Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Tag Sale for US!


Every year at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat, guys are encouraged to bring items for sale at the tag sale tables...yarn, books, needles, hooks, notions, etc.

Yarn Buying For a Good Cause

Since the guys who sell yarn can allocate a portion (or all) of the proceeds for the sale of their tag sale items to the Scholarship Fund for the Men's Knitting Retreat, we usually have a lot of guys bringing things to sell and we end up funding about a full scholarship to the retreat each year based on the tag sale donations alone.

This year, while my friend Michael wasn't able to attend the retreat, he sent this in his place.




This is about 2,400 yards of hand-painted, superwash merino in a worsted weight yarn.

Michael has been focusing on his quilting and fabric dyeing in the last few years and his work is truly amazing.  He decided to try his hand at dyeing yarn and this fantastic batch of yarn resulted.  He has very generously donated the proceeds of the sale of this yarn to the scholarship fund this year.  I'm thinking $4.50 a hank will make these hanks fly off the table, but I'll let you know.

Current Knitting

I raced a bit since Monday to finish the back of the Briar Rose Pullover.


The length from shoulder to waist is about 26" and overall, I'm quite pleased with how this is turning out so far.  Here it is in reverse:


It shows off the pooling of colors a bit more without the columns of slipped stitches, but it's still quite an amazing fabric...soft, plush and very warm.

I'm also quite excited to start designing the front neck opening.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Concerning my ideas about Kripalu Yoga Center, The Other Kristen wrote, "Joe, you just saved me a pile of money. My partner and I have been talking about a three-day workshop at Kripalu. We have never been there, but I used to live a bit farther north in the Berkshires, and am pretty familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the North Adams to Stockbridge corridor. I think we will save our money and seek out a place that is more serene."

Three of the women from my area that attended the Breema workshop ended up renting a local AirB&B cabin about 3 miles from Kripalu for much less than the cost of lodging there.  They purchased the meal plan so they could eat with the group and not have to worry about food preparation during their stay.  So, if you want to do a program that Kripalu is hosting, this might be a good option as well.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monetizing Serenity



This last weekend I visited Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health for the first time.  It was clear I am not a natural part of that community of people.

Critiquing is Easy

An English teacher in High School got tired of hearing us say why we thought The Scarlet Letter was crap and told us that critiquing anything was easy, but finding what was awesome sometimes took some effort.

So, while I critiqued and judged the general population at Kripalu, it was more that I realized that I just didn't enjoy hanging out with this crowd.

Yes, I abhorred sitting in the beautiful lobby overlooking the Berkshire Mountains listening to flip-flop-clad women rushing to their next yoga session to make sure they got their preferred spot in class.  Aggressive pursuit of serenity just seemed so odd to me.  The whole atmosphere of the place felt like a reality show called The Real Moms of Atlanta...a bunch of contentious, self-absorbed people securing their place in the social status of Ayurvedic history.

I also felt that the scope of this venture was way too large to maintain a simple, serene environment.  Thousands of people and acres of parking for their cars just seems so contradictory to being able to work toward self knowledge and peace.  Putting into place rules about where you can't use your cell phones and making the huge cafeteria a silent place during breakfasts...those efforts helped get it closer to the goal, but not close enough as far as I was concerned.

The effect on me was that I felt lonely, isolated and excluded.

It's easy to recognize that it was all my state of mind and not anything about the other people there, and like Mr. Scanella said..."Critiquing is easy."

Photo Credit: Jack Turkel ca 1977

I do have to say that I thought the food was incredibly mindful and well prepared for such a large population of people.  And I can't say enough amazing things about the workshop I participated in.  The participants, the workshop leaders and the content were truly amazing.  I will continue to pursue Breema as a method of discovery and nurturing.  Hopefully just in different venues.

Current Knitting

Whilst examining my belly button this past weekend, I did have some time while not doing yoga during my optional program times to get in some knitting on the Briar Rose Pullover.



The back of the sweater is up to about 22 inches (it will end up being about 26 inches).  Here's what it looks like from the front.


You can see how stockinette-like the reverse of the fabric is compared to the faux ribbing.

It's also more obvious in looking at the photos that the variegation of the yarn has changed the granularity of the color pooling, but not enough so that I care to re-do the sleeve holes using steaks to avoid it.  Although I'd be open to hearing others' opinions about that too.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Off to Breema!



Headed to Kripalu, the East Coast capital of Yoga and all things mindful.  I'll be doing a Breema workshop with my Breema master and the head of the Breema Center in Oakland, CA.

Body-Centered Mindfulness

When I return home on Sunday, I'm not quite sure what to expect.  I'm pretty certain I won't have a third eye that will have emerged and I'm pretty certain my ability to levitate won't have been increased.

But I am looking forward to making progress on an inner-spirit journey that I've been on for a long time now.  And I'm starting to think that whoever coined the phrase, "It's the journey, not the destination" realized that when one's life really is about the journey, the so-called destination seems to expand endlessly...ever-increasing the limits of expansion...or more accurately, making one realize that there are no limits to personal growth.

I must admit that like many experiences of personal growth, the process started long before the first day of the workshop...I have been examining what's important to me for the last few weeks in anticipation of the workshop.  From a very basic perspective, I have also been keenly aware of how anxious I've gotten in the last few days about travel to Massachusetts, about food and lodging and about the timing of when to get there and what to pack.  Very unusual for me, but it's been fascinating to observe.  That kind of uncomfortableness usually indicates there is some breakthrough available that is making me anxious.

But while I'm gone, please be good...thank you.

Current Knitting

Since I've done virtually nothing more on the Briar Rose Pullover, I thought I'd feature the next color stripe completed on the Knitted Sheet.



I'm finding this kind of knitting the closest to meditative that my knitting has ever been.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Freshening The Look of QueerJoe



I'm always open to self-improvement and blog reader Leslie mentioned that she was starting to have trouble with the size and color of the font on the blog.  So things look a bit different today.

Web Tools

I rely heavily on two web tools...Blogger (which I use to publish this blog) and Weebly which I use to publish web sites like The Men's Knitting Retreats.

Both tools make it incredibly simple to do tasks that used to require a LOT more time.  Posting photos, designing a themed web site, hypertext linking to another site, setting up a simple store-front/shopping cart functionality, etc.

Years ago, when these kinds of tools weren't available, I remember teaching myself php coding so I could create forms for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  I can't tell you how satisfying it was to create a MySQL database and then write code to create a web form that would populate that database with things like workshop preferences for the guys attending the retreat.

Recently, I've looked at WordPress as an alternative to Weebly and there are a number of reasons why it would be a better tool.  The flexibility of the tool is MUCH greater with many more developers adding new themes and plug-ins all the time.  WordPress also has better integration with other platforms like Facebook and PayPal.  With the help of a friend, I went through installing WordPress and playing around with setting up a web site for a new venture I'm working on.  Like many things, (including PHP coding), I found it a bit daunting understanding how themes worked and plug-ins and add-ons.  I found myself continuously translating terms from WordPress into their equivalent Weebly feature.

After getting a much better sense about what WordPress has to offer, I've decided it's overall easier and good enough to stick with Weebly and Blogger as my web site development and blogging tools.  I am giving up some functionality and features, but none that are critical or that I can't create some reasonable facsimile with clever workarounds in my current tools.

But boy, it's nice to know all that's available in a robust web site development tool like WordPress...just in case I ever need it.

Current Knitting

Ho hum...a few more inches completed on the Briar Rose Pullover.



But the nice part is that I have finally started the sleeve hole shaping so it should move along a bit more quickly until I hit the sleeves part of the project.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Kids! I Don't Know What's Wrong With These Kids Today!



The older generation is always disappointed in the next generation of young people because they are different in some critical ways than they "should" be.  Lazy, entitled, rock-n-roll crazed, selfish, dumb, unmotivated, etc., etc., etc.

Reconsidering

It's so easy to look at younger people and think they aren't as ambitious as they should be.  Or more spoiled than we were.  Or feel like they're more entitled.  It's easy to criticize parents of young people that they molly-coddle their brats.  How giving constant praise and reward for nothing...that we've raised a population of entitled, self-centered young adults who are in for huge disappointments when they enter "the real world."

Yes...like an English teacher in High School said, "Critiquing anything is easy."

But when I look at the next generation of younger folks that I know, I have to say, my experience is not any of the standard complaints.  Mostly, I see a group of smart, responsible, self-assured, knowledgeable, caring young adults.  Mostly I'm amazed at how much they seem to understand about themselves and the world and how insightful they can be.

The latest group of students from Parkland is a perfect example of young people who have proven themselves extremely capable of standing up for themselves and also culling the support of the older generation to help them make the country a better place.  I'm wondering if these kids got trophies "just for playing" and if they were constantly lavished with praise and attention.  Because if they were, it clearly seems to have worked for them.

In fact, I have a many more critiques of the people in my generation these days.

Who would have believed there were so many who were so hateful (enough to elect a racist for a president).  And worse yet, despite all evidence, they still support the man despite all he's done to ruin this country.  Ignorant...obstinate...uneducated...hateful...hypocritical...delusional.  Who can imagine that enough of my generation care so little about the environment that they don't insist that our country do anything at all about the climate crisis...in fact, they allow elected officials to work in direct opposition to efforts trying to fix it.  And it's truly unthinkable to me, that greedy organizations are allowed to dictate the laws we have about sane gun control and taxation that continues to make them richer and keep us poorer.  Yes, my generation has a lot to answer for...what did our parents do wrong?

Perhaps my generation is the "lost generation" that we should just give up on after all and let the next generation try to fix our mess.

Current Knitting

The weekend seemed to include a lot of knitting time and yet I've still only been able to add a couple of inches to the Briar Rose Pullover.



Given the weather out (cold, windy thunderstorms), I had to take flash photos of the project, but you can see I'm almost up to the armhole shaping.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Can You Ever Have Enough Stitch Dictionaries?



As someone that likes to design on the needles, I can find endless inspiration from leafing through stitch dictionaries like Barbara Walker or Vogue Knitting, etc.

New Japanese Stitch Dictionary

I just got an advanced copy of Japanese Stitches Unraveled by Wendy Bernard.  The book will officially be released on May 15th, but pre-orders have already started...I would recommend getting in on the first wave of orders for this one.


As noted on the front, the book has 160 stitch patterns (and 3 basic projects at the end of the book).

What I like about the book:
  • It's beautifully presented in a clean, bright way
  • All of the stitch patterns have a sample swatch clearly shown
  • Stitch patterns all have row by row written instructions
  • All the relevant stitch patterns have charts as well
  • There is a stitch multiple index at the end if you're looking for a stitch pattern with a specific number of stitches.


What I would change:
  • The book includes two basic stitches with instructions and a photographed swatch which I think could have been excluded from the 160 total (garter stitch and stockinette)
  • I would have added an index of reversible stitches as well (minor complaint).
Overall, I'm very glad to have this book as one more option for being inspired to design.

Current Knitting

I always feel bad at this phase in the progress of my WIP, that it feels like I'm subjecting blog readers to watching paint dry, but I've made a few more inches of progress on the Briar Rose Pullover.



The odd part is that I'm constantly designing and envisioning the next phase of the project in my mind...like the shaping of the arm holes and the neckline, so it's not at all boring for me...even at this pace.

Readers' Comments/Questions

A big shout out to James who sent me a birthday care package all the way from New Zealand.




A beautiful watercolor sheep card, mushroom fabric underwear and candy with a sexual innuendo.  What more could I have wanted.  Thank you, my friend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

In Denial - Capacity


Does one's capacity for accomplishing things get smaller as one gets older, or does one just become more realistic about what can be done?

Busy Months Ahead

I know...I know...I'm retired...I should have tons of time on my hands and I used to do all this and more when I was still working...why can't I get it all done now?

First of all, my career wasn't honestly that challenging and I could get most of my work done in about 8 hours of actual work each week.

And since I worked from home for the last few years, retirement really only gave me back 8 hours of time each week.

But, since I was anchored to my desk for at least 40 hours each week (or at least needed to stay close), I couldn't be scheduled by Thaddeus to run to Costco or go get my car washed on a whim.  So I was dedicated to being somewhat productive for a lot more time when I was still WORKING!  Who would have thought?

These days, I'm getting ready for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat in about 5 weeks...it came up fast this year.  I'm creating a new organization associated with all of the Men's Knitting Retreats which I'll be announcing soon.  I'm chauffeuring my mom a little since she's in a plastic boot for 6 weeks (3 more to go...hopefully her broken leg will heal as fast as they estimated).  And of course, I'm blogging, knitting, cranking, spinning...etc.

What's on your calendar?

Current Knitting

I'm up to 9 inches (lucky man) on the Briar Rose Pullover.


This is going to be one WARM sweater when it's finished.  I'm still loving the color and I'm still thinking the "wrong side" looks pretty great too.


The pooling of the variegated yarn isn't broken up quite as much as I usually prefer on the other side, but it's a very rich fabric that I'm creating...so I will definitely still look to make a sweater that's reversible.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Thank you all for the most amazing birthday wishes and especially the people that went out of their way to write a haiku...thank you all.

Also thanks to the folks that posted their thoughts about No Idle Hands...now I'm looking forward to reading it even more.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Idle Hands? When is it Okay?


It has never made sense to me that someone could sit and have nothing to do with their hands.

New Book (to me)

I'm Facebook friends with a knitter and blog reader, Ann McDonald and for a moment when I was gifted this book last week, I thought, "How could I have not known about a book she wrote?"  But now I realize it's a completely different name for this author.

I am very much looking forward to reading No Idle Hands by Anne L. Macdonald.  A friend was culling through his library's used book store and picked this up as a gift for me.

It truly is nice being known as "the knitter" when it comes to people finding things of interest.  And in this case, I had never even heard of this book and it will be next in my line up of reading material.

If anyone's read it or have seen any reviews from knitters you trust about books, let me know.

Current Knitting

It seems I've been knitting like crazy since my last blog post last Wednesday, but photographic evidence seems to deny this notion.



I've completed 6 inches or so of the pullover.  I have done a bit more on the Knitted Sheet, but the ever-widening project is starting to bog down as I near 250 stitch per row with much more width as I proceed.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Birthday Update



The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles insists that you assess how well you're aging every four years...at least if you want to continue driving a car legally.

3 Steps Forward...

Just when DMV in this State seems to be getting its shit together by allowing you to do many of the transactions on-line and streamlining the processes required to be done in-person, they go and set the expiration of your driving license on your birthdate....requiring you to update your photo every four years.

Just enough time to show just how much a person ages.

I got my license renewed yesterday and they give you both your new license and the old one with a hole or two punched in it to show that it's no longer valid.

Comparing the two, it's clear I've gained a bit of weight in my face and gotten quite a bit grayer in the last four years.

Aging can be difficult, but vanity adds a whole new level of difficulty to the process.

Current Knitting

Work progresses on two of my three active WsIP.




The Briar Rose Pullover has grown an inch or two since Monday's blog.  I honestly thought I'd have a bit of knitting time whilst I waited to get my license renewed, but the process went quite quickly.

I've also completed another stripe on the Knitted Sheet and started the next color stripe.  This project is the closest to meditative that my knitting has ever gotten.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Reminiscences Of Past Lives



Have you ever had an inexplicable affinity for something completely outside your upbringing?  I'd like to think these are a result of influences from past lives.

Priest, Jew and Japanese Poet

Being in a Catholic church makes me feel as if I have a psychic connection with the priest...as if I'm standing in his shoes, experiencing each part of the mass as if I've delivered it hundreds of times in the past.  I can feel the pinch of his black leather shoes and the need to adjust the sleeve of the Chasuble as I pour the wine and water to prepare the sacraments.  As a person who was raised Catholic, this might be natural, and nothing to do with reincarnation, but it feels like more than that.

The first time I ever participated in a Seder dinner with Jewish friends of mine, it was like a tradition I had celebrated for decades.  It was comforting, it was fun...it felt completely natural.  There are times in my life when I feel I must have been raised Jewish in at least one prior life.

And now I'm certain that I must have been an exceptionally talented Japanese poet in some recent past life.  The same reverence I have experienced in church and when thinking about Jewish traditions, I now feel when I read or write Haiku.  In the past, when I have been asked to write Haiku in school or at the request of a social media friend, there was an immediate sense of stillness and sacred preparation of my mind that happened...completely unexpectedly...and I carefully crafted the words with the exact right balance of earnestness and wit.  It was like an act of love.

And then, a friend of mine gave me this:


Haiku Fuck You by Josh Myers (The Haiku Champ) is an amazing compilation of awesomeness.  The first example I read immediately cemented my love for this book:

I'm Really Good At This
I'm so good at this.
Like, I'm really good at this.
Look how good I am.

I come to find out that Josh lives nearby and works at the local bookstore (Farley's Bookshop...which is fucking awesome) and he also seems to run a micro press business with a friend named Joe Bouthiette, so I'm enjoying his brilliant work...especially where he uses my name:

Fucking Try Me, Bouthiette
Joe wrote three haiku.
I wrote fifteen.  Joe's a nerd.
Now I wrote sixteen.

Clearly one of my past lives I was a dock worker or someone else with a potty mouth.  It inspired me:

The Haiku Champ Is Sublime
This book is perfect.  
I will cherish it always.
I fucking love it.

Birthday Request

My 59th birthday is this Wednesday.  Instead of obligatory birthday greetings on my Facebook timeline...or even worse, begging for money for charity instead of birthday wishes...please feel free to write me a birthday Haiku...either in comments, or on my Facebook timeline.

Current Knitting

The Easter/Passover weekend was a bit busy and Finn was quite needy, so I haven't done an enormous amount of knitting.




But I did do some work on the Briar Rose Pullover.



I finished the ribbing and got an inch or so done on the body of the sweater.  This is going to be one soft and very warm sweater.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Daily Maintenance



In some areas, I have a lot of discipline, but in other areas, it takes every ounce of strength just to do the minimum amount necessary in life.

All Over the Map

Not sure why some daily tasks are easy to remember and even sometimes a pleasure that I do without any reservations and others are much more bothersome and require constant self-nagging.

Pleasurable:

  • Staying up to date on the news and social media
  • Blogging
  • Knitting and other fiber pursuits
  • Reading
  • Taking daily medications
  • Men's Knitting Retreat preparations and communications/e-mails, etc.


Constant Self-Nagging:

  • Brushing, flossing and inter-dental cleaning of my teeth
  • Taking vitamins
  • Journaling
  • Praying/meditating
  • Exercise
  • Hydrating/drinking water

It's amazing to me the vast difference between how I see the tasks on these two lists, despite the similarities in the items on each list.  I mean how much different is reading than meditating?  And yet I delay, ignore, postpone and avoid meditating whilst picking up a book and reading without giving it a second thought?

You'd think that the gap between how I treat the items on each list would get smaller over the years, but honestly, there's very little change in the amount of aversion versus the appeal between them as I get older.

On a positive note, I have gotten better at incorporating the aversion list into my life and I do them on a more routine basis now that I'm retired.  But I honestly think that's only because I have one less excuse for avoiding those activities now that I can't blame a busy schedule for not doing them.

And if I could just meditate more, I might just get to a point of acceptance on this odd character flaw of avoiding some tasks...alas, it's a vicious cycle.

Current Knitting

After correcting the mistake in my swatch, I have decided to go forward with the Briar Rose Pullover.


I've just finished the last row of faux ribbing and starting moving into the main stitch pattern.  I'll be knitting the lower body in-the-round and I'm still not sure if I'll steek the arm-holes and the neck opening or if I'll knit the front and back flat once I get up to the arm-hole opening...just worried that the pooling and patterning of the variegated yarn might look awful if I switch to back-and-forth knitting, but steeks won't let me make a reversible sweater.  Fortunately, I have plenty of time to consider what I want to do.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Am I Being Obsessive Again?


Is it really obsessive or compulsive to correct a mistake in a swatch?

Of Two Minds

Using the Briar Rose yarn, I was doing a new swatch using a stitch pattern that I just figured out in my head, although I'm sure I could easily find it in one of my stitch dictionaries.  I also wanted to get a slightly tighter gauge thank my first attempt.

Unfortunately, toward the beginning of the swatch, I made a mistake by knitting or purling a stitch that should have been slipped, and I didn't notice it until I had almost finished the swatch.


On the one hand, unless a swatch will eventually be incorporated into a garment or a blanket, having a mistake in it won't make much difference.  Okay, well if it messes up the stitch count or eliminates the usefulness of some aspect of the swatch, it might require fixing it.

But I opted to fix it anyway.


Yes, I dropped the row of stitches and laddered it back up to the top of the swatch

Excessive you think?  Well here was my thinking.

I was thinking that if I'm making a sweater using this stitch, and I make a mistake, will I be able to fix it?  Turns out it was easy to fix and I'm comfortable going forward using this stitch pattern for a new pullover project.


Here's my version of the stitch pattern:

With US5 (3.75 mm) and Worsted Weight Yarn, cast on a multiple of 5 sts plus 4:

Row 1 (RS): *P4, K1, rep from * to last 4 sts, P4
Row 2 (WS): *K4, YB, Sl1, rep from * to last 4 sts, K4

I love that the reverse side of the stitch pattern looks almost like stockinette...


...given that I really like the stitch pattern and the reverse of it, I may try to be very careful in the finishing so that I have a fully reversible sweater.  Not sure I'll be able to get a sleeve/shoulder seam that I'll like well enough on both sides, but I can aspire!

Current Knitting

In addition to swatching (and fixing a swatch mistake), I also made some progress on the Millard Fontenot Brethren Sock.


I've done the first of 3 repeats on the heel flap and continue to think about Millard and Kerry with love as I do.