This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Perceptions in Knitting

Yesterday at work I had to help staff an informational fair that my office organised. My job was to sit at the front door and have everyone who walked in sign the sign-in sheet (more for a head count than for any other reason, though we should have door prizes next year). This is fairly mindless work, "Good morning, would you please sign the sign-in sheet?" It doesn't use a whole lot of brain cells. I had planned to knit during this time, since I'm making a fairly simple hat, stockinette in the round, with about three inches to go before I begin the decreases. I had hoped to reach the decrease stage yesterday, and then finish the hat off this weekend.

However, I was dissuaded by my colleagues in the office. You are being paid to work, not to knit, I was told. It wouldn't be seemly to be doing that when you are supposed to be working. And in that moment, I had an insight, maybe even an epiphany.

There is a fundamental difference in the way in which knitters see what they are doing when they have their needles in their hands, and what non-knitters see when knitters have needles in their hands. For many knitters, knitting is a way to pass the time usefully. If I don't have a complicated project that has me reading pattern lines and checking charts, a simple stockinette cap can make the time go by faster, and I'm accomplishing something at the same time. To a non-knitter, who cannot fathom that knitting can be mindless*, knitting is an activity that one is doing instead of what one is being paid to do, rather than something one is doing in addition to what one is being paid to do. While it is expected that one can multitask at one's desk (really, one can't, one can only do one thing at a time, even if one is doing small pieces of several things, they are still done sequentially), using the time to knit while sitting at the door is seen as doing something other than working. Believe me, asking you to put your name on the sign-in sheet is not an onerous chore, and I'm pretty sure I could have accomplished both at the same time.

It's a moot point. I didn't knit, my hat still has only about an inch of stockinette, and I still have three inches to go before I begin the decrease rounds. But by damn, I'm going to finish that hat this weekend.

Madeline Tosh Vintage, really in Betty Draper's Blues, so a bit darker than this photo shows.

*Really, what do you think about when you're washing the dishes, or ironing all your shirts for the week? I know that Buddhist monk Tich Nhat Hanh advises us to "wash the dishes to wash the dishes," meaning we should imbue even the most mundane tasks with intentionality, but I must confess that I am unable to so do. I subscribe to the concept, when doing tasks like washing dishes and ironing shirts, that the hands are busy, but the mind is free, Which is why I don't mind doing them. This also applies to working a stockinette hat in the round, and I'm willing to bet that books on CD would be a good background for such a project.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When Drinking During the Debates isn't an Option

In The Lion In Winter, Eleanor of Aquitaine picks up a mirror, then puts it down, saying, "I can't look. I'd turn to salt." I felt much the same way about the debates last night. I watched for about eight minutes, and after screaming myself hoarse, I decided to do something productive instead. I organised patterns!


After I moved to New Orleans, I never really finished unpacking. There are still a few boxes of oddments and endments that I just don't know what to do with, where to put, how to organise, but at the same time, things I don't want to get rid of. It's hell living in a location that can't have basements because the water table is so high. Our house actually stands on pylons, and there is space between the building and the ground. I don't want to even imagine what lives under the house. I've seen the cockroaches in this burg.

But one of my boxes contained about 20 or so patterns, and I sat and fitted them into plastic sleeves to keep them all together. Some were duplicated, because I'd forgotten I'd printed them, but I just stuffed them in together. There were all sorts of goodies. A peacock shawl, a Canadian maple leaf toque, a red dragon toque, various shawls and cabled scarves, and even an Icelandic sweater pattern, named OĆ°inn which I'd like to make sometime.

In all, it was a very satisfying experience to get all those patterns into sleeves. I know there are more packed away in various boxes that I haven't gotten to yet, but I will, eventually. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Off Topic

The little description at the top of this blog thingy says that this is mostly a knitting blog, so sometimes we go a little off topic. Today is one of those days. Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

For the last five years I have used a flip phone. I'd flip it open and have a keyboard to type texts, and it was, more or less, a machine for phoning and texting. Occasionally I'd take pictures with it, but that was never its primary function. It served as a means of communication by texting and phoning.

In August I got caught in one of New Orleans' torrential downpours and my little flip phone got wet. Very wet. Drenched, in fact. When I got it home all I could get it to do was go, "Buzzzzzzzzz." Not useful. I packed it into a zip-lock baggie with those little silica gel packets that you get with electronics, and hoped for the best. Eventually it dried out, though it took the better part of a week, and it was fine, til the front screen went blank. It would buzz when I got a text, but I would have to open it to see who it was from, and if I wanted to make a phone call, I had to open it, jot down the number, and dial it manually. Not an ideal situation, and I knew it was time to bid it farewell and move into the 21st century and get a Smart Phone (well, at least the second decade of the 21st century).

Two weeks ago I went to the store and got my first Smart Phone. It's an android, and does all sorts of wonderful things. It can connect to the internet. I can get on Facebook with it. I can get to Ravelry with it. It plays games. It has a kindle. It even phones and texts.

And I hate it. I hate it with the passion of 10,000 burning suns.

It chirps, cheeps, bings, burps, tweets, and twats all the time. Some of those times are when I have an actual text. Tonight I turned off the Facebook notifications on the phone. I only have two gigs of data and don't want to use it up, and will probably delete Facebook from my phone entirely. Because I don't want to use it get on the internet, or as a GPS, or as a camera, or to be any more intrusive into my life than I need it to be. I need it to make phone calls and to send texts. No more, no less.

I am somewhat of a neo-Luddite. I don't like too much technology, and only want what I need to make life easier. Therefor I like using a washing machine, but not a dryer. If it weren't so damn damp in this state, I'd have a clothesline for all my freshly laundered goods. But it would probably take a week to dry. As it is, most of my clothes get hung up to dry, either on a drying rack or on hangers. I don't really like microwave ovens. I understand that they can be useful, but I prefer a toaster oven, and if I could only have one, I'd prefer the latter. I prefer real books to e-books, and while e-mail has its uses, a hand written letter is so much nicer. In short, I am not what anyone could call an early adopter of most technologies.

But I need to have a phone, and my old phone really was on its last legs (it tended to shut itself off from time to time, sometimes when I was actually on the phone talking to someone). It looks like I'm stuck with this monstrosity, and I will probably have to learn how to use it more effectively. But it doesn't mean I have to like it. It merely means that I have to bow to expedience.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Weekend Catch Up

Over the weekend I finished my gauge swatch for my Icelandic sweater. Honestly, I have always hated knitting swatches, but I understand the need for them. I knit it flat, even though the garment will be knit in the round, and even though I understand that stockinette knit flat has a slightly different gauge from that which is knit in the round, I doggedly knit it flat. No one can ever say that I never engage in exercises in futility.

Because I am absolutely the worst at actually reading the gauge, I walked my swatch over to Miss Bette, and asked her to take a look at it. I had gotten about four stitches to the inch, and she confirmed my findings (OK, maybe I'm not as bad at ascertaining my gauge as I thought). However, the gauge needs to be three and a half stitches to the inch, so I need to change my needle size. I am a tight knitter, I admit, but it used to be I knit to gauge.

Regardless, I shall try to knit a swatch in the round! Something I've never done before. So I need to find the right size double pointed needles and cast on a few stitches and see what I can come up with. Miss Bette showed me a way to get the stitches on the DPNs without twisting, and if I can remember how to do it, I'll try to put them on the needles tonight. If I can find the right size. Which is a wicked big "if".

There are times when I wish I'd brought my knitting with me. I almost always have it, but this weekend I spent time with the Big Easy Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, of which I am a member, and I usually don't need to have my knitting with me when I'm with the Sisters. Novice Sister Shir Madness organised a Safer Sex Symposium as her novice project, which centered around kink. Because I am a Novice Guard in the organisation, I got to sit at the door and collect any donations people wished to make. This is something I did not mind, but I was a little bored and if I'd had my knitting with me, I could have made some progress on some project or another. I shall let this be a lesson: I shall always take my knitting, a small project, even when I might be with the Sisters, and then I won't be bored.

This weekend coming, I plan to go shopping for a light that will brighten up my knitting area. One of the problems I have with knitting in my current house is that there isn't enough light for me to see. My old apartment in Boston had a HUGE window that took up most of one wall in my bedroom, so I had plenty of light in the daytime. And for some reason, enough light with all the electric lights on in the evening to knit. But my house in New Orleans seems to swallow the light and I think if I can find a high intensity floor lamp, I shall acquire it for knitting. I want to knit more than I am currently doing, but feel hampered by the lack of light.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lopi, Icelandic Sweaters, and Steeking

One of the things I've always wanted to knit, even before I could knit or even knew I wanted to knit, was an Icelandic sweater. For the last couple of years or three I've been perusing and favouriting sweater patterns on Ravelry. Some of them are even in English! Today I visited Bornside Yarns and looked through patterns. I found one I mostly liked, except that it has a zipper, and I want to have buttons. Miss Bette and I spent over an hour talking about the pattern and picking out the colours of Lopi that I'm going to use (Lopi does not have a company website, so this link is to Wikipedia). I wanted to use a very dark-almost-black for the main colour, but she didn't have enough of that so I'm going with a dark grey with the almost black as one of the secondary colours. It's a Fair Isle pattern and it's done on fat needles because it is a bulky yarn. Sweaters like that tend to knit up pretty quickly.

As I mentioned it is Fair Isle pattern and Fair Isle is best knit in the round. So this pattern is also knit in the round and that means steeking. Yes, I am going to knit a garment that I am going to cut so I can wear it as a cardigan. I think I'm going to plotz. I know, intellectually, that if one follows the directions, steeking is not a terrible thing. And I have friends who have steeked and have lived to tell the tale.

I had a mini conversation with Franklin Habit on Facebook about steeking. He said it wasn't all that bad or hard to do. So I might do some practice steeking before the big day. But first, I have to cast on and knit the damn thing. I'm pretty excited, since I will be able to use this as a jacket here in New Orleans. Sweaters take a long time to knit, but I'm hoping I can churn this out. A wee break from my other projects.

These are the yarns I got from Miss Bette:
The yarn on the left is the main body, a dark pewter grey.
The yarns in the centre and on the right are the Fair Isle designs.
I find it interesting how the ball bands on Lopi have changed over the years. Reynolds is no longer carrying it (the two balls on the left), and for a while it was carried by the Icelandic government (the ball on the right). Apparently Berroco is going to carry it from now on, since Reynolds has been bought and dispersed. Even so, I got the yarn I wanted, and I'm very much looking forward to knitting this up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Update from the Crescent City

I taught a colleague how to knit over the weekend. It took a while, but eventually she caught on and started to put the needle into the stitch the correct way (it wasn't until I said she had to go "underneath" that my instruction made any sense). Her stitches are not even, and when she showed me what she'd done at home as practice, it was downright ugly. But it was knitting. There were mistakes, and some dropped and/or slipped stitches. She'd increased her practice row from 20 to 23 stitches. But, as Yarn as my witness, it was knitting! We're going to knit together at lunch today.

It is hard for me sometimes to explain what I do so naturally when I'm holding knitting needles. I think that I am probably not a good teacher, or at least not a natural one, whenever I try to teach someone to knit. I barely remember my own struggles to master two sticks and a piece of string, and those early practice pieces have been consigned to the rubbish heap of history. I know I had a hard time figuring out what to do. I still have the first garter stitch scarf I ever made. I pulled those stitches so tight that I could barely get the needle into them as I knit along the row. Eventually I discovered that I didn't need to pull the stitches to a deathgrip on the needles, I developed a sense of even stitches, and I've learned not to knit whilst drinking alcohol, watching suspenseful movies, or while I am in a snit. That snit thing happens more often than I am willing to admit.

In my own knitting, I've been hard at work at both the bear hat and the Paul Shawl. The bear hat is finished and too small. I adjusted the needle size when I worked the Fair Isle portion of the hat, but it only fits on my head with a tug, and the stitches are spread wide and one can see the colour of the floats behind them. Not sure if I should try again using Intarsia to make the bears, or if I should knit a hat and make bear pom-poms (for which the pattern gives instructions, leaving a plain hat and fancy poms). The Paul Shawl is about 3/4 done and I want to get it off the needles sooner rather than later. I reckon one more skein of the Spruced Goose and one full one of the Steel Grey and it will be done. Just in time for the cool weather up in Yankee Heaven!

I bought two new patterns the other day, when I got paid. Drachenfels, by Mairelynd on Ravelry, for only €4.90. I'd seen it advertised on Facebook, and finally broke down and bought it. It uses a DK weight, and I've got so much of that in my stash. I'm hoping to use up some of it so I can empty out some of those damn bins. I also got Faster Than Light from SweetP Designs, for only $5.00. It's a triangular shawl and since the sample was done in blue and white yarn, I couldn't resist. Also, it's kind o' pretty, and I think will make a fun project to knit. It is also a stash busting project.

Stash busting is much on my mind these days, so I'm looking for projects that will use up what I have. While I love Josh Ryke's patterns (Death of the Moon, among others), he designs for fingering weight, and I have very little of that in my stash. DK and worsted are what I have, especially Mad Tosh and Malabrigo. So I hope I can use these yarns with the new patterns. Now I just have to apply myself to my knitting! I have a meeting tonight, so I think I'll bring it along.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lies, Damned Lies, and PETA

Today, my friend Hugh posted this on his Facebook page, from someone named John Acuff.
Let's be perfectly clear: Sheep, alpacas, llamas, goats, bunnies, and other fur bearing critters do not die when they are sheared for their wool. And in fact, shearing the animal is helpful to it, since many breeds of sheep and goats do not lose their hair in a spring molt (yes, there are some which do, but most domesticated breeds don't), and the fleece keeps growing, which must be very uncomfortable in the summer. A couple of years ago a sheep was recovered in New Zealand which had escaped its paddock. It hadn't been sheared in a couple of years, its wool content was HUGE and it could barely walk. It looked something like this:

The vegan group which put out this advert should include the tagline, "Go Vegan, Wear More Polyester," since vegans don't wear the wool or fleece of what they consider enslaved animals. I'm sure we all want to have more dead dinosaur artificial fibres wrapped around our bodies. Honesty alert: I am a vegetarian and I have not eaten meat in almost 25 years. I also don't give a damn what you eat and will never castigate you for eating meat. That said, I wear wool. And alpaca. And llama. I eat cheese and ice cream made from milk, too. I have only knit in acrylic once, at the request of a friend to make a hat with yarn that reflected light. Good for an early morning or late night jogger, I guess, though my friend didn't jog. I can also say I hated knitting it because it didn't feel right. I always knit with natural fibres, and often turn down yarn with nylon in it (yeah, I know it's great for making socks, but I don't make socks, and so I don't want nylon in my shawls). I guess a vegan could knit with cotton, and a cotton sweater would be fine for life down here in Louisiana, but I come from New England, and I would not want to brave some of our sub-zero days with a cotton sweater. Give me wool.

I remember seeing a video (which I cannot find on Youtube) of a shearer in New Zealand who, fed up with the lying propaganda from PETA, stripped down to his Wellies and sheared a sheep while naked. The owner of the farm filmed him doing so. His action was in response to this advert from PETA:
Aside from the fact that they're using a fake sheep in the photo, most shearers are careful (and fast) and do not nick or cut the sheep, Certainly not to the extent that this toy lamb has been modified. I have seen sheep shearing demonstrations, and while the sheep might suffer a bit of a bruised dignity, it is no worse for the wear after shearing. Besides, electric trimmers don't inflict this kind of damage. Farmers who are raising sheep for fibre know that if they damage their sheep like this, they won't have sheep very long. These beasts are an investment that has to provide a return on that investment. A quick Google search shows that a breeding female alpaca sells for anything between $1000 and $5000 and more. I can't imagine someone wantonly damaging an animal this expensive to get a fleece. Having spoken with various farmers of various animals at fibre festivals, the people who raise and breed these beasts really take good care of them, want the best for them, and don't want to damage them. I think the best summation I can come up with is PETA lies.

Acquiring the wool with which we knit doesn't kill the animal. No one has to die to make a sweater. These adverts are as untruthful as they are ridiculous.