Friday, June 22, 2018

Everything Nice

Today I'm working to express only the positive.  Perhaps I'll make that a new Friday thing.

Relaxing, Loving, Enjoying Life!
Interesting...when you try and emphasize positive things, you use lots of exclamation points...when you're stressing negative things, you use all caps!

Being a retiree makes activities that I've done for a while even better and allows me to choose to do new activities as well.

Sleeping, eating, exercising, reading and knitting are all things I do with great joy and without having to worry about the interference of work, I can truly enjoy them all.

I get about 7 hours of sleep most nights and will take a nap in the afternoon when I feel I haven't had enough sleep.

Thaddeus does most of the cooking at home, but we don't have to buy pre-prepared food to save on time...we can actually by ingredients for food and fresh vegetables.  Our big meal is usually our noon meal and a standard lunch will be a large, fresh salad with hard boiled eggs, or beets, or garlic-sauteed asparagus and some kind of protein.  Or we will grill up a nice fresh rib-eye and have a sweet potato and broccoli on the side.  Or I'll whip up some curried chickpeas or a spicy chicken stir-fry.  Food is good and plentiful and enjoyable.

Up to three times a week, Thaddeus and I will go to the local flea market and walk a couple of miles around all the tables.  If weather permits, we'll also bicycle along the Delaware River Canal and towpath.

Typically we'll go up on the Pennsylvania side of the River and cross over and come back on the New Jersey side.  Here's a short time-lapse of a very small section of a ride.

I just finished reading a Caleb Carr novel called Surrender New York.  He also wrote The Alienist which was turned into a mini-series, which I enjoyed, but I have never read the book.  Surrender New York was not very good.  It was filled with laughable plot twists and ridiculously unlikely romantic scenarios.  And Carr did something I despise as a literary the end of a chapter, he'd allude to what would happen next, almost as a teaser..."Little did they know how correct their thesis would be."  I find this kind of thing to be a lazy author's way of creating a compelling story.

Finally, with knitting, you'll note that in the next chapter I'm working on something exciting and new!  Sorry...that was cheap and lazy...but hopefully good for a chuckle.  After finishing the last baby blanket, one of my friends/former coworkers whose newborn son got a hand-knit baby blanket from me, sent me the following photo of his not-so-newborn son holding the blanket made for him years ago.

It clearly held up well!

Current Knitting

On the heels of finishing up the Heart Baby Blanket, and keeping with the theme of all things good and lovable, I've decided to start another baby blanket.

This is the Teddy Bear Baby Blanket.  It will be similar in size (although the individual squares are bigger for this graphic, so there will be fewer columns and rows of bears).  You'll note I'm using the same yarn for this blanket...I thought it made a great fabric for a blanket.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Survey Says....

Thanks to all who responded to my requests for feedback on the Heart Baby Blanket.

I Don't Know Nothin' About Birthin' No Babies

I was surprised at the results and expected just the opposite in percentages.  I was fully anticipating adding on another row of hearts before binding off on this project.

But I also had no idea that babies don't seem to sleep with blankets in their crib any more, and blankets that are too big will just get in the way and drag on the ground  if used in a car seat and/or stroller.

Good to have some breeders who know things about babies and their associated blankets.

Current Knitting

So I went with the majority of opinions and bound off the Heart Baby Blanket

I have a couple of ends to weave in, and I will wash and block the blanket before wrapping it up (even though I'm sure the mom will wash it again), but overall, I'm quite happy with this project.  It's not the most interesting project I've worked on, but it results in a lovely blanket.

Readers' Comments/Questions

In comments, Jenny writes, "Is the heart blanket your own pattern or one available to the public?"

The pattern is not mine and is available for free, but it has a LOT of errors in it...if you're an experienced knitter, you can easily figure it out.

Here were my suggested changes to the pattern I downloaded:

Row 7 k8, k9,p1, p9, k6, repeat fromuntil 8 sts remain, k8 
Row 7 (should be):k8, k9,p1, k9, k6, repeat fromuntil 8 sts remain, k8
Row 10 k8, k6, p7, k6, k6, repeat from until 8 sts remain , k8 
Row 10 (should be): k8, p6, k7, p6, k6, repeat from until 8 sts remain , k8
Row 18 Repeat Row 15 
Row 18 (should be): Repeat Row 16
Row 19 Repeat Row 16 
Row 19 (should be): Repeat Row 17
Rows 25-29 Repeat Rows 1-6 
Rows 25-29 (should be): Repeat Rows 2-6

Monday, June 18, 2018

Reader Feedback Welcome

Actually, feedback from blog readers is always welcome, but today I ask for specific feedback.

Long Enough?

My current project, the Heart Baby Blanket is almost complete, but my dilemma is whether I should make it longer, or bind off where it currently is.

Right now, the width of the blanket is about 33 inches (84 cm) and the length is about 36 inches (91 cm).  The blanket is loosely knit and drapey so it stretches out quite a bit.

Would you add another row of hearts (approximately 4.5 inches or 11 cm) or would you bind off the blanket where it is now?

Create your own user feedback survey

Current Knitting

I think that's already been

While I await responses, I'll just work on the never-ending knitted sheet project.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Modern Day Alchemy

And that is the most succinct description of the Men's Knitting Retreats that I can come up with.

These two photos were taken during the weekend of the retreat.  The top one was a group of guys that visited Carole Foster's Sheep Farm/Yarn Store (see Carole center) to either take a workshop in indigo dyeing or to supplement their stash.  They all seem happy regardless of the reason for the visit.

The second photo is the full group of guys (with one guy missing...I think the one female sheep in the photo may have had something to do with his absence).

From the very first day at the retreat, some strange and wonderful things happened, and it reminded me that I have very little to do with the concoction of guys, yarn-enthusiasm and natural beauty of Easton Mountain.  When I focus on making sure the space and all the logistics are handled, the guys seem to handle the rest.

I'm blessed to have some small part in it and the ability to participate with an awesome group of men.

If you're a guy who knits who has never experienced one of the Men's Knitting Retreats, you should definitely try the experience.

Current Knitting

The last two days have been very busy with little time to focus on my knitting

Only 1/2 a row of hearts added to the blanket (did that really require 2 progress photos?).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Useful Reference Guides

I remember when I learned about various on-line formulas that could be used to create one-piece, top-down raglan sweaters and how useful they were.

New Book - One-Piece Knits

The new knit publication, One-Piece Knits by Margaret Hubert is a valuable addition to my knitting references.

This book is full of useful information that both a new knitter and a longtime knitwear designer could find useful with plenty of tips, ideas, designs and detailed photographs.  It starts with many of the useful methods that I wish had been published years ago when I first started knitting sweaters...basic cast-ons, seaming up techniques, yarn weights, measuring a body for fitting a garment...etc.

The author identifies 12 basic prototypes of one-piece sweaters (for those of you who are averse to lots of finishing on a garment) and details how you can make them in various yarn gauges and multiple different sizes.  Top-down, side-over, back-to-front and cuff-to-cuff (all the hyphenated design concepts) and then provides the formulas for each in many different sizes.

And many of the examples are for men as well.

As an experienced knitter, I won't be knitting any of these designs as written, so I don't find this book to be inspirational in terms of ideas.  But when I am inspired with an idea for a new sweater design, I will definitely be starting with this book as my go-to reference on approximating size, stitches, increases and decreases.  It's a comprehensive book replete with templates on creating many different styles of sweater.

Current Knitting

One more row of hearts added to the Heart Baby Blanket...

Three more rows to go.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Gay Pride Allies

Longtime knitting friend Carol and her daughter went to the Philly Gay Pride parade this past weekend to support her oldest son (and older brother).  It reminded me of how important the love and support of parents and siblings are.

A Mother's Love

A few months after my mom found out I was gay, my sister tells me about an incident with my mom and one of her neighbors.  My mom is out chatting with a couple in a neighboring house and the man tells a rather innocuous gay joke.  I don't remember the joke now, but I recall it wasn't meant to be hateful, in fact I remember it made me laugh.

My mom replied..."My son is gay, and I find that joke offensive."

I can't tell you how proud I was of my mom.  More importantly, it made me realize how critically important it was for me to have her love and support.  She wasn't thrilled to know her son was gay, and she struggled with it for a while, but her thinking evolved quickly.  A longtime friend of hers reminded her that I had always been a good son and that hadn't changed.  Having a friend be supportive of my mom seemed important in her evolution.

Sister Kathy and mom
My mom and I have a great relationship these days.  She lives a couple of miles from me and I'm glad to be around for when our family gets together or when she needs me for this weekend I'll be feeding her cat.

Allies...friends...parents...brothers and sisters...and even social media friends and blog readers...people you can be sure of...such an important part of my life.  I'm blessed and grateful for all of them.

Current Knitting

It's growing...

Another layer of hearts have been added on to the Heart Baby Blanket...only four more rows of hearts to go.

I like that this blanket looks good on either fact I'm not sure whether I prefer the reverse stockinette heart on a stockinette background...

...or a stockinette heart on reverse stockinette background.

Fortunately, it looks good either way.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Unfriending Alpaca Farmers

Being a proud snowflake (which is a euphemism for queer in my mind), I have decided that I don't need to see Facebook posts that are either hateful or ask me to profess my love for a god or Jesus.

Why Are All the Assholes Alpaca Farmers?

A while ago, when I decided to quickly expand my "friends" on Facebook, I just started adding a lot of the recommended friends without really knowing who they were.  It was egotistical, but I wanted a lot of Facebook "friends."

For some reason, there must be a very large number of alpaca farmers in my Facebook universe and they all started to friend me and I just accepted their friend requests willy nilly.

Now, as I'm reading through my posts and I find anything hateful, racists, supportive of our POS POTUS, anti-Clinton/Obama/Mueller or if I see regular posts asking for "amens" or ways accepting Jesus as one's personal savior has made one's life glorious...I just unfriend the person immediately.

At least 90% of those unfriended lately guessed it...alpaca farmers.

These people are some of the stupidest, most hateful, willfully ignorant people I run into on social media.  I know this sounds like I'm taking a broad brush to a somewhat random population...but that has been my anecdotal experience.

Now, I'm sure there are exceptions...I'm sure, because I know some amazing alpaca farmers who are smart, loving, supportive people.

But in my most recent experience, Christopher Guest should do a sequel-like movie about alpaca breeders and farmers similar to "Best In Show" and he wouldn't have to exaggerate anything to show a crazy bunch of nut jobs and to create a hilariously funny movie.

Current Knitting

While I clean out the hate on my Facebook feed, progress moves forward on the Heart Baby Blanket.

I'm thinking I'll need to do a total of 9 rows of hearts, possibly 10 to make it a nicely proportioned blanket for swaddling, using in a crib, etc., so I have a few more rows of hearts to finish.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

They Have Deemed Me an Enemy

It didn't just's been happening for a while.  Being a queer man, I am now clearly seen as an enemy by many conservatives.

Dangerous Shifts

It used to be that Christians didn't like my behavior and thought it was against nature and God, and even at their most charitable, they felt that they were trying to save me from an eternal fire.  But I was still worthy of being converted and/or saved.  I wasn't an enemy.

The courts took a long time to come to it in this country, but when they opened up the right for Thaddeus and I to get married, I thought that it normalized us to some degree.  Now our mere presence as potential customers of their businesses is a threat to their religious freedom.  It used to be that I could live in a community of people who had some disdain about my morals, but I wasn't an enemy.

The conservative right has until recently seen us as a potential voting constituency.  I knew many gay men with money who were "socially progressive but financially conservative."  For me that was code for greedy assholes who had gotten their money through the support of the social and governmental infrastructure, but didn't think others deserved the same...the old, "I have all I need, so you can turn off the spigot now." mentality.  But now they're actively working to take away rights...rights for some queers to serve in the military, to adopt children, to access benefits for married couples.  Yes, we used to be tolerated with varying levels of disdain.  But, I wasn't an enemy.

The POS POTUS has changed all that.

I didn't really understand what it meant when people of different races claimed he was labeling non-white people as "other"...oh I understood it...the birther shit, the rapist coming over the border, but I didn't realize how demoralizing and dehumanizing it was until I felt it's brunt.

Yes, Christians have been given full rein to hate in the name of God and call it religious freedom.

Yes, religious freedom now means that asshole companies like Hobby Lobby and Masterpiece Cakeshop can now legally deny me service and discriminate against me because I'm queer.

Yes, this federal government and quickly the courts it is appointing has declared I am an enemy and should be treated as such.  But it also finally shows me just how forcefully I will need to respond to these hateful pricks.

I can at least be grateful for the wake-up calls.

For many non-whites reading this, I'm sure this is something you've experienced for a long time, and I apologize for my newfound fervor, but it was easy to deny the injustices until it started getting quite as personally scary as it's been getting in this country.  And for the Christians and conservatives that act in a way that would be pleasing to the namesake of Christianity, having allies is truly appreciated.

November can't come fast enough for this enemy of the State.

Current Knitting

More work accomplished on the Heart Baby Blanket.

I'm using a very soft and drapey acrylic yarn in a very neutral color and I'm liking the result.  Like many, my niece doesn't want to know the gender of her child-to-be, so a silvery gray with lavender tones seems like it will be perfect for the gender-unknown newborn.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Visionary Knitting

It's hard to imagine that someone could have re-imagined knitting and describe it in a whole new way that would make as much or more sense than how I've been doing it for over 30 years now.

A Major Accomplishment

After knitting for decades now, various components of repeating stitch sequences has occurred to me as an interesting concept, but I never really delved into it, and then I started reading through a new book I got that the recent retreat...

Sequence Knitting by Cecilia Campachiaro has combined a new (maybe not new...but newly formulated) idea of creating unique and interesting fabrics using simple techniques.

First of all, the book is's big and heavy, physically and it's completely full of succinct and easy-to-read descriptions of a new way of understanding repeating stitch patterns.  It also has tons of beautifully photographed examples of the technique.  The pattern designs that utilize these techniques are strategically placed within the description of the technique (also beautifully photographed) to give concrete examples of ways the ideas can be used.

This coffee-table-quality hardback book serves both as a revolutionary new-ish technique, as a stitch dictionary and as a template for creating your own stitch dictionaries.

It's expensive as hell, but I have a feeling once knitters get a gander at this volume, they will realize the importance of having it in their reference library.  Just to give you a point of reference, it is WAY more useful than Principles of Knitting (in my humble opinion) and I would have easily paid more for POK back in the day.

If you've got a birthday or gift-receiving event coming up in your life...this would be a perfect item to'll definitely not regret owning this radical and ground-breaking tome on rethinking your stitch designing.

Current Knitting

All that being said, I have decided to use a free pattern for the baby blanket that will go with the booties I knit up last week.

It's a very simple heart/block patterned blanket and there are tons of mistakes in the pattern, but it's easy enough to  follow even if with the mistakes.

Readers' Comments/Questions

sprboston writes, "ooh, cute bootie pattern! I'm always interested in a new bootie pattern. will you share the name, please?"

Yes!  It's from a German knitter's blog with an English translation of the pattern that is well written and has tons of great progress photos - Bootie Pattern

Regarding my appearance at the retreat in drag, Matt Senger writes, "To be honest, when I first saw you in the great room I thought what is this woman doing here raining on our parade but then thought, why not, as an afternoon guest. Glad, however, you are not considering opening the weekend up. We would quickly be outnumbered. It is a sacred space, time.

Sacred space's been a fantastic realization at what an amazing space gets created when we celebrate the communion of men with yarn obsessions.  

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Joy of Gay Knitting

For over 10 years now, I've been denying that the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is a gay event, but truth be's pretty gay...and it's pretty joyous.

Correcting the Record

There was an amazing amount of joy generated at the most recent Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  There were 41 guys at the retreat, with the vast majority of them identifying as gay.

To be honest, when most of us find out about a man who knits, our first assumption is that he is gay.

Don't get me wrong...straight and bi guys are allowed to attend the fact, they're quite welcome.  And we never "out" the straight guys at my retreat.  They're welcome to pass as gay if they prefer.

And also know that it takes a lot of balls to knit when you're a straight man...and even more so to attend an event where you're a minority.

But honestly, a big part of the appeal of the community at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is meeting up with other guys who are already a minority because of their chosen craft/art/hobby.  It's an amazing experience to sit down with a group of guys without having to worry about how onlookers will fawning, no disdain, no being ignored...just encouragement, support and learning.

I know there are some knitter-men (and some knitter-men's wives) who find the idea of a mostly gay event to be off-putting (or worse).  Trust me, I have received some pretty hatefully, ignorant e-mails asking why our events are "so gay."  But truth be told, some of the most courageous guys who attend the men's knitting retreats are the ones that attend with the understanding that we're all a minority in general society and can relax in the confidence that they know who they are and attending a retreat isn't going to change who they are.

So if you'd like to go back through the photos of the guys at the retreat this year and try and pick out the straight ones, I'd tell you that it's not worth the effort.  But at least in my eyes, they get kudos for their confidence, understanding and courage.

Drag Photo

The photo above was taken of me during the latest Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.  I had been pondering aloud to some of the participants what would happen to the retreat if I decided to transition to being a woman (because I would no longer be allowed to attend, never mind coordinate the event).  Shortly after that conversation, there was a lull in activity at the retreat (a large group of guys had gone to a local sheep farm for yarn purchase and a dyeing workshop), so I decided to check out the "drag closet" at Easton Mountain (named "The Candy Store" - Candy is the closet creator's drag name).  It was chock-full of wigs, dresses, shoes, make-up, jewelry, and other accessories, and I decided to see what it would be like.

Funny I was walking upstairs into the main room, one of the retreat participants saw me walking up the stairs (in heels) and politely acknowledged me, clearly trying to look as non-plussed as possible so he didn't offend the ugly drag queen.  I laughed at his reaction, and only then did he recognize it was me.  It was an amusing half hour of my life and I have to say, wearing a wig, wearing stockings, walking in heels, and sitting in a short dress without flashing others are all enormously uncomfortable.  Dressing in drag is not all glamour...let me tell you.

Guys looking at the photo on my phone of me dressed up (safely back in my Hot Dog Johnnies t-shirt)

Current Knitting

I ended up purchasing some of the handpainted yarns that Michael Ross dyed at the tag sale at the retreat and thought they would make awesome baby booties.

I was  These beauties will adorn a baby blanket gift for one of my nieces who is expecting.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

MSKR 2018 - Final Post - The Men

Yes, the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat is held in a beautiful place each year.  Yes, we have amazing fiber-talent willing to donate their time and expertise to lead workshops.  But what really makes the event amazing...

The Men

Photos don't do this group of guys justice since they don't convey the support, the enthusiasm and the passion that our group displays...but they're the best I can do.  At least the photos will remind the participants about how awesome it was.

Chris, Dave and Steven

Matt and Veryl
Jack and Jack

John, Sam and Greg

Joe, Colin and Sam
Greg, Steve and Franz-Josef

Mac and Franklin

Mac and John
Steve and his Sockmatician Scarf

Kirk Greg and Mac

John, Chet, Steve and Franz-Josef

Brady, Bob, Steve, Jim and Kirk

Bob, Steve, Kirk, Franklin, John, Rob, John and Tom

Brady, John, Bob, Chris, Aaron, Rob, John and Tom

Bill and Minh

Sun Deck Knitting
As I fondly look back through all my photos, I'll look forward to seeing what the September East Coast Retreat at Easton Mountain will be like and get exciting about being in on the ground floor of what might be the new "most awesome."

Current Knitting

I worked diligently over the holiday weekend to finish The Brethren Sock (which was designed for one of the Men's Knitting Retreats).

I couldn't be more pleased with how they turned out.  Late-night knitting and watching television required me to rip back to fix an error in one of the cabling rows, but the rhythm of this design got more and more comfortable as I progressed.