Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Our Friend Fredda


I was incredibly fortunate to have gotten to meet and know an amazing woman...and she was amazing well before she survived breast cancer.



This is a picture of Fredda and Marilyn at Rhinebeck...unfortunately Fredda's got surgery planned soon, so won't be at Rhinebeck this year.

Fredda's Race Has Been Longer Than Some
Over the years, Fredda has always contributed generously to the Race for the Cure in honor/memory of friends who have had breast cancer, but this one’s for her!

The past year or so has been very challenging for her; two lumpectomies, a mastectomy, chemo and radiation. She now has a cute haircut and as noted above, is scheduled for surgery.



I couldn't be more pleased to say I know someone that made it through this with such grace and dignity as Fredda.

If you've ever considered donating to this event, please know that Fredda is highly deserving to be your reason for doing so.

I know things are tough these days, so special thanks to all who can donate.

Current Knitting
I just flew to Chicago and completed three more repeats on the Mini Mochi scarf.

I'll post a picture in the next blog entry.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pancakes





This is one of my favorite foods...as buttery and syrupy as I can get them.

Best Pancake Restaurant
Have any of you heard of "The Original Pancake House?"

This is relatively small chain of restaurants that make BY FAR the best pancakes on the planet. Their other food is pretty awesome as well.

I was working in Tyson's Corner, VA a number of years ago, and a co-worker got all giddy when he realized there was an OPH within a five mile radius (in Falls Church). I had never heard of this chain before, and we ended up going there for an early breakfast at least once a week after we discovered it was there.

Don't get me wrong, I will gladly stuff my face at an "International House of Pancakes" or at the local diner, but nothing is more satisfying than finding myself in a town with an Original Pancake House...if you have one near you, you MUST try it.

Current Knitting
I volunteered to test-crochet a hat for a friend (Hi Andy!) this past weekend, and it took up quite a bit of my crafting time. At one point, I'll probably be able to post a picture of the hat, but it's not even quite finished at the moment and the pattern is still being modified.

I did however get some work done on the Expedition Pullover this past weekend.



I'm now in the process of working the back of the sweater only and it's still a delightful sweater to knit. The patterning is a bit hard to see since I took the picture last night with a flash.



This is going to be quite a large sweater when it's finished...hopefully Thaddeus won't be swimming in it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Racism and Civility


Having listened to a lot of pundits and read a bit about all this Joe Wilson kerfuffle, I thought I'd weigh in.



Straight Talk From QueerJoe
Do I think Joe Wilson broke the unwritten rules of civility in our legislative branch during the president's speech?

I do, and while I'm not usually a stickler for rules (written or unwritten), I am a big stickler for the making sure the intent of rules is carried out.

The U.S. president is head of our armed forces, head of the executive branch of our government and head of state for all international interactions. As such, demeaning him publicly like Joe Wilson did, could have far-reaching consequences that I'm sure Mr. Wilson didn't think through when he decided to question the president's integrity in front of a very large audience. Even more stupid on Mr. Wilson's account was he was wrong about him lying. President Obama said their was a provision in the bill excluding illegal aliens, which there is. There was really no lie about it. Fortunately, Mr. Wilson ended up looking quite stupid, except to some of the fanatic right-wingers who now hail him as a hero, and the Turette-like utterance of Joe Wilson seems to have no ill effects on the reputation of the president.

Do I think this country's Republican defiance of this president is racist?

I think racism plays a role in the obstinate nature of the Republicans even if they don't consciously realize it. But I also think racism is an often unnoticed, underlying reason for a lot of things that happen in this country. I also don't think it's the main reason. I think largely, the Republicans think by digging in their heels, they can thwart the change that Obama was elected in to office to make, and by so doing, prevent him from being re-elected.

I personally think this is a stupid strategy which will backfire on them come the next presidential election.

Do I think Obama is racist.

I hope I don't lose any of my sponsors...oh wait...nevermind, I don't have any, but I do think that everyone is a racist in some way, including the president. Race is an aspect of a person or group of people, and there are certain ideas that or characteristics that I think most everyone has about various races. However, if you were to ask me if Obama makes decisions based on these ideas of race, I would say he doesn't...or at least I've never seen any evidence of it.

Does writing this mean that Crystal Palace and Skacel will now NEVER sponsor me?

Current Knitting
I've made progress on all three currently active WsIP. And you'll note, that for all three projects, I'm either knitting with Skacel needles or Crystal Palace yarns.



Oops...wait a minute...the Expedition Pullover is using neither favored products...sorry about that.

Believe it or not, I'm still laboring away on the 1x1 ribbing on the first Supreme Possum/Merino sock (even though I already started the second one).

On the Mini Mochi scarf, I have added another 10 inches.

And on the Expedition Pullover, I've finished up to about half the armhole gussets.

I like having all three projects going at once so I can switch between them whenever I feel like it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the new roving from Winter's Past Farms, minneapolismama writes, "That roving is gorgeous! What are you going to do with it? I'm already looking forward to seeing pictures of it in the next stages."

Yes, her dyeing is really quite deep and delightful. I'm thinking about making thicker singles with the red roving and finer singles with the Pin Oak roving and plying them together to see how I like them combined. From that, I'm thinking I'll make a sweater for me or Thaddeus.

We'll see how my plans turn out!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Inspired to be a Hooker


Sorry for the mundane crochet pun...although I guess it's better than admitting I want to become a sewer.

New Book
I just got my copy this past weekend and I am very pleased.



Crochet in Color by Kathy Merrick is one of those books that takes crochet to the next level by showing you how it can be done in tasteful and interesting ways.

More than that, it inspires. I was inspired to take up the hook again and try my hand of some of the more interesting aspects of crochet because of Kathy's book.

I must admit, I experimented with about five different crochet ideas that I thought would be interesting and awesome looking this past weekend, and they were all quite awful. So, it's not quite as easy as Kathy makes it look, but the experimentation was quite useful. Each time I ripped out a failed idea, I got a better sense of how the crochet fabric is different than the knitted fabric, and how crochet mixes color very differently than knitting does.

I may just end up crocheting some of Kathy's projects as they're presented in the book...I love the cover jacket on the bottom and it looks like quite a fun and interesting project.

There's been quite a demand for Kathy's book, so clearly she has been able to do something not many other crocheters have been able to accomplish, as it is already the #10 selling crochet book on Amazon (at least at the time of this posting).

I imagine it will quickly become the must-have book for anyone interested in exploring their crochet side.

Current Knitting
I only worked on the Expedition pullover by Todd Gocken this past weekend, and I'm SO close to starting the chest/yoke of the sweater I can almost taste it.



This shows about 13 inches of the 15 inches that I need to knit before I start doing the arm gussets and yoke patterning.

Here's a look at the inside of the bottom hem for those interested.



Hopefully, I'll be up to my armpits in no time at all!

Readers' Comments/Questions
Fiberninja writes, "Joe, what is the colourway of the merino/silk roving from A Verb for Keeping Warm? Could you give a general description of it's colours please?"

The colourway is Chartreuse's Sister and it's a gorgeous combination of lustery silver, gray, pearl and of course, chartreuse. I can't wait to see how it spins up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Technology Surprise


I honestly thought I would HATE having a BlackBerry, but I have to admit, I actually kind of like having it.



Okay...Maybe Not THAT Much!
I do like having access to my e-mail, the web, FaceBook and a phone in such a small, pocket-sized device.

I'm also trying to learn when to just put it away. I've gotten to the point where I don't WalkBerry (especially in airports), I definitely don't DriveBerry...I would be a true hazard in that situation. I avoid ThadBerrying as much as possible, since I know how annoying it can be when someone you're with is focusing more on electronics than you.

Now I have just have to stop adding "Berry" to the ends of words and names and thinking it means something.

Garden State Sheep Breeders Fair
This past weekend, Thaddeus and I got to spend a few BlackBerry-free hours at this very small fiber festival in Flemington, NJ.



I went on Saturday, and the grounds (including the parking lot) were still quite muddy, and it drizzled on and off. This was lousy in terms of getting around the tents and parking, but it worked out well in terms of not having hoards of people to avoid.

I think Sunday was a much more popular day, but I couldn't go to meet up with BJ and Marilyn.

Here are some pictures of our time there.


















I only bought one thing while I was there, which was this lovely roving from Winter's Past Farm.



I bought it from Winter's Past Farm (the woman in the last picture with me that Thaddeus kindly snapped for me). I really loved the depth of color in her solid/kettle-dyed rovings and her choice in colors was very fine. I bought a total of about 1.5 pounds of Tunis roving in these two colors.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2009 - Third (final) Installment


Swag - 2. Loot, the 'take' from a robbery.

Not A Robbery per se...but Loot Nonetheless
When the men's knitting retreats started in 2008, we found that there were a lot of fiber-related companies, both small and large that were interested in presenting their products to a group of passionate male knitters. We started getting gifts of yarn, roving, spindles, books, buttons, patterns, wool wash, stitch markers, pens, measuring tapes, etc., etc., etc. from these companies that we could give to the participants.

The first year, with no budget for anything, I purchased 32 cloth bags at my local dollar store and ended up stuffing them with little gifties for the guys. They also got the opportunity to compete for "door prizes." The second year, I budgeted a bit for giveaways, and included the cost of a small messenger bag with the Men's Knitting Retreat logo and again stuffed it with goodies and also had a pile of wonderful items to give away as prizes.

The donors for these events are incredibly generous, and most have seen a strong response of gratitude and/or new business from the guys at the retreats.

The West Coast retreat has continued this tradition. In addition to getting a full-size backpack chock full of giveaways (including a man's sweater kit of yarn and pattern from Skacel!), we also competed for highest priority choice in a table piled high with wonderful things. You can see both the backpacks and the swag table behind Mike as he runs the contest to win these great things.



I also was extremely excited to have one these items as my prize for knowing an odd fact about Chuck from Missouri (which I had to promise NOT to divulge to anyone outside the retreat...sorry).





The yarn is just an incredibly beautiful color and luster of superwash from Girl On The Rocks, and I will definitely be checking out her shop to buy more. I was also quite excited that the stitch markers came with it...I am always looking for good stitch markers that don't snag on my knitting and these look perfect.



This deep colored superwash from WoolGirl.com is just too soft for words and beautiful as well.




This was a needle case from della Q that is part of their new colorways for men specifically. She has a whole section dedicated to MEN!

Finally, I got a VERY generous gift from WonderMike of roving and yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm.



The fiber is a beautiful subtle color and SOFT (merino/silk blend!) and the yarn is actually in WonderMike colorway!...Who knew he had is own colorway.

I brought home even more delightful swag from the MFKR...I for one, am happy to shop at the stores/web sites of these very generous folks. A big thanks from QueerJoe!

Current Knitting
Okay...I'm on the never-ending ribbing of the first possum/merino sock. Since I didn't want to take an extra ball of yarn with me on my upcoming trip today, I started the second sock, so I could get past the contrast colored toe.



I am also VERY excited to note that I've started a new sweater for Thaddeus and believe it or not, I'm following a PATTERN!



This is the hem and a few inches of the bottom of The Expedition Pullover by Todd. You have to know that for me to follow a pattern, it must be a great sweater design, and I think Todd has outdone himself with this one. For all you women looking for sweater patterns that your husband or sons would like, this is a top contender.

I'm making mine out of Berocco's Peruvia Highland Wool. I don't have a lot of yarns in heavy worsted, but I think this yarn will be perfect for this sweater...and it came out of my stash.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Tricky Tricot writes, "That looks like a picture of Jeff holding some knitting. I'm without words..."

Yes...he finished the front and back of a full sized man's sweater and we helped him out with neck shaping and 3-needle bind-off at the shoulders. He was making a lot of progress and was very happy about it.

Susan asked, "Is Daniel wearing a Noro sweater?"

Yes...it's some gorgeous Noro yarn that has been discontinued...similar to Silk Garden but much nicer and softer...he probably bought it when he was living in Tokyo...I was quite envious.

Duffy-san asks, "Did Skacel Brian bring his seven pairs of socks to work on?"

Yes...it was even more amazing to see 14 socks on the needles in person than the pictures on the blog...quite amazing indeed.

Buck Strong writes, "OMG! I'm so totally laughing my ass off at your picture; however, I'm also crying my ass off at mine."

I wanted to make sure that I didn't try to put myself in a better light than anyone, but I do apologize for your photo...it was the only one I had (shockingly) and Buck looks MUCH better in person than my photograph would convey.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Men's Fall Knitting Retreat 2009 - Second Installment


For all the traveling I do, I didn't realize how much effort it was going to be to get to the West Coast Retreat. But it was SO worth it.

The Trip To Seattle
I had a 6:00 am flight which got me into Seattle around noon. Here's me in my car going to the airport at 4:00 in the morning.



I waited around Seattle/Tacoma airport for a couple of hours...had some lunch and met up with three of the guys I had never met before.





Ray (the car renter of the group, Harry, Brett and I all took the short drive (about 25 minutes) from the airport to Dumas Bay Retreat Center. We were very grateful to have WonderMike and Brian sitting there greeting us as we drove into the parking lot.

The Men In Seattle
The most important part of any of the retreats I've been to are the men who are there. I'm just going to post random pictures of the guys there with captions of who they are.


This was my first view of the room where we all made the magic happen





I had never met Barth or WonderMike...both incredible men who I hope to meet up with again anytime I can.




Can you tell I really like Barth?



This is a bad picture of Franlkin, Keith (kind of) and Joe.


Ahhh...the blush of MWK love...David and Paul.





Daniel is an amazing knitter who has lived in interesting places like Tokyo and has more international knitting stories than Kaffe.


Group photo of John, Kent, Keith, Kerry, Harry, David, Jeff, Bart and Morgan.


Geoff...a popular favorite...late arrival, but worth the wait!




Everyone loved Franklin...he is smart, funny, talented and...


...well, what can I say...look at that ass.



Everyone wanted strolls of the grounds with him...this is Franklin with Brian.


And Franklin with Keith and Joe.



And our favorite Kiwi all the way from Wairarapa New Zeland, speaking Maori for us...James.



We got a surprise visit from HizSis (Stephen's sister)...she's funnier than her older brother, and Troy in the foreground.



A courtyard shot of Harry, Troy, Michael and Ray...amazing grouping of talented, wonderful men.


Harry...just adorable and one of the most delightful guys to just hang out with.



James, Andy (Crafty man!), Chuck, John, Kent, Harry and Kerry...couldn't you just dive into this awesome group?



Three of my many favorites...John, Andy and Jeff...I love them all!



John, in addition to being gorgeous, with better legs than mine, is just one of the most wonderful guys to be around.



Jeff has been to all the East Coast Retreats and has turned into the best friend a person could wish to have.


Keith is just wonderful...I found myself drawn to his openness and energy.



Here's Keith with Ron and Brian (also two amazing men).



Here's Keith with Nigel...who is awesome (are we seeing a trend here?...I seemed to have found myself in love with all of them!)


Keith with Brian...the mighty co-leader...he and Mike outdid themselves with everything they did for the retreat.



And here is the other mighty leader giving a spindling workshop to Michael, Kent and James, with Keith's head and hands in the foreground.



Awesome men milling around - Kerry, Harry (I think), Brett, Jeff, Mike and Morgan.



Kent (much more handsome than I have been able to photograph...sorry Kent!), Franklin and Andy.


Kenny (who requires no description from me...the WORLD knows how great he is), and Chuck who is just incredible in addition to being incredibly creative and interesting.



We LOVE Ray...he says he's shy, but he was a blast to hang out with...unlike Ray Romano...everyone REALLY does love this Raymond.



Just seeing this trio makes me long to be back in Seattle...Nigel, Brett and Harry.



Morgan (of All Points Yarn) is an incredibly generous and wonderful man, shown with new BFF Franklin.



Troy (our hot delivery guy who is nicer than he is handsome, David our favorite grandfather, and the amazing Brian, wearing his Skacel shirt about which we were all envious (until I won one as a prize).



How could a person NOT love this guy? Stephen is the man that brings the guys together in the closest of ways and he's the most entertaining man on the planet.



And paired with John, the hi-jinx just never ends!...Love you both!



And the man I fawned over for the entire retreat...Ron. Sweet, shy and incredibly enjoyable hanging out with...I love this picture of him.


Current Knitting
In addition to the possum/merino sock, I had also started a new Mini Mochi scarf.

The scarf, I have made no progress on, and the sock, I had to rip back to below the heel...but I give you pictures, using some of my newly learned methods from Franklin.





Look at the color, texture and staging of this photograph...isn't Franklin incredible at teaching?

Readers' Comments/Questions
Susan writes, "I find the shorter needle tips on circulars make my hands cramp up after only a small amount of knitting, so I'll pass on those too."

I agree...that's exactly why I won't use them...but even the head of Skacel noted that these would be either loved or hated...not a lot in between. I think she's right.

Liz writes, "I for one am very excited to hear about the new tarnish resistant coating for Addi's"

Just to be clear, this new finish is only being considered for the Addi Lace needles, not the regular Addi Turbos. And they're not sure they will go with the new coating, since it makes them slicker, and some folks like the fact that Addi Lace needles have a soft drag that helps the needles from slipping out of the lace.