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.


  • 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.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Unwitting Use of Algebra

Being a math teacher would get very tired hearing that ignorant old chestnut..."When will I ever use this in my life?" (say it in your head with a whiny teenager's voice).

I Love Math

Just because it doesn't show up in an algebraic expression of 2x+3y=31 doesn't mean you didn't use algebra.  The concepts of algebra are prevalent in your daily computations more than you might realize.

Have you ever had to make the decision whether to get gas at your local station which is more expensive, or spend time and gas to go to a station that's further away, but cost a lot less per gallon?  Especially if you factor in the inconvenience quotient of going to the further location, you are using algebraic concepts to make that determination.

Ever try to buy ingredients for a recipe in a grocery store while trying to cut the recipe in half...figuring out how many cans of kidney beans that go into that chili isn't going to figure itself out without some kind of algebraic logic.

Don't get me wrong...the rigor of taking all the factors involved in a decision and putting them in an algebraic expression and then charting that out so you get the maximum solution...that would be excessive (for some people)...but you still use the concepts of algebra in so many areas of your life.

One of my favorite intuitive uses of math came at work years ago for me.  We had surveyed a number of insurance companies for their salaries for various common insurance representative, rate clerk, etc. and we were trying to establish a way of determining what the average industry salary was for any specific level of competence in a specific job.  My boss came to me and said, I have all this data, but what do I do with it?  I told her we needed to do a scatter graph of the data and find a trend line using multiple regression analysis and it would give us the algorithm we needed to come up with an average salary for any level of competence.

I honestly surprised myself...she asked me how I knew that and I couldn't really say...I just did.  Fortunately, Microsoft Excel had this functionality built into its software back then and we were able to quickly and easily come up with a useable calculation based on industry averages.

I'm not even sure if my methods were correct for this...or if there was a better way to do it...but I was amazed at how easily the concepts of how I could figure this out came to me based on years of good math teaching in school.

Learning math concepts is not what students find most daunting.  Understanding how and when to apply them is the hard part about mathematics, so when someone says they'll never use a math concept, having examples of where the concept is used in real life situations makes it easier to understand the applicability.

You can wake up now...I'm about to discuss knitting.

Current Knitting

Despite having to drive my mom to a few appointments this past weekend where I would have thought I'd have completed a lot of knitting, I really didn't do much.

I didn't make any progress on The Brethren Sock, I made minimal progress on the Knitted Sheet.  And I started a swatch for using the Briar Rose Wistful yarn.

I love the Briar Rose Yarn, but I'm not thrilled with the fabric of this swatch.  I'm thinking I need a tighter gauge, and I haven't had any inspiration regarding the sweater design using this yarn yet.  I'm thinking about doing a pullover with a neckline like a previous project I called the Stranded Sweater.

I ended up stepping down the center of the lighter rectangle, leaving an opening at the neck.  But I have no idea what this quarter-zip/no-zipper opening would be called.

Friday, March 23, 2018

What's Next?

With the Silky Wool Cardigan finished, I need to start planning my next project.

God Forfend...

Couldn't possibly imagine being "in between projects" when it comes to my knitting.

I'm not sure I want to take on another sweater immediately.  I definitely don't need a sweater and I find it difficult making a sweater that Thaddeus looks good in and enjoys wearing.

Knitting a scarf or shawl or hat for craft show sales seems so out of season.  It's so difficult knitting something that has no sense of urgency to finishing it.

I have the Millard Fontenot design for The Brethren Sock that I'm working (see below) and I've also got the Knitted Sheet that will be an ongoing WIP for years.

Should I go back to the sweater project that came in second the last time I surveyed you all?

The second choice was the Briar Rose yarn called Wistful.

It looks like I have about 2,000 yards of worsted weight yarn (50% Alpaca, 20% Merino and 20% Silk).  Maybe I'll swatch it up to see what I can come up with.

Current Knitting

As noted previously, I finished the Silky Wool Cardigan.

The collar is simply a tube of fabric in reverse stockinette stitch which is slightly wider at top than on the chest and the follow photos show the detail down the center of the sleeve and up the center of the chest on either side of the button band.

And here is my progress with The Brethren Sock (have you favorited it on Ravelry yet?)

This isn't typically my type of sock project as it requires a lot more attention and counting of rows, but the fabric is turning out to be thick and lush and I'm enjoying honoring Millard as I knit it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Significant Loss

Having been involved in the online world of Knitting for about 20 years now, I've gotten to know a number of people without ever having met them.

Profound Impact

There have always been the online members of forums who showed up a little more vibrantly.  People like Marilyn Roberts or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee or Franklin Habit or Ted Myatt.  They just shone a bit brighter in my virtual orbit.  Those three (and many other shining stars), I've had the good fortune of meeting.  And in the case of Marilyn, I had some firsthand experience of enjoying time with her before having to mourn her passing.

Years ago, one of those shooting stars showed up.  He had the unexpected name of Millard Fontenot and he was from Louisiana and I liked him right away.  First of all, he was another man who knit.  Second, I noticed his forthright way of seemed to indicate an integrity that encompassed everything he wrote about.  He didn't seem concerned if people liked his latest project as he described  it with pride...he didn't seem concerned if people like him when he'd call someone out on behavior he thought was mean-spirited or hateful.  He always stood up for what he thought was right and I always agreed with his ethics.

He always seemed to know who he was...he didn't need anyone else to define him.

I also thought he was a beautiful looking man...just the right combination of physical attributes in his face, with a spirit that showed through in his eyes and his smile.

Yes, I liked Millard...I was glad to be part of forums he was in...I was certain I'd eventually get to meet him one day.  We had a number of on-line conversations, where he'd confirm my intuitions about what a good guy he was.

Then he did something that made me love 2012 he started dating and then moved in with another man who I'd known for years in the on-line forums and at the Men's Knitting Retreats in Seattle area...Kerry Shannon.  Their union was a shining point for men's knitting forums.  And he couldn't have picked a nicer guy.  The power couple in men's knitting circles.

You can imagine the shock of learning of Millard's passing this past Thursday, March 15th.  I'm still crying now as I post this blog entry.  Please send up a prayer or good thoughts or positive energy to Kerry and the rest of Millard's family and friends who loved him.  He will be missed greatly.

Current Knitting

Almost finished with the Silky Wool Cardigan

I've sewn up the button-hole band, attached most of the buttons and finished knitting the collar.  Two more buttons, tacking down the collar and weaving in ends and this baby will be ready to wear.  I'm hopeful that its completion signals the end of the snowy weather we're having here...March is supposed to go out like a lamb after all.

And the near-completion of my current project was perfect timing to start a Millard Fontenot design, The Brethren Sock.

Millard designed and donated this pattern to the Southeast Men's Knitting Retreat and Kerry expressed the desire to see a lot of this pattern made in Mill's memory.  Please go to the Ravelry pattern (it's free) and start a pair of The Brethren Sock yourself and also "Favorite" this pattern on Ravelry.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Never Too Organized

Does it seem that no matter how organized one's life is, there is always room for more organization?

Life Expands to Capacity

Or perhaps, with organization comes additional capacity and nature abhors a vacuum?

Combining concepts here a bit, but when it comes to getting organized in various areas of my life, it seems as if I get more organized, more content appears in my life to be handled.  I'm not sure if it's the universe that is just looking to balance things out for me, of if it's me just being more open to saying yes to things.

Some examples are the men's knitting retreats and my knitting

With the retreats, I've gotten extremely organized and efficient at producing the annual retreat in Upstate NY in May.  I maintain a database of participant information, set up web pages for registration, post announcements, send out mass-e-mails, track finances, contract with the retreat center, organize workshop leader volunteers, develop rosters and personalized agendas, create name tags...etc., etc., etc.  It's a huge amount of work that I find simple and easy (after 10 years of doing it).  So it opened up space for a second retreat in Upstate NY in September and the opportunity to help with the administrative aspects of a Men's Knitting Retreat in Ontario for our Canadian brethren.

As for my knitting and blah-gging about it...everything seemed stash, my crafting area, my schedule to knitting and spinning and my ability to keep up with writing a blog entry 3 times a week.  Adding Gerty into the mix (Gerty is my antique Gearhardt Circular Sock Knitting Machine), has thrown it all up into the air and I'm organizing as fast as I can as all of it settles back down.

Please don't consider any of this as a complaint...I couldn't be happier.  Thaddeus will tell you that I'm one of those people that likes to stay busy and he's correct.  I'm happy when my life is full to the brim with activity that I enjoy.

Current Knitting

The weekend allowed me to make an enormous amount of progress on the Silky Wool Cardigan.

I've sewn on the sleeves and sewn up the inside sleeve seam.  I've also knit up the button side of the button band and decided on which buttons to use.

Just finished the button-hole band and need to sew up in the fold-over hem on the inside.

And by the way, if you're interested in buying Silky Wool at a significant discount, Little Knits has it on sale right now.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Men In Full Retreat

The desire to commune with one's own people has never been more evident than in the recent surge in popularity of the Men's Knitting Retreats.

Growing Evidence

Currently,there are six regional retreats:
  • Spring North East Retreats in Upstate NY at Easton Mountain in May 
  • Spring North East Retreats in Upstate NY at Easton Mountain in September 
  • Great Lakes retreat at Circle Pines Center in Michigan in November
  • West Coast retreat at Dumas Bay in Seattle area on Labor Day Weekend
  • Southeast retreat at Asbury Hills in South Carolina in October
  • Rocky Mountain retreat at Moak Lodge in Estes Park, Colorado in August
These unique events have become incredibly popular for guys who participate in the fiber world, and they seem to attract a fantastic group of guys.  Many of the retreats sell out rather quickly even as we grow the number of events being scheduled.

Recently, we added second North East retreat in September to the schedule and the events keep filling up to capacity.  And I honestly don't think we've plateaued yet

Big Announcement!
We have also just scheduled and opened registration for TWO new Men's Knitting Retreats.

The first one is the Men's Knitting Retreat North (MKR North) in Stirling Ontario in August for our Canadian fibre-guys.

If you know any guy who would like to spend a long weekend in a beautiful old pioneer cabin in the beautiful old forests of Ontario, they can learn more about it and/or register here:
The second one is the Mid-Michigan Men's Knitting Retreat ( MMMKR) in Williamston, MI in June.

Taking place in a retreat space specifically for crafters, this retreat will let 8 guys join in celebrating the fiber crafts
Coincident with all this new activity, I was just recently interviewed by a freelance writer who is doing an article on knitting retreats in The Globe & Mail, one of Canada's national newspapers.  We're hoping for an April publication date.

Current Knitting

Finishing the second sleeve of a sweater always seems like a big milestone.

I plan on attaching the sleeves and blocking the cardigan to make sure it fits as I had hoped.  I will do any shaping/changes necessary before starting to do the button band and collar.

I also did a few more rows on the still-increasing knitted sheet.

I'm still not at all sick of thousands of tiny stitches and I'm still dreaming of seeing this completed sheet on my bed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How To Ruin a Retiree's Schedule

Spoiler Alert:  For those of you still in the workforce...when you retire, you schedule gets more difficult to manage...not easier.

Structured Time vs. Unstructured Time

Now that Thaddeus and I are both retired, our schedules are whatever we want them to be...kind of.

Obviously our schedules are determined by factors out of our, business hours, demands of family and friends...etc.

But having such an open, unstructured schedule makes it a bit more difficult to schedule time with others.  I can't tell you how many times someone will ask, when are you available to chat...for meet...etc.?  How do I respond to that?  I typically eat lunch at noon and a lighter meal at 6:00 pm.  I also have two weekly scheduled times I'm booked.

But who's to say if I want to go to Costco on Thursday morning, or go on a bicycle ride on Monday afternoon because the weather is expected to be good, or pick up a book I have reserved at the library on Friday morning?

It was so much easier to schedule in others in my life when I had a block of structured, "unavailable time" due to work.

Don't get me wrong...I don't miss work even a little bit.  And I am getting more and more comfortable with an unstructured schedule.  But it kind of reminds me of when someone told me that when a goldfish is released from a confining little bowl into a larger tank of water, it will continue to swim within the confines the size of it's old bowl (I don't believe this is true, but I like the analogy none the less).

Current Knitting

With an unstructured schedule, you'd think I could at least make progress on my knitting.  Alas, with the demands of a cat in my lap, and getting to the end of a ball of yarn without another one wound and ready, I have done no knitting on the Silky Wool Cardigan sleeve since Monday.

I did do some additional work on the Knitted Sheet.

But you can see that is starting to progress much more slowly as it widens (as I predicted).

Monday, March 12, 2018

Life Without Smart Phones

Recently, a number of events have shown how critical this tiny little device has become in my life.

Lying To Myself - Again

I'm not the type of person who is constantly looking at my phone.  I don't need to read and/or respond to a text message within milliseconds of receiving it.  I don't get the shakes if I accidentally leave my phone at home when I'm away for a few hours.  I really try to make sure my phone usage improves my life rather than intrudes on it.

For me, those are all true statements...the lie..."I can do without a smart phone."

I rarely utter that phrase, but it was an underlying thought many times when Thaddeus would be annoyed that I was responding to a vibration in my pocket.

Yes, technically, I could exist without a smart phone, but I have come to rely on it in many ways.  Two recent examples:
  1. During the latest snow storm/power outage, we were without power for about 28 hours.  During that time, while I still could use my lap top while the battery lasted, we didn't have WiFi or internet access.  My phone turned out to be incredibly useful for finding out when our utility company planned to restore power and interacting with people in my local community to see if anyone needed anything.
  2. Last week, my mom fell and fractured her ankle.  She's in a "boot" and can't drive for at least six weeks.  She asked me to show her how to use Uber.  But she doesn't have a smart phone.  While she can use her computer to book Uber rides, it's a bit more difficult getting a ride back home, or tracking when the driver will be there to pick her up.
I recognize that neither of these two situations absolutely required a smart phone, but they certainly showed how important they are becoming in my life.

Current Knitting

I kept thinking I'd finish the second sleeve of the Silky Wool Cardigan before writing this blog.

But alas, I still have a few more inches and the sleeve cap shaping to finish. 

Also, as the Knitted Sheet continues to widen, the pace of growth gets slower and slower.

Soon, the growth will seem glacial and I'll stop posting about it with any regularity.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Don't Judge a Book...

Many of you know that I've somehow established myself as a blogger who is willing to review books that are relevant to this blog.


So I was quite excited to get an e-mail from one of the publicists who have sent me advanced copies of books in the past with the subject line of "NEW RELEASE: Intarsia Workbook".

I'm not sure if you handle your e-mail in-box the same way I do...I have about 7 different e-mail accounts all come into my iPhone in one consolidated e-mail.  I download all the new e-mails that have come in since the last download and then check off all the spam or items I'm not interested in reading, leaving only those e-mails that I'm interested in.

Suffice it to say, I left "Intarsia Workbook" unread and joyfully considered replying to the e-mail with a positive request for an advanced copy.

Then I read the actual e-mail and it was for this lovely book:

Who knew that intarsia was a term commonly used with WOODWORKING?!?!

Yes, Intarsia Workbook: Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition by Judy Gale Roberts has nothing to do with knitting.  And I'm not enough of a renaissance man to have woodworking as one of my alternate skills.

Imagine my if anyone is looking to publish a knitting intarsia book, I'd be happy to review it for you here.

Current Knitting

The first sleeve of the Silky Wool Cardigan is complete (and documented well enough so that I'll use the same shaping on the second sleeve.

You'll note I've already started the second sleeve as well.  The Knitted Sheet is up to only 130 stitches or so.

I like the pace at which this one is growing...slow and easy...especially since I will have to keep increasing every row until I'm up to about 1,900 stitches per row.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Hearkening Back to Simpler Times

This past Friday and Saturday, the Snowicane took out our power for about 28 hours.  For someone who knits or reads or enjoys other activities that require no electricity, I wasn't too inconvenienced.

Taken For Granted

Don't get me wrong...there were a lot of inconveniences in the 28 hours.  I can't tell you how many times I turned on a light switch when I entered a room, or looked at an electronic clock to see what time it was.  And even though our furnace and stove use gas, they won't turn on without electricity.

I also missed my espresso machine and not being able to watch cable television and on-demand movies.

But unlike Thaddeus who doesn't have a lot of non-electric activity, I was able to enjoy my quiet time with my knitting and reading.

The lantern was LED, so I had quite an advantage over the knitters of times gone by.  I have tried to knit and read by candlelight, and it wasn't as easy.  And I even went full Luddite and hand-wound my ball of yarn.  I could have used a swift and ball-winder, but I enjoyed the serenity of winding it by hand.

There was a lot of gratitude that we could still use our stove-top.  Lighting it by match took us back in time, but we were able to boil water for tea and heat up food (the old-fashioned way without a microwave).  I was grateful that our hot water heater works without electricity, so showering/bathing was available.  I was also grateful for the lovely silence of a power outage.  It was blustery and windy outside, so there was some noise, but it was incredibly serene.

I didn't like not having heat.  Fortunately, it wasn't bitterly cold out and I had a lot of knitwear I could use to stay warm.  And it was cold enough to be able to store our refrigerator items outside to keep them from going bad.

All-in-all, the power outage reminded me of how grateful I am for the ease and leisure of my current life, but I was still glad for the brief visit to what it used to be like.

Current Knitting

Making more headway on Silky Wool Cardigan sleeve.

It's at the point where it's almost wide enough and long enough to start the sleeve cap shaping.  I'm hoping to finish this sleeve today.

I also started a new "lifetime project" of simply beautiful knitting.

Since I outlived my original "coffin cover" blanket, I thought I'd start a new one in a simple biased garter stitch stripe, using lots of muted colors.

To give readers a bit of perspective, this project is being knit on US 00 (1.75 mm) needles at about 9.25 sts to the inch.

I imagine this beauty will take quite a while if I decide to make it the size of a queen size sheet (90"x102").  Since the diagonal length (corner to corner) of a queen size flat sheet is about 136 inches, that will mean I will continue to increase stitch count until I reach 1, 258 stitches in a row.  I'm current at 103, so I have a ways to go.

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Value of Hand Knits

Many knitters often hear, "But you can purchase that at Target for $12."  A relatively common protest from non-knitters when they find out how much yarn costs, or they look at a price tag on your knitwear at a craft show.

True Value

If you're a regular reader here at QueerJoe, you know I've been working on a relatively simple cardigan for myself...nothing crazy...just a v-neck cardigan.

The other day at our local flea market, one of the women who sells used clothing had piles of clothing on her table (more than usual) and I picked up this sweater for a dollar.

The sweater is a very similar color to the sweater I'm knitting.  It also has two pockets that are nicer than the pockets I knit into the body of my sweater.  It came monogrammed with a "W", which is the first letter of my last name.  It also has a Princeton University shield on the back of it and I grew up and live near this beautiful college town.  It fits me perfectly.  It's warm and looks good on me.  It's in exceptionally good shape for a used garment (doesn't seem to have been ever worn).  I like it a lot.

Does paying a dollar for a sweater at the local flea market devalue my handknit cardigan?

Not in the least.  How do you value the pride of having designed and created a piece of clothing with mere yarn and needles?  Getting to choose the gauge of the fabric for my handknit sweater, so that it is perfect for wearing in an air-conditioned movie theater or for a quick jaunt to the grocery store makes a handknit even more valuable to me (the $1 sweater is 100% acrylic and a bit more warm than I really wanted).

And would you really compare enjoying a day of fishing (if you enjoy fishing) with the price of fish at the grocery store?

Current Knitting/Cranking

The first sleeve is still in progress on the Silky Wool Cardigan and I finished the twin sock on Gerty yesterday as well.

Finn insisted on being in the photo...oh, and I also sewed up the hem lining on the sleeve.