Friday, December 29, 2017

A Place For Everything...

Have you ever found something that is very cool at an auction or garage sale or flea market and thought it was perfect for something...but you weren't sure what?

Pack Rats Can Be Prescient

Thaddeus and I tend to be pack rats.  We both will often forestall throwing something out because "it might be useful some day."

And to reinforce this behavior...a number of times when we throw something out, we soon have a need for it and regret having disposed of it.

Years ago, Thaddeus found this great old wooden toolbox for storing and carrying tools.  He thought it would be perfect for me for storing knitting needles, notions, cones of yarn, etc.

I originally used it for the intended purpose, but found it wasn't quite what I wanted/needed and it was left abandoned next to a love-seat in our television room...

...until this past week when Thaddeus dragged it out from it's corner and realized it would fit perfectly in my sock-knitting machine space and let me keep all my CSM tools handy and organized!

The rustic nature of the toolbox and the size of it worked out perfectly to keep all my sock-knitting tools handy and organized...I couldn't be more thrilled.

I don't mean to encourage the obsessive hoarder types among my readers, but this is one more example of how keeping something around for a while came in incredibly useful.

Current Knitting

I was able to finish the Shibui Cloud Infinity Scarf.

As you can tell by it's name, I did end up grafting it together with a twist to create an infinity scarf.  The photo doesn't do justice to the soft, lightly haloed, cloud-like soft warmth of this garment.  Even the luster of the silk and mohair don't really show up.

Confession time:  I have to admit, I always looked at Shibui yarns and balked at some of the prices.  I'd usually end up opting for some similar yarn that was less expensive.  Now that I've used Shibui Cloud, I can honestly say it's worth paying for the better yarn.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2018 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat!

Coming soon to a web site near you...yes, we will be opening registration for this year's Men's Spring Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain this Saturday, January 6, 2018.

Registration Frenzy!

For last year's Men's Knitting Retreats, most of them sold out pretty quickly, so the demand for these events has been increasing over the years.

It used to be that I worried for months that I might not make my financial goals once I'd opened the retreat for registration and now my biggest worry is apologizing to the men who weren't able to get into the retreat because it sold out in the first 8 minutes!

So if you or anyone you know is interested in the 2018 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, make sure they're at their computers at 10:00 am EST sharp next Saturday if they want to secure a spot.

The announcement/link as to where to register will be e-mailed to about 300 guys on the notification list and also made on Ravelry and Facebook:

Ravelry -

Facebook -

We've also scheduled a second Men's Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain for 2018 in the Fall.  We're hoping that doubling the annual capacity will satisfy more guys in 2018.

Current Knitting

Just continuing to try and finish up all my left-over W'sIP (I have two on the needles, but I'm only working actively on this one):

I'm debating on whether to just keep this one as a wide scarf, or whether I should graft it to the beginning to make an infinity scarf out of it.  Thoughts from those that might wear something like this would be appreciated.

I have also knit and ripped out and reknit (three times) the same pair of socks on my Gearhart CSM.

With all the help that Thaddeus gave me with re-furbishing my machine and getting me set back up to crank out socks, these will be his if they fit him well enough.  I still have to graft the toes and make minor adjustments to the heel, but this pair took me about an hour of actual knitting time to make.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Christmas Miracle!

I completed cranking out my first pair of socks from the antique Gearhart circular sock machine.

Likes and Dislikes

  • There are a number of things I'm quite pleased with:
  • Successfully learning a rounded toe and heel on my machine
  • Being able to change colors of the toe and heel without ruining the sock
  • Using regular sock yarn (Kaffe's Regia in this case) to make a sock on my machine
  • Cranking out both socks took me about 90 minutes of actual knitting time

There are a number of things I'm not so please with:

  • I still can't get my ribber to work, so I'm using faux ribbing
  • I'm not sure why, but I did both socks starting at the toe and will change that so I can hem the top
  • Switching from faux rib to all needles creates holes that I need to get rid of
  • I made the foot too long for me or Thaddeus
  • I don't want faux ribbing on the bottom of the foot

Actually, the first sock I was able to crank out on the machine was slightly better in some ways, but it wasn't big enough and I had a few missed stitches I didn't like.

I ripped out the first sock and I will rip out the first pair as well to re-do them.

Current Knitting

I ended up finishing the Dr. Seuss biased knit scarf.

Not one of my more complex projects, but it was a fun, mindless knit that resulted in a nice, long, warm scarf with lots of brightness.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Very Merry Xmas!

Hoping that your holidays are joyous and wonderful or at least that your 2017 year-end is better than usual.

Pissing Off The Right

Lately, it seems that the conservative-right has made an art out of posting things on social media for the sole purpose of annoying/angering the progressive-left.

I believe they often don't even really believe what they write...they just know posting it will piss off people with whom they disagree.

I can't say I haven't done similar things in my past social media postings (except I purposefully tried to piss of the conservative-right...obviously).

For instance, refusing to keep the "Christ in Christmas" and using "holidays" or "Xmas" or Yule-Tide will often get a charge out of the rigid right.  Whenever I see religious comments that demand that we keep the Christ in Christmas, I always respond that I'd prefer they start with keeping the Christ in Christian...because so many of the issues supported by alleged Christians are anything but Christ-like.

All that being said, I really do love the Christmas season.  I still love driving by houses festooned with colored lights, I love the smell of cookies baking and I even love the busy-ness of the local shopping areas.  Hell, I even like Christmas carols.  I'm still NOT a fan of the cold and ice and snow...but with climate change, it seems my Winters have been a lot less frigid than in the past.

Current Knitting

I finished the Interlocking Crochet Scarf and the result  it very nice.

You'll note that I still have a few ends to weave in, but I did keep up on it while I crocheted to make sure I didn't end up with a ton of ends.  The scarf ended up being a little shorter than 5', but the light, drapiness of the superwash merino/nylon blend is almost silk-like...both in terms of the hand of the fabric and the color saturation.  I'm quite pleased with this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thanks Obama

Despite all that the Republicans and the current nightmare in the White House are trying to do to eradicated all that he did, I will soon be a proud participant in the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare)!

Affordable Indeed

As a 58 year old who has left the workforce (I don't like to use the word "retired", as that implies a status where pensions and medical benefits might be inferred), I will have to pay for my own health insurance until I reach Medicare age of 65.

For the first 18 months of non-working, I could rely on my former employer to let me purchase health insurance through COBRA, which would have covered me through March of this year.

However, during open enrollment, I thought it might be better to switch to ACA coverage as of January 1, 2018, so I wouldn't have to satisfy an annual deductible on my former employer's coverage and then have to start a new deductible in April when my ACA coverage started.

So, I applied for ACA.

The process for applying in the Healthcare Marketplace was complex and confusing.  I really just wanted to see how much I'd have to pay for coverage under the ACA so I could do a comparison, but it appeared I could only do that by actually applying (I was wrong...there are a number of estimators for ACA costs in each State).  But I applied anyway, figuring I could always cancel the application.

The on-line application wasn't very intuitive and seemed quite confusing and hard to follow and I ended up not understanding what income I should report as part of the application, and I made an error that caused a lot of confusion for the two agencies involved in approving my application (Healthcare Marketplace and PA Government).

But since Thaddeus and I have very little taxable income (we're living off our Non-IRA savings mostly), we both ended up qualifying for Medical Assistance in PA (because our Democratic Governor took Medicaid Expansion).  I was a bit concerned about the reputation of being a Medicaid recipient, but soon found out it offers very good coverage in my area (better than the crappy shit Aetna is currently offering) and a list of doctors and specialists and hospitals we can pick from.

So, as of January 1, 2018, Thaddeus and I will now be proud participants of the ACA, and we couldn't be more pleased.

So, when you hear your conservative friends complaining about how awful Obamacare is...ask them if they are a participant (most aren't)...ask them if they live in a State where the governor made the right choice about Medicaid Expansion (and why they're not complaining about their governor instead of the ACA).

The recent tax bill that is about to pass will make the cost of healthcare coverage soar because of the elimination of the "individual mandate" that everyone participate, but I'm hopeful that I'll have reached Medicare age before it affects me.

Current Crochet

In between expanding my experience and skill set associated with the sock knitting machine, I have done a bit more work on the Interlocking Crochet Scarf using Groovy Hues sock yarns.

I have to say, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing so many vibrant, beautiful colors coming together in a vibrant, colorful scarf.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sucker for Packaging

I always point out when Thaddeus buys something because of the packaging, but honestly, I am totally swayed by pleasing packaging.

The Seven "P's" of Product Promotion

Proper Pleasing Packaging Presages Perfectly Pleasurable Products

A little while ago, I purchased ordered some yarn from Suzanne at Groovy Hues, and this arrived in my mail.

I know not all proper pleasing packaging will result in perfect products, but in this case, it was true.

It's amazing to find yarns dyed in ways that are EXACTLY my kind of aesthetic.  When someone can combine colors that are unusual and brilliantly pleasing, then I will always be shopping at their web site...especially when my standard designs show off her work in the most amazing ways.

Suzanne's yarns sell out quickly, but right now she has rather large lot of excellent colorways. I imagine her festivals and shows where she sells her fiber are slowing down or finished, so her Etsy shop is well-stocked.  Time to shop!

Current Knitting

I have three WsIP for my handknitting and two FOs on the CSM.

First off, I started a new Interlocking Crochet Scarf project using the remainders of three of Suzanne's fine dye work.

I couldn't be more thrilled with how the colors join and meld and combine in ways that have rich, dark patches and sparkling jewel patches.  It's exactly what I go for when I combine handpainted yarns.

I also did some additional work on the Dr. Seuss Striped Biased Scarf.

Despite it's dizzying, eye-blurring effect, I'm enjoying working on this project.  The Grinch's dog would look stunning in this beauty.

The third WIP is the Shibui Cloud Cowl, but I haven't done any additional work on that.

I did finish a second "cast-on bonnet" using my CSM.

Now I have one for both my 80 slot cylinder and my 100 slot cylinder.

Finally, I actually created a sock on my CSM this past weekend.

It's not a good sock and it's definitely not flawless, but I'm getting there.

Friday, December 15, 2017

More CSM Progress

I know there's nothing worse than having to read about an obsession you have no interest in...but alas, I don't care.

Latest Circular Sock Machine Advances

Working with the 80 slot/needle cylinder, I was able to create both a simple hem-top tube and a faux-rib hem-top tube.

I became frustrating trying to use the 40 needle ribber attachment and not being able to get it aligned and I also go frustrated with multiple attempts at turning a heel.

So I switched the cylinder to the 100 slot/needle cylinder to see if I could get it to work.  So far, I have been successful at creating a simple tube on the 100 slot cylinder using a few different gauge yarns.  Boy does this create a WIDE diameter sock tube!

Thinking that I would never be able to get a sock-worthy gauge using 100 very fine needles, I decided to try a 3x1 faux-rib (since I can't get my machine to make real ribbing yet) and came up with a very suitable hemmed/faux-rib sock tube.

I also completed one more thing on the 100 cylinder:

It's called a cast-on's used to cast onto a circular sock knitting machine instead of using the metal cast-on bonnet that came with the machine.

I do have to admit, I like the knitted cast-on bonnet better.

So, if you've stayed with my boring sock-alogue up until now, I commend you as a dedicated blog reader.  Be glad that I'm not subjecting you to the repair/restoration videos I've been doing to show how Thaddeus is helping me fix some of the chips on the cylinder!

Current Knitting

I have continued to do hand knitting and I've made quite a bit of progress on the Shibui Silk Cloud Cowl/Infinity Scarf.

I've also started (out of boredom and laziness) a new biased scarf in Dr. Seuss-ish colors.

Grinchy kind

Monday, December 11, 2017

Trying To Understand

Something has been happening lately when Thaddeus and I are out riding our bicycles that I am having trouble understanding.

Feedback Requested

So here are two scenarios that have happened multiple times:

There is a bridge and attached sidewalk that crosses the Delaware River from Stockton, NJ to Center Bridge, PA.  Despite the fact that there are signs stating you can't ride your bicycle across on the sidewalk, we do when the little bridge house at the NJ end of the bridge isn't occupied with an official.  There are rarely people walking on the bridge, but when there are, we will often dismount and walk when we pass or wait until the pedestrians have crossed over before riding across.  I know it's against the rules and maybe even illegal, but we ride our bicycles across anyway.  Twice lately, people have felt compelled to tell us that we're required to walk our bicycles...not ride.  They didn't tell us as a simple matter of fact, or in a way that was helpfully letting us know something...they chided us for breaking the rule/law.

The second scenario is similar...there is a brief period of our ride when we're required to ride on a street in New Hope.  The other day, we came out onto that street on the left-hand side of the road and road down the left side for a short distance while we waited for traffic to clear so we could cross over to the right side.  One of the cars passing by had his window opened and yelled out his window, "Wrong side!"

So, here are my two questions:

  1. Why do people feel compelled to chide bicyclers for bad behavior, while other seemingly worse transgressions are happening at the same time in the same place? (As an example, the bridge with ride across instead of walk has a 25 MPH speed limit and people are constantly driving 40 MPH or more over the bridge).
  2. How would you respond to someone that chided you while cycling?

Current Knitting

Despite my continued obsession with the circular sock machine, I have been knitting by hand as well.

This is going to be a simple cowl/circular scarf when it's finished.  It's 52 stitches of garter and eyelet garter panels using Shibui Silk Cloud...a Kid Mohair/Silk blend in an incredibly lustrous silvery taupe color.  I plan on sewing up the ends of the scarf so that it will be a cowl when it's finished.

Friday, December 08, 2017

CSM Obsession

Like many of the fiber arts, working with a circular sock machine (CSM) can get a bit obsessive, so you may want to just ignore my next year of blog posts as I spiral into a bit of craziness.

Current CSM Progress

Since Wednesday, I have:
  • Set up the 80 slot cylinder with a new set of cylinder needles
  • Liberally oiled the crank and cylinder
  • Used the metal cast-on bonnet to cast on multiple test tubes
  • Attempted multiple times (unsuccessfully) to add in the ribber attachment and knit 1x1 ribbed tubes
  • Watched Thaddeus glue on the yarn tensioner wire
  • Watched Thaddeus unglue the yarn tensioner wire and put it back on in the correct direction (my fault, not his)
Here are a couple of videos of the machine working:

Suffice it to say, I'm getting faster and faster at casting on a new "sock" and I'm getting quite good at inserting and removing needles from the cylinder.  I am thinking that I may need professional help with getting the ribber working.

Current Knitting

Other than tubes of waste fabric, I have also finished working on a pair of orange slipper socks for a friend.

The pattern is quite simple and works well for a quick gift.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Thanks to readers like Kim, I have a list of awesome resources from someone who's been through what I'm going through (also known as an enabler):

I have two Gearharts (1890-ish and 1924-ish), and am madly jealous of your antique stand. It looks as though you have a very complete package, and shouldn't need much more. Although more gadgets are always good.

1. Be prepared for a significant learning curve. I've been hand knitting for 40+ years (started as an infant, honestly...) and am modes tly mechanically adept. It still took longer than I anticipated to crank a functional sock.
2. Check out http://stores.erlbachergear.... They manufacture new CSMs based on the 1924(?) model. Depending on your year/model, you may be able to get additional cylinders and ribbers. They have a large selection of accessories and patterns, too. Call - Greyson is an absolute sweetheart and is a font of information.
3. - monthly subscription, absolutely recommended. Jamie (Greyson's sister, I believe) from Erlbacher does training videos. They're worth every penny and a delight to watch. Subscribe now!
4. Ravelry, of course. There's several excellent forums. A search for CSM will get you started.
5. Circular Sock Knitting Machine society - Newsletter, list of crank-ins, history, all excellent.
6. YouTube - it's a bit hit and miss. I particularly recommend Steve Ashton - He's on Rav as TheWizardofBC, and is extremely generous with his knowledge.
They are addictive little beasts. As a handknitter, I was well into SABLE territory with sock yarn. Hah! I cranked through that in a year. What surprised me the most is in addition to socks, of course, is how very versatile they are. You can do mitts, gloves, scarves, flat web. I'm doing a sock yarn scrap afghan right now.
I find the social history to be absolutely fascinating as well.
As a complete aside, we shared an elevator once (Edmonton, AB). It was 7 am, I was still mostly asleep, and you were in a conversation with a colleague. By the time I processed - that fellow looks familiar, why does he look familiar - you and your colleague had already reached your floor. So, a very belated "good morning!".
Happy cranking,

Happy belated "good morning" to you as well Kim - one of the few reasons I wish I still did work up in Edmonton!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Inspired By A Celestial Angel

Okay...she's not technically a celestial angel, but her name (Celeste Angello) probably means that in some language somewhere.

Starting Again

Years ago, I purchased an antique, circular, sock-knitting machine (CSM) with all the bells and whistles.  The craft shows I did last year and this year featured a vendor (Celeste) who used a modern version of the sock-knitting machine to make and sell hand-cranked socks.  It made me really yearn to get my CSM back in working order.

So I took some inventory:

I seem to have the following:
  • Gearhart Circular Sock-Knitting Machine (circa 1905??)
  • 80 Needle Cylinder
  • 100 Needle Cylinder
  • Yarn guide
  • Ribber Attachment (with 40 and 50 needle beds)
  • Old and new 12 and 18 gauge cylinder needles
  • Old and new 12 and 18 gauge ribber bed needles
  • Floor Stand
  • Original Crate it was shipped in
  • Downloaded instruction manuals 
  • Metal/wire Cast-on Bonnet Basket
  • Hanging weights
  • Table clamp swift
  • Table clamp cone winder with two regular size wooden cones and one small wooden cone

Ideally, I'd love to be able to get this back into working order so that I can knit standard ribbed-ankle socks using standard sock yarns.

We'll see how it goes!

Current Knitting

A friend asked if I'd make a pair of bulky slipper-socks, so I found a seemingly easy pattern design on Ravelry and got approval for the design and the yarn:

So I knit up the first one last night and started the second one.

One minor problem after I've sewn up and woven in the ends on the first one...when I printed the pattern, it did NOT print the toe shaping at the top of the I think I'm going back and re-doing it.  So annoyed with myself.