn't mention, was that they are still making pink was really a very clever demonstration of how you can bullshit some folks.