Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bicycle a Mile in My Shoes

Nothing made me realize the importance of driving carefully near people on bicycles as when I had to ride my bicycle on crappy roads.

I Have Evolved

For years, I was one of those drivers that complained about the bicyclists who road carelessly on the side of a busy road or who flouted laws by crossing intersections on a red light or road on the wrong side of the street.  While at the same time, I was impatient while trying to pass bicyclists who were pedaling on the side of the road.

Now I tell that person who I was in the past to shut the fuck don't know very much.

Many of you know Thaddeus and I are bicycling quite a bit these days.  Most of our trips are on the local canal towpath bordering the Delaware River because it's beautiful, relatively flat and easy to get to with minimal roads on which we need to ride our bicycles.

Recently, they started to replace one of the bridges that cross the canal, and they have closed down the towpath for about a mile or so, requiring us to ride on a relatively busy, curvy road with a shitty shoulder of the road (when there's any shoulder at all).

Bicycling on that short stretch of road has made me a much better driver/operator of my automobile...especially when it comes to navigating around cyclists.

For those bicyclists who I have besmirched in my mind in the past as I drove by you, I apologize and promise to take extra precautions while passing you to make sure you have plenty of room to ride your bicycle.

Current Knitting

Today, I leave for my five-day retreat with 31 other men into fiber-play, so I've been busy with last minute preparations for that.  But I have been able to add a few rows to my current garter-on-the-bias scarf.

Not much progress, but I figure this project will give me a perfectly mindless project to work on at the retreat if I care to knit there at all (which I normally don't).

Monday, September 17, 2018

They Can Sell My House When I Die

Trying to help my mom with various aspects of selling her house, I have come to find out that the process is way more difficult than it used to be.

Ignorant Bliss

I bought my current house over 30 years ago...other than the last-minute requests for additional documentation to approve my mortgage, there was very little angst about the whole process.  We made an offer, had an appraisal and inspection done, signed a thousand papers and moved into our new house.

Fast-forward to mom who lives down the road from me is selling her house and moving to live with my sister.  She bought the house about 10 years construction.  She and her husband kept her house pristine over the decade they lived there.  For example, not once did her husband finish his shower without taking a squeegee to the glass door and tile walls of the shower stall.  And you could practically eat off of their garage floor.

We were thrilled for my mom when we heard that someone had bought her house with the one contingency that an inspection be completed (at buyer's expense).

For $650, the buyer got a 70 page inspection report detailing a myriad of problems with my mom's house...all of which needed to be fixed before the purchase contract was satisfied.  A supplemental stucco/stone inspection was also paid for by the buyer for an additional 30 pages of reported issues.

Suffice it to say, my mom is having all the issues corrected...thankfully, most of them were easily corrected by her regular handyman.  But it took my mom, my sister and me hours to sift through the two reports, determine which items were valid or not and determine how to go about getting them corrected.  Thank goodness my sister had recently gone through a similar process in selling her home and she is incredibly organized and efficient at it. selling a 10 year old house with a 34 year old house...I have decided I will  never sell my place...ever.  If I decide to move, I will just buy a new place and let my heirs sell it when I'm dead.

Current Knitting

The latest Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf is completed.

This is unfortunately a colorway of yarn with lots of reds that makes it impossible for my camera to capture a good photo of it.  You'll have to come see it in person at one of my two craft shows later this year!

I also started a simple garter-on-the-bias scarf which hopefully will be colorful enough to make it interesting, but not too colorful to dissuade someone from buying it for a man.

I've found that it's hard to go wrong with black garments when selling at a craft show.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Fun Knit vs. A Boring Knit

Now that I do some production knitting to sell items at craft shows, I am even more careful to make sure I repeat fun projects and not boring ones.

What's the Difference?

So, what distinguishes a design that's enjoyable to knit as opposed to one that's not?

The title of the blog says it all for me...if the pattern is boring, unchallenging, not compelling, I usually don't enjoy the experience.  If the pattern is interesting, makes me want to get to the next repeat, has challenging techniques, I enjoy the experience.

I really shouldn't say this about one of my own designs, but since I'm knitting two different scarves of my own design, I have to admit, I find one boring as hell and the other one I could make a dozen more times and still be enjoying it.

The Seven-Up Scarf is a an 8-row repeat that is mostly just knit 7, purl 7 or knit 7, slip 7.  I was working the scarf last night after a tiring day dealing with my mom's realtors and kept nodding off...both because I was tired but also because I was bored to tears.  Each row also has over 400 stitches, so it seemed like I would never make any progress.

The Knitted Cross Stitch scarf seems to grow much more quickly...especially with the elongated row of stitches.  But it's mostly just garter'd think I'd be bored as shit knitting it.  But the cross-over technique is fun and the resulting fabric makes colors intermingle in a way that makes my eyes happy.  I have knit dozens of them and still enjoy the process.

There honestly isn't very much difference between these two patterns, but my experience knitting them is very different.  I will never figure out the secret of design fun projects to knit.

Current Knitting

Now that I've dissuaded all blog readers from ever buying the Seven-Up Scarf design, I was able to finish the scarf last night.

It uses Madeline Tosh single-ply fingering weight yarn and it came out soft and warm and lovely (in my humble opinion).  And I love the luster of this burnt umber dyed really glows.

But I still won't be casting on for another one of these scarves in a while.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Men!!! Last Chance for Bliss!

Or at least, last chance for bliss in September.  We're closing out registration for the first North East Fall Men's Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain next week!

Last Call

Thirty guys are currently registered for the first Men's Knitting Retreat at Easton in the Fall (Thursday, September 20th through Sunday, September 23rd...yes, next week!).  The event will also coincide with the Adirondack Wool and Arts Festival, which is a lovely festival in a beautiful location.

I have been to Easton Mountain in the Fall before and it's quite beautiful, but honestly, the community of guys that these events attract is what makes the retreats so magical.  22 of the guys scheduled to be there have been to a Men's Knitting Retreat at Easton in the past and 8 guys will get to experience it newly.  For both groups, it's always a fantastic time.

If you know of any fiber-crazed guys who want to register, share this link with them for registration, or have them contact me directly.  Registration is only $390 and that includes 9 meals (from Thursday dinner to Sunday lunch), a bed in the guest house for three nights, a welcoming wine and hors d'oeuvres receptions, project bags with give-aways and a fun-filled agenda.

Hope you can join us.

Current Knitting

More progress on the two scarves on the needles.

For the Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf, I've completed two of five repeats.

This is still my favorite design.  For the Seven Up Scarf, I've almost completed five of seven repeats.

I've also used one of the cable extenders in the Lykke Interchangeable needle set and having used almost all of the set now, I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Friends and Wool and Sheep

On a cold and rainy Sunday, I got to spend time with two wonderful friends, see some sheep, buy some yarn and eat some barbecue.  I am incredibly fortunate.

Knitting Together

The on-line knitting forums and the Men's Knitting Retreats have introduced me to some of the most amazing people.

Yesterday, Hayes and I met up for what has become an annual get-together at the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival.

While there, we ran into Han...a friend of Haye's from his time in Philadelphia and a friend of mine from the retreats (both Hayes and Han have been to the Men's Knitting Retreats but never at the same one!).

The time spent with these two guys made the day fantastic, but I'll post some of the sheep I saw at the festival.

Also some of the the things I purchased whilst there.

Aisling Yarns is the first booth in the first barn and like last year, it was my first purchase of the day.

I loved the chocolate and brown combination of this yarn and thought it would make a beautiful man's scarf.

Friends of Han and Hayes were at the show from Liverpool Yarns selling their Shetland yarns.  They were so soft and rich I had to buy some.

I have no idea what I'll do this this, but whatever I do, it will probably be mine.  I also like the fact that some of the wool was sourced in the U.S. and all of it was spun here.

Finally, the people at A Good Day for a Cupcake were delightful.  They drew me in with custom printed post-it notes (who can resist a cupcake anyway?), but they had yarn I couldn't resist buying.

I loved the richness and colorways of these two yarns and think they'll blend incredibly well in a scarf.

Current Knitting

With two projects in progress and a day with Hayes and Han and sheep, I didn't finish either project on the needles, but I did make headway.

I did move the Seven-Up Scarf onto the Lykke needles and honestly, I am knitting faster as a result.  This needle set was a very good decision for me.

The Seven-Up Scarf uses a dropped stitch on the last row the expands the length of the scarf and opens up the stitch definition, so progress photos aren't very representative of what it will look like when it's finished.

You'll note I even made some progress on the Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf.  I'm very much looking forward to showing off this beauty when it's finished.  My guess is that it will be the first scarf to sell at my first craft show.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

My New Favorite Needles!

I have honestly gotten tired of reading forums and Facebook groups requesting people's favorite knitting needles.  I have always used Addi Turbos for regular knitting and Karbonz double-pointed for sock and hat knitting...and there wasn't much I would listen to on this mind was closed.


Back in May, and then a second time sometime about a month or two ago, I was introduced to Lykke driftwood needles.

Tim Cardy who owns Cardigans Yarn & Fiber Shop in Santa Barbara California brought a bunch of straight needles from Lykke to donate to the guys who ran workshops at the retreat.  I was one of the grateful recipients, but honestly, I don't use straight needles that often, so I didn't really get to try them until earlier this month.  If you like knitting with wood, these are about perfect...silky smooth, lightweight, strong and with the perfect drag on my yarn whilst knitting.

Then, Doug Morris who runs The Perfect Blend Online started raving about the interchangeable set of Lykke Driftwood needles.  Despite how much I loved the feel and the strength of the Lykke straight needles, I was concerned about spending $125 for a set when I couldn't be sure that I'd like other characteristics of the needles (cable flexibility, smoothness of joins, etc.).  When he recently held a site-wide sale, I decided I had to try the new set (and also get some more of the Dragonfly Pixie yarn I love).

Okay, I also got one of the cool wristband/measuring tapes he carries.

I loved the new color of Pixie and I needed to try out the new needle set, so I cast on a new Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf and I have been nothing but totally impressed.

The set comes in a beautiful case (I got the umber colored case) and has needle sizes from US 4 (3.5 mm) to US 17 (12mm). The set also includes 2 24" cables, 2 32" cables and one 40"cable, 2 cable connectors (to extend the length of the cables), 4 tightening keys and 8 stoppers.

First of all, I use two different size needles for the Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf and I love the convenience of being able to switch out the US 5 needle size for the US 13 needle size when I need to do the row with elongated stitches.

Second, the joins are very smooth...perhaps smoother than my Addi Turbos.

The rigidity of the cable is also very important to me.  I need it to be somewhat stiff so I can move my stitches along the cable easily without it collapsing (ChiaGoo needles have limp cables that drive me nuts) but they can't be too stiff so that I'm constantly wrestling with the twist of the cable.  These cables are just about perfect.

If you ever get the chance to try these needles, you'll end up getting a set.  Doug has only a limited number of sets in the umber and indigo colored cases, so if that's important to you, you may want to act more quickly.

Current Knitting

Before the new Lykke interchangeable set arrived, I started knitting a Seven-Up Scarf using some Madeline Tosh yarn I had hanging around.

The Seven-Up Scarf is on Addi Turbos, but since I have lots of cables and the correct size needle tips available in the Lykke set, I will be converting on the next row!  Isn't that burnt umber color spectacular?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

New Jersey Gets Sheepish

Every year about this time, three of the buildings on the Hunterdon Fair Grounds in Lambertville, NJ fill up with all things sheep, wool and related items.

A Great Time

It's also a time of year where I get to hang out with Hayes and any other friends who opt to come and visit the show during our annual trip.

This year, the show will be this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 8th and 9th and Hayes and I will be going on Sunday, the 9th.  This trek usually involves a lunch outing as well.

Depending on what Thaddeus and I have planned on Saturday, I may head over there on Saturday as well to do some early yarn purchases, but I can't guarantee any Saturday appearance.

Current Crochet

I have almost finished the Interlocking Crochet Scarf I posted on Monday.

Turns out I didn't have quite enough of the beautiful Dragonfly Pixie yarn in the Aurora Borealis colorway, so I'm doing two border stripes in a dark, neutral colorway.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Happy Labor Day

Just remember that Labor Day received Congressional recognition in 1894 — just six days after President Grover Cleveland sent the military to crush a strike that started at the Pullman railroad car company and spread to the nation’s railroads.

On The Shoulders of Giants

The gains of the workers in this country have been hard fought and difficult and we have all benefitted in many ways for what the unions and the laborers have demanded on our behalf.

In an era where those who labor seem to have the least possible advantages, I take at least a short moment of this holiday to pay tribute to those who fought to give workers in this country a more level playing field, and also ask that you remember just which of your political representatives passed legislation that will put even more power and money into the hands of your overlords (or CEO's and executives in today's parlance)...and keep remembering until November, when you'll have a chance to put representatives in office who can start to rectify the inequities.

So enjoy the three day weekend, but take a moment to savor some of the reforms that came to pass in the era of the first Labor Day celebration: eight-hour workdays, 40-hour work weeks, an end to child labor, workplace safety laws, the occasional three-day weekend.

And of course, the holiday is good for a 20% off everything on the web site yarn sale at my latest favorite yarn vendor, The Perfect Blend Online - just use coupon code LABORDAY to get your discount.

Current Knitting

I was able to finish the latest Knitted Cross Stitch Scarf.

This one came out quite beautifully.  The Dragonfly Pixie yarn combined with Koigu created a beautifully flat, drapey fabric and the colors are just like I hope and interesting.

I also stared a new Interlocking Crochet Scarf using just the Dragonfly Pixie yarn.

It's coming out spectacularly well, but I will definitely have to weigh the yarn to see if I have enough to get a full sized scarf or whether I'll need to rip back and add a second colorway of yarn to the design.