Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Failed Swatch

Aesthetics are objective, but I truly believe that there are certain general rules to design that can't be broken without having something look bad.  What those rules are exactly, I don't know.

I Know It When I See It

There was a photo of a shawl design on Pinterest that piqued my interest, so I thought I'd reverse-engineer the stitch pattern and I had this lovely vision in my head of a field of grass with colored flowers spread over it.

Here's what I ended up with instead.

I'm not sure why I dislike this design so much, but I do.

Is it too twee?
Is the yarn too bulky?
Are the colors too garish and bright?
Is the knitting too uneven?
Is the design flawed?
Is there too much foreground to background ratio?

So today, it's open-season on critical analysis of what makes a swatch go wrong.  No need to be nice and tell me that you actually like this swatch...I want to hear EVERYTHING that's wrong with this little POS.

And while you're at it...don't forget, this Friday is the last day to enter the Blog Contest to win Modern Tapestry Crochet.

Current Knitting/Crochet

The crochet Mini Bean Scarf is back on the hook.

I've added the one stripe of color to this scarf that it will get...going for a more minimalist/simple design.

There has also been some progress on the Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf.

It never ceases to amaze me that I can take two Koigu colorways like:

And get a harmonious and beautiful scarf out of them.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Define Homophobic

Sometimes when I hear or read something that seems hateful I feel obliged to assess if the person is trying to be hateful, or is just in need of some education about their biases.

I Sometimes I Just Don't Have the Patience

There are other times when I get so fucking tired of being judged or hated by someone, that I don't care if it's out of ignorance...I just want to lash out in anger.

I got the following e-mail to the Men's Knitting Retreat e-mail address:
I was trying to convince my man that knitting is not just for gay men; so I showed him these photos of the men on a knitting retreat. But that one with the man looking at a book of gay mens' bodies... turned him right off the idea! He said 'see... told you they're all gay'. Why did you have to put that pic in there??? It just feeds the stereotype...
How would you react to this?

Here's what I noticed:

  1. There is an inherent judgement that being gay is bad both by her husband and her.
  2. She and her husband are both willing to generalize about the entire event based on one photo.
  3. The heteronormative tone of her e-mail seems to indicate amazing ignorance of what it's like to be "other."

Over the years of organizing the Men's Knitting Retreats, I have gotten a handful of similarly homophobic (or really heterocentric) e-mails.

I opted not to reply to this one, but I may reconsider if any of the QueerJoe readers has any brilliant ideas on how to respond to this.

Current Knitting

The beige Mini Bean crochet scarf got boring, so I have started a new scarf project.

This version is slightly different than my other Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf projects.  It's going to be a bit longer and bit more open and lacy.  But I am in love with this combination of colorways.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Protecting Myself

Do you find it infuriating that companies like Equifax can be so careless with your personal financial information?

Hours of Effort

In addition to spending a few hours freezing our credit records with the three different credit agencies (which cost a total of over $40 for Thaddeus an I), I also had to go through the process of getting free credit reports to make sure there were no accounts listed that I wasn't aware of.

Even though the credit reports and scores from the three credit agencies can be obtained for free, I went with a company that charged me $1 via my credit card, which gave me a free 7-day use of their protection services (which are useless for me) and then they would charge my credit card about $35 per month to provide services that don't really protect me.

Attempting to cancel the services via the internet was futile.

It was easy to sign up for the services and completely simple to let them effort for that at all.

But to cancel, required a phone call...where you have to listen to all the varied sales pitches for services before they will cancel.

I told the telemarketer five times that I didn't want any additional information on their services, that I only wanted to cancel what I had signed up for. 

ScoreSense was the company that tried to trick me into paying $35 a month for "free credit reports" and made it painful to cancel before my card was charged...but I still blame Equifax.  It was their negligence and delay in reporting the breach that required me to go to all this effort to begin with.

Current Knitting

Working diligently on one project (almost), I was able to finish the latest Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf.

I couldn't be more pleased with this project...deep, rich, saturated colors in a very long (about 7' long!) and drapey fabric.

I did also start a new hat pattern, but you'll have to wait for the next blog entry for information on that.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tin Ear

Music has never been something that I've ever had an aptitude for...playing, listening, appreciating.

Relying On The Kindness of Friends

Don't get me wrong, a good hook in a pop music song will sound appealing to me, but most people I know can hear intricacies in music in the same way I can see colors or textures in a complex mosaic.  Thaddeus, for instance, will pick out a string of music in a piece that wasn't even noticeable until he hummed it.

I also don't have a very sophisticated ear for music...hearing most music only superficially, it only hits the more basic parts of my brain that doesn't discern much difference between a catchy jingle or an orchestral masterpiece.

I've learned to live with this disability by relying on friends who have a much keener sense of music than I am, like Thaddeus.  And also my friend Stephen.

Stephen has broadcast LGBT music on the radio for years...originally when I met him in Upstate NY at WRPI and now on the West coast at Not Weird, Queer Radio out of Portland, Oregon.  He exposed me to a lot of incredible music, and I just had the opportunity to see one of them in my home town of New Hope this past weekend.

Tom Goss is a fantastic singer/songwriter, and a particularly good entertainer.  We saw him in a small venue with about 50 people in the audience.  I also got to meet his husband, and thank him for sharing Tom with the public. Check out his East Coast schedule and if he's showing up anywhere near you, I'd highly recommend checking out his show.

And pick up one of his new t-shirts!

Sorry model it much better than I ever will.

Current Crochet/Knitting

Since the last blog entry, I have made progress on the two crochet scarves I was working on.

Both scarves are using the Mini Bean stitch (I just realized I am doing this stitch slightly wrong...but I'm not going back to re-do it now).

I also figured I should show at least one finished object.

I decided I'd have a handful of pink pussy hats for sale at the craft shows, in case anyone requests one.  I do mine in the round instead of flat, and then I just kitchener the top seam.  Much easier as far as I'm concerned.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Thanks everyone for your entries in the Blog Contest...just leave a comment on which is your favorite design on the last blog entry, and you'll be entered to win a free book from Interweave!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Crochet - The Ugly Step-Sister of Knitting

I primarily identify as a knitter and I have sometimes relied on old ideas about crochet to make fun of the craft.  But truth be told, I find crochet to be an incredibly useful technique in my bag of designing tricks.

Old Ideas

There was a time when most knitting and crocheting magazines had some of the ugliest designs, and I have to admit that during that time, an ugly poncho that was knitted wasn't quite as ugly as a similar crocheted version.

I also recently made a joke in one of my on-line forums that might have indicated I'm a knit-snob who looks down my nose at crochet, but that couldn't be further from the truth.

A friend of mine who is a master crocheter/designer told me once that crochet fabric is typically about twice the density of knit fabric, so you typically want to use finer gauge yarns when you crochet a garment.  There are exceptions, but during the 70's when worsted weight Pound 'o Love yarn was all the rage, crochet did a bit more badly in reputation than knitting.

But that's yarns and techniques have evolved, crochet has become an incredibly useful tool for creating fantastically stylish garments.  A perfect example is the latest book, Modern Tapestry Crochet by Alessandra Hayden.

First of all, I have attempted tapestry crochet in the past, and I really didn't understand what I was doing (I learned that from this new book, which describes it extremely well).  Tapestry crochet is a method for using multiple colors in a crochet garment, changing the colors in the middle of a row, without showing any floats or "wrong sides" of a garment.

Below are a dozen designs from the book that I thought were quite good, so I've created a blog contest...enter the blog contest to win a free copy of the book, Modern Tapestry Crochet.

Blog Contest

To win a free copy of the book, leave a comment or send me an email at telling me which of the 12 designs below is your favorite.  Whoever selects my favorite design will win the book...simple as that.  If no one picks my favorite, I will send the book to whoever picks my second-favorite...and if multiple people pick my favorite, I'll randomly select from the multiple people with fine taste!

Enter by Friday of next week (the 29th of September) and I'll notify the winner shortly there after.  If you already have the book, or you'd prefer someone else won it and you'd still like to play, just note that in your e-mail or comment.

Good luck to all.

En Route Bag
Evergreen Country Cowl
Quick Stop Clutch
Cross Country Socks
Cross Roads Scarf
Distant Mountains Throw
Provisions Tote
Route Maps Scarf
Scenic Overlook Mitts
Seaside Slippers
Switchback Throw
Wayfinding Hat

Current Crochet

Curtis, who helps Rusty organize the South East Men's Knitting Retreat posted a couple of crochet scarves he's made using a stitch called the Mini Bean stitch.  I really liked the way the fabric looked, so I watched a YouTube tutorial and actually swatched (yes, I swatched and even washed the swatch!).

I enjoyed the stitch so much, I decided to start a scarf of my own with the closest unused yarns I could grab without leaving my seat.

I also started a second scarf in the original swatch yarn (an old discontinued Rowan wool made in Yorkshire that feels like very fine handspun).

I opted to used a larger hook than I'd originally swatched with (see?!?! helps to swatch!).  The color scarf seems a little dense and I'm hopeful that it will loosen up when I wash and block it.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Julie writes, "Oh, Joe, I love the booties! Is that an original pattern, and if so is it on Ravelry?"

The design is based on a Ravelry pattern by Marianna Mel called Baby Hug Boots. It's a free pattern and it's extremely well written.  I've only made slight modifications to make it a little easier to knit up lots of them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

We've Come a Long Way From the Talkies

It's shocking to think about how brilliantly entertaining the first motion pictures were...actually seeing people afraid of watching a silent movie of a train thinking it was actually there.

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words... many words is a motion picture worth?

Having the ability to create an instant movie on a pocket-size device is still somewhat miraculous to me.  I can easily invite you into my morning and let you see a part of how I start most of my days.

This morning was all about crochet for two reasons.  First, Curtis posted a photo of a finished crochet scarf using a cool-looking stitch I had never heard of call Mini Bean, so I had to teach myself this new stitch and see if I could incorporate it into a scarf myself.

Second, I met with the grand-master of crochet herself, Kathy Merrick, at lunch yesterday, and she inspired me with some of her work and thoughts on color, so I've been working on a bright little scarf.

Current Knitting/Crochet

Here's a photo of the Mini Bean Crochet scarf.

I'm loving the bright and cheery colors and how they're blending.

I've also finished 4.52 pairs of booties.

Obviously, I have a few seams to sew up and a few ends to weaving in, but these little beauties knit up quite quickly.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cell Phone Madness

Normally when I need help on something that requires massive internet research, Thaddeus does that for me.

When It Comes to Cell Phones...

Unfortunately, I live with someone who is cell phone averse and only carries a go-phone for emergencies (which I insisted on).  So I can't rely on him to help me make basic decisions on wireless carriers, mobile phones and data plans.

Recently, I finished up a two-year contract with Verizon with a data plan the gave me very little data, but it was the cheapest plan they had for an iPhone.  I ended up paying around $70 a month...which I recognize isn't very much.

But once in a while, I would find that my phone was using up data while I was outside of WiFi range and I'd be hit with $15 per gig of extra data.  But honestly, it wasn't very often this happened until recently, something has changed and I'm going over my minimal data limit almost every month.

I decided it was time to look for either a larger data plan with Verizon, or switch to a different carrier where I could get more data for not much more money.

Trying to ferret out the best deal was dizzying!

I finally realized Verizon has some newfangled data plans which will increase my data plan to 5 gig a month for LESS than I'm currently paying each month!!!!  WTF?!?!

I do like Verizon and their customer service was very helpful in comparing and switching to the new plan, but I sure as hell hope I don't have to go through this again any time soon.

Current Knitting

I finished the latest Color Block Scarf in "brights."

I still have only a few ends to weave in (I'm really enjoying keeping up with my weaving-in process as I progress on a project) and I love how it turned out...I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I love when I can use odd color combinations and make them into a garment that looks nice.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Celebrating Sheep

Someone I know who's been knitting for a few years now surprised me by noting that he never realized there was more than one type of sheep.  It got me to thinking how long it's been since I realized (or cared) that there were different breeds.

New Jersey's Annual Sheep-a-palooza

This past weekend the Garden State Sheep Breeders' Association Festival took place and I reveled in all things fiber for most of Saturday.

I got a chance to meet up with Hayes, BJ and Todd when I was there.

I didn't get a photo of Todd...I was too busy hugging him as it had been a while since I'd seen him.

I did some fiber shopping as well.

The very first booth I came to was Aisling Yarns and they had a couple of skeins of black and yellow fingering weight yarn that I had to have.

Then I hit the Suzanne and Thaddeus' (not my Thaddeus...another Thaddeus) booth, Groovy Hues and found another four hanks of fingering weight that were too gorgeous to pass up.

Finally, I made my way over to Mindy at Puff the Magic Rabbit and bought some of her mohair.

She also had a first-time-fleece from one of her goats that has been bottle-fed and kept mostly indoors in her house that I had to have.

It's is impossible to convey how soft and silky and lustrous this fleece matter what kind of photo I take of it, it looks like the hair of some monstrous women in a horror movie that just dragged herself backwards out of a well.

So, instead, I'll show you a video of Cloudy, the goat whose fleece I now own taken by Mindy.

But if you're ever at my house, I'll be glad to let you pet my fleece and you'll understand just what I mean about it's soft gorgeousness.

Current Knitting

I'm nearing the end of my latest Color Block Scarf.

I usually make these scarfs about 6 feet long and I am about 6 feet tall...almost finished.