Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Good 'ole Days

Remember when blogs could allow you to write anything, no matter how controversial or personal?

Gone Are The Days...
When I first started writing QueerJoe, I was a very different person and had quite a few very different priorities.

I often wrote blistering critiques of magazine and book designs (or designers in general) and I had no qualms about taking on ignorant viewpoints about politics, queer issues or personal pet-peeves.

I was also a lot more anonymous back then. People really didn't know who I was in real life, so I could afford to express my opinions, even when they were offensive.

A number of different factors have taken away some of that anonymity (Facebook, organizing the Men's Knitting Retreat, Rhinebeck, etc.), and more and more people actually know who I am, and might care a LOT about when I say something offensive. In recent months, I even met someone on my current project who knew about my blog.

I have to say, that when family, co-workers, friends, donors for the Men's Knitting Retreats, designers who I know personally, etc. are comprising the group of people who read this blog, it has definitely affected the things I write.

I thought I would hate feeling restricted in this way, but I'm finding it more satisfying to know that I can write a blog to such a complex audience.

Current Knitting
I finished weaving in all the ends in the Asherton Baby Blanket, and now I just need to wash it and block it. I think I'll wash and block both baby blankets at the same time and get them packed up and ready to send off to the expecting parents.

I also went back to an old sock project for this week's travels.

Remember these? I frogged the top of the first finished sock and re-finished it (so I could use up as much yarn as possible and get the longest cuff), and now I just have to finish up the other one.

I also like the Skacel sock yarns so much, it's practically all I knit socks with anymore. If I finish up my current socks, I'll start work on this new yarn, Skacel's Austermann Step sock yarn.

I LOVE this colorway, and I just noticed that one of the vendors who donated this year to the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat...Woolbearers in Mt. Holly, NJ, carries the Austermann Step yarn, although they don't have it in their on-line store. I may have to call them to see what colors they carry!

Readers' Comments/Questions
Leslie Sharr writes, "Pulling something like the Retreats off is very hard work, Joe. Do you think you'll do it again or will you request more assistance or hand it off to someone?"

Actually, coordinating the retreats has become relatively easy. Once we organized the first one, we could re-use a lot of the forms and web pages and ideas for subsequent ones. And honestly, these retreats are a lot easier than others, in that the guys who come to them are all fully committed to making them a success, as opposed to some similar events I've been to where attendees are more expecting to have things done to them or for them...if that makes sense.

All that being said, I am trying to set up the structure and the organization of the events in such a way that someone else could take it on if they wanted to, but I will definitely be organizing next year's event.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Actually Happens At a Men's Knitting Retreat?

In preparing for the radio interview about Men's Knitting Retreats, I was asked the question, "What actually happens at the retreat?"

Two Answers
I found it difficult to answer this question.

While I could certainly describe the logistics and the agenda, I honestly feel that what really happens at the retreat is that we establish relatively immediate community...and a close community at that.

But first the logistics/agenda description:

  1. There is registration at Easton's front desk and then we hang out in a couple of areas in the main lodge, knitting, saying hi to old friends, introducing ourselves to new ones, etc.
  2. Dinner and then the official kick-off where we meet in the main retreat room and talk about ground rules, give-away bags and contents, the door-prizes, the general philosophy of the retreat, and then do a little get-to-know-you exercise (very little this year). Then more informal knitting/socializing.
  3. Sleep/breakfast and then the Friday morning workshops. Lunch, and then the Friday afternoon road trip to a sheep farm or a workshop.
  4. Dinner and then the "Show & Tell" time where everyone gets to show off completed projects to both the retreaters and the volunteers/staff members who care to watch and/or participate (we had one staffer show off a crochet poncho he had made).
  5. Sleep, breakfast and then Saturday morning workshops. Lunch, afternoon workshops.
  6. Dinner and awarding of door prizes and then the slumber party/movie night where pajamas and other night wear is encouraged while we sit in the main retreat room and project a movie on sort-of-screen. We watched Hairspray (the original) and Waiting For Guffman this year.
  7. Sleep, breakfast and then awarding "Best In Show" prize and announce a lottery winner this year. Then we have a feedback/planning session for the next year.
  8. Lunch/check out and depart (so sad)

In between all this, there is lots of informal knitting, chatting and lots of laughing. There's a big hammock for relaxing, a hot tub, massage therapist appointments, a nightly wood-burning sauna and plenty of places to hike.

But as I started with, most of the guys don't really care about the particulars of the retreat...they really care about how incredibly loving and supportive the other guys are and how welcome they feel as a member of their own people. That part is MUCH more powerful than any workshop or massage.

Here are a bunch of photos that will help demonstrate that (hopefully it's obvious!).

Current Knitting
I have finished all the knitting on the second baby blanket and now I have about a dozen ends to weave in and blocking to be done.

I have no idea what I'll be working on next, but minimally, I will probably start a pair of socks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

QueerJoe Loves Men

Specifically, QueerJoe loves the knitting men that show up each year to enjoy the Men's Knitting Retreats.

Another Magical Retreat
Each year, for the last four years, an unlikely group of guys has shown up at the Easton Mountain Retreat Center, quickly bonding over the commonality of love for all things fiber.

The magic happened again this year, and even though we had a lot of guys that had never been to the retreat, the exuberance was almost immediate.

Here are just a few photos from the retreat...I'll post some additional photos of the guys sometime later this week.

Current Knitting
As anyone who's ever been with me at a retreat, they'll know that I rarely knit while I'm there.

I know, I know, it seems antithetical, but I honestly don't go to the retreat so I can knit...I go so I can hang out with the guys.

So, I'm still working on finishing the second baby blanket...hopefully I'll have the completed photo next blog entry, but I'm not promising anything.

Readers' Comments/Questions
oh kiki writes, "I think the blanket is turning out beautifully. Great choice of yarn - it suits the pattern well. One question: did you put extra stitches when you changed colors? "

No, not really. The scarf pattern has two stitches of garter on each side, and I actually used some garter on the inside stitches, but not for color changing. I could have easily not used them at all except on the outside.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Effects of eReaders

A number of people who ask me how I like my eReader (Nook from Barnes & Noble), feel compelled to tell me that they prefer the feel of holding a book and turning pages.

Do I Sound Like A Salesperson?
I always feel as if I'm expected to defend eReading, and that my apprehensive "customer" is expecting me to do the hard sell on it.

I don't feel the need to do so. If you want to know what I like about my Nook, I can tell you (it's convenient for travel, I can buy a book the moment I hear about it, ebooks in general are cheaper to purchase, I can lend books to friends, it saves my place automatically, and overall, I read a lot more). But if you don't like the idea of an eReader, I am perfectly okay with you not getting one.

I'd be interested to find out if other eReader owners experience this same kind of phenomenon.

Suffice it to say, I have read a few books lately that I absolutely LOVED. I will name three, in case folks are looking for a book recommendation from someone with my aesthetic taste:

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone

Breakfast With Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha

Until I Find You by John Irving

Until I Find You

Current Knitting
So I got some of the top and bottom edging done on the Asherton Baby Blanket, which makes me love it even more.

Since I didn't really feel like measuring the blanket on the airplane, so I could figure out how many stitches I wanted on the side edgings, I opted to just work on weaving in ends. I'll work more on the edgings for the remainder of the week.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Live Radio

Can they really trust what will come out of my mouth during a live interview about knitting?

Listen In!
Well, it turns out that the Radio Show, "Quest of Life" will be doing a live interview with me, Ted and WonderMike about the men's knitting retreat, knitting and other related topics.

"Quest of Life" is a radio show broadcast each Friday at noon on RPI radio station in Troy, New York. The show is co-hosted by Harry Faddis and a good friend of mine, Stephen Sims. Harry is part of the staff of Easton Mountain, where we host the annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. And Stephen is a friend I met while I was working up in the Albany, NY area for a number of years. Harry handles the interviews, and Stephen handles the music.

The show is streamed live each week, and also recorded and stored as a downloadable podcast, so even if you live in New Zealand, you can still get to hear three of the men's knitting retreat coordinators talk about the retreat, knitting and life in general.

Current Knitting
With all the preparations for the upcoming retreat and the craziness at work, I haven't had a lot of time to knit. Even my plane time is used for mostly catching up on sleep!

I have however almost completed the main body of the Asherton Baby Blanket.

Once I finish up the last row of blocks, I'll knit a simple garter stitch border, using different colors of yarn.

The blanket so far has turned out soft, warm, beautiful, machine washable, and reversible. I couldn't think of anything else I'd want built in to a baby blanket.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks everyone for their comments on the crochet baby blanket edging.

I've decided that Thaddeus is right (hard to type those words again!), and I will use the plain/non-shell edging on the blanket. For the most part, that just means ripping out what I did, weaving in ends and washing/blocking the blanket.

I should be able to get it done in time for show & tell at the Men's Knitting Retreat next week.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Knitting or Blogging

With my current work schedule and all the stuff with putting together this year's Men's Spring Knitting Retreat (which is going to be AWESOME!), I felt that I could either knit, or blog about no knitting.

I Chose To Knit
It appears that Ted, Wondermike and I will be doing a live radio interview on the Friday of the retreat. Once it's fully confirmed, I'll provide all the details (because you'll be able to stream the show/interview live if you care to listen), but in preparation for the interview, we had to really delve into what is the purpose of the men's knitting retreats.

I was reminded again about the odd ways that men are perceived when they knit in publish whilst knitting on the plane this past week (see baby blanket below). I had one of three typical reactions:
1. Completely Ignored - Folks would pretend I wasn't doing anything more interesting than reading the in-flight magazine.
2. Disdained - My seat mate was a somewhat redneck sort of guy who actually grunted a bit in disgust when he realized what I was doing right next to him (is knitting contagious?)
3. Fawned over - One of the flight attendants went on and on about how amazing it was that I knit (and I wasn't doing it with any other appendage than my hands, despite the fact that I'm male).
Being with 45 guys in a few weeks, just enjoying knitting without any other energy spent on dealing with the fallout of knitting in public will be a complete joy.

I can't wait to feel normal(ish).

Current Knitting/Crocheting
First of all, I still haven't finished the crochet baby blanket...or maybe I have...I need help in deciding.

I completed a rather plain, wide border, using varying width of random striping of the colors in the blanket, and then I started to do a simple 5 double-crochet shell edging. When I was about halfway through with the final edging, Thaddeus asked me why I was putting such an old-fashion border on such a contemporary looking baby blanket. I value is aesthetic eye in these matters, but I still thought I'd ask readers which they prefer...a plain, squared off border, or a shell border.

Leave a comment as to which you prefer (by the way, the color of the blank is much more like the first photo than the second).

I also got some additional work done on the knitted baby blanket, using the Asherton Scarf pattern as the stitch pattern.

I love this blanket...love the colors, love the fabric and love that it's reversible.

Finally, I needed a quick, but elegant second birthday gift for a friend who's birthday was this past week. I was able to knit up a beautiful Neck Warmer (Crafty Andy's Urbanite Neck Warmer pattern).

I also got to use some of Regina's Nature Buttons. The light-weight ceramic she uses was perfect on this alpaca fabric and her glaze colors are incredibly rich and perfect on knitted items.

My friend tried it on, and she looked MUCH better than I do in it and she loved it.