Monday, January 28, 2013

Homework Lesson

I've taken two courses now on Craftsy - Alasdair's class on Adventures in Double-Knitting (which is still available for half price!), and a free cooking class on Perfect Pizza at Home.

Double-Knitting - No Pizza

I was able to do the first exercise from Alasdair's class, but wasn't yet able to experiment with making homemade pizza.


This great little exercise lets you do a manageable piece of knitting (by the magic of digital photography, you get to see both sides of the same piece).  Boy did I learn a lot (despite...or because of mistakes I made).

Now to experiment with pizza!

Current Knitting

I've made some minimal progress on the Icelandic Wool Pullover.  I'll post a photo next time.

I also finished up the Bison/Milk Product yarn scarf.


Readers' Comments/Questions

Marty writes, "The scent thing-lots of us are allergic to scents and even the tiny bit that has transferred to the cup lid can set us off. You really have a manly latte, Joe, I have two shots in a vente."

Actually, I'm not usually affected by scents at all, but I can taste whatever is on the barista's hand.  As for my macho latte (is that oxymoronic?), I like the tast of Starbucks espresso, and a grande normally comes with two shots...I add two additional shots for taste (mostly) and for caffeine.

Regarding the amount of yarn I have for my current sweater, withmyneedles writes, "I am so interested in the answer to this last question! A friend just gifted me 4 balls of Icelandic wool, in two colors. Maybe a vest is the way to go..."

It turns out each hank I have has about 250 yards and I have 10 of them.  I'll have plenty to make a full, XL pullover.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Customer's Shoes

One of the most common customer service suggestions, is to put yourselves in the customer's shoes.  Not always easy to do.

Personal Failings...Others' Failings

I can't honestly say that I often find myself asking, "How would my client see this?"  I'm fortunate, in that I'm pretty attuned to seeing feedback in subtle reactions, and so I can often realize a mistake I've made or a faux pas I've committed by the reactions of the people I work with.  Fortunately, catching these on time happens often enough to avert problems, but it might have been easier if the problem never occurred.

I'm a frequent visitor to Starbucks when I travel.  I like their lattes and espresso beverages.


My standard order is a quad, grande, one sugar, extra-hot latte.

For the professional baristas out there, I want to make a personal plea...I want to beg all those good people that make my beverages to PLEASE not use hand lotions or soaps with any scents in them.  Even the mildest smells from your hands gets transferred to my cup lid when you put it on, and it usually doesn't go well with the flavor of a latte (otherwise, I'm sure you'd have a syrup for it).

Glad that's off my chest.

Current Knitting

Continued to make some minimal progress on the Icelandic Wool Pullover (although it's NOT an Icelandic-type sweater).



This shows how much almost one full hank of this yarn can make, so now I can figure out if I have enough yarn to make a full sweater, or whether I'll need to either supplement with other yarn or if I should switch to a vest design.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Own Personal Knitting Teacher

I have a shameful knitting secret.  I hate to ask for help and will only do so when I can absolutely not figure something out on my own.

Arrogant Know-It-All

Yes, that's me...I'm one of those.  Now you know my shame (at least one of them).

You would never catch me dead taking a class at Stitches, VKLive, Madrona or any other fiber-group setting where classes are offered (Men's Knitting Retreats are different...I don't know why, exactly...but they are).  It would be like admitting there was something I didn't know and didn't have the resources to figure out my own damn self.

However, I have just discovered something AWESOME that let's me learn from some of the best teachers, and NOT do so publicly.

Has anyone tried Craftsy video classes yet?

There are over 30 knitting related topics listed out there from notable designers like Deborah Robson, Donna Druchunas, Fiona Ellis and Alasdair Post-Quinn.  And topics ranging from Icelandic Sweaters, Sock Knitting, Writing Knitted Patterns...and the one I opted for, Adventures in Double-Knitting, by Alasdair.



With over four and a half hours of video tutorial, and the ability to review, pause and loop 30 seconds of a video while you practice, these tutorials are amazing.  The quality of the videos is excellent and detailed, with indices and bookmarks to easily find specific sections of the lesson.  Even though I was able to read through Alasdair's book, Extreme Double-Knitting, I am finding I didn't really understand some parts of it, and also found better ways of doing some things by going through his Craftsy course (yes, I grudgingly admit it!).

I wrote to him to thank him and he's made an awesome offer...if anyone would like to take his course on Adventures in Double-Knitting on Craftsy, you can get it for half-prices right now (normally, the full course is  $39.99, but you can get it for $19.99).  But you need to go to a special link to buy it:

Discounted Crafty Course - Adventures in Double-Knitting by Alasdair Post-Quinn

I'd also be interested to hear of any other courses (knitting or other crafts) that folks have taken on Craftsy...I'm hooked!

Current Knitting

I'm totally enjoying my current pullover project...the Icelandic wool pullover.  The yarn is great, the stitch pattern is simple and satisfying, and the result is looking good.


I know it doesn't look like I've done much since Sunday.  Think of it as me savoring this project.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Mrs. Invisible writes, "Hi Jo , I am totally bemused by the fact you are knitting a jumper in the round, do you just keep going round and round until it's the right length? marking each row as you go round.? We usually use straight needles here in the U.K. Also do you use these needles for the sleeves as well?"

Actually, it was someone from the U.K. who taught me I could knit jumpers in the round...Alice Starmore!  But I don't always knit pullovers/jumpers in the round, only when it's more useful.  For this design, I'm planning on knitting in the round until I get to the sleeve opening, and then I'll knit front and back separately (and flat).  I don't anticipate knitting the sleeves in the round...I prefer a seam on the underside of the sleeve rather than decreases..

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Distrust of Doctors

Okay...how do you know when you can trust your doctor, your dentist, your chiropractor?

Trustworthy?

I worked for an incredibly successful chiropractic clinic when I first graduated college...doing their insurance and patient billing.  From this experience, I made two decisions:

  1. First, I believe chiropractic is a great way of staying healthy. Personal experience has shown me that  spinal subluxations can block functionality to the nerves that extend out from the spine, and removing those blockages can help keep you healthy in many ways.
  2. Second, chiropractors can be some of the most greedy, self-serving sheisters on the planet, concerned more with making money than helping people get healthy.  And personally, I think some dentists might even be worse.

Fortunately, I have found an exceptional chiropractor in my area, who I trust.  But I can't say the same for my dentist.  As for my medical care providers, I am convinced if I don't advocate for my own health care, they will do what is financially best for them when it comes to my care and treatment.

So, how do you find someone you trust?  When your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, or to have a tooth pulled or a crown, how do you know if it's completely necessary or just something that has a high profit margin for them?  When your physician thinks it's overkill to do a stress test to check for cardiac issues, how do you know she's not doing it to save their clinic from getting dinged by your HMO?

Current Knitting

Looking for some inspiration on my next project, I turned to Pinterest, where I have this sweater posted to my board for Knitting and Crochet.


It appeared to be stockinette stitch, with the fourth stitch of every other row slipped, to elongate it.  I tried swatching this first with some dark yarn from Ray at Knitivity, but the stitch pattern hardly showed up at all with the dark yarn, and I also realized it the fabric in the sweater above required a slipping the fifth stitch every other row.

Here's what I've done so far on my latest pullover.


This is 300 sts of ribbing with a couple of inches of the faux ribbing created by slipping the fifth stitch of every other row.  I'm knitting it with the Icelandic wool yarn from  Sweet Dreams Farm that I bought at the Southern Adirondack Sheep & Wool Festival this past year.  Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern.


The yarn is a beautiful, shimmery, silver-gray color, and has a bit of a halo.  When it's blocked, it will be pretty close to the fabric in the first photo...but perhaps I just had trouble seeing past the model when I decided to try and replicate this sweater?


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Education, Education, Education

I've always contended that the most important aspect to the success of a community or even a country, is the quality of education delivered to its children.

Fixes a Myriad of Problems

When the education system works, it has the ability to bring communities out of poverty, to decrease joblessness, to diminish illicit drugs and to significantly reduce crime.  Investing in education is the best long-term strategy for everyone, and despite being one of the platforms the President ran on, it doesn't seem like he's had the bandwidth to give it much attention.

That's too bad.

But when it comes to education, I'm starting to wonder what aspects are relevant any more.  The grammarians in most of my social networking sites are all about there, their, they're and your and you're.
And I even mentioned recently how much I hate reading sentences such as, "When it comes to playing sports with my brothers, I hate to loose."

But how important is grammar...more important than understanding what it means to call someone a nazi?  More important than understanding the importance of a book like Lord of the Flies?  More important than instilling patriotism or integrity or compassion?  So many important decisions to be made about what goes into the heads of our youth, I can't imagine we can accomplish it without some big investments to attract the kind of teachers we want interacting with our children.

Perhaps climate change and the debt are more important.

Current Knitting

I've been continuing to work on the broken rib scarf using the Bison/Milk Product yarn blend I spun a little while ago.



Not too much further to go...and let me tell you, this scarf might not look like much, but it is as soft as you could imagine.  I'm loving working with this yarn.

Readers' Comments/Questions

A number of readers asked how I blocked the Milano Blanket.

I just soaked it in my washing machine and spun out the excess water.  Then I covered the guest bed with towels and laid the blanket out on the bed, folding up the sides so it didn't stretch.  I guess I could have just folded it in quarters and blocked it that way too.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Knitting With Men

If I'm remembered for nothing else than that I helped to establish the Men's Knitting Retreats, I'll consider that worth having lived for.

Four Days With 45 Guys and Yarn

The registration for the 2013 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in Upstate New York opened last week, and even though it's only January, and the retreat is in May, I'm already starting to look forward to spending time with an incredible group of guys.

Each year, without fail, around 40 guys show up at Easton Mountain with only two things in common...they are men, and they make things with yarn (knit, crochet, tat, weave, spin...etc.).

But those two things create a bond that is so uniquely special, that when this community gets together, some sort of magic happens.  I'm not sure why.  The group is diverse in many ways.  We have young guys and old guys and middle-age guys.  We have straight guys, gay guys and bi guys and transgendered guys.  We have bears and twinks and boring guys like me that aren't either of those.  We have extroverted, social animals and extremely shy and introverted guys.  We have guys from all over the world.

Each year, I come away from this group of guys a better person than when I first met them.

Ask any of the guys who have been and they'll say something similar about the experience...it's amazing.

This year's Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is being held from Thursday, May 16th through Sunday, May 19th at Easton Mountain Retreat Center.  We're reserving three spots in this year's retreat specifically for new knitters, or guys that want to learn to knit.  We also have scholarships available if you know of someone that you'd like to nominate (even if it's for yourself!).  Nominate someone here.

Latest Update:  Even though we just opened registration a week ago, there are only 12 spots left for this year's retreat in case anyone's interested in attending (one of them is for a newbie knitter).

Current Knitting

After finishing such a large and long project, I needed to start something simple and that I could finish quickly.  The milk solid/bison mix handspun yarn was still hanging in my craft area, so I thought I'd use it to make a quick scarf.


I'm using a simple broken rib stitch that looks the same on both sides, and I'm alternating 6 rows of the bison/milk solid mix with two rows of the milk solid only yarn.  Hopefully I'll have enough of the combined yarns to make a decent length scarf.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Results of Hit Whore Post



Okay, so putting porn words in a blog post doesn't really help much...I'll stick with knitting and queer issues.

Blog Stats

I got a bit of a bump in hits...an average of less than 100 more hits to the last post than other posts, but when I look at the search terms used to locate the blog, only one of them could even possibly been construed as looking for porn ("web camera to take photos" was the search term).

So perhaps Maureen is right...perhaps most readers just come for the knitting.

But then again, I've always said (and written) that I write the blog for myself, and the fact that others read it, is like icing on the cake.  And I did enjoy writing the blog post and the subsequent comments.

Current Knitting

So, the Milano blanket is complete (edging and all), washed and blocked.



After all is said and done, the blanket easily fits over this queen size bed.

What I love about the blanket is how light and warm it is.  Sock gauge yarn knit on US5 needles makes for a very lightweight blanket, and the density of the Milano stitch makes for a warm covering.  The combination is great.

Nico loves it too.




For anyone that wants the "pattern" for this blanket, here it is:

Milano Blanket - by Joe Wilcox


Yarn - Approximately 24 different colors of sock-weight yarn (at least 400 yds for each color - half in solids or mottled colorways and half in self-patterning or variegated yarns) - My yarns were a wide mix of yarns from Skacel, Regia, Cascade, Universal and Madeline Tosh as well as a number of independent dyers like Black Bunny Fibers.

Needle - 60" Addi Turbo Circular needle, US5 (3.75 mm)

Instructions
With the first solid/mottled color of yarn, cast on 500 sts.

Milano Stitch - (found from Cast-On Podcast Blog by Brenda Dayne)
Row 1 – *S1, K1, yo, psso both. Repeat from * to end
Row 2 – P all
Row 3 – K1 *Sl1, K1, yo, psso both. Repeat from *to last stitch, end K1
Row 4 – P all
Rows 5-8 - Repeat rows 1-4

Change to your first self-patterning/variegated colorway of yarn and repeat Rows 1-8

Continue randomly switching colorways of yarn, making 8-row "stripes" of knitting, with the one rule being that you alternate between solid and variegated colored stripes each time.

Knit a total of 66 8-row stripes (or 528 rows (or 264,000 sts)) and leave 500 sts on your needle (don't bind off).

Weave in all ends - into the corresponding stripe of the color you're weaving.

Edging
Because of the weight of the blanket and the large number of stitches, I knit the edging on two sides of the blanket first, and then the other two sides.

First Two Sides
Using  a solid color of yarn (you'll need two balls of yarn for the edging), knit 500 sts on the needle, place stitch marker, and then pick up 398 sts along side of blanket (pick up 6 sts per stripe, plus one extra at the beginning and end of your picking up).  Knit back all 898 sts.

Knit 500 sts, incr 1 st, slip stitch marker, K1, incr 1 st, K397, incr 1, K1.

Knit back all 900 sts.

Repeat the last two rows of garter stitch 3 more times, increasing 3 sts each repeat.

Bind off loosely.

Second two sides:
On the cast-on edge, pick up and knit 500 sts, place marker and then along edge, pick up and knit 398 sts.  Knit back all 898 sts.

As with first two sides, knit 4 rows of garter stitch with increases at the corner and bind off loosely.

Sew up two edging corners and weave in ends.

Wash and block to desired size.


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Annual Hit Whore Post

Most QueerJoe readers know that he gains a lot of his self-esteem from the number of hits to his blog, and what better way of attracting hits, than by posting words related to pornography?

For Instance...

Banging sheep...think this hot shirtless man could do a free video?


Dirty hot male chest crotch hairy armpit deep raw slut suck huge beefy pole gay anal hung balls gaping chest feet virgin dripping tight underwear muscle.

I don't really have a revealing photo for that. 

And see, without even using swear words, I can probably double the hits to my site!

Here's how you can help...feel free to leave a comment with as many lascivious words as you can, or even better, post a link to this post on your own site using good words in the hypertext link (you may want to include queerjoe in the hypertext link as well).

Current Knitting (nice segue, huh?)

I finally opted to go with a simple garter stitch edging (ooh edging...another good word) on the Milano Blanket (if you consider picking up 2,400 stitches to be simple).



Actually, I completed two sides of the blanket (to make sure the cable on my circular needle could hold that many stitches) and now I'm working on the other two sides.  Only about 10,000 more knit stitches and some washing and blocking and this project can be wrapped up.

This project really required a lot of stubborn persistence, but I have loved working on it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 Resolutions


2013 Resolutions
Unlike most years, I think I'll note a few of my resolutions for this year.
  1. Read The Hunger Games Trilogy
  2. Watch The Hunger Games
  3. Finish the Blanket/Coffin Cover project
  4. Travel overseas
  5. Get down to 190 pounds and stay below 195 all year
  6. Grow at least one kind of vegetable
  7. Blog an average of at least twice a week (and yes, this one counts!)
  8. Thank someone daily
Awesome Christmas Gifts
For New Year's Eve each year, we celebrate Christmas with our friend Charles.  We exchange gifts and then go out for a nice dinner.  It's always festive and always fun.  Combined with Christmas at Thaddeus' family's house and then Christmas with my family, there is ample opportunity for gifts.

Here are two of my knit-related gifts I got this year.



These are a pair of texting gloves made from various tweed fabrics, felt and knitted fabric from a company called baabaazuzu.  Each pair is unique and they're very warm and allow me to text or knit whist keeping my hands warm



This is a fantastic book I hadn't seen yet called Knit Your Own Cat by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne with 16 knitting patterns for actually knitted cats...quite ingenious (they also have a couple of books called Knit Your Own Dog!)

Anyone else get any great knit-related gifts this year?