Friday, January 30, 2009

What Would You Do?


A coworker was telling me that her mom used to knit incessantly until arthritis made it too painful.




Would You Ever Consider Knitting With Your Feet?
I do know that not being able to knit would be a devastating blow, but I don't know if I would try and adapt by learning to knit with my feet.

But I still thought it would be an interesting question to pose.

How far would you go (or have you gone) to keep yourself knitting?

Current Knitting
A few more inches grew onto the end of my sleeve this week...by now you'd think I'd have a whole sleeve completed, but alas, no.



It is moving along a little faster, but it's still stranded knitting even though most of the sleeve is black. Carrying the white behind still takes a little more time than plain knitting.

Readers' Comments/Questions
I'm glad Mette is still reading here...it was quite fun to do a multi-national book trade...especially when it was knitting books that were flying around the World...and I was also glad to find out from her about Isager's daughter...lovely items. Thanks also to Erin for information on the Isager yarns...I will definitely have to check them out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Books on Pre-Order


I just put in my pre-order for two new Mariane Isager books - Classic Knits
and Japanese Inspired Knits.



Can't Get Enough
Friend Kathy told me about Isager years ago and I order as many of her Danish books as I could get my hands on. She quickly became one of my three favorite knit designers and I even ended up trading some American books to someone in Norway for a copy of a Danish book...it got so complicated.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to find out Interweave Press is publishing two books of her design collection in English and in the states.

Mark my words...Isager is soon going to be bigger than Alice Starmore was during her best of times.

Current Knitting
I should probably include a progress picture of my current sweater to show the cover design of the Knitting Out of Africa book by Isager, but the "progress" is hardly noticeable. I did about 2 more inches on the first sleeve, and if you compared a picture from today with the last blog post picture, you could tell, but it's just not worth the effort.

Probably not even worth the effort of having written all that!

Readers' Comments/Questions
JellyDonut back-pedals with the following comment, "I AM sure the quality of your work keeps the frogging down to a minimum; therefore, you finish your work faster than those who hurry along and end up with mistakes to be dealt with. Am I right?"

I'm not sure. On simple projects, I don't usually frog, but I certainly do on lace projects and even sometimes when I just realize the shaping didn't work (for instance I frogged back the neck/shoulder shaping a couple of times on my current sweater). But I'm not sure if I frog more of less than most people...probably about average. But Seanna Lee is exactly correct in that I knit all the time, so my finishing rate is fast even if my actual knitting isn't.

John asks, "Have those Knit Picks circulars ever come apart on you? I saw it happen to a friend. Not where the needle is attached but where the purple cord is attached to the metal."

No...never. In fact, I've had more problems with Addi Turbos than I have with KnitPicks' Harmony needles. I hope your friends experience was just an anomaly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Evaluating Movies


Awards like the Oscars and Golden Globes always make me wonder what determines a good movie...one that is award-worthy?

What I Like
I like quirky, entertaining, unpredictable, messy films that don't necessarily wrap everything up in a neat package. I need some cohesiveness, but I'm much more concerned with consistency of tone and a certain quality of brilliance that I can't really describe, but I see in every one of Pedro Almodovar movies.

I also need a proponent in my movies...someone I can route for.

I heard a radio article that discussed Indian cinema, and that movies there need to follow a specific template or it isn't successful...in fact the radio host indicated that when movies don't follow the accepted rules of Indian cinema, theater patrons will sometimes even revolt and damage the theater.

Now, I don't know if this is all true, but it seems that more and more Americans are looking for a standard formulaic type of movie where everything is tidy and ends up with a happy ending, and the only outstanding issues are left there on purpose so a sequel can be made.

Don't get me wrong, there are really well done movies that are also formulaic, but it gets pretty tedious when directors start relying on the formula to make their movie a success instead of good writing, good acting and good directing.

Current Knitting
I spent most of the weekend working on my secret project and you'll be happy to know that not only did I make a lot of progress, but the first part of it came out incredibly well. I can't wait to be able to show you all.

As such, I did very little knitting on my current sweater project.



In fact, so little knitting that the progress picture hardly looks different...I guess the sleeve is about 2 inches longer.

I'll try to get more done this week.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cara in Exile writes, "I'm more curious about why your coworkers so gleefully outed you as a knitter. Did they wish to make you uncomfortable or to see what the new boss' reaction would be?"

I think it was a little bit of both, plus one of the other managers at the table had just made a very awkward gaffe, and the coworker that first brought up my knitting used the topic as a very effective distraction to change the subject quickly...it worked.

JellyDonut writes, "I'm SO not buying that line about you being a slow knitter."

I never said I was a slow knitter, I said I wasn't a fast knitter. When I've been in classes with other knitters and we're all assigned the same knitting task, I'm usually in the last quartile of people finished with the knitting.

Marilyn asks, "BTW, are you now finished in DE? And is that an ID lanyard around your neck?"

No and yes. I'm still in Delaware until the end of this year and the lanyard is two badges that get me in and around my current work location...ugh.

Charlotte asks, "How did these guys KNOW you knit underwear?"

One or two of them sometime read my blog...lol...I do have to admit it's odd having, such a wide population of people (friends, family, coworkers, strangers, etc.) with a window into my life.

Maureen writes, "Could I ask that you refresh my memory about this fabulous stranded sweater you are knitting? I can't seem to go back to the beginning where you tell us which pattern it is, and what wool you are using, and I would like to know! You call it a "stranded sweater" - but it's fairisle technique, isn't it? As opposed to intarsia."

The pattern is mine, although I stole the main front design from a book called Knitting Out of Africa by Marianne Isager (you can see it on the cover of the book). The yarn is KnitPicks Palette in charcoal and natural. And as for technique, yes it is done the same way as Fair Isle knitting...stranded knitting is just a more generic term where you carry the unused color behind...Fair Isle is a specific style of stranded knitting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Being Outed


At a recent project team dinner where I met my new boss for the first time, my project team members seemed to take delight in telling him that I knit.

Even Worse
Of course they had to tell him that I knit underwear...and they tried to embellish with what types of underwear, even though I NEVER knit a man's thong!

It was fortunate that I was happened to be wearing one of my favorite sweater designs so that at least he wasn't left with a picture in his mind of me wearing a thong.



Why is it that sometimes it's more embarrassing being known as a knitter than being a queer? Don't get me wrong, I wasn't embarrassed, in fact I am always quite proud of my knitting accomplishments. But I still had trepidations about my new boss finding this out.

Current Knitting
I got a minimal amount of work done on the first sleeve of the stranded pullover.



At least enough where I was able to finish the decreases on the underarm gusset and establish the pattern that I plan on continuing down the outside of the sleeve.



The pattern is almost the same as the open-collar design, except it's in reverse color and I made a couple of minor imperceptible changes.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Linda asks, "Do you sleep?"

Actually, yes...quite a bit. I usually get at least 7 hours each night and probably average about 7 and a half. And honestly, I'm not that fast of a knitter.

Concerning the BBF merino in the last blog entry, Mindy asks, "Is that the delaine merino that has 10 % mohair in it?"

I don't think so. Carol sent this to me as a thank-you gift...I think...and I thought it was 100% merino. I'll have to go back and check to see if I have the data sheet on it.

Also about the spinning, Seanna Lea writes, "The skein looks pretty generous. About how much yardage do you think you have?"

Approximately 678 yards. I actually measure my hanks when I'm putting them up in hanks. I usually weigh them as well to get a sense about the grist of the yarn, but I didn't get around to weighing this one yet.

In case anyone cares, one of my favorites spinning books is Hands on Spinning by Lee Raven.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Making Really Bad Choices


Despite warning after warning, I continued to try and force my current wool into a laceweight yarn. No surprise it didn't work out at all.

Listen To Your Fiber
When I first got my merino fiber from Carol in some great blues, I knew immediately that I wanted to be like Lacefreak and make it into the perfect laceweight yarn.

I started to spin and almost immediately found that this merino didn't want to be laceweight. It required more twist than I wanted to put into it to get it to not break. It had second cutting neps in it that required constant picking, and the colors weren't blending anywhere near as much as I expected they would.

But I pushed forward, forcing my will onto this troublesome merino.

Then after doing a few test plies, I'm realizing I may have to ply this very tightly. Already the singles were a bit too hard for my liking. And the spinning was taking for-freakin'-ever. I was also finding it extremely difficult to spin an even gauge of singles.

If this wool could have talked any louder, it would have clearly said, "Just make a nice loose DK weight yarn."

Maybe it did, and I just wasn't listening.

When I finally finished both bobbins of singles and started plying, I realized both that there was no way I was going to get this yarn to come out to something I could use for lace. I ended up doing a balanced double-ply, which created a delightful little yarn, which I will use for something...but definitely not lace.



Lesson learned - Listen to your fiber. Here are some pictures of the final result.







Current Knitting
This was mostly a spinning weekend. Even during the times I was just sitting in front of a television set, I worked on an old project (the kid alpaca laceweight bed/coffin cover for those of you who remember that languishing project).

But I did start the first sleeve of the stranded sweater, and sewed up the steek for the neck opening...and I did promise a progress picture last week.



I should be able to make some progress on this sweater this week, as it's the only project I brought with me.

When I'm home, in addition to this sweater and the kid alpaca project, I have two secret projects that I have to work on as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Performance Reviews


How many of you have to go through a performance review process at work either as the person being reviewed, and/or as the person doing the reviewing?



I Do Both
And I have to say, I find the process to be somewhat less than useful. Although, I think it accomplishes three important things:

1. It communicates the general direction of the company that executive management wants to get across to employees. By setting specific "core values" as goals for employees, employees get to see what is important in terms of the folks determining what the values of the company are.

2. It forces managers and employees to have a discussion at least once or twice a year.

3. It provides a mechanism for documenting degrading or bad performance, so that if an employee isn't worth keeping on, it's easy to point to a document or documents that have communicated this to the employee.

Other than that, the process for me seems to have turned into a paper-pushing process that holds little value. I have also found significantly better, less formal ways of working with an employee to have them experience success and growth in their job. I have also found for myself, that accomplishing growth and satisfaction in my own job, often requires that I work outside the standard performance review process.

Current Knitting
The last two days, I've have this infected/inflamed/swollen gum around the molars in my mouth, and along with it, I haven't felt very well. So mostly, I've been sleeping.

During the times when I wasn't sleeping, I have been able to finish off the collar of the stranded knitting sweater, and start the first sleeve.

Current Spinning
I've been able to finish spinning the second bobbin-full of singles with the blue merino from Carol (Black Bunny Fibers).



Actually, now, even without weights (and despite the fact that the left bobbin looks less full), the newest bobbin-full of singles is slightly heavier than the first one. Plying will be done this weekend.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Ron (now in Mexico, the lucky bastard) writes, "That sweater is gorgeous. A true work of art. Are you going to pick up stitches and knit the sleeves down?"

Yes, whenever I steek arm holes, I always pick up stitches. In this case, I've also picked up the stitches along the bottom/inset section of the arm hole, and I'm doing decreases that will replicate an armpit gusset.

Regarding Brendan Fraser, Janice in GA writes, "Have you ever heard any of his audiobook narration?"

No...I'm not big into audio books, but like you, I like Brendan a lot. The only audio book I could find on Amazon with Brendan's name was Halloween Howls. Do you know of any others?

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Love Graham Norton


I pay a fortune for cable T.V., but at least it gets me the BBC channel and gay talk show host, Graham Norton. I actually find myself chortling loudly when I watch him

Did You See Brendan Fraser?
If you get to see the Graham Norton show, you might have caught the week that he had on Brendan Fraser and Martina Navratilova.



Both Thaddeus and I were convinced that Fraser was drunk or high or both. He stood out in stark contrast to the VERY sober Navratilova.

I always loved Brendan Fraser, but I had trouble even watching him do this show.

Current Knitting
Well, I've finished the body of the stranded knitting pullover and next up comes steeking.



I've also included a picture of the reverse side because some folks seem to like it...not sure why...I do make sure I don't do floats any longer than three stitches long, and I typically weave in most of my ends.



It actually took quite a bit of concentration to complete the shoulder slant shaping and the neck opening using short rows, so I was glad to have made it through one more difficult part of designing on the needles.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Men's Spring Knitting Retreat 2009


Based on the number of blog entries, you'd never know it, but this event has been consuming my life for about a month now.

Already Losing Sleep
Last year's Men's Spring Knitting Retreat had me worried and remembering things I needed to do at 2:30 am every morning. This years event has me so excited, I feel like I'm 7 again, trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve.

The event for 2009 is almost filled, which is great...but the best part are the guys that have signed up. There are about 20 guys I know from the 2008 event who are quite incredible men, and in addition this year, there are a couple of guys who went to the West coast event and we even have our first international (sorry my lovely Canadians!)...intercontinental attendee. Do any of you remember the Australian Peter (Nanna) from the KnitList old days? He'll be joining us for the retreat.

In total, there will be about 45 guys at the event, and we've already got swag for them and offers from fiber sellers who want to promote their products (if anyone would like to be included in this, feel free to e-mail me at queerjoe@comcast.net).

Anyway, I have to keep subduing my excitement or I get a little over-stimulated. Jeez...it really is like I'm 7 again.

Current Knitting
I've made a little more progress on the stranded knitting pullover (about another inch) and it's coming along nicely. A progress picture seemed unnecessary, so I'll wait to post one until the next blog entry.

Current Spinning
I finally got back to my spinning (mostly because I know I will soon have another spinning project coming up that will be time-critical). I'm working on the second bobbin of Black Bunny Fibers merino singles that will hopefully make a beautiful water-blue laceweight yarn.



Now I know there's a lot going on in this photo, but I want you to focus on the fact that the bobbin with the less spun singles seems to be heavier than the one with more spun singles. This is not because the scale is out of balance...if you look closely, you'll see a couple of weights on top of the bobbin on the left (disregard the holographic image of Christ on the Cross who is about to covert to Christ ressurecting)...the weights are 1.5 ounces, which tells me how much more work I have to do to have equal amounts of singles on both bobbins!

Readers' Comments/Questions
Jo in Boston writes, "I like your stranded sweater very much. Is it blue or grey or somewhere in the middle?"

It's actually black (dark charcoal) and light tan. They were two of the colors on clearance at KnitPicks, and it looks like I have enough yarn to make two of these sweaters.

Tychoish writes, "Also I think it's entertaining how I'm working on a cabled sweater and a shawl and you're working on colorwork (though I suppose I do have a languishing project in that direction). We're going to have to switch back at some point."

That is kinda funny, and watching Kenny and Chris going through gyrations on how to do Lyra (a Niebling lace pattern), is making me want to start up my next lace project. Perhaps it will be Lyra as well now that Kenny has swatched every possible combination of needle and twisted vs. non-twisted stitches.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sprint Sucks


One of my favorite google tips is when you want to find out bad things about a company, put the name of the company followed by sucks and put it all in double quotes.

Creating a Google Search
My blog title is just in case there weren't enough hits on "sprint sucks".

I have had cell phone service with Sprint for a long time now. Two years ago, I renewed a two year contract and added Thaddeus on so he could have an cell phone in case of an emergency. My bill went up about as much as I would have expected it to, but I didn't really look at the detail. That was a mistake.

Fast-forward two years and it's December 2009. I'm looking at my November bill (which is the last month of the 2-year contract) and I see a charge in the detail called "Vision Pack" for $15. I call Sprint to find out what this charge is. It allows me to send pictures taken on my cell phone to others via text messages or e-mail. I hadn't requested this service, so I asked how long it had been on my bill.

Turns out I had been paying for this unused service for 2 years and I never saw it.

I requested a refund for the $360 plus all taxes and I was told that they could only go back 3 months. No matter who I spoke with, the most I could get was about $55 refunded. Even though I never requested the service, nor did I ever use it.

I know this is one of the caveat emptor things, and I should have reviewed my monthly bill more carefully, but I still felt cheated, and the customer service folks at Sprint are dreadfully bad...at least the ones I spoke with.

Suffice it to say, I'm now a customer of AT&T wireless and so far, I'm quite happy.

Current Knitting
Stranded knitting and secret knitting...knitting my chubby little fingers to the bone.



And here's a picture of the back of the sweater so far, just so folks don't think this is one of those casket sweaters that only look good from the front!



I only have about 3 more inches of the body to do before I start on the sleeves.

Flea Market Find
A vendor at the local flea market had a slew of needlepoint books, but since I don't do needlepoint, I was only interested in this one.



This is Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Needlepoint, which is just stunning to look at. I already knew what an incredible artist he is, but seeing it in another medium made it even more amazing to me.

I picked up my copy for US$3.00, which seems pretty good, even based on the used prices on Amazon.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Kenny writes, "I have a lace Neibling question for you. I am now starting lyra and it’s going pretty well, except that I stumbled upon some discussion that on the “intermediate” rounds, you actually should twist the twisted stitches.

How do you do yours? What’s the best way?"

I have responded directly to Kenny on these questions. I just do plain knit on the "rest rows" except for knitting into double yarn-overs where I do a knit and then a purl. Some folks feel that if the pattern calls for a twisted stitch on the working row, you should untwist that stitch on the resting row...I don't agree and like the texture/tightness of the twisted stitch.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Way Too Many "Connections"


I've been around in the on-line community for quite a while, but I think there are way too many ways to connect to family, friends and coworkers on the web anymore.

Stop Inviting Me
It seems a day doesn't go by when I don't get some invitation to add a friend to Facebook, or where I get an update on the new LinkedIn members from my company, or a question about who's been asking about me on Reunion.com.

Jeez...I'm not a very introverted person and I like people, but this is getting ridiculous.

Add Blogger, Twitter, DailyMugShot, Ravelry, etc., etc., etc. I would have to give up my day job, stop going out socially, and reduce my blogging to one day a week, just to keep up with all the on-line activity required in staying connected.

Is there going to be a new Matrix movie that shows this was the transition period from living humans to matrix-like brainwaves?

Current Knitting
I'm making sufficient progress on my stranded sweater now that have the collar part graphed out.



And here's a close-up of the neck detail. It looks kinda crappy since it's not blocked yet and the steek section obviously won't show.



But I am starting to worry about how I will handle the sleeve patterning. I think I may just do something a bit more simple on the arms, like a simple column of diamonds and half-diamonds up the center of the arm. We'll have to see how it goes.

Current Reading
Finally just finished Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy



Just started a new book that I got for Christmas. As usual, I'll discuss it once I finish it.