Thursday, January 30, 2003

Knitting Stars

There aren't many stars in the knitting universe...so what does it take to make a name recognizable by almost all knitters?

In the 18 years that I've been knitting, there have been only three names that I can name that are inarguably recognized as knitting stars,

Elizabeth Zimmermann, Alice Starmore, and Kaffe Fassett

These knit designers have created a large following and inspired a large number of knitters to take up needles.

Elizabeth Zimmermann is one of the pioneers of knitting inspiration. It wasn't her brilliant designs that brought knitters to her, it was more her philosophy of knitting that gave new knitters the courage to try things. She helped transition knitting from a time when it was a chore to a time where knitting could be something a person chose to do for fun. Personally, I don't subscribe to some of her ideas. I have no aversion to purling, and I think most of her knitting patterns are devoid of any style. However, I heartily agree with her spirit of adventure in knitting, and the undaunted, unapologetic way she encourages knitters to be pioneers themselves. That's what makes her great.

As for Alice and Kaffe, both of them pursued knitting fame in a different way than Alice. They both took a specific knitting technique, and made it an artform. They both brought joyous amounts of color into the knitting world. Alice through her incredible Fair Isle and Aran designs and Kaffe through his incredible intarsia masterpieces. Both of them were incredibly prolific in their designs, and they both inspired knitters around the globe to spend inordinate amounts of money on books and yarns to make their own pieces of art.

Again, Alice and Kaffe diverge in their knitting styles. Alice's designs brought a precisioned and detailed eye to both Fair Isle and Aran designs, while Kaffe encouraged a more reckless approach to throwing as much color and patterning as he could into his sweater designs.

Now I'm sure that there are a number of other well-known hand-knitting designers that you could name, but I put them in the category of sub-stars.
Knitting Sub-Stars that I can quickly list are Debbie Bliss, Jo Sharp, Ron Schweitzer, Penny Straker, Michele Wyman, Lily Chin, and Jean Moss. All of them (and many more) have made huge contributions to knitting. But none of them have broken through so that they are known by their first name only as Kaffe, Elizabeth and Alice have.

New Star Auditions
==============
We are in desperate need of a new Knitting Star. Alice is busy with her lawyers, Kaffe has seemingly left knitting to his protege, Brendan Mably, and Elizabeth has passed on the crown to her daughter Meg Swansen. Today's entry is a call for a new star. The knitting community need someone to follow and worship. Someone who will appeal to a wide audience of knitters.

I submit that Carol Lapin could be a possible candidate. Here are her qualifications:

1. She has been designing for a long time. In fact, one of her designs is in Scottish Collection...the widely sought-out Alice book from the Broadbay days. For those of you who own that book, did you know Carol is the model for the entrelac sweater in the book?

2. Carol's designs are always stylish and sophisticated and they continue to get better and better. Her most recent designs in the Jamieson Simply Knit book are artful to say the least. Metamorphosis, one of her new designs in the book is absolutely beautiful and well designed. People who haven't even gotten the book have been ordering kits for that sweater already, despite the $128 cost.

3. The editor at Unicorn Books who was partly responsible for bringing Alice to star-status, has been pushing Carol's designs very strongly. He is an amazing publicist as well as editor, and the combination could be very effective.

4. Finally, Carol continues to be very prolific in her designs. She has recently completed a multi-color overcoat-like garment that is truly stunning.

Given that I'm a personal friend of Carol's, my opinion is obviously biased. But truthfully, it was my love of her designs that brought us together as friends originally. I'd like to hear if there are any other stars out there who you think are ready to pop out.

Knitting Progress
I had to say, I've finished the back and I'm almost up to the collar shaping on the front of the Sister Sweater. This picture may look like I've done even less than the last picture. That's because the last picture only showed the almost completed back, and not the incomplete front chest section.



I'll finish the front and start on the sleeves this weekend (hopefully).

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Knitting Identity

#15 from 100 Things About Me states:

"I derive a significant amount of self worth from my job."

I identify as a Consultant...it's who I am, it's what I do. Similarly, I identify as a knitter. There aren't many folks that have my skill sets in either the area of knitting or consulting, and I take great pride in that. I am proud as hell that there isn't a knitting pattern or a pattern stitch that I can't do...or even a commercially knit garment that I couldn't replicate if I wanted to. I can do Fair Isle, Intarsia, and duplicate stitch. I can do lace knitting, Aran knitting and cabling. I know how to turn a heel, do a toe-up sock and Kitchener stitch a toe.

What I don't need is validation of myself as a knitter. I don't care if Julia Roberts or Tyne Daly knits. Although it makes me like them more, it doesn't justify my passion for creating fabric with needles and yarn. I don't care that magical knitting is portrayed in the Harry Potter movie, even though I can appreciate some of the beautiful hand knits that actors wear in movies. And getting upset about how knitting is being portrayed in a Homo D├ępot commercial is simply ridiculous.

I think part of the reason I don't care about what people think of my knitting is because I'm a guy. I've had to work through a lot of those issues early in my knitting experience. The first time I took my knitting out in an airport, I didn't know what the reaction would be, but I was resolved that it didn't matter...I am a knitter...it's who I am, it's what I do. I've had some less-than-positive experiences where friends have ridiculed my avocation, or family members have their own embarrassment of my knitting in public. All of those experiences strengthened my resolve...brought me to the place where I realized I won't be denied my passion because someone thinks less of me for it.

Knitting Gifts
With all this talk of my "knitting identity", it's always nice when friends and family recognize that knitting is important to me. My sister-out-of-law gave my partner and I teddy bears for Christmas one year. Thaddeus' bear was dressed as a fisherman...mine as a knitter.



Now don't get me wrong...none of my dresses are as frumpy as the one this bear wears, but I was glad that someone close to me recognized that knitting was a part of who I am...a critical part. It's nice to be understood that way. I'm not sure how different that is from feeling validated by knitting references in books or movies, but it definitely feels different to me. It's a more personal recognition of something important to me...not some random reference.

Knitting Progress
I've gotten some additional work done on the sister sweater. Now that I've started knitting back and forth to allow for the sleeve opening, the picture looks like I've made a lot of progress. In actuality, I'm almost done with the back, but I still have the upper front, collar and sleeves to go.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

B.A.D. Hangover

Now that Blogger Appreciation Day (B.A.D.) is over, I think I celebrated too much.

Double Good News
I headed over to my local yarn store yesterday for a couple of reasons...believe it or not, neither reason involved the purchase of more yarn

First thing, the editor of the Jamieson Shetland books was at the yarn store to discuss a great new line of yarns, and to gather new designs for a book using the new yarn line. As part of that discussion, he mentioned that Jamieson Shetland Book 3 will include one of my designs...the very design I'm making for my sister!! I'm very excited. Book 3 isn't scheduled to be out until August, but it's still great to know I'll be a published designer. Just think, when I become the next Alice Starmore, you can all say you knew me when...

Second great thing is that that new Jamieson Simply Knit book has arrived, although it's sitting in customs at the moment. It's expected to be distributed out to stores at the end of next week. This is the picture they used for the front cover.



Simply Knit (the store, not the book) has been taking advanced orders for the book, although it's not on their web site yet. Phone ordering is the only way to order it so far.

Christmas Gift
I thought it was somewhat odd that my blog-sister, Wendy doesn't just celebrate her birthday, but she celebrates an entire birthmonth. I think she's still getting birthmonth gifts. Well, I have no room to talk now, I just got the following Christmas gift from my sister.



Did anyone else order from Amazon this year and have them mislead you as to the delivery date. Both my sister and I ordered books that Amazon claimed would arrive in time for Christmas and then a week after ordering revised the delivery date to 2 or 3 weeks after Christmas. I ended up cancelling and ordering the same book through Barnes and Noble. My sister wasn't quite that proactive.

Regardless, I love the book. It's got some great color combinations, and while I will most probably never make an afghan, I will definitely be stealing design ideas from this book for other garments.

Cat Grief
Gage (the cat) and the FDL (Feline Defamation League) gave me a boatload of grief about the picture and reference to "spawn of satan" I included in recent posts. I've made up with my little darling, in fact he was just lying on my chest purring peacefully before I sat down to write this. If you look closely at the picture below, you'll see the holy glow surrounding the angel-cat.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Blogger Appreciation Day

If I can declare knitting a sport as I did yesterday, then I can certainly declare a global holiday to honor bloggers.

I have been inspired by them, I have laughed with them, I have learned from (I have stolen HTML from them), so now it's time to say thanks to all the bloggers who have been doing this "blog thing" for a lot longer than me...way before I even heard of the word.

By far, Wendy has been the biggest influence. I love reading her blog, I think her knitting is as good as it gets and she's been keeping her blog going for an incredibly long time (and that is no easy task). Stop by her site and say hi, and tell her QueerJoe says hi too.

Marilyn (The Knitting Curmudgeon) has one of the most entertaining knit blogs on the world wide web. I love her caustic humor and her writing is flawless. Being a writer by profession with past jobs as editor, she puts together an amazing site. A true breath of fresh air after reading endless Knitlist bullshit.

Kate's blog is a must read for any knit blog reader who appreciates reading about young knitters with interesting design ideas and just interesting ideas about life. Plus, her husband is cute as hell (I would imagine most straight guys or lesbians would think the same thing about her).

I love reading Justin's blog just to see what he and his two lovers, his children and his pets are up to. Having never seen a picture of what he looks like, I have a very clear picture of him in my mind based on his clever writings about raising children in a seemingly very Bohemian family environment.

Some of the more recent entrants into knit-blogging, but also great daily reads are Antonio...love reading his blog, and check out the amazing graphics and interesting knit content on Matt and Rob's site at Crowing Ram.

There are tons of other great knitting blogs, and I find more and more each day. So far, these are the blogs that have inspired me to designate January 24th as Blogger Appreciation Day.

Knitting Progress
Got a few more inches done on the Sister Sweater. I thought you might want to see a glimpse of my design tools when knitting a sweater like the one for my sister.

Here's what the sweater's looking like now...see I'm finally into the third stitch pattern section. Just an inch or two more till I start the arm hole shaping.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Knitting as Sport

As a male knitter, I've decided that knitting can now be elevated from the category of craft or hobby to an official sport.

I know folks (like Wendy) who can create entire virgins with text above their heads in a matter of days.

Knitting Competitions
Like a track and field event, Knitting should have clearly defined events:

Speed Knitting - Obvious choice, it already exists
Endurance Knitting - Who can knit garter stitch continuously for the longest time without losing their mind?
Tag Team Knitting - Pick up your partner's knitting and make sure your gauge matches
Fiber Stash Enhancement - The competetition gets fierce at the local sale bin
Knitting Iron Man (is there a non-gender term for this?) - A tri-athlete event (formerly known as sheep to shawl)
Concurrent WIPS - Who holds the world record for number of concurrent WIPS?
Ice knitting - Graceful performance of Sock knitting with double toe-loops
Speed Balling - The sprinting event for getting yarn from hank to swift to ball in the fastest time
Blocking/Finishing - Okay, we'll keep this one out of the competition...no one would want to participate

Training Exercises
How would you train for these fiber events?
Two-handed, stranded knitting exercises
Knitting cotton with weights attached to the ends of your needles
Standard injury avoidance stretches


Equipment Fine Tuning
Finely honed and waxed double-points in mahogany for speed
Ball winders with 5:1 gear ratios
Yarn swifts with spoilers and aerodynamic attachments

Knitting Progress
Slowly moving along on the sister-sweater. I've gotten about 10 inches done...five more and I start working the front and back separately.



Devil Cat
Here's another picture of the spawn of satan who doesn't beg for table scraps, but will find the smallest piece of yarn and ingest it immediately (no he's not hanging from the rafters like the demon he is, he's playing under the stairs).

Monday, January 20, 2003

I'm just a girl who can't say "no"

I don't know how I got hornswoggled into selling my knitwear at the Art/Craft show yesterday.

Overall, the show was pretty lame. Lots of great stuff (including mine, of course), but hardly any buyers came to browse/shop/buy. The host blamed it on the frigid cold weather and the Eagles game, and I think she's right.

Thaddeus had the great idea to display my scarves, hats and sweaters on an old, wooden, six foot step ladder.



They looked great. I brought 2 Koigu scarves, 4 novelty scarves, 5 Head Hugger hats, 1 Koigu shawl and three sweaters (sales models made for my local yarn store). Despite the low turnout, I ended up selling all of the novelty scarves and one of the Head Hugger hats. Overall, people were pretty impressed with my talents. Here's one buyer wearing her QueerJoe Original.



Knitting Progress
Now that all the show knitting is over, I was able to start up on my sister's sweater again last night. I was pretty beat, so after a short time on my sister's sweater, I put that down and picked up the alpaca bedspread/coffin cover and did some mindless knitting on that. Didn't get much done on either of them, so no picture.

Barbie Knitting Machine
After seeing a few web sites and pictures of what folks have done with the Barbie Knitting machine, I've pretty well determined it won't be overly useful. The one high point of the Art/Craft sale yesterday was that I spent time with the host's 13 year old daughter, and used some Fizz, eyelash yarn in a bright pink on the Barbie Knitting machine and we made her an 8 foot boa/scarf. She loved it, and made sure everyone knew that she made it herself. Here's a bad picture of it.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

I'm a Barbie Girl...

...life in plasic, it's fantastic!

Well, you know the song, but do you have the machine. That freakin' Barbie has everything, and can do almost anything. I just got a package in the mail for a Barbie Knit Hits knitting machine. I got it on eBay and it was new and in the original, unopened box (although the box was a little banged up).





You'll see it makes an interesting tube of knitting. The only thing I could imagine making with this thing so far is the tube part of a Willie Warmer, so I'll have to see if anyone has any creative suggestions for what they can think I could make with tubes about the size of a decent size schlong.

Secret Preview
I told you a couple of weeks ago that I got to see the newest Jamieson book that will have 10 sweater designs from Simply Knit. Well, I got tired of waiting for the real book to come out, so I figured I could surreptitiously snap a photo of the new publication and give my blog readers the first peak at this cool book. So here for the first time in public, I bring you Jamieson's Simply Knit book:



Art/Craft Show
I'm working frantically to finish up the last scarf for the Art/Craft Show tomorrow. I'll get a picture of the final display and post it some time tomorrow if I get the chance to post. I'll be glad when it's all over so I can finish up my sister's sweater, get back to the Donegal Fair Isle and start on some other projects of interest, like the knitted jock strap design.

Family
Now that my sister has been reading my blog, it throws a whole new light on being "out"...lol. I've been out to my sister Kathy for longer than anyone else in my family, but now she's gone and really done it...she told my mother's hairdresser about my web site (Hi Annette!!). Kind of shocking when the internet lets worlds collide.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Lots and Lots of Stuff

Today's post has a lot of content, so buckle up poodles.

Old Topic
A kind blog reader (thanks Maribeth) sent me the following link that is very timely regarding women using their husband's e-mail address. See how topical this blog can be?

Detroit Free Press Article

Abercrombie & Fitch Knockoff
Here's a picture of my first attempt at a knockoff that I described yesterday:



A closeup of the neck will show what I accidentally made up.



I didn't know how I was going to finish the neck. After knitting the shaping of the neck opening, I realized I didn't want to make it much smaller, so I couldn't use a standard ribbed v-neck. I decided to pick up and knit stitches all the way around, do a purl row to make a hem crease, and then stockinette for an inch that would be tacked to the inside of the sweater. Just like a standard hemmed buttonband.

When I realized I would have to shape the "v" into the folded back piece of fabric, I decided to just cast off after the first stockinette row. This created a very simple finished edging with a slight roll, that didn't take away very much neck opening space. Easy to do, and I like the result.

Fair Isle Desires
I know this is heresy to some of the great blog writers out there, but I've never been a big fan of Fair Isle sweaters. Don't get me wrong, I am amazed at the skill and diligence and time to create those masterpieces, and I also love the color combinations of the masters like Ron and Alice, but I rarely found a pattern that I felt I would look good in...at least good enough to justify all the work and expense of making one.

That was until I saw the pattern for Donegal by Alice Starmore (the Earth colorway, not the one in blues). I loved the colors, the pattern and I decided I had to make it. Over the years, I've been able to slowly work on this sweater until I got up to the middle of the sleeve steek opening, and I've lost interest.



One of these days I'll be able to finish this sucker, but unless I block/stretch it a LOT, it will probably need to be a gift for someone smaller than me.

Fair Isle Design Attempt
A couple of years ago as I was training to get my private pilot's license, I decided to try and create a Fair Isle design of my own with an aviation theme. I started by graphing out some attempts and ended up with this graph:



Then I attempted to swatch it to check the colors and this is the result:



I wasn't overly thrilled with all the colors, and I didn't like the way the helicopter looked (yes the upper right square was supposed to be a helicopter), so I never continued, but one of these days I'll make revisions to the design and colors and make a kids sweater design. I used DK weight Shetland wool, and I may decide to switch to jumper weight to get more definition.

Fashion Trailblazer
Finally, as I was rifling through my knitting stuff, I realized that I had made a gay version of the London Beanie years ago, and didn't even realize how forward-thinking I was (not to mention how queer). I don't wear this hat very often (i.e., never), but I still enjoyed making it in rainbow colors.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Sweater Knock-Offs

After I had completed published instructions for a few sweaters for Thaddeus and I, I realized a few things.

1. We wear the same size sweater. We wear different colors, and we have different waist sizes, but sweaters fit us both.
2. We both look good in raglan and fitted sleeve style sweaters.
3. The ideal measurements for our sweaters is about 25" across the chest, and 25" from hem to shoulder.

Based on these facts, I found I could easily start designing my own sweaters based on simple mathematics and gauge tests. The first time I realized this, I was in an Abercrombie & Fitch store in Nyack, NY, and there was a simple navy blue, v-neck pullover, with a couple of thin, sage green stripes across the chest. I said to myself, "Joe, you could make that sweater." I bought some Cascade 200 and made two A&F knockoffs in different colors and they came out great (I'll post a photo tomorrow).

I also went on to make any sweater I saw in stores that I liked by designing it myself. The best part was that I could modify parts I didn't like to be more flattering for me or Thaddeus. Also as part of tomorrow's post, I'll describe the collar I "made up" accidentally that came out very cool.

One of the earlier designs is this striped pullover (do you like how relaxed it looks?).



Wendy's Contest
Wendy's blog has a contest to try and figure out which Fair Isle she's going to make next. Since I'm away from home until the deadline (today), I searched endlessly through on-line Fair Isle patterns to find one that seemingly used the colors that she has pictured. I have to say, it's made me think about either finishing my Donegal sweater (Alice Starmore design in Earth colors) or starting a Fair Isle of my own.

I really like Henry VIII from Alice and Jade's book Tudor Roses, so I may decide to see about getting the yarn for that and starting it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Size Isn't Everything

At the speed of evolution, I enjoy the slow progress of knitting on small needles.

Small Needle Projects
I've always enjoyed working on small knitting needles. I like anything from US000000's to US2's and I like them for a number of reasons.

1. Small gauge fabric is so fine
Mostly I like how fine the fabric is that's done on tiny needles. I love the drape of it, the feel of it and the weight of it. Since knitting is such an enjoyable tactile experience for me, all these things are very important.

2. Slow and steady progress
While I haven't worked very much on the Baby Alpaca Bedspread/Coffin Cover lately (mostly due to this stupid Craft/Art Show this weekend), I love that I can do an inch a week on US1's and over the course of a couple of years have an incredibly fine bedspread. I don't need immediate gratification on projects, although I like that too sometimes.

3. Using Coned Yarns
I know there are a lot of coned yarns in bulkier weights, but most of them that I've accumulated over the years (and I have LOTS of them) are very thin and made for machine knitting. Whenever I see an interesting color yarn on a cone, I'll buy it, figuring I'll eventually make some fine socks with it, or decide to make some incredibly lace garment. Here's the most recent purchase. I don't look great in green, but I just HAD to have this yarn.



4. It takes me back to my roots
For my regular blog readers, you know one of my first knitted garments was a pair of Men's Underwear (why is one underwear considered a "pair?). Those were done on US0 and US1 needles and I LOVED making them.

Now don't get me wrong, I knit most of my projects on US5 needles. I do most of my designing on US5 needles. I buy patterns that use a lot of US5 needles. So I'm not averse to larger needles. I realize that if all my projects were done on needles that averaged out at US1, I wouldn't have very many completed projects. In fact the only project currently being worked on that is using a US1 is the Alpaca Beadspread (I've got about 4 inches done so far).

But I do have to have at least one project on smaller needles.

Old Knitting
I did this old Cone Waistcoat from a Kaffe pattern. Since I don't have many pictures to show you today, I thought I'd drag out one of my old designs.

The big Knitlist was writing about Stephanie Pearl's cotton/intarsia problems, and having as many as 5 colors in a row. So I thought I'd show off and show that you can have a lot more than that and still make a cotton intarsia garment (although I'd never do it again).



Other Knitting News
Wendy got her Koigu scarf and she likes it. I have to say that getting to "meet" other bloggers and folks on-line has been the best part of blogging. It gives me the feeling of an interesting, sophisticated knitting community that I had hoped to get when I joined the Knitlist, but didn't.

Knitting Progress
I finished the next Head Hugger hat for the show this weekend. I'm working on another Koigu scarf...no pics yet.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

The Best Laid Plans...

It appears that I'm about as good at predicting my own knitting as Cleo is (she's not even Jamaican!).

Knitting Progress
After tallying all the votes, and deciding my sister's sweater would be the next project (with some possible side projects as well), my plans were totally thrown out the window this past week.

I got hoodwinked into selling some things at a friend's Art/Craft Show this coming Sunday (a week from today) and I realized I needed to have a few more than three items to display there. So now I had to come up with some quick things that could possibly appeal to an artsy crowd. Here's my current inventory (and what I've been working on this week):

1. Head Hugger Hats - I've made a total of four and I have another on the needles
2. A Koigu cross-stitch scarf (the one I didn't send to Wendy)
3. A Koigu cross-stitch shawl
4. A teal novelty scarf made out of Fee
5. A black novelty scarf made out of Fee
6. A purple novelty scarf made out of one strand each of Salsa and Fizz
It's amazing how many knitted pieces I can finish when I put my mind to it. I plan on doing one more scarf using Fee (burgundy), one more purple Salsa/Fizz scarff and one more Head Hugger Hat in a plan Manos-like yarn called Araucania. We'll see how much I actually get done.

My Sister's Sweater
I haven't totally neglected my sister's sweater.



I got to the next pattern stitch section of the sweater, and I anticipate working on it as soon as this show is over. I should be able to make significant headway when it's the only piece I'm working on.

Friday, January 10, 2003

My Early Beginnings (this post is a little long today)

How did I get to be the person I am today (at least from a knitting perspective)?

100 Things About Me - Having read bloggers' lists of 100 things about them, I felt it gave me a little more insight into what kind of person they were. So I am copying all of my blogging trailblazers with a list of my own. The link to my list is in the upper left hand corner of my page. I'm happy with the list, but I did struggle some with what to include and what not to...especially when I have friends, family, coworkers and strangers who could all possibly be reading this document.

My Knit Beginnings
I recently sent an e-mail to a relatively new male knitter and in his response he asked me how I started knitting. Here is an extended version of how I responded...I thought you might be interested as well.

About 18 years ago, I was a 25 year old gay man with an amazing lack of self-esteem. I know it may seem hard to believe, but it's true. My self-esteem problem showed up mostly in my relationship which was then about 2 years old. I describe my relationship back then as like a donut, where my lover was the donut and I was the hole...without him I was nothing...he defined my world. Sick, huh?

The recognition of this as a problem was the first step in my recovery. I realized I needed a life of my own.

It's difficult for me to even remember what it was like to be such a wimp back then, so you'll have to try hard to imagine how pathetic I was as I tell you this next part. Once I decided that I needed a life of my own that wasn't fully defined by Thaddeus, I thought I'd start off small and pick a hobby that was mine and mine alone. But honestly, I had no idea what I was interested in. I knew a lot about what he was interested in, but as for me...blank slate.

So, I just made it up. I decided to teach myself to knit.

About a month prior to this little self-examination of my life, my lover and I had been at a friend's house (actually it was his parent's house, he still lived at home). His mother was a knitter/crafter/homemaker. I was looking through all her stuff...cake decorating, soap making, basket weaving, quilting, knitting, etc. Since I had been shown once how to knit by my grandmother years before, I was fascinated by the doublepointed needles in this woman's stash. My friend explained to me that they were for making socks...and I was even more amazed that a person could actually make socks. Don't ask what possessed me, but I ended up stealing that women's doublepoints and a couple of small knitting booklets that I hoped would explain how socks were made (I still have them today).

Given the background story of my friend's mother, and the blank slate, and my seemingly indiscriminate selection of knitting as my hobby, I realized I would need some yarn. Since my lover and I shared one car, and I wouldn't have dared asked to go together or leave him alone while I went, I decided to walk to an old Bradley's (kind of like K-Mart if you don't remember Bradley's) store about five miles from my apartment. I found some red acrylic, bought it and walked home.

Reading through the detailed explanation of how to cast on, knit and purl, I spent hours while my partner was at work (we had very different working schedules) teaching myself the basics of knitting. I made a very large, thick fabric sock using a worsted weight acrylic and US5 needles. My knitting was VERY tight when I started, and I was also wrapping my purl stitches the wrong way (resulting in a tighter, twisted stitch version of stockinette stitch).

The sock (quickly disposed of because big foot would have laughed at it) led me to trying other patterns in the stolen booklets (including the infamous men's underwear), and soon I was knitting incessantly (as I do today).

The decision to begin knitting and starting a hobby that was mine and mine alone really was a big turning point in my life. I don't attribute my emotional and spiritual growth, or the success of my relationship to knitting, but I definitely used knitting as the vehicle for helping me get there. Thank god I didn't get fascinated by that woman's cake decorating stash...I could just see myself as a 250 pound man putting boiled icing on a wedding cake.

Finally, as part of my "getting to know Joe" post, I'm including a picture of the first sweater I ever attempted to design myself. Don't ask me why I've never thrown this out.



The "shawl collar" is totally messed up, the v-neck is so deep you could see private parts if i wasn't wearing a t-shirt, the left and right button band are about 3" different in length, and so is the back and front, and the sleeves are tight enough to cut off circulation. But the color/pattern choice is exquisite if I do say so myself. I think I based it on a washcloth pattern stitch...lol.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Whining

Blog readers seem to respond with great zeal to whining, pet-peeves, annoyances, etc.

A lot of the blogs I read describe things that they find annoying, and readers either respond with "me too" type comments, or "I also hate" comments. So for instance, a blogger will write that he's going to eviscerate the next person that uses an adjective instead of an adverb..."I did real good", "I knitted the washcloth real tight", etc. Comments will come in fast and furious, such as "I HATE that!" or "Weren't people taught grammar?". Or others will add..."And what about spelling errors...since when did voila become wa-la?" or "Don't get me started on dangling modifiers!"

So with that in mind, here is my big pet-peeve. Women who use their husbands e-mail address instead of getting their own (I'd have used the non-gender-specific "spouses" if I had ever seen a man use his wife's e-mail address or partners sharing an e-mail, but I've never seen that).

Now I know there are possibly some valid reasons for doing this, but none that I can think of that would justify not having your own e-mail address. I don't mind common business e-mail addresses, or family e-mail addresses. It only bugs me when I see a woman using her husbands. It says to me that the woman doesn't feel worthy to have her own, or doesn't feel smart enough to do what it takes to set one up, or various other negative images about the writer.

Would you ever rely on your partner's/spouse's e-mail address? I'd be interested to hear why or why not.

Old Knitting
Since I won't be home to take pictures of current knitting progress until Friday, I thought I'd post an old sweater that I designed and made out of a great tweedy yarn. The neck is odd on this one, but I like it anyway, and I wear it pretty regularly.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

And the Winner is...

Both items I asked you to vote on last week came out with very clear cut answers. Thank you all for your input.

I tallied all the comments (which you get to see) as well as any e-mails that were sent privately, and the numbers in both areas pointed to an obvious winner for each.

Wendy's Scarf
By a more than two-to-one majority, the votes came in for scarf #2. I'm glad because I thought that this would be the better choice, given Wendy's coloring (as evidenced in her lovely modeling of Fulmar). I will be putting Wendy's prize in the mail this coming Friday or Saturday when I get home from Baltimore.

My Next Project
Again your group direction was very clear. Stick with the sweater for my sister and get it done. I did like many of the votes for multiple projects, especially since the jock strap was voted #2 and the Moorehouse Merino came in #3.

In answer to a couple of your comments, first of all, the Jock Strap will be done in either a very fine cotton (as are most commercial ones) or in a baby merino which will be soft, but not itchy (the same thing I use to make underwear). Also, the Moorehouse is not the LEAST bit scratchy. At least on the hanks, the yarn feels soft as a cloud. It was the main reason I ended up buying some at Stitches East this year, although I like the look of it as well.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Hand Knitting vs Machine Knitting

I have to admit it...I'm a closet, repressed machine knitter.

I've always been facinated by the fact that a human with very little talent can loop string to create fabric. Now creating a pretty fabric or a nice garment takes a bit more talent, but you get the idea. After a few years of using all types of knitting needles, crochet hooks, tatting bobbins and darning needles to accomplish this, I was equally facinated to learn that there are machines that do this as well. So, of course I had to go out and get me one.

But I didn't just want any machine, I had to have an antique sock knitting machine. After seeing them on eBay, I did minimal research and ended up paying a fortune for a Gearhart sock knitting machine from the early 1900's with two cyllinders (80 and 100 needles). Here are a couple of pictures in case you're not familiar with how they look:





You'll see there's a sock hanging down the middle as if I had just knitted it. Well, I cheated, that sock was made over a year ago, and I only had waste yarn on the machine, but I wanted you to get the idea of where the sock would come from. This machine is kind of like a sophisticated Knitting Knobby that you may have played with as a kid to make i-cord. This one just has a lot more needles and loops them automatically. It also has a ribber attachment (not shown).

I've learned how to make a pretty competent sock with 1X1 or 2X1 ribbing and a short-row heel. When the machine was in prime condition, it took me about 40 minutes to make a sock, although I could have gotten that down to about 20 minutes with practice. Switching from ribbing to stockinette, and turning the heel and turning the toe are both a little labor-intensive, but still all of the sock is made on the machine.

I love this old machine (as well as the two flat-bed machines I own), but I honestly have very little time to play with them. As such, I'm repressed. But at least I'm no longer in the closet about it.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Back to Work

Tomorrow I head back to Baltimore to restart working after a two week hiatus...what an inconvenience to my knitting time.

Voting continues on which scarf to send Wendy and which project I should work on next. Just so you multi-WIP folks know, I do anticipate working on multiple projectes, but usually I have a primary project and then a few secondary projects.

Marilyn's Blog

If you've never checked out the Knitting Curmudgeon blog, there's a great entry on charity knitting on her site with a brilliant conversation by her readers. One of the best reasons for writing my blog is to see the conversations that ensue. Marilyn's Charity Knitting article has had the largest response I've seen, and it's quite interesting.

Knitting Progress

I made some headway on my sister's sweater, as you can see.



I need to call her to see if she has specific measurements she'd like me to incorporate into the sweater or whether she just wants me to guestimate and then adjust where I can after the fact. Hopefully she'll have a "favorite" sweater from which she can take measurements, although she recently moved here from Florida, so she may not.

I also found out I have to have a few items for a craft/art sale on January 19th, so I fit in making another Head Hugger Hat. This one came out the best yet. Once I have the whole collection of hats finished, I'll post pictures of people actually wearing them.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Decisions, Decisions

I need your help to decide on two things. First which scarf should Wendy get (there are two choices) and second, now that I've finished Wendy's scarf, what should I work on next. Please vote on each of these either with a comment or via e-mai if you want your vote to be more private.

Wendy's Scarf

The two colorways are close, but a little different..vote either option 1 or 2. Both have a lot of blues and purples but Option 1 has bright pinks and turquoises, and Option 2 has more greens and oranges mixed in:





Next Project

Choices are:

1. Another Head Hugger Hat
2. Designing a knitted jock strap
3. Work on my sister's pullover
4. A beaded pendant bag
5. A Moorehouse Merino garment
6. Other

All input will be tallied on Tuesday, January 7th and will be announced right here. In the interim, I will start on #3 until a formal vote can be completed.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Male Knitting Observations

As a man participating in a typically female craft, I have a few observations and stories:

1. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a yarn store and despite talking competently about yarns, sweater styles, techniques, etc, I'll hear comments from the yarn store owner like: "Oh your wife will be able to knit something beautiful with this yarn!"...cha...as if!

2. In those yarn stores where it is understood that men actually do knit, I usually get a lot more attention and help than the handful of women in the store.

3. When I worked briefly in a yarn store, there are some women who refused to discuss yarn purchases with a man. They'd ask for someone else or call back if there wasn't a woman to discuss their knitting needs.

4. When I worked briefly in a yarn store, there are some women who would put more weight in my opinions about yarn purchases than any of the more knowledgeable women working there, just because I was a man.

5. I've heard/read women complain that "When a woman knits, it's a craft, when a man does it, it's art." When I find this statement to be true, it's usually other women that assess it as such.

6. When I knit in public (and I do it often), I find that women get more comments on their knitting than I do. I think most people are more intimidated about starting a conversation with me about my knitting than a woman.

7. I take great pleasure in the uneasiness that I cause when I knit in public around other men (as in airport lounges). Their surrepticious glances and avoidance of my return looks are very satisfying.

8. Knitwear fashions for men are significantly more restrictive than for women.

9. Whenever I meet another male knitter, I immediately assume he's gay...I'm not sure if it's stereotyping or hopeful thinking.

10. Overall, my passion for, and addiction to knitting supercedes all the nonsense of gender. When I meet an enthused knitter, it's the obsession that connects us, and those are the relationships I value most.