Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Clever Crafty Uses for iPhone

Yes, there are apps out there for various crafts, but what about using your iPhone in more clever ways?

Some Ideas

  • Use it as a measuring tool when you're without one.  My iPhone 6 is 5.5 inches long and 2 and 5/8ths" wide.
  • Use it as a pom pom maker.

  • Practice knitting without turning your work by watching what it looks like from the back of your work.
  • Use the calculator app as an impromptu row counter - When I need to keep track of my row count, like for cables or when I do two sleeves at the same time, I will sometimes just keep the calculator open and store my current row number
If you have any great ideas, leave a comment on the YouTube video or in comments here for ways you've used your iPhone or smartphone for your knitting, crochet, weaving, etc.

Current Knitting

I've finished knitting the front and back of the sweater I'm working one and have started the sleeves.

You'll note I'm knitting both sleeves at the same time (which I always find challenging...keeping rows in synch and remembering where I am).

I've also almost finished the niece blanket...and it's rather huge.

Just a few more rows to go and then I'll bind off (using a sewn bind off to give it a stretchier edge).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Cheer from New Zealand

I had the amazing good fortune to host James Herbison on a trip years ago to the U.S. and ever since, I get such a lovely surprise at this time of year.

Fairy Mushrooms - Who Knew!

James knows that Thaddeus has an interest in mushrooms, and he also knows we're both fairies, so most years, he sends a New Zealand confection called Fairy Mushrooms.

If you've never had one of these, they're very difficult to describe...Kind of like a fruity gum drop covered in sweetened coconut with a soft candy stick stuck up inside it.  Suffice it to say, they're quite delicious and seemingly only available in New Zealand.

They're a treat and I ration myself to one a day...makes my holiday a lot cheerier.  Thanks James!

Current Knitting

I finished up the shoulder slope shaping on the back of my current sweater and completed about half of the front of the sweater.

This project is moving along quite quickly and I'm enjoying working on it.  I ended up using a short-row technique often called Japanese Short-Rows for the shoulder slanting, and it's a great looking way of doing short-rows.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Declaring War on Xmas

The arrogance of some alleged "christians" in this country make me want to wage full-scale war on their ideas of the December 25th holiday.

Santa and Holiday Trees Rule!

Yesterday, two women were waiting to be helped in a store and the clerk wished the current customer a "Merry Chrissmas".  One of the two waiting women stated loudly enough for the entire store to hear, "He speaks our language."  (said with a smug arrogance I wanted to slap off her)

When the women were finally served, and got the same greeting from the clerk, they repeated  the "our language" statement.  Like they're in a special sorority with a secret password or something.

Really?!?!  Made me want to spit.

I'm sure Jesus would have been so proud of these two special women who took great glee that the correct holiday greeting was being stated to customers.

I don't just seems like it's so antithetical to all that this holiday season should be about.

Current Knitting

Continued work on both my current works-in-progress and made some good progress...especially on the project that I had to rip out on Sunday.

Almost finished with the back of the new sweater and I couldn't be happier with how both projects are turning out.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Never Understood Late Fees

Paying bills, borrowing library books, renting videos...I've never understood why anyone would subject themselves to late fees when they could easily be avoided.

Am I Both Odd and Queer?

Having recently started borrowing books from the library after decades of being away from the library, the automated system has made it even more simple to avoid late fees on overdue book returns.  A couple of simple clicks on my iPhone or computer and I can just renew a book that's due back shortly.  Or, if the particular book is not allowed to be extended, I just have to go less than a mile to the library to return it.

I recall when Thaddeus used to work at the video rental place (I know, the dark ages), I was amazed to find that more people regularly paid late fees on rented videos and DVD's than the ones who didn't...and it wasn't inexpensive!

I don't understand...why?  I feel like I have Asperger's or something in my inability to comprehend why anyone would pay a late fee.

I guess I could understand having to pay a late fee when I got careless and got disorganized, but that would happen very infrequently for me.

I'd be grateful for any explanations someone could give why paying late fees on a regular basis was normal behavior.

Current Knitting

For those following me on Facebook, I had to rip back the start of a new project...the garment would have been about 4 inches too wide.

I've re-knitted all that I ripped out (and actually a little more) and I'm back on my way.  I'm thinking this will be a very simple (yet elegant) sweater, similar in style to one I knit decades ago.

Although it won't have the chest stripes, I was admiring the way I accidentally invented the collar edging for this sweater and will do the same on the new one.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Allure of Local FIber

One of the many joys of going to Sheep and Wool festivals is to find yarns that are from local sheep farms and wool mills.

New Book

Just got my copy of a new book out by Peace Books:

American Spun: 20 Classic Projects Exploring Homegrown Yarn, a new book out by Anna Sudo is a very personal tour of 15 U.S. yarn producers and 20 knitted projects using these domestic yarns.

Conceptually, I really love the idea of this book and the photos and aesthetics are simply beautiful.

Since it's difficult to assess yarns that I can't find at my local yarn stores, Ms. Sudo's book gives me a great sense about how various yarns will knit up, and would allow me to confidently purchase these yarns on-line.  A perfect example would be the Woolful Mercantile Shetland blend yarns she uses in her Harriman Hat project.

The soft, furry halo of this yarn would be beautiful on some projects and just wrong on some others.

Most of the patterns in this book are smaller projects, like cowls, fingerless gloves, hats, etc.  There are two sweater patterns and one is a beautiful women's design called Coeur d'Alene.

The shaping and the stitch patterning work extremely well with the Targhee yarn she uses from Lakes Yarn and Fiber.

All in all, this book will be a great reference guide for the 15 yarn companies she documents.  I personally think this book, along with yarn for one of the projects would make for a great gift for a knitter you love.

Current Knitting

I've been enjoying that last few inches of the current niece blanket I'm working on (which is this time, I'm usually ready for a project to be finished), and I also started a new sweater project.

The new sweater, I've really only started the ribbing (as you can see) and the blanket has just a few more inches before binding off.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Sweet Profanity

A good friend saw this, and thought of me.

What's in a Word?

I've never been offended by words.

As a gay man, it's practically required that you can discern the intent of someone's words.

If someone says..."Hey fag!"...I have to quickly figure out if:

    1. The person is addressing me with an affectionate slur
    2. The person is ignorant that the word can be used offensively and requires education
    3. The person is being hateful and I need to defend myself in some way
In the same way, most swear words don't trigger an automatically negative fact, quite the opposite...I'm rather fond of profanity, and I use it often.  Another benefit of not having children is I have never had to restrict my words.

There's an oft-cited quote - "Profanity is the last refuge of the truly ignorant." - there are others that insinuate that profanity is a lazy person's way of using language, but I couldn't disagree more.  I think limiting what words you use, restricts how expressive you can be.  And in fact, if you're too lazy to discern the intent of another's profanity, I would say you are the lazy person...not the one using the profanity.

Current Knitting

With the completion of the fine-gauge crochet cotton bag, I've been focusing on the niece blanket.

I'm very happy with the progress I've made so far.  I only have a couple more balls-worth (is that considered profane?) to do to finish the blanket.  It's beautifully soft and warm and has a great, wrapping comfort to it.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Design Dreaming

Every once in a while, when I'm obsessed with a project I'm working on, I'll envision how it should look and how I'll construct it in my dreams.

Deeply Rooted Understanding

Any time I've wanted to truly absorb a concept, dreaming or daydreaming about it has always helped me gain a broad and clear understanding.

Spinning was a good example.  I can't tell you how many hours of conscious and unconscious time I spent envisioning drafting wool, treadling, adding twist, plying.  By the time I had dreamt it so clearly, I was practically spinning wool like I had been doing it for years.

Similarly, my latest project...the crochet cotton bag...was envisioned extensively before I actually executed various parts of it...the shaping of the bottom of the bag, the sewing up of the lining, the design of the straps and the sewing in of the zipper.

By the time the bag was finished, I had actually completed and re-completed various aspects of the project dozens of times before I actually finished that part of the bag.

I can't say all this envisioning of the process made for a perfect project, but overall, I'm quite pleased with the result.

Current Knitting

Here's the finished bag.

I do have a few minor changes I need to make, and then when I get my first iPad, it will be a perfect bag to carry it around in.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Perhaps I Share Too Much

There was an old advertisement for Cracker Jacks that declared, it's nice to "share."  I guess I took that message to heart.

New Ways of Sharing

If you follow me on Facebook, you'll have been subject to 30 days of what I'm grateful for.  Some items were very personal.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll note I've started using Periscope, which is a feature that allows me to "live broadcast" portions of my life via video.  My first few attempts at broadcasting have been boring at best, but I'm hopeful since Twitter owns this app, that it will catch on and folks will start to follow me and watch my live broadcasts.

And if you're a faithful reader of QueerJoe, you'll note that I've started peppering my posts with embedded YouTube videos.  Today's section on Current Knitting has one of the most boring ones you'll ever see on my sight, but to be fair, I have been working on one of the most boring knitting tasks ever, so I thought I'd share the pain.

Feel free to comment with any feedback if you love or hate any of the sharing methods...or any feeling in between.

Current Knitting

I finally decided to put my nose to the grindstone and finish the sewing up of the second strap for the crochet cotton bag.  Please feel free to share in the joy of completion:

At least I hoped you enjoyed the music during the time lapse piece.


Now all I have to do is do a bit of machine sewing to add more structure to the second strap, sew in the straps and sew in a zipper at the top.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Placing Value

Knitter friend, Ronnie posted a photo of a slave around 1865 spinning on a walking wheel.

Photograph of former slave Lucindy Lawrence Jurdon, ca after 1865

Value of Work

The further caption on this photograph stated:
"Check out the spinning wheel, you had to spin yarn before you could weave it into cloth to sew a garment. That's why most people had only 1 or 2 outfits. Everything was so labor intensive."
 Given all the fine gauge work, and the sewing I've been doing on my fine cotton bag, it started me thinking about how I place value on my possessions.

When I can go into an outlet store and walk out with a bag of clothes for under a $100, I have to admit I don't value those items of clothing as much as I might a hand knit pair of socks, even if the $3 pair of socks is more comfortable to wear.  If one of my hand knit socks gets a hole, it goes in the to-be-darned pile...the same hole in a $3 pair goes in the trash

My first job out of college was doing finances for a large chiropractic clinic and one of the doctors there was incredibly successful (monetarily)...and honestly,  he wasn't the best doctor a the clinic.  But one of his theories was that every one of his patients had to pay something for their chiropractic visit...even if it was just $1.  The most destitute and the most well-insured patient for this doctor ALWAYS had to pay something.  His comment when I asked him about it was, "People value what that pay for, and get better health results as well."  I have to admit, he was right on both counts.

I might modify his theory a bit, so say, that people value that which requires them to invest more.

Current Knitting

Knitting on fine-gauge cotton, on US1 (2.25 mm) needles has reminded me of why I enjoy such fine, detailed work and why I usually value the end result a bit more than other projects.

The bag itself is finished, including having the lining sewn in and so is the first of two straps I'll sew on to it.

For the straps, basically, I'm knitting the strap lengthwise (370 stitches), both front and back with purl fold rows on each side and lining it with cotton batting (used for quilting.

And to make sure it doesn't stretch, I'm also sewing three rows of contrasting orange thread lengthwise along the strap.

Once the second strap is finished, I'll sew both straps to the bag and add a zipper opening at top.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I Like Caffeine a Latte

Years ago, a friend gifted us with our first espresso machine, and for a number of years we've upgraded our equipment until we found one that fits my needs perfectly.

Latte Art?

In the two and a half years I've owned this beauty, I have tried to work on getting some form of pretty foam art on the top of my daily latte.  Here are this months most successful attempts.

There is really no consistency in my ability to create something that looks like latte art each morning, but I will continue to work on it and perfect it as well as I can.

Current Knitting

I finished sewing up the Santa Cap for Thaddeus...despite my superpower of making hats look stupid, I actually looked better in this hat than Thaddeus did.

I also got the lining sewing into the crochet cotton bag, and finished knitting one of the two straps.

I have to say I'm impressed with how will this bag is turning out.  My sewing skills still suck, but not badly enough to ruin this cool bag.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Imagine a world where everyone was as concerned with the World as they are with their own petty

Where Is John Lennon When We Need Him?

For those of you who have worked on complex, multi-faceted projects at work or in your private life, it can be difficult, but you learn to quickly priority what's important, what are you dependencies, what are the risks and how do you mitigate them?

When I look at the current state of our World, I think we're at a time when it's most critical for it's residents to come together and look for workable solutions to our problems and ways that we should plan going forward to understand our greatest priorities and how to work toward them.

I have trouble understanding why the reaction is almost the complete opposite.

We have seemingly been drawn to selfish, fear-based interests, instead of looking for selfless ways to bring our World forward.

And there's no one that hasn't been complicit in this move toward worsening the state of the World...religion, politicians, activists, corporations, you, and yes, me.

From today on, I will personally look for ways of moving forward toward a world in which we can all be proud.  I will measure my day on how my efforts reflected this goal...did my actions indicate I moved in the direction of this goal or away from it and adjust my behavior the next day as necessary.

Imagine a day when a critical mass of the population of this planet is working cohesively toward the betterment of all of us.

Current Knitting

I put other projects on hold because Thaddeus actually had a knitting request of me (which is shocking, if you knew Thaddeus).  His boss asked him if he had a Santa hat he could wear at work for the upcoming season, and he asked me to knit him one.

Okay, so it's not a monumental task, but it did take priority since a knitting request from Thaddeus is so rare.  I used my handspun longwool and it gave the hat a rustic/vintage sort of Santa look, which Thaddeus likes and so do I.  Just a few more weaving in of ends, and Thaddeus will be decked out for the season where he works.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lucky 13

Last week was my 13th blogiversary...amazing to me that I've been blogging for that 13 years.

Even More Amazing

As I looked back at the earlier blog entries, I realized I had completely forgotten quite what it took to publish a blog back then.

With tools like Blogger, it's easy to post a blog with tons of photos and formatting of text and hypertext links and all sorts of on-line magic.  There are also a ton of easily found graphics (like the one above) that I can import easily to illustrate a blog post.

Early on, just a photo required that I connect my old digital camera to my computer and copy photos to a specified folder.  Then I had to edit the photos and FTP them to the web server that hosted my blog.   Then, and only then, could I write the HTML that would display a photo on a blog entry...having to specify, size, file name and not having any typos in my HTML was a constant test of my patience.

Now it's a few clicks to share a vivid photo, but it takes only a few minutes at most.

Of course, I still have to try and come up with fresh, interesting topics to blog about.

Current Knitting

Actually, it should be "Current Sewing" as I finished the lining for the crochet cotton bag.

For the people that sew, you can clearly see the lining is inside-out, and obviously not yet lining the bag.  But I wanted to show that the bag will have an inner pocket.  I also have to say that my sewing skills suck, and this simple sewing task took me to the limits of my sewing abilities...this satin-like fabric I used does not tolerate mistakes very well and it's so damn slimy to work with!

Overall, I'm still quite happy with the result.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Knitter's BFF

The most valuable resource for a new knitter...and sometimes even a longtime a best friend that knows more about knitting than you.

Debbie Bliss - My New BFF

There is a new knitting guide out, by a very successful and talented knitwear designer and yarn manufacturer, Debbie Bliss.  And it's very good.

The Knitters Book of Knowledge by Debbie Bliss, I predict, will become the new standout guide for knitters and should be a required resource in every knitters' library.

The Pros

  • Extensive tips and techniques many knitters want
  • Authored by one of the foremost experts on knitting
  • Tons of graphics, visuals and diagrams to help describe techniques
  • Clear and appealing layout is consistent throughout the book
  • Well-organized sections in a sequence that is logical and well thought out
  • Extensive Table of Contents and Index, making finding specific techniques very easy
  • Inexpensive - Hardback copy on Amazon (here in the U.S.) is only $18.35

The Cons

  • As with any comprehensive knitting guide, it's geared toward many audiences, so complex techniques are intermingled with beginner's instructions.
  • Missing some important techniques (or difficult to find in index), especially finishing techniques like sewing up, weaving in ends, joining a new ball of yarn, etc.

I've only been browsing through the book for a little over a day, so my critique is limited, but overall, I'm highly impressed with Ms. Bliss' latest masterpiece and highly recommend getting it...either for yourself, or for your best friend that knits.

Current Knitting
I finished the crochet cotton least the bag part of it, but it photographs badly, so I'll wait to present it on the blog after it's lined, sewn up a bit and has some structure. 

However, I have also done some additional work on the niece blanket.

It's turning out to be a beautifully soft and warm blanket, but it's also starting to get more and more unwieldy as I have to keep flopping it over and over to knit back and forth.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Conference Calls

There are a number of benefits of working from home.

QueerJoe's Rules

Yes, I can attend meetings in my slippers and pajamas with bed hair, I can put my phone on mute while I make a latte...but it can also be exceedingly difficult to participate in meetings via telephone conference calls.

As such, I suggest the following rules for anyone hosting a business conference call with remote participants dialing in:

Review Materials
  • Send out materials in advance of the meeting or display them in a screen share
  • Announce when changing pages or direct dial-in participants to the page or section of a document being discussed
  • Any edits or updates to a document during a working session need to be displayed in a screen share

Include Dial-In Participants
  • Make sure you consistently speak directly to the remote participants
  • Ask the remote folks for feedback first before eliciting feedback from the participants in the room
  • Ask specific remote folks questions to include them...more than you might if they were in the room
  • Specifically announce when a call is may be obvious to the folks in the room, but not always to those dialed in

In-Room Behaviors
  • In general, treat the conference phone or microphone as if it's a real person
  • Don't drag papers over the microphone or conference phone
  • Don't open crinkly candies or office supplies near the microphone
  • Don't have a keyboard typing right near the phone or microphone
  • Move close enough to a microphone or phone before speaking
  • Avoid multiple conversations...more than one is virtually impossible to hear and/or follow
  • Resist the urge to make funny comments...folks laughing (cackling loudly) in the room and encouraging others to make offhand clever comments is incredibly distracting and hard to listen to
  • Realize that following the phone conversation requires our headset is set to the highest volume to hear, but when another caller speaks, it blows out our eadrums

I have spent many a conference call being so annoyed that I just want to hang up.  Even the slightest consideration that I'm on the phone and important to the call can go a long way toward helping me participate actively.  If you'd rather I wasn't on the call, just don't invite me to the call to begin with.

Current Knitting

It may not seem like I've made much progress, but I only have another couple of inches left of length on the cotton bag I'm working on.

I'm planning on lining this bag to give it some structure, adding handles and making it so that it could a book or two and possibly an i-pad.  We'll see how well that goes.