Thursday, February 20, 2003

Off for the week...

This will be my last post before I fly out tomorrow morning (early) for vacation.

That word, "packing", sure has a lot of different meanings. For Thaddeus, it means get your clothes together for our trip tomorrow so we're not rushing around last minute. For me, that translates to, what yarn, needles, patterns, books and other knitting supplies will I need for a 8 day vacation and hours waiting at the airport and on the plane. I've just completed my packing, and this year, I'm packing light. I'm bringing a sock project. I'm using US1 needles (bamboo) and a fine green and cream colored ragg-like yarn. Hard to describe, and impossible to take a picture of.

I figure since I'll be working on such a fine gauge, this project will keep me busy for the entire time. I was honestly hoping my order from Joselyn's would have arrived by today, but the foul weather must have delayed it. Fortunately, I'm never at a lack for something to knit.

Earflap Cap II
I didn't get to finish the second cap, but I'll work on it a little tonight...after packing. I'm up to the crown decreases, but I still have to do the edging as well. I think he'll like it when it's done. If not, the local yarn store will get it as a store model. I KNOW they'll love it.

I hope everyone has a good week, and I'll look forward to seeing all your comments when I get back on Friday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Lousy Snow

I hate cold, winter, snow...etc., etc., etc. What the hell am I doing living in Pennsylvania?

Earflap Cap Again
I finished a tester version of the revised earflap cap which looks very similar to the one in the movie. I did it in a dark brown, fine tweed silk (old discontinued Rowan yarn). Thaddeus still thinks it's too tight and this one is too long as well. Fortunately, I had already started a new one in Rowan DK...a beautiful dark olive color. This one will be perfect and will also look good on him.

Then it's off to...

Yes, this Friday, I will be off to lovely Cancun for 8 days.

Thaddeus and I will be going with a friend of ours. This is an annual event for Thaddeus and I, and I can't wait to get to a place that's warm and sunny. During that time, I won't be checking e-mail, updating my blog or helping moderate any lists....that's why they call it "vacation". I will, however, be bringing knitting...of course. I don't know what I'll bring...probably a to-be-determined socks project.

Marianne Isager
In all the excitement of Valentine's Day, Thaddeus' birthday, sister-sweater presentation day and the biggest snow storm in decades, I almost forgot that I got the first of my orders from Denmark. Marianne Isager's most recent book, Afrika came in the mail from Pinnsvin this weekend, and it is GREAT.

I've looked through it a number of times, and I think my favorite design is a beautiful African design Fair Isle.

I just love the color and the design combination. The book is full of interesting designs and patterns. I can't wait for her first book to arrive from Denmark.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Valentine/Birthday Weekend

All-in-all, a very busy weekend for knitting and family related aspects of my life

Earflap Cap
The finished hat came out great, but too small for Thaddeus, and not exactly what he wanted. Here's a bad picture of the hat that inspired mine.

Since I was scheduled to meet with my sister and her three daughters, I figured one of her daughters would want the new hat. It didn't take long to get my model. My niece Kelly, loves the new hat...she's so beautiful, she makes the hat look great.

I'm working on the revised version of the hat for Thaddeus. It's turning out closer to the original inspiration, but it's still a little tighter than what Thaddeus was looking for. Fortunately these hats only take a day or two to knit up, so I'll have a successful gift before we head to Cancun next week...after all this snow is melted.

A lot of people have contacted me asking if I'll be making the pattern available for this hat. I anticipate that I'll be either trying to sell the design to Unicorn Books if they want it, and if they don't, then I'll give it to my local yarn store so they can include it as part of a "kit", where the kit will be the cost of the two skeins of Jamieson DK to make it and the pattern will be free with the yarn.

Sister Sweater
It turned out great, it fits my sister perfectly, she loves it, and the first picture we took of her in it, even she liked (she usually takes a lousy picture). A big success, and just in time for the "big snow". This picture will close out the chapter in the Sister Sweater.

Mom's Afghan
I made "The Vineyard Throw" last year. A blocked afghan pattern from a Manos pamphlet. I did it in the original Manos yarn, and it was probably one of the nicest things I've ever made. I had never been a big fan of Manos yarn...I thought the inconsistencies in the color and thickness of the yarn would be very annoying to knit with, and wouldn't look overly attractive. I was wrong on both counts. I LOVED how this throw turned out, and if my mom hadn't had a birthday and a new house to celebrate, I probably would have kept it for my own. Here's another one of my gorgeous nieces, Jackie, keeping warm at my mom's house.

Needless to say, I'll need to make another one of these for myself and Thaddeus. Given how much Thaddeus likes this throw, I may need to make two more.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Changing Course

Okay, here's where you really get to see how I work.

Jockstrap, Sweater Design Swatch, Earflap Cap
As the Sister Sweater came to completion, I was planning on starting the knitted jock strap. Then I saw Bourne Identity, got inspired by an ugly sweater with two bullet holes in it and decided to swatch a new pattern stitch. Then I saw another DVD called Roger Dodger, and Thaddeus decided he liked a hat that a 16 year old was wearing in it.

Well, Valentine's Day is his birthday, so I dropped the design swatch and decided to try making a tight-fitting cap with knitted short-row earflaps. I'm not quite done, but here's what it looks like so far:

Overall, I'm very happy that this came out as well as it did, since I was designing in my head and on the needles. When I write up the design, I'll make a couple of changes and adjustments. I obviously also have to finish the crown before I give it to Thaddeus.

Performing Cats
Not only is Gage one of the most beautiful cats on the planet, but he's also smart as hell. Thaddeus has taught Gage to do two tricks, to sit and shake.

Here's a picture of him with his little paw ready to shake...and waiting for the Whiskas cat treat.

Happy Valentine's day to all...especially to my lover, Thaddeus.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Global Knitting

Knitting can make for a very small and comforting world.

Marianne Isager
I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, after my friend Kathy M. mentioned the talented designer, Marianne Isager, I just had to check out her work. Pinnsvin has one of her books for sale, Afrika, and some kits of Isager's work. Pinnsvin even has an English version of their web site for folks that don't speak Danish.

I ordered Afrika and asked if I could also get Inka, her first book. Afrika is on its way and Inka is out of print.

Having mentioned that earlier, a kind reader (thanks Mette) located a woman in Norway who was willing to trade her copy of Inka, in exchange for a Danish book of children's knit patterns. Mette arranged a three-way swap with me and this Norwegian whereby Mette bought the Danish book, and sent it to Norway. Mette has now sent me the Inka book in exchange for the three Jamieson books (including the new Simply Knit book).

The kindness of knitters is sometimes astounding. I am incredibly grateful that now I will own both of Marianne Isager's books.

Then, if that wasn't great enough, another Danish knitter sent me a link with the Danish/English translation of almost any word you could find in a Danish knitting book. I have been blown away by the Danish and Norwegian knitting folks.

Designing Gone Awry
After working a swatch in the antique gold color Jamieson DK yarn, I didn't like the patterning. I've modified it and like it a lot more, but the picture I took of it sucks, so I won't post a picture until I'm a little further into the garment.

Sister Sweater
DONE, DONE, DONE. This is a pictureless blog entry because my sister is still reading. I will say, it came out very well, and she will look good in it. I'll be meeting her at my mom's house this Saturday to give it to her and adjust the size if necessary. Can't wait.

Monday, February 10, 2003

The Design Process

In trying to explain to Thaddeus what I was working on, I realized I have a very specific design process I use.

I've been wanting to design another men's sweater, so my first step in the design process is to establish what kind of fabric I want.

Obviously, my choices are more limited than they would be for a woman's sweater, but I still have a lot to choose from.

My original inspiration came from a sweater I saw Matt Damon wearing in the Bourne Identity. I don't like that particular sweater, but the fabric gave me an idea for something of my own. I decided I wanted a vertical rib with intermittent horizontal lines. With that in mind, I starting swatching some left over DK weight Shetland. I cast on about 60 stitches and knit a 2X2X5 ribbing. I did this for about 2 inches and then tried to do horizontal lines on every other 5 stitch rib.

What I didn't realize is that a purl stitch next to a knit stitch will indent into the fabric, but a purl stitch over a knit stitch will stick out from the fabric...ugh...I didn't like it.

I tried multiple ways of trying to find a stitch that would indent into the row above stockinette stitch, and finally came up with something I like. It doesn't indent, but it also doesn't stick out like a purl row does. Now I just have to measure my swatch, and decide on the style of sweater I want.

Sweater Style
This particular fabric would probably look best as a tunic-shaped pullover, but honestly, I dont' look that great in tunic-shaped sweaters. Don't get me wrong, I don't really look that great in ribbed fabric either, so I may decide to design this for someone else, or to sell to Unicorn (if they want it).

Color Selection
I love vibrant colors and to give you a sense, here a painting I own by a local artist who is getting more and more famous every day.

This painting is part of the River Bottom series by Jane Gilday. I own about 7 of her pieces, and her work is currently flying out of a local gallery, even at prices in the thousands.

This pattern stitch that I've selected won't show up very well in a dark yarn, so that's out. I'll need to either use a light colored yarn, or a medium color yarn that's tweedy or heathered. Since I know that the Unicorn editor likes tweedy yarns, I'll probably make it in an antique gold color. It's a deep, burnished gold with some black heathered through it. It should do the trick just right. I'll swatch up that color and let you folks give feedback as well. It reminds me of the gold-gilded frame in the photo above.

Knitting Progress
I have about 10 more rows to do on the last sleeve of my sister's sweater, and then just the minor sewing/weaving that's left. I should finish by tomorrow night and send it out to her sometime this week. I don't want to post a picture, just in case my sister Kathy is still reading this. I'll try to get a picture of her in it to show you how it turned out. How about a picture of Gage's beautiful eyes instead?

Saturday, February 08, 2003

What a Pain

This week sucked...what happened to my "gimme" life?

Work was painful, and nothing seemed to go right. It required that I work a full five-day week, which if you know anything about consulting isn't a good thing. Since I travel to be on-site for my clients, I usually work on-site Monday through Thursday, and then from home on Friday. This allows for time to travel and additional time with the wife and kiddies...oh, wait, that's someone else's life.

Anyway, this week I had to work through Friday and when you're not used to it, it's a pain. I work about 10-12 hour days, and by Thursday night, I am just spent. Having to muster up more energy for Friday is difficult.

Sister Sweater
If work wasn't bad enough, I realized that the custom size sweater I'm making for my sister requires more frequent increases on the sleeve. I had to rip back the entire first sleeve and reknit it with more increases. The first sleeve is done, and now I'm in the "stupid sweater-second sleeve" phase of knitting. I never want to see this pattern again. I never want to see this color yarn know how it is, I'll be over it all next week when the sweater is all complete and sent off to my sister.

Debbie Bliss Book
I got a chance to go through the new Celtic Knits book by Debbie Bliss. As with all her books, it very nicely laid out and has some great pictures. This book also has a wide selection of different types of patterns. There are Fair Isles, Arans and Lace projects. There are Cardigans, Socks, Tunics, Berets and Jackets. There are things for kids, women and men. All-in-all, it was well worth the US$12 I paid for it in the book store.

The only downside is that there isn't very much creative material in the book. Her Fair Isle color selection is somewhat interesting, but the patterns are very conventional. Standard X's and O's and stars. Overall, it's a decent book of standards. I have an old Rowan book that I constantly refer to when I just need to make a standard cardigan, or a standard pullover, or a child's sweater. This Debbi Bliss book may replace that.

Jamieson Book
The Jamieson Simply Knit book finally came in, and I'm glad to say that folks are going ga-ga over it. The Simply Knit store has put all ten designs on their web page, so you can see each one before deciding to buy the book. At just under $18, this book is well worth owning. The Jamieson books are getting better and better. This is my favorite design from the book. If I knew someone who would want it, I'd definitely make one.

Of course it's also one of the most expensive kits at $160, but it looks great. By the way, my name is actually in this book as one of the Simply Knit designers...the editor must have been in a charitable mood that day.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Knitted Gifts

I've stopped giving knitted gifts at birthdays and Christmas because I find it focuses more of the attention on me, the giver, than the celebrant/recipient.

Have you ever noticed when you give a sweater or a scarf for Christmas or a birthday, everyone present, including the recipient tells you how great you are? Comments are made such as "You MADE this?" and "You are so talented." Now, don't get me wrong, I love hearing those kinds of comments about my knitting. But what I don't like is that I've now set up an environment where the focus is off the birthday girl/guy and now on me. It's no longer about how much the recipient means to me, it's about how amazing I am.

Giving any kind of gift has a selfish component to it. I always want the recipient to know how much thought or money or both I put into the gift. I certainly want them to like the gift. All of these reactions are selfish from the giver's perspective.

I was invited to a surprise birthday party a number of years back for Mick, an acquaintance of mine and Thaddeus. He is from a very wealthy family and his friends giving the party are probably the most wealthy men I have ever socialized with. Mick had been very generous with us at birthdays and Christmas, so we wanted our gift to be very special. Thaddeus came up with a great idea. We went to a local Bonzai Tree artist, and found the most magnificent miniature maple tree. It was about 2 feet tall, and about the same proportion as a full-grown tree. Since it was just around autumn, the delicate, little leaves were all in golds and oranges. Suffice it to say the tree was stunning.

Since we had to get to the party early to make sure Mick was surprised, and the only wrapping necessary for the gift was a silk ribbon around the trunk, the party guests, went bananas over how beautiful our gift was. The hosts were obviously envious. They both wanted the tree themselves, and they were envious that we had such a perfect gift for their friend. The gift was clearly having the effect of focusing a lot of attention on us...the givers.

When Mick got there and began opening gifts, he was very moved with our gift. Now that the bonzai tree was officially his, everyone told him how jealous they were of his new tree. The attention was all focused on Mick and his gift. It was by far the most successful gift we've ever bought.

Knitted gifts on the other hand, never seem to fully transfer the attention to the recipient after being given. Even years afterwards, when the recipient wears the sweater, people will look at the knitter and tell them how talented they are, or ask who knit that beautiful sweater.

I still make a lot of sweaters or knitted items that I give away to family and friends. Now I try to give them on non-birthdays or non-holidays. Like the sweater for my sister, I made sure it wasn't a Christmas or birthday gift. It's just a gift. That way, I don't have to feel badly about taking the attention away from her on her special day.

Knitting Progress
Speaking of which, I'm almost done the first sleeve. It looks like I'll need one more ball of the Jo Sharp yarn than I expected, but fortunately, my LYS has it and has put it aside for me. I'll pick it up this weekend. Here's a look at the sleeve-in-progress.


Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Back to Knitting

After a brief foray in "Jerry Springer does Knit Blogging", I'll retire quickly back to less controversial subjects.

But before I do, I'd like to say that the response to my last post was one of the most interesting and mind-broadening experiences I've had in blogging so far. I am always grateful for comments, but yesterday's comments had a clear impact on my thinking, which I always consider valuable.

Book Store SEX
SEX or "Stash Enhancement eXpedition" occurred this past weekend. We were out to dinner with a friend and afterwards we stopped in at a local book store. I immediately found some patterned tissue paper for gift wrapping that I liked and picked up two packages (you may recall that I pride myself on gift wrapping as part of my 100 Things About Me). I always check out the knitting section in book stores, but rarely purchase. This time, I found two Debbie Bliss books, Simple Knits (or something like that) and Celtic Knits. The Simple Knits book wasn't at all interesting for me, so I passed on that one immediately. The Celtic Book I liked and decided to buy. I had already made the commitment to go through a check-out process with the tissue paper, so another item wouldn't upset the process.

I was glad to see that they finally allowed Debbie to publish some adult sweater designs. Last I had heard, she told Rowan that she wanted to do a book on adult sweaters, but they had her pigeon-holed as a children's sweater designer. Maybe that's changed now...let's hope so.

Other than the brief thumb-through I gave the book in the store, I haven't had a chance to really look at it. I'll do that tonight if get some time.

Knit Progress
The sister sweater continues on. I've done more on the sleeve and will hopefully finish the first sleeve tonight or tomorrow. I may even get to finish the full sweater by this weekend. Work has been very busy and I have to work a fully five day week this week, so knitting time may be limited.

Also, for those of you who can't get enough of Gage, here's another diva pose of him perched on top of an arm chair...don't you just love him?

Monday, February 03, 2003


I am definitely not a fan of confrontation.

In most situations, I will avoid any type of awkward or uncomfortable situation. I hate when someone at my table in a restaurant complains about their food. I am very uncomfortable when I get reprimanded in a business meeting. I don't enjoy when friends argue or bicker with me or others.

I've also gotten very good at calming people down. Soothing raw nerves and facilitating a peaceful resolution to problems is a forte of mine.

That being said, I am definitely not afraid of on-line flaming.

The first time I was ever "yelled" at in an on-line situation was very uncomforatable for me. I'll never forget it. I was chatting with someone on-line on AOL, and he thought I was interested in him sexually. When I told him I wasn't, he insulted me and told me I was an asshole for "leading him on."

I didn't like the feelings I had during that interaction, and I started to deal with them as I would normally do in real-life social situations. I tried to reason with the guy, I tried to calm him down, I tried to joke with him and cajole him into liking me again. It didn't work...and it left me feeling frustrated and angry.

That was the last time.

I'm very grateful to that person. He taught me one of my favorite on-line lessons I've ever learned...that instant messages, chat room comments, group-list insults and e-mail flames can NOT hurt me. Now, I know many of you have known this forever, and this would have been no revelation to you. But to me, it was a true epiphany. In my on-line life, I no longer had to play the peacemaker. Placating angry or unreasonable people on-line was no longer my job. As you can imagine, it was a big relief.

Knit Flaming
So, what does this have to do with knitting?

A couple of things.

First, it annoys the hell out of me to have someone on the Knitlist post a message with "Please don't flame me, but..." Comments like that make me want to take a blow-torch to them until they're charred. Not really, but I want to ask..."what are you worried about?" I have to temper my annoyance with the fact that I haven't learned how to be unafraid in real life, so it's unreasonable to hope that all Knitlist posters will have learned that in their on-line life. Now, if I could just extrapolate this fearless concept to my real life.

On the other side of that, Marilyn's Blog is one of my favorites because of it's funny, unapologetic and fearless approach to writing about knitting. With an attitude of "bite me" to naysayers, she is my hero.

Knitflame List
For those of you who are unaware, there is a list called Knitflame. It allows for flames and complaints...the kinds of posts that aren't allowed on other lists. When I first heard of the Knitflame list, I thought I would like it. It sounded like a list for people like Marilyn. I pictured it having caustic humor and anti-knitlist comments that would be close to sacrilege.

I finally decided to check it out. I am highly unimpressed. I read through the last month's worth of posts and at best the posts were boring, at worst, scary. I'm convinced some of the members are paranoid in the psychological sense. The whining and complaining seemed endless. I'd spend more time with my clients if I wanted to hearing whiny complaining all the time. What a tired list this seems to be. I've asked some of the members who I respect for their opinion, and I'm open to having this be a funny daily read.

I'll stay subscribed for a while to see if it gets any better, but for now it's not a list that I'd recommend unless you need an excuse to go off your meds.

Sister Sweater
I've finished the front and collar and started the first sleeve. I hope to have a lot of knitting time this week, but I don't hold out much hope.

Family Picture
A few of you have asked about Thaddeus, so I thought I'd show a family photo I took of he and Gage. Sorry for the quality, but both he and the cat looked good in the same picture, so I had to settle for poor photo quality.

Gage loves to be carried around on our shoulders...who needs a Vegan Fox when you have a Gage Stole.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Global Knitting

I'm glad to say that knitting has served as a common language for me in countries around the world.

Danish Knitting
Thanks to my friend Kathy (not my sister), I was able to order two books by Marianne Isager, a knitting designer from Denmark. From the looks of it, Marianne's designs are quite unique and amazing. I don't speak Danish, but I look forward to learning enough to be able to understand how to create some of her great sweaters. I ordered the books at the Pinnsvin website. There is an English version of their site with an English version ordering form. I don't know how much I'll pay, nor how long it will take to get here. But like all my knitting, I remain undaunted. Thank you Kathy for bringing this talent to our attention.

Canadian Knitting
A little while ago, Sue in Toronto sent a request to the Knitlist for some discontinued Rowan yarns. Since I have quite a bit of discontinued Rowan yarns, I checked my stash,and I was able to find one ball of Rowan Fine Cotton Chenille that she needed. I contacted her, and told her I'd be glad to send the yarn with no obligation for anything in return. She gladly accepted, but only if she could send yarn in trade.

Well, in exchange for one ball of an ugly purple chenille, I got the following yarns along with a lovely card and equally lovely note.

The Jamieson Spindrift is a beautiful color and the navy blue silk is absolutely luscious.

French Knitting
Having studied French as a second major in college, I had always dreamed of some day going to a French-speaking country. Finally Thaddeus and I got a chance to go to Paris a few years ago. While it was nice that my French was still good enough to get around easily, it didn't help very much when I stumbled upon a little yarn store in Versaille. On our walk from the train to the palace of Versailles, I noticed a small. local yarn store. I knew the French word for yarn, and the word for knit, but not much else. I wanted some patterns and yarn for making socks.

The shock of an American who could actually speak a second language and the additional shock of a man who knit caused about seven French woman to clamor around me trying to help. The first thought I wanted to buy a completed knit sock. When I finally got them to understand I wanted to make one, they asked if I knew how to knit...I explained I knit much better than I spoke French.

They showed me their sock patterns. I selected one, and reviewed it to make sure I understood the instructions and the abbreviations. They helped a lot, despite not being able to speak any English. Knitting truly was the universal language in my brief encounter with these lovely French women.

Italian Knitting
Searching through the magnificent town of Lucca in the Tuscany region of Italy, I found a beautiful little gem of a yarn store with some incredible yarns. I found a merino/silk yarn in a DK weight that I just needed to buy. The woman who ran the store helped me pick out colors and amounts and then went on to teach me some of the Italian words for knitting. The sweater I made out of that yarn continues to be the softest and warmest sweater I've ever made. It brings back fond memories of Lucca everytime Thaddeus or I wear it.

Mexican Knitting
I make a yearly trek to Cancun each year during the last week of February (coming up soon...YAY!!). I've searched for yarn throughout a lot of the local shopping areas, but I've never found any yarn stores. I guess knitting isn't a very useful hobby for locals in a place like Cancun. Speaking with local vendors about where I might find such a rarity has been fun nonetheless.

That's the extent so far of my non-American knitting experience. I'm hopeful that I will be able to expand that experience. I'd love to hit London yarn stores, or even Chinese knitting stores. Each foreign experience with knitting has been one of the most memorable of the trip.