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.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some Hats

I made some hats! My first ear-flap cap and a beautiful bear Fair Isle hat. One worked out well, the other, well, not so well. The first, the ear-flap cap, was knit in undyed alpaca which I had bought at Rhinebeck in 2011. It's worsted weight, though not tightly spun, so the effect is that it feels softer than alpaca normally does. I got the pattern for free on Ravelry, one by Deby Lake, though I added my own design elements. In the middle section, rather than using a Fair Isle motif, or self striping yarn, I used a solid milk-chocolate colour. I like the way it looks, and I think it will be very warm for its recipient, who lives in upstate New York.
 The only negative thing I can think of about this pattern is the I-cord. They are so boring to knit.

The second hat came out beautifully. The colour work looks good, I like the yarn, since it's my favourite, Madeline Tosh Vintage. The colourways are Celadon and Whiskey Barrel, and it looks so good! Unfortunately, even though I went up a needle size when doing the colourwork, the hat is too tight. I can barely get it on, and when I do one can see the floats under the knitting. And I know the person I made it for has a larger head than I do. So I have to scrap this one and figure out how I can knit it so that the floats give more stretch. I might also add a few stitches to the hat, and rework the decreases.

These hats are done, and I am already on a second forray of Cthulhu's Unspeakable Hat, a Christmas gift my friend Phyllis wants to give to her husband. The ribbing is done, and I've just started the stockinette portion. I hope to have it done by the middle so this week, and if I do, I'll post a picture!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Naked Eye

I am 55 years old.
I have been wearing glasses since I was 12.
I have been wearing contact lenses since I was 18.
I have been wearing bi-focals since I was 35.
I have been wearing bi-focal contact lenses since I was 49.
This morning I realised that I can see my knitting best when I am not wearing any glasses or contact lenses at all. That's a hell of a thing to realise after going through as many eye exams as I have.

My very dear and beloved friend Lisa is visiting me in New Orleans, and since we've been friends since we met in 1975, having her with me is like a homecoming. We've gone to the yarn stores, we've walked along the Mississippi, we're going to have beignets this morning. And this morning I woke up earlier than she, and sat in the kitchen knitting a hat, wearing my glasses, looking through the reading lens and realised that when I needed to tink a stitch, or count the stitches on the needle that I was peering under the glasses, using my naked eye. I took off my glasses as I continued to knit, and was amazed that I could actually see my stitches better than I could when I was wearing my glasses.
Lisa at one of the many Little Free Libraries in my neighbourhood
 I have known for a long time that I have better vision with glasses than contacts (this has to do with how my very slight astigmatism is actually not corrected in my right eye, because it isn't bad enough to warrent correction). But since I detest wearing glasses I have put up with slightly less than perfect vision in my right eye for the last 37 years. I've learned to adjust and compensate. And I am now wondering if the reason I've stopped knitting as much as I did when I lived in Boston is because, since I usually don't take my lenses out until bed-time, the discomfort of knitting has become greater than the pleasure. Not that I took the damn lenses out earlier, but there seemed to be more light in my room than there is in my current living room. Or maybe my eyes are growing dim with age.

Since I do not want knitting to be uncomfortable, I shall endeavour to remove my lenses earlier in the evening so I can get some after-work knitting in.
Knitting without glasses

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Commissioned Hat!

Since I cannot do anything else, I shall write about my current knitting.

I have been commissioned to make a hat for someone with ear flaps. While I know the theory of making such flaps (garter border, stockinette inside), I never knew how many stitches should be between the flaps in the front or in the back. Sure, I usually cast on 96 stitches, but how should those be apportioned between the ear flaps? Luckily, we have Ravelry, and I found this pattern, by OC Knitiot Designs, Deby Lake, which I will modify (in other words, I'm using stripes, not Fair Isle).

I cast on the two I-cord ties, and determined immediately that there is nothing in the world more boring to knit than a couple of I-cords. But I persevered, and am now on the far more interesting ear flaps. Another 11 rows of these, and I'll be able to cast on the body of the hat. I have wanted to make one of these for a while, and this is offering me a fun opportunity to do so. No pictures yet, since there isn't anything to see.

Of course one needs to have yarn if one is going to make a hat. I searched my stash for undyed alpaca. I had several skeins to choose from, but wanted something in a worsted weight. Way back in 2011, at the only visit I've ever made to Rhinebeck, I bought a bunch of yarn, including these three skeins of undyed alpaca.
I got them a the Red Maple Sportswear booth, where they sold lots of already-made hats and gloves and other goods. But they had some yarn, and if I remember a-right, they were one of the first booths we encountered, and I was at that point in love with undyed yarns. So I got these three skeins. There isn't enough of any one of them to make a single hat, but I am thinking about stripes after I finish the ear flaps. I have started the I-cords and flaps with the middle darker chocolate yarn. It knits up really nicely, and is very soft and pretty. When I have more than a couple I-cords with tiny triangles depending from them, I'll show some photos. In the meantime, I remember that I knit so I do not kill people.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Loot from the North, or, Gifts of the Magistra

Like every year since 2011, I did not get to Rhinebeck this year. Mostly because of the distance I'd have to travel. Not living in New England means that New York is no longer just next door. It would involve flights and trying to stuff too much yarn into too little suitcase. But my friend Kim was able to go, and she sent me a lovely letter telling me all about it. She was there for the entire weekend, she camped, even though the evenings were chilly, and she had a wicked good time.

She also sent me two skeins of yarn! How cool is that? She had e-mailed me and asked if I wanted anything, and I told her a particular yarn I could only find at fibre festivals, and even then, not at all of them, and then completely forgot about it. Until the package arrived in the mail the other day. Two gorgeous skeins of fingering weight yarn, a sweet letter, and the booklet for the festival. 

The yarn is The Periwinkle Sheep, which only sells to retailers and at fibre festivals (there is an Etsy store, but when I've checked, I never see what I've wanted there). The yarn is 100% superwash Merino, 400 yards each. The colours are Vintage Blue and Elderberry. I've already decided that they are going to become Death of the Moon shawls, and I am trying to decide with what colour I shall pair them. I'm thinking a black for the blue, and maybe a cream or off-white for the purple. Either way, it's going to be wonderful to knit with these skeins. Kim, thank you so very much!
 Beautiful Yarn for Beautiful Projects.

Our cat, Serious Black, checking out the yarn. So far he has not attacked any of my projects or skeins of yarn. After this was taken, he seemed decidedly uninterested in the goods,

Serious Black, who is a cuddle monster.

I would like to note that on the side of the box in which she sent the yarn, Kim taped an orange-red maple leaf to one side, and wrote a postscript to her note on the other. "P,S, Indigo Dragonfly had a colorway called 'Doubting Thomas the Search Engine.' I just cracked up." I did go to Indigo Dragonfly's website, but alas! I could not find that colourway, and surmise that it was made for the festival and is not something they ordinarily have. Still, her postscript made me chuckle.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wherein One Ponders Blogdom

Oh, dear, I seemed to have missed the sixth anniversary of my blog, 6 October. I don't think I've ever managed to celebrate it, but for some reason I needed to see a post from the first year, and while I was there, I checked the date of the first post and there it was, and I missed it. Damn.

When I first began writing this here blog-thingy, there were several blogs which I followed, and for which I created links in a section on the right-hand side called "fibre folk" since they were blogs by people who did things with fibre (there's another list of "non-fibre folk" for blogs that have nothing to do with knitting and fibre). In the six years that I've been writing this blog, I've noticed that fewer and fewer blogs are being updated at regular intervals, and several seem to have been abandoned completely. I regret the passing of Franklin Habit's blog, The Panopticon. It was witty, interesting, and fun to read. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is still writing Yarn Harlot, but not every day like she used to. And I'm certainly not counting myself in their august company. 

I blog because I enjoy it. I like writing about my knitting, I like writing about the yarns I love to use. I am pretty sure that very few people read this blog, since I can count the comments on it in any given year on one hand (this does not include my comments back). I read other people's knitting blogs because I am interested in what other folk are doing with fibre. Sometimes I'm impressed, sometimes I wonder what they hell they're doing, and sometimes I am inspired. 

I honestly think knitting has shot its wad. It was wildly popular for a few years in the previous decade, a popularity that lasted from about 2002 to about 2010, and then some new fad came along. The diehards kept at it, and those who were never really committed to it have moved on to something else. I think this is reflected in the closing of many yarn shops. In Boston, from about 2011 til when I left about five shops closed down, and no new ones opened up. 


I am one of the diehards. I have kept up with knitting, and have such a big stash that I probably don't need to buy yarn for the rest of my life. Just the other day I finished one project and looked through my yarn catalogue to find yarn for the next. I like to knit with others in a group, I like to knit alone, I like to go to cafes and knit in public (*gasp!*). To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, "A person who knits in public may have other nasty habits." 


Friday, October 21, 2016

A Recap from 29 August

Back on 29 August I wrote about how PETA tells lies in its advertisements, that shearing sheep seriously damages, hurts, or kills them. They have a photo of someone holding a fake sheep that has been painted to look like it is bleeding copiously from its wounds. I mentioned in that same post that a shearer from Australia stripped naked (except for his Wellies) and sheared a sheep. I said that I had seen a video of it, but couldn't find it. Well, here is a link to the article about the naked shearer:
Anti Wool Campaign
And this is a picture of him doing it
Neither shearer nor sheep were harmed during this action.

I continue to knit with fibre from sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats, and bunnies, rather than from yarn made from the remains of dinosaurs which died millions of years ago.a


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.