Friday, July 28, 2017

Too Many Friends?


Can you ever have too many friends?  Even if they are Facebook friends?

One Away

As of right now, I have 1,999 Facebook friends.  That number may have changed by the time you read this given how much my friend-count fluctuates...and I have posted a number of rather angry posts about the current political situation, so some folks may have unfriended me (I hate that Facebook has made it okay to use "friend" as a verb).

I've found that I can keep up with all of the activity of so many Facebook friends on a pretty regular basis.  Here are some of the rules I typically follow:
  1. I scan past political posts where the topic looks to disparage a person, rather than a policy or regulation or bill.
  2. I scan past posts of people I've never met in person when the post looks to be a gathering of friends or family (since I don't know the poster, I doubt I'll know their family or friends).
  3. I post birthday wishes only to those people I've met in person (and sometimes not even them).
  4. I rely on the fact that most people don't post on a daily basis.
  5. I look more closely at posts about knitting, weaving, spinning and crocheting.
  6. Except for one or two exception, I rarely read posts about alpacas.
All that being said, if I am a friend of yours on Facebook, and I don't seem to pay as much attention to you as you'd like, please let me know and I'd be glad to Like/Love/Laugh/Wow your posts.

If you're not currently a Facebook friend, perhaps you'll be my 2,000th Facebook friend.

I mean really...can you ever have too many friends?

Current Knitting

Like most lace designs, my current project is difficult to photograph, even though it's almost finished.



The Koigu Cross Stitch Cowl (based on the Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf...just knit in the round with a few more stitches/pattern repeats) is coming along extremely well.  After I've finished this beauty and blocked it, I will be able to show you exactly why it's one of my favorite projects lately.  The yarn, the fabric and the design are turning out exactly as I'd hoped, and I couldn't be more pleased.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Are Your Hints for Success?



Financially, the best advice I've ever heard is from Suze Orman (who I normally don't find offers very useful advice).  She says "Live below your means and within your needs."

From Struggle to Security

When I first started off living on my own and working for a living, I wasn't very savvy when it came to finances.  I worked a job that barely covered my living expenses...in fact, for the first few years, I'm not even sure I was meeting all my expenses without buffering with credit cards.

I probably should have recognized that I couldn't really afford the apartment I was living in and should have probably rented a less expensive place or found a roommate to help with the cost.

But that job was a great starting point for my career, so it turned out to be worth it.  As my income started to grow over the years, so did my lifestyle and my savings.

In fact, for about the first 10 years of my professional life, I very much lived paycheck to paycheck and every time I'd get an increase in pay, I'd expand my spending to use up most of my income.

Somewhere around the age of 30, I was able to reach a point in my life where I didn't care to increase my living standard any longer, even though my income continued to increase.  That's where I realized how important it was to live below my means, and sock away any excess into 401(k)'s or other savings or investments.

I remember when I first got to the point where I had 3 months of non-retirement savings in my account as a buffer in case I lost my job.  I remember when I got to the point where I could pay all my bills when they were due, and not worry that I didn't have the funds in my checking account to cover them.  I remember when I realized that I could buy the groceries I wanted and go out to restaurants once or twice a week.

Some of my friends seemed to increase their standard of living every time their income went up.  They'd get a new car or upgrade their house or build a swimming pool or throw lavish parties or find fancier and fancier restaurants to eat.

I got to the place where I really enjoyed my standard or living and stayed there the rest of my career while I watched my retirement savings grow.  I'll be forever grateful that I figured this out early enough.

What's the best advice for success you've ever received?

Current Knitting

I added two more hats to the craft show inventory and started my latest Koigu masterpiece.



The hats are pretty standard and I can bang them out quickly, so eventually, I'll have a number of different hats to choose from at my craft show table.


The Koigu project is using the pattern stitch my the Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf pattern, but I'm doing it in the round to make an elongated cowl.  The two colors of Koigu KPPPM I'm using are looking incredibly rich and beautiful...I'm LOVING how it's turning out.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Local Entertainment

Many of you know that I live in a touristy area, and recently, someone posted a question to our local community forum on Facebook.  She was visiting this area for 10 days with her two young children, and wanted to know what activities she could do with her children during their stay for $10 or under.

Amazing List of Activities
The response was overwhelming including a lot of hiking spots that even I hadn't heard of, like Goat Hill Overlook with an amazing view of the river and New Hope across the river:


Just taking a selfie with one foot on the NJ side of the Lambertville/New Hope bridge and one on the PA side seemed like a fun activity.

Over 30 years ago, Thaddeus and I were looking to buy a house and mostly we were looking to purchase in the area between where we were both working (which would have put us in the Bridgewater, NJ area), but when our friend Bruce showed us our current townhouse, we knew that a longer work commute was worth living in an area that was so much more satisfying.

We'll be out on the towpath on our bicycles at least a few times this week...it makes living in this area seem like we're on an endless vacation.

We are truly fortunate to live here.

Current Knitting
I ended up finishing two project since






Yes, I finished (and washed and blocked) the Ribbed Lace Wrap in Koigu KPPPM.  I also knit another Latvian Braid Band Hat.




The Koigu wrap ended up being about 75" long and 10" wide before blocking and 20" wide and 68" long after blocking.  It's a very open and lacy design that will be able to be wrapped in many ways. 

I also like the hate design, although I should never model hats.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photographing Your Knitting

Blogging about knitting for all these years, I have had ample opportunity to take some truly awful photos of my knitting.


Bad Knitting Photography

Lighting, staging, depth-of-field, color correction and even focus have all been areas where I have made grave mistakes in the past.

I know...it's difficult to take a photo of a king-size knitted blanket on the needles...but throwing it in a lump on the floor using incandescent lighting and standing on a chair pointed directly down on the object...I'm sorry, but that's not even trying.

I had the opportunity to take a workshop with Franklin once on photographing your knitting projects and learned a lot.  If you ever see him offer that, you should try and be there for it...especially if you publish a lot of your photos in any way...even on social media.  I learned an immense amount about successful lighting techniques, or ways to enhance the look of a project by using tricks, like limited focus.


Taking a little time to try and creatively stage a photo can also be very helpful in displaying your work to the public.

All that being said, I still can't get a decent photo of my current knitted lace project, so I'll just post four of the best photos I could find and hopefully convey a little bit of the project to you.

Current Knitting

Lace is very difficult to photograph while it's in progress.  It's not blocked, it's usually large enough where it's bunched on the needle and conveying drape of a fabric like lace is painfully difficult.  But I am no over 3/4th finished with the Koigu Ribbed Lace Wrap.





I can't wait to finish/block and properly photograph this project.  I'm liking it a lot, but you'll have to trust me until I can get you a decent photograph.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Building Inventory

I've been making scarves, wraps, hats and blankets that will eventually be put for sale at arts/craft shows in the third quarter of this year.

Enjoying Production Knitting

I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy knitting items that would be put up for sale.  I was concerned that I would get bored quickly, but honestly, I've found that just keeping my hands busy whilst I watch television is enough to have me enjoy my knitting.  There's also a lot of satisfaction in color choices and knowing that I can put a vast amount of knitting experience into the garments that will be sold.

Last year, I participated in two craft shows and both were minimally successful, in that I sold enough to make it worth my while to participate again this year.  During those shows, the only inventory I had was scarves, wraps and hats, and I had about 100 pieces in inventory.

This year, I'm hoping to expand the number of shows I do (I'd love to do five shows in October, November and December, but I'm honestly having difficulty finding more than one decent show at the moment).  I'm also hoping to expand my inventory to include Colorblock Baby blankets and coffee cup cozies to what I offer for sale.  Ideally, I'd like to have up to 200 pieces to choose from, but I'm not sure I'll hit that goal.  Although at one of the shows I did last year, there was a woman who was selling crocheted items (baby blankets, hats, scarves, etc) and she had a TON of inventory.  But I don't think she sold anywhere near as much as I did.  So it seems that the quality of items is more important than quantity...at least at that show.

I'll keep you updated on how it goes.

Current Knitting

Two more pieces to be put into inventory.

First, I finished the latest colorblock baby blanket.



I obviously have a few ends still left to weave in, but since I was able to keep up with weaving in ends as I went along, that's shouldn't take very long.

I also did additional work on the Ribbed Lace wrap in Koigu.



Given that this is lace, the resulting fabric won't be anywhere near as dense when it's blocked, but hopefully the photos will give you a sense of the final project.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Bit Scattered



My craft space and stash storage area had gotten a little out of hand, so I decided to do another clean up of the area.

Rummaging Generates Ideas

Going through bags of yarn and storing books back on the shelves generates a lot of ideas.

As an example, I found a loan hank of merino (or maybe cormo) yarn that would make a quick easy man's hat, so I banged it out.


Just a bit of accent color with the natural yarn color added a lot with the cast-on edge and Latvian braid.

I'm also working on another Koigu wrap using a new stitch pattern that I hope will look as interesting as the Old Shale wrap I made with the other colorway.


Finally, I'm also making progress on the latest Colorblock Baby Blanket.



The last two colorblocks will be bright pink and deep teal/green.

I need to remember that anytime I clean and/or rummage, I will always end up starting at least a couple of new projects.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Shawls, Shawls and More Shawls



As a long-time knitter, shawls seem to be the go-to project to use beautiful yarns, practice a new stitch pattern or work a new technique.

Shawl Benefits

The construct of a shawl is optimal for design work for a knitter wanting to experiment with any technique or stitch or yarn in knitting.

While there are certain restrictions, the architecture of a shawl has probably the fewest that constrain a knitter.  There is no specific gauge you need to meet, the finished dimensions don't need to be exact for a proper fitted shawl, blocking can make a huge difference in the finishing size of a shawl and a knitter can experiment with color with reckless abandon.

Designing a shawl allows me to drag out all my stitch pattern library books and my tomes on lace knitting (or knitted lace) to garner new ideas or things I might find fun.  Shawl projects also give me the opportunity to rummage through my stash for fun and exciting yarns.

The one thing I do recommend is having a decent book of shawl designs that can both give you ideas and help determine sizes, shape and gauge of a shawl.

Interweave has come out with just the ticket.  Classic Knit Shawls (20 Timeless Designs featuring Lace, Cables, & More) is a perfect library of all things "shawl"!  You can get ideas on shape (triangle, crescent/semi-circles or rectangles).  You can get ideas (as the title indicates) on lace, cables or other knitting techniques (like elongated stitches).


The book includes designs by Megi Burcl, Nancy Bush and Kristin Omdahl.  While some of these patterns have been published in other Interweave books, this publication pulls them all together in one consolidated shawl library and is a great resource for anyone wanting to play in the shawl designing (or knitting) arena).

This is my favorite garment from this book.



Current Knitting

Is a "wrap" considered a "shawl"?  I will say it is, especially since I have finished the Koigu Old Shale Wrap and it is rather stunning.



The final dimensions are approximately (since it's a very loose gauge wrap that stretches) 60" x 18" which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I used four hanks of Koigu KPPPM on US 7 needles on a total of 360 stitches (worked lengthwise).  Here is the link to the stitch pattern I used as well.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

I Love Costco


I never saw this episode of Modern Family (Season 1, Episode 3), but the conversion that Thaddeus had from NEVER wanting to go to Costco, to really enjoying it, is similar to this episode.

It Makes Me Happy

Perhaps it's something I should bring up with my therapist, as it seems like some symptom of manic behavior, but going to Costco always makes me happy (and I don't see a therapist anyway).  There are certain yarn stores that make me feel this way too, but the fact that both of these activities involve spending money, the manic theory just seems to be reinforced.

But I don't care.  Picking up a dozen croissants in the bakery section or browsing the new men's clothes or finding an industrial size package of microfiber cloths or tasting Kirkland brand organic butter on little bites of whole-grain bread...the adventure seems endless...any of these can make my entire week more cheerful.

I am well aware that two people can't possibly eat 12 croissants in between biweekly Costco visits...especially when one of the men doesn't eat any.  But freezing them and defrosting them allows me to enjoy them over the course of 14 days with minimal weight gain (even when I slather them with Kirkland brand organic butter and strawberry jam- also from Costco).

I am equally well aware that we don't have the space to store 18 sleeves of Ritz crackers, but it's the only thing that I eat with my Kraft Extra Creamy Peanut Butter (not available in U.S. Costco's btw), so we just end up making space for them.


The fact that Costco now offers a Costco VISA card with cash back only makes it BETTER!  There is no annual fee with my Costco membership (in fact, it serves as both my Coscto card and my credit card!) and gives me 2% back on all Costco purchases...so each item is even cheaper!


By the way...have you seen the FX show "Baskets" - Louie Anderson plays Zach Galifianakis' character's mother on the show, and (s)he's brilliant.

Book Give-Away

The Handwoven Home book was won by Chad...congratulations, and thanks to all who entered for the give-away.  Stay tuned for more chances to win blog prizes!

Current Knitting

I completed some additional work on the Koigu Old Shale wrap.


The undulating waves of this stitch pattern blend the handpainted colours of Koigu extremely well, and I can't wait to see what they look like draped over the shoulder of someone wearing this wrap.


After blocking this, it will definitely have a drapey/clinginess to it that will make it both beautiful and a pleasure to wear.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Complicit Media


Donald wants notoriety and diversion and the media wants ratings and associated advertising fees.  And the public gets screwed.

Tired Old Trick

Years ago when I was trying to grow blog readership and increase my share of knitting viewers in the blogosphere, I came up with a brilliant plan.

The Knitting Curmudgeon (Marilyn Roberts) and I were friends and we both wrote moderately popular knitting blogs.  We decided it would be a great idea to have an on-line feud that was so vitriolic and nasty that blog readers would be enthralled and would be waiting with great anticipation each of our responses to the other's latest on-line insult.

It was going to be epic, and a complete fake.

I'm quite glad we decided not to do it.  I was honestly afraid that Marilyn and I didn't have the same ideas about what was fair game in this little charade and one of us might have gotten offended.

You can see where I'm going here...the media is doing the same thing.  They get in a vitriolic war with Donald and both parties win, bigly.  Donald diverts attention from the nefarious shit that he's trying to do, and the media garners the eyeballs they so desperately crave.  Win - Win, right?  Except the public gets screwed.

The media needs to stop reporting on anything that Donald says or tweets that doesn't relate to real news.  Those who support Donald are going to support whatever Donald says or does, and those who don't support him are going to just add his latest tweet to their myriad of reason for why he's a complete buffoon.  And that's not news.

The media needs to do it's job and report on what policies and legislation and foreign agreements this man promotes or accomplishes.  Not his latest gaffe or stupid tweet.

It's time to realize that a fake wrestling video, photoshopped by Baron, isn't news or interesting anymore.  It doesn't impact anyone.

So stop reporting this stupid shit...it's tired and I'm going to stop watching and look for a news outlet that reports actual news.

Current Knitting

The work on the Old Shale Koigu wrap continues.


I am absolutely loving working on this project.  The colors are vibrant and gorgeous and the resulting wrap will be truly glorious.  I can't wait to show you a photo of the full project when it's complete.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who Am I To Judge?



When it comes to evaluating books or designs or magazines or someone's newfound love for dyeing yarn, there is a limited group of people that value my opinions.

Paying for the Blog

I have never wanted to really go to all the trouble of trying to monetize my blog.  I have put a lot of effort into maintaining QueerJoe.com for many years, but honestly, not enough effort to have made it a viable financial success...so I settle for doing things that help defray costs or make it worth my while to keep writing.

Recently, there have been a spate of publicists in the craft arena who want blogs like mine to review new books...in exchange for a copy of the book (there are also dyers and fiber equipment companies, etc. doing the same type of thing).  You've seen me review dozens of them over the years.

Truthfully, who better to review fiber-related products than someone that uses them...values them..appreciates them?  I mean, it's not like the NY Times Book Review could provide a good review of a new book of patterns.

So today, I am beyond pleased to present a new book which is due out in September (but you should pre-order yours now).


A Stash of One's Own by Clara Parkes (the full title is "A Stash of One's Own - Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn" is by far the most enjoyable book review I've been asked to do.

First, a confession...I do not like reading essays about knitting.  Elizabeth Zimmermann waxing poetic about empowering knitters or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee writing clever, funny stories about sock knitting isn't really my bag.  So it was with great trepidation that I started reading Clara's latest knitting-related essay book.  I honestly thought I might have to skip this book review and keep my thoughts to myself.

Then I started reading this anthology of other knitters and their stash, and incredibly, it spoke directly to my heart.  The essayists that Ms. Parkes has brought together in this book have put into words the thoughts and feelings and yearnings I have had for decades...some I didn't even know I had until they appeared on the pages of her book.  I'm only about two thirds of the way through the book, and at the end of each chapter I think it can only get less interesting or poignant from here, and the next chapter proves me wrong...it keeps getting BETTER!  In addition to Clara's chapter, there are chapters by Franklin Habit, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Megi Burcl, Meg Swansen, Gudrun Johnson and many more names you'll recognize and HIGHLY relate to.

I don't know if you've ever had a similar experience, but the first time I ever went to San Francisco with Thaddeus, I had the feeling I was home.  I didn't have to pretend to be someone else, I didn't have to be afraid of repercussions for expressing my love for my partner and my shoulders lowered a little bit in relaxation to being able to just be me.

It's that same feeling of finding celebration of who I am in the pages of this new publication.

Many of the guys at the Men's Knitting Retreats will understand what I mean, and you will too when you get a chance to read this book.

Again, the book won't be available publicly until September, but I would highly recommend pre-ordering it now so that you get yours in the first distribution.  You won't be sorry.

I honestly can't wait to hear/read what others think of this book...it's something I want to joyously share in being a part of.

Current Knitting

Having just gotten 10 new hanks of Koigu KPPPM, I just could stand having it look at me in all it's beauty, so I started a new shawl using one of the colorways.


The pattern is Old Shale (lengthwise) and it will block out to be a little over 5 feet long and I'm hoping about 16 inches wide.  I love this colourway and remember what a genius Taiu is when it comes to handpainted yarns.  I will probably make the exact same shawl with the other colourway for a less vibrant/more pastel version.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hot Package


There is a certain jolt of excitement I get whenever a package arrives in the mail with my name on it.

Canadians Have the Best Packages!


This particular package isn't directly from Canada, although the contents were made there.



I ordered a few hanks of Koigu KPPPM in two different colorways.  I plan on using this for either the Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf, or perhaps this:


Feather and Fan works particularly well with Koigu's handpainted yarns and looks fantastic.

Book Give-Away


A number of folks have expressed interest in receiving the Handwoven Home book by Liz Gibsen (see earlier blog post).  If you're interested, let me know in comments or via e-mail or Facebook and I'll randomly choose a winner this Friday.

Current Knitting


I did end up finishing my latest Cross Stitch Scarf.



It's a wonderful shock of color that I really love, and the textured fabric of the Cross Stitch pattern makes it even more interesting.


I'm a lousy model, but I think I can handle the bold colors, no?  (and yes, I did wake up looking like this...just without the scarf).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Repeal!


One of the few areas where I agree with my regressive/conservative citizens, is that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.

Surprised?

Honestly, given that even the Democrats had to pander to the insurance company interests, the ACA was probably the best possibly way they could have put in place a program that would have helped to meet much of the criteria for healthcare in this country (ensuring adequate coverage, covering all citizens, reducing costs, etc.).

But if the insurance lobby wasn't as influential, you and I both know they could have just added a Federal option to buy into Medicare as one of the health insurance options for people in the exchanges.

And they still should.

Currently Medicare insures about 44 million seniors.  They have established negotiated rates with healthcare providers, have claims processing procedures in place and understand how to run an insurance organization as well as any of the greedy fucks like Aetna or US Healthcare.


Hell, why not even let Medicare compete as a profit-based insurer for those under 65 years old? 

That way, when companies like Aetna try coercing our government into complying with a merger that would make them practically a monopoly or face having them pull out of multiple states in the ACA exchange (which is what they did...greedy fucks), then people would have other options...or at least one other option.  Especially when the CEO of Aetna is getting paid over $25 million dollars a year to extort our citizens.

As it looks like this Republican nightmare of AHCA looks like it will pass, and an aged/poor tax will be imposed on those least able to afford it and paid directly to the richest people in our country...I'm hopeful some brilliant minds in the insurance industry with any level of integrity will create a new insurance company that will be non-profit and somewhat more affordable than the proposed AHCA options.

Otherwise, we're going to have millions of our friends and neighbors dying penniless so that our wealthiest can grow their riches.


Current Knitting

I know political blog posts here at QueerJoe aren't always the most encouraging to read, but sometimes I feel I have to make sure everyone understands what's at stake.  So to help make this post a bit brighter, I present a new, colorful project.



I've started a new Cross Stitch Scarf using two colorful sock yarns and the resulting scarf is turning out to be a cacophony of color that I am quite pleased with.