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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Weaving Primer



For the past few years, one of the guys at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat has been leading a workshop introducing guys to the joy of weaving on a rigid heddle loom.  Here are the guys with their completed scarves from a couple years back.



Perfect Publication Follow-Up


I just had the opportunity to review a copy of a new Interweave publication, call Handwoven Home by Liz Gibson.


This book would be a perfect follow-up to a class or workshop on weaving on a rigid heddle loom.  It would be an awesome resource for for reminding a new weaver about how to warp a loom or creating special set-ups for different weaves.  It's also an amazing resource for reminding new weavers on weighting selvedge, or tying off the end of a woven piece or any number of other techniques that may have slid back into the depths of their memory.  It is also an excellent  guide for what types of yarns to use, how to interpret yarn gauges and most of all, it's a treasury of ideas on actual objects to weave.

The rigid heddle weaving workshop at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is very popular with the guys, and always fills up quickly, so I've never had the opportunity to participate in that workshop, although I have played around with my rigid heddle loom a little bit in the past.  Reading through this book, weaving is one of those few topics I'd like to learn with a teacher or workshop leader before I tried to self-teach and explore.

One of these years, I'll take a rigid heddle weaving course or workshop and I will buy this book, but for now, I'll give the book away to a random winner who contacts me with interest in owning the book.

If you'd like your own free copy of Handwoven Home, just e-mail or leave a blog comment and I'll select a winner of the book on Friday, June 30th.

Good luck to all those folks interested!

Current Knitting
I finished the last couple of stripes on the latest Color Block Baby Blanket.



I do have a few ends left to weave in, but fortunately, I kept up on weaving in ends throughout the making of the blanket, so I should be able to get this finished in no time.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weaving In


Finishing a garment has never been a chore for me...yes, it's a different skill than knitting, but it's still part of the knitting process for me.

Ends!

Many knitters complain about having to weave in ends, but it never occurred to me that this task was any less enjoyable than the knitting process itself.

I have three distinctly different methods I use for weaving in ends, depending on the what I'm making.

If I'm working on a sweater or any project that has a non-public side that isn't often seen except by the person who is wearing the garment, I will weave in my ends as knit but just catching the end behind each stitch I knit, as if I was catching a float on a Fair Isle or stranded project.


Perhaps not the most elegant looking way of taking care of yarn ends, but it's quick and efficient and avoids the tangling of ends if you wait until the end.

If I'm working on a project where both sides will be visible, like a scarf or a blanket, I take one of two approaches.

If the project is for me or for someone I know or for another knitter, I will just weave in the ends, hiding them in any way I can into the fabric.  As long as the ends aren't visible, I consider it a success.  If the ends come out during a washing or during regular wear, they can just be re-woven in by me or the other knitter.

If the project is being given as a gift to a non-knitter, or being made for sale, I take a lot more care in my weaving in.  First, I will un-ply multi-ply yarns to make each end at least one half as thick as the fully plied yarn (4-ply will be separated into two, 2-ply strands, 3-ply will separated into 3 separate strands, etc.)  Then I will carefully weave in each strand, following the knitting stitches of the garment (as if I was doing duplicate stitch) and when I've woven in about 4 inches of the strand, I will weave about an inch into the stitches in the opposite direction.  This will secure the end in so that it can't unravel and also hide it in a secure way.  Here's a short video of what I mean:



There have been some projects, such as the Interlocking Crochet Scarf, where the stitches are loose and I'm always fearful ends will come loose.  I will even sometimes use my sewing machine and sew across the woven in ends to secure them.

Current Knitting

As you may have noted in the video, I'm working on another Color Block Baby Blanket.


This one has 15 stripes instead of the first few I made with only 6 stripes and I'm enjoying the color mixes.

Any guesses on what the last color strip will be?  One clue...it's already been used in the blanket.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fiber Expertise



I have knit for over 30 years now.  I have been spinning for about 12 years.  I have taken multiple workshops on fiber preparation, sheep breeds, and spinning techniques.

Still a Rank Amateur

At this year's Men's Spring Knitting Retreat last month, one of the participants, Tommy, was slated to give a talk as the owner of a spinning mill.  He gave a slideshow/talk on fiber preparation and I was completely blown away.


Tommy has raised sheep most of his life and gave us a glimpse of just how much there is to understanding fiber. Everything from choosing a good fleece (or asking a sheep owner for a specific shearing), to skirting (which is way more than just removing the poo-sticky ends of the fleece), to the temperature of water to use for scouring, and the best degreaser, etc., etc., etc.  A 60 minute speech and fleece review was completely full of amazing information.

It also made me realize that I will always use a skillful mill to process fleeces into roving or yarn, even if they're a bit more expensive.

You'll see in my "Current" section below that I'm currently spinning one of Tommy's premier rovings.  He taunted me with it at the retreat, and then said he doesn't usually sell this blend and he definitely doesn't keep it in stock.  Of course, I had to have it...the best of the best...he's a talented fiber processor and a more talented salesperson.

Tommy doesn't have a web site up at the moment, but as soon as he does, I will buy as much as I can afford, and then let y'all know it's open.

Current Knitting/Spinning

I ended up finishing the Bright Lizard scarf yesterday.



It still needs to be blocked, but it will end up being a little wider than 5 inches and about 6' long.  I love the way the crayon colors patterned in almost a chevron shaping in the scarf.

I also started spinning up Tommy's special blend (Merino, Bunny, Alpaca, Silk and lamb...I think I'm missing some).  He holds back special top quality fleeces and fibers, and only makes this blend when he has the right components to make it.



I am truly making one of the nicest yarns I've ever spun.  It's soft and lofty and lustrous and gorgeous...if I do say so myself.  I don't recommend this kind of blend for new spinners, as the differing staple lengths and textures of the fibers require a constant attention to drafting evenly.  And Tommy wanted me to be very clear that he doesn't stock this roving and it's not likely it will be available any time soon. :P

Monday, June 12, 2017

Corporatocracy


It's hard to imagine that anyone doesn't recognize the power that billion-dollar corporations have in our country.

All Powerful

They elect politicians, they write legislation, they install judges, they determine pay and benefits for their employees, they pay HUGE compensation to their top executives and they sometimes even do the right thing...when it's in their own self interest.

Taking a lesson from the people that helped get marriage equality in across all of the U.S., there are sometimes ways to leverage corporations to help us.  Here is the basic history of how corporations unwittingly pushed to allow me and Thaddeus to get married.

  • It started with local and State governments starting to do the right thing and giving protections against discrimination for LGBT citizens.
  • When States like California required anyone getting State money or contracting with the State to have an equal protection clause, companies started to implement policies protecting LGBT employees.
  • When some states and localities opted to allow domestic partnerships, and then further required that companies extend benefits to domestic partners, the companies wanted to continue to do business with governments, so they complied.
  • Finally, some of the more liberal States started offering marriage as an option.
  • This caused quite a problem for large companies who operated in multiple States.  Now some of their employees were considered married at the State level, but not federally. And if an employee lived in a State where marriage wasn't legal, but got married on a State where it was, this created a whole new classification.  Specifically where this became a huge problem was in payroll taxes and employee benefits.  
    • Which employee spouses were eligible for benefits and which weren't?
    • Does a quasi-legal spouse need to name that spouse as a beneficiary for 401(k) plans?
    • Are company-paid health plan benefits offered to quasi-legal spouses considered taxable imputed income?
  • The questions and number of classifications became so complex, it was blowing up payroll and employee benefit systems and it was constantly changing as States started allowing marriage, but had differing rules than other States.
  • Finally, the nightmare of administering all this became too much for most companies and even the CEO's were secretly telling Federal administrations that we needed to make marriage equal on a national basis.  While the courts finally decided marriage equality nationally, I doubt it would have happened without the support of our Corporatocracy. 
Other examples of leveraging corporate America continue to be seen with State hate bills, like Pence tried to do in Indiana as Governor and South Carolina's hate laws.  When we get big companies on our side by threatening boycotts and announcing social media campaigns against them, they have a LOT of sway in the States.

We're still learning how to best work the system we have, but equality continues to move forward slowly.  And fascinatingly enough, I just saw this blog entry on AmericaBlog on the same topic today!

Current Knitting

I started a new Bright Lizard Scarf using some sock yarn in my stash.


The crayon colors against the gray yarn are pooling a it more than I expected, but I'm still liking how lovely the pattern is knitting up.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Setting Trends and Flame Lickin' and Knitter's Pride

 
Three of the vendors that donated generously to the 10th Anniversary Men's Spring Knitting Retreat were Trendsetters, Lickin' Flames and Knitter's Pride.

Artyarn, Ceramics and Needles - Oh My

Artyarn
Have you had a chance to see Interweave's new online knitting magazine...Knit.wear Wool Studio?  It features one of Trendsetters' most beautiful yarns, Alta Moda Cashmere in their Thousand Oaks Scarf design.


Take a look at some of the close-up shots of the wrap/scarf and you'll want to bury your face in the lush, soft warmth of the garment.  Could you imagine having a loved one open this up as a gift?  Talk about heirlooms...just beautiful.  I've always love the Lana Grossa line of sock yarns from Trendsetters, and now I have a new yarn of there's to crave...I wonder if my LYS carries this???

Ceramics
Another big hit at the Men's Spring Knitting retreat were the gifts that the volunteer workshop leaders received from Lickin' Flames (remember my post on Knitting Notion Dishes?).  Well, I ended up buying three shawl pins from Lickin' Flames to use for display at my craft shows.




The glazes they use are so rich and beautiful...they definitely make my knitwear look more elegant.  I will sell the shawl pins at the craft shows if people insist on buying them (for my cost).

Needles

Finally, Knitters Pride was also very generous to our retreat this year.  A huge assortment of needles was sent (thanks to Tim) for the guys to choose from.






Until I saw the assortment they provide, I honestly had no idea the huge assortment of knitting needles they carried.  Given that I have already decided that the Karbonz double-points were my preferred double-pointed needle:





I may now have to re-think my standard circular cable needle and re-stock my cache of needles.

Current Knitting

As shown in one of the shawl pin photos above, I finished the mesh shawlette in Madeline Tosh Merino Light.




After light steam blocking, the final scarf (using almost all of the 420 yards of Tosh yarn) measures 14" x 57" and can be used as either a wide neck scarf or a light shoulder wrap.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Delaware & Raritan Canal - Bicycling



One of the greatest things I did upon retirement is buying bicycles for Thaddeus and I so that we can ride around the New Hope/Lambertville/Delaware River/Canal area and enjoy the beauty in a somewhat slower pace.



Beauty, History and Exercise - All at Once!

About 100 yards from where we live, there is a bicycle/walking path that leads us directly to the Delaware River Canal towpath.

Our first few rides, we just enjoyed the beauty of the area and the serenity of riding bicycles.  We enjoyed the exercise part of it as well...not too difficult, but helping keep us active and engaged.

Then Thaddeus started noticing parts of the canal...the locks, the spillways, the canal bridges (that transport canal water over existing streams going into the Delaware River).  We became "Friends of the Delaware Canal" and started to learn a lot about our man-made waterway.

We had no idea, for instance, that much of the area where we bicycle is not technically the canal, but a feeder to the canal.  And much of the "towpath" was really an old railroad bed.

Here's a brief history of the canal in case you're interested.

Here's some additional basic wikipedia information on the Delaware/Raritan canal.

There are tons of maps for walking and bicycling and parks on the canal and river.

We truly do live in a wonderland of beauty and I'm thrilled to be able to get to explore it more and more.

Current Knitting

I've made quite a bit of progress on the shawlette using Madeline Tosh Merino Light.



Again, the photo doesn't quite do the color justice.  The Loopy Ewe in Colorado has the best color representation for this yarn.


Monday, June 05, 2017

Disney and Amigurumi Combined

One fiber-related skill that I've never pursued is crocheting amigurumi, but now I have a little starter kit.

Zootopia Amigurumi

Thunder Bay Press and Disney have come together in what I consider to be a very smart move to create the Disney ZooTopia Crochet Kit.



To be completely honest, in addition to knowing virtually nothing about how to create crochet amigurumi, I also had virtually no knowledge of the Disney movie ZooTopia.



So first of all, the movie sounds like a clever, animated version of what the world would be like if humans never existed and all sorts of mammals created a world similar to what we have today.  I may actually watch this movie now that I've seen a preview or two.

But for the Amigurumi crochet kit, I thought I'd do a "box opening" video, like they do with so many technological devices.


One of the things I like about this kit is that it gives you basic crochet shaping skills to be able to create many different shapes that can be used in any combination to create creatures far beyond what is described in the pattern book.

Current Crocheting/Knitting

I finally finished the Interlocking Crochet Scarf using fine kid alpaca in two different colors (if black and gray can be considered colors).


This scarf is a never-fail pattern for me that works with any solid or multi-colored fingering weight yarn.  It always creates a drapey scarf with an interesting fabric that is stretchy and fun.  I love this pattern.

I also started a new simple lace wrap using a simple mesh pattern


I knew when I started this project that it wouldn't be easy to get a photo of this project that accurately describes the color...it's a bright fuchsia...Madeline Tosh Merino Light in colorway coquette.  It's knitting up quickly and I'm enjoying it.