Sunday, August 29, 2010

Regrets, I Have A Few

But how I've maintained my blog over the years isn't one of them.

What I'd Do Differently
Not sure how many folks who read this have been reading for the almost eight years that I've been blogging at QueerJoe, but for those who have, you probably remember some of the bumps and jolts when I first started.

I started reading Marilyn's and Wendy's blogs early on, and thought I might have something to say. I guess I didn't realize at the time that I could maintain something to say for quite so long.

When I first started writing, I was clear that I wasn't about fawning or empty praise. I was more hopeful that I would start a readership that would participate in interesting dialog. That's when I first established the "QueerJoe's Blog Rules." They were a list of rules of how I required readers to participate (or opt not to participate). Boy, I don't even know where they are anymore, but they sure pissed off a few people.

I also wrote a number of highly opinionated and sometimes insulting blog entries.

I was lucky to have quickly established a core group of readers who were interested in participating here as interesting, and opinionated readers and commenters. They soon became critical in defending the principles I had tried to establish.

Overall, I think I made a few mis-steps along the way, but for the most part, I've very pleased with what this small space on the internet has become. Largely, I attribute the blogging longevity to the folks that participate here...even if it's only by lurking.

Current Knitting
I made my way back to the purple Malabrigo Silky Merino pullover and I've made quite a bit of progress on the sleeves (if you remember, I started both sleeves at once).

I guess it's about 12 inches of sleeve, and I still have about 10 more increase rows before they're as wide as they'll get. You can also see (in the sleeve that's fully spread out) the center column of stitch patterning. I will continue this up through the shoulder strap and sew the front and back shoulders to this when it's finished.

Flea Market Partner
In addition to going to the local flea market each Saturday and Sunday, Thaddeus goes on Wednesdays by himself (when I'm traveling during the week, which is almost always). This past week, he spotted these two vintage gems:

The Pineapple motif crochet book is quite good, and may even inspire me to make an old fashioned bedspread or tablecloth. The men's collegiate sweater book is quite a hoot. Nothing in it that I would actually make, but it is all men's sweaters, so I thought it was relevant. Perhaps I'll bring it to the Men's Knitting Retreat in a couple of weeks.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Tom writes, "Love the way the mawl turned out. If this is your own pattern, would you consider offering it through The Knitting Vault? Please?"

I don't plan on publishing the pattern, but I did write up instructions on my project page for it on Ravelry that should allow anyone to knit this garment. If you're not on Ravelry, just e-mail me and I'd be glad to send out the basic "pattern."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

But What Are They For?!?!

We know that conservatives...especially the newly energized tea party types...don't want. Socialized anything. A higher deficit. Having their guns taken away. Higher taxes.

But what is it they want?

Time For Sanity
The conservative right has done an excellent job of getting folks to froth at the mouth when it comes to anything proposed by the current administration. But the only thing that has done is put a roadblock on any progress at all.

I would love to see anyone who could bring together such opposing ideas in a way that would help this country (and possibly the World) progress.

Naive...I know.

There were a lot of things I opposed during the Bush Jr. years, but I was also actively for a lot of things as well. Election reform, civil rights laws (especially for the poor and disenfranchised) and increased attention to education are all very important to me.

We need to dismiss the politicians and the campaigners who talk only about what they are against and ask them to focus more on how they can bring people together for their betterment. I can't believe that folks won't be tired of the "stop everything" conservatives in office and will look for a more hopeful future when November rolls around.

Current Knitting
I finished the mohair "mawl" this past weekend, and I really love how it came out.

It's rustic enough in fabric texture and color to appeal to my style, and yet it's very functional, light-weight and warm. I also love how the mitered ends look, especially the muted brown stripes that accentuate the corner-ends.

I'm quite please with it.

Current Spinning
I got some additional work done on the charcoal alpaca singles I'll use to ply with the Black Bunny Fiber singles I finished a few weeks back.

I still have quite a bit more to spin before I have enough to ply all the brighter colored singles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blogging and Working

Working can be such an annoyance when I'm trying to both blog about knitting (and about other things) and do enough knitting to justify a blog entry.

QueerJoe Blog Business
I was honestly surprised that so many knitters responded to the offer of the Barbara Walker 2nd Treasury. There were 27 people who asked to be considered for the book. Thirteen guy-knitters wanted the book, including the 8 year old great-nephew of a blog reader. There were folks that wanted the book for charity knitting libraries and others that have just always wanted the book, but didn't have it yet.

I printed off individual slips of paper with each requester's name on it and threw them up in the air above Nico's head...letting him decide who got the book by choosing the paper that he touched first.

After frantically attacking the cloud of paper slips, Nico chose Darrell from Oregon as the lucky winner of the flea market book. Congratulations Darrell (who has a cat the looks like Gage and Nico). I'll be sending the book out at the end of this week.

If I find any more copies of this gem, I'll be glad to let folks know again.

Current Knitting
I am so close to finishing the mohair "mawl"...or at least finishing the initial mitered rectangle.

Since this is about six feet long, and knit length-wise (kind of), the photos suck, but I have to show SOMETHING! Once the initial rectangle is finished (less than 40 more rows of garter stitch), I plan on using whatever yarn I have left over to increase the width of the "mawl." I'd love it to be at least 20 inches wide, but we'll see if I have enough yarn left over.

I also did some additional work on the cashmere lace stole, but again, not enough to justify a new progress picture.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Janet writes, "Joe - if you do make it to the Seattle Retreat could you and a few of your mates please set aside a day for a coed knitting meeting. I expect to be back in Seattle soon and it would be fun to meet up."

That would be fun. Since I'm not sure what my schedule will be yet, I'll leave it up in the air. Last year, after the official retreat ended, we had a visit from Stephen's (HizKnit's) sister...she actually joined in the fun after it was no longer an official retreat, but she was a blast. I'll see what I can arrange with the coordinator of the event or check my Seattle-based schedule outside of the event once it's determined.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Communing With Men - Again

I'm very fortunate that my work will allow me to get to go to the 2010 Men's Fall Knitting Retreat in Seattle again this year.

Nothing Like a Group of Knitter-Men
There are a number of barriers that can get in the way of someone making it to one of the men's knitting retreats. Obviously, you must first identify as male. Second, you must have decided to disregard any public scorn and have picked up the hobby of knitting (or crochet, or spinning). Third, you must have a certain level of enthusiasm for your craft to compel you to spend money to be with like-minded guys. Finally, you must make it through all the logistical barriers of making time, budgeting money and traveling to the retreat location.

For the guys who have made it through all this, the resulting select group of guys is incredibly supportive and enthusiastic.

Who wouldn't want to be part of that if they could?

Current Knitting
I know that if you've ever knit a lot of it, you know how slowly garter stitch grows. It still doesn't quite fully explain why I'm only about halfway finished with the mohair mawl, but it's the best I can come up with at the moment.

I've decided to put two narrow, subtly colored stripes in the mawl. I'm using a natural colored cormo handspun yarn. It won't have a huge impact on the overall design, but I'm hopeful it will slightly accentuate the geometry of the garment when it's done.

I've done a little bit more on the cashmere lace as well, but not enough to merit a photograph.

Current Spinning
I'm not sure if I ever showed that I finished spinning up the singles from the trendy colored Black Bunny Fiber of unknown content (feels somewhat merino-ish). But I'm planning on plying this with the same charcoal gray alpaca singles I used with the mohair from Puff the Magic Rabbit.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this yarn turns out since the mohair was so full of surprises.

Anyone Need A Treasury?
I found an extra copy of Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury in the old format at my local flea market.

Since I already have a copy of this book, if anyone would like it, just send me an e-mail at with where you'd like it sent. If I get a few folks interested, I'll have Nico pick a random name and send it to them.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Car Buying 101

I wish I had some advice for would-be car buyers, but I really don't.

New Car
Thaddeus' vintage 1983 diesel Mercedes 240D took us on what will probably be our last trip in that car. But fortunately she went out in style...she schlepped us up to Buttsville, New Jersey to Hot Dog Johnny's.

At some point while we downed five hot dogs each (with everything, of course) and icy birch beer, there was a catastrophic failure in the old cars heating and air conditioning. We made it home fine, albeit a bit warmer than the trip there, but despite Thaddeus' best efforts, it doesn't look like the car will ever have any temperature control again. And at this point, we decided there was no use putting more money into the car.

So we bought a new one.

This is a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportswagen TDI (the TDI stands for Turbocharged Direct Injection...but more importantly, it means the car runs on diesel fuel). While the new diesel technology has a low tolerance for bio-diesel fuel, it is still extremely fuel efficient, and runs like a dream.

As for negotiating its purchase, I have to admit, we never really know if when we get a good deal. The federal government gives a tax credit for these cars because of their fuel-efficiency, but the amount of the credit goes down based on the number of cars sold. Originally, it was $1,300, but now it's down to $650. When it was at its highest amount, most folks were paying over sticker price for the cars. We ended up getting ours for $500 under sticker, which we thought was decent. I would imagine that if we had really pushed, we probably could have gotten $1,000 off sticker, but it would have taken a lot longer than the 3 hours it took to buy this car.

Have to say, while I'll continue to drive my Honda Accord, I love how this car rides and I'm glad we got it.

Current Knitting
I'm still splitting my time between two knitting projects.

I've made some significant headway on the mohair "mawl."

It looks like when all is said and done, the garment will be about 5 or 6 feet long and about 12 inches wide. If I have yarn left over, I will supplement the width some, so that I'll have both a wrap, and a lap blanket. I'm also thinking that blocking it will give me a bit more width.

I've made a bit less progress on the cashmere lace knitting.

Just about to hit the part of the stitch pattern with four rows of nupps, but I should make some headway this weekend anyway.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Tom asks, "Love the way the mohair turned out. Now, which bear friend are you making the "mawl" for???"

Actually, I'm pretty certain it will be for me. I thought the garment name of "mawl" for a man-shawl worked both from a concatenation-of-words perspective, but also from a masculine/bear word perspective. Didn't mean to tease my bear friends!

Monday, August 02, 2010

UnReality Television

Where did they ever get the label "reality tv?" It's hardly real-life situations...especially when real-life would be pretty boring to watch.

The Fabulous Beekman Boys
Have you seen this one yet? About two NYC gay boys that decide to run a farm/bed&breakfast/cheese-making business in upstate NY?

I'm not a real big fan of the show, but I have seen most of the episodes so far (I think). I really love Farmer John, who takes care of the goats and other real farming duties. He seems to be an extremely sweet man, and I LOVE the fact that his love for his goats brings him to tears.

In the last episode I watched, Farmer John had hip-replacement surgery and was staying at the Beekman house to recuperate, and they showed a very short clip of him crocheting.

Now I love him even more.

Current Knitting
I've put the Malabrigo Silky Merino to the side for a bit...I just can't seem to bring myself to pick up the sleeves and work on them.

Especially when I have a fun lace project on the needles.

I've almost finished two full repeats on this, and I love the yarn, I love the stitch pattern and I love how open and gauzy the fabric is turning out.

I also started a new knitting project with the latest yarn I spun up using Mindy's mohair roving (see below in "Current Spinning")

Current Spinning
I finished up spinning more charcoal singles and then plying the Puff The Magic Rabbit mohair. Here's an in-focus photograph of the plied yarn.

Here's a photo of it loosely laid out.

And here's a photo in the hank.

It turned out to be a light sport weight yarn...about 675 yards of it.

I have to admit that at each stage of the spinning/plying/washing process, I was surprised at how the yarn turned out. I had envisioned a much different end-product when I started the process, and then again when I started plying and yet again prior to washing the final yarn.

Suffice it to say, I love how the yarn turned out, so much so that I had to start a new knitting project right away.

I've decided to try and do a simple garter/mitered rectangle man-shawl...or "mawl" for the bears among my readers.

Not much to show so far, but I'm liking it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Susan writes, "So sorry to hear that Thaddeus had problems with his LASIK. Are they resolved?"

Yes and no. They never really corrected his right eye to his satisfaction, but at least they were able to eliminate a problem he had with epithelial cells growing under the flap.

Susan also writes, "A pizza stone makes homemade pizzas marvelous. Ever try one?"

Yes, we have one, and it's better than a pan, but not as good as pizzeria pizza.

Finally Susan writes, "Also, when Colorado peaches are in season, I make enough pie filling for about half a dozen pies, then freeze it in pie pans. Then during the winter, I just pop one into a pie shell. Has Thaddeus ever tried this with his white peach/white nectarine pie?"

Not with peaches/nectarines...just with blueberries and sour cherries.

Rosemary writes, "Love the lace! Where did you find the pattern? If it's one of your own, will you please write it out or give us a link for it?"

It's from the estonian lace knitting book, "Haapsalu Shawl." If you love knitting lace, and don't have this book, you need to own it...the stitch dictionary is amazing.

Will writes, "I will trade a private concert for Thaddeus's pie (spoken with a crazed look in my eyes)"

Only if you can play Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" on the harp at one or more points during said concert.

Angela writes, "So, what may I offer as a bribe/ego-stroking/etc to get some details of the lovely stitch pattern on the Malabrigo Lacy Merino pullover? I've searched my resources and can't find anything remotely as beautiful and it's exactly the look I've been wanting for a skirt. Please, share with your devoted fans! "

No bribe/ego-stroking necessary. The stitch pattern is something I modified based on a sock pattern in "The Knitting (Man)ual)" by Kristen Spurkland. Forget the name of the sock pattern, but you'll recognize it immediately.

Marylou writes, "Oh this Jersey girl misses good tomato pie. My aunt used to take me to a place in Chambersburg - the name escapes me now, where I swear I could eat a whole one by myself."

The place is probably DeLorenzo's which many people say is the best tomato pie, but I can't believe they've been to Palermo's if they say that...Palermo's is awesome. And just so you know, the first couple of times Thaddeus and I went to Palermo's, we did both eat a whole pie.