November 21, 2003

I'm Feeling "Catty!"

Note: No blog entries next week. Happy Thanksgiving to my wonderful readers. Thank you all for a fun-filled eight months!

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As I mentioned in my last entry, our speaker at Wednesday night’s Guild meeting was Cat Bordhi who lives here in Washington and who wrote the extremely popular “Soaks Soar on Two Circular Needles.” (A note to anyone who may be searching for her books on the Net: Your eyes are not deceiving you…the “h” in her surname is new and correct. Old versions of “Socks Soar” appear under “Bordi;” her new book and the upcoming sixth (sixth!) printing of “Socks Soar” will appear under "Bordhi.")

The truth is I wasn’t looking particularly forward to the presentation. In fact, I went to Guild wallowing in resentment toward this complete stranger. Why the chip? Name a reason, it probably applies. First, because she has done what so many knitters have dreamed of doing, making a living, and a good one, from knitting. Secondly, because she has done what so many wannabe writers have dreamed of doing, making a living, and a good one, from writing. That, and her “Socks Soar” has been the bane of my existence. I thoroughly enjoy using dpns but sock knitters, even well-meaning sock knitters, insist that you try Cat’s method, even if you’re perfectly happy stabbing yourself in the ball of your thumb for the umpteenth time, pulling a live needle out of live stitches when you actually meant to grab the empty needle, developing blisters on your fingers from yanking the yarn up tightly to prevent ladders, and not being able to complete a sock project because you broke two of the five needles in the only set of size 1s you own. That, and I looked on “Socks Soar” as just some sad, self-published effort, a desperate attempt by someone to publish something, anything, about knitting. How wrong I was…

Although I haven’t read it, her new book, "Treasure Forest," seems to be philosophical and metaphysical and poetic and dreamlike in tone and plot. And last night’s presentation was charged with the same mystical flavor. With great intensity and yet a sense of awe and wonderment, Cat talked about the process of writing the book; how characters like the three-legged bloodhound and Daggett the villain came into being; how the book told her what needed to be written, instead of the other way around; how traumatic it was to delete parts of the book that she had come to treasure but that just didn’t fit anymore; how she had the most extraordinary adventures interviewing experts, such as the local sheriff on the small island where she lives and a search and rescue person in Tacoma, for information for the book; how, in order to get under the skin of her characters, she made a chart showing whether or not, and how often, they floss their teeth; and how as part of, again, understanding her characters, she was compelled to knit things that appear in the book such as a unique pair of golden-yellow socks and a faceless, fuzzy-haired and magical doll named Ben, both of which she brought to the presentation. By the end of the lecture, I was mesmerized by and rooting for this enchanting authoress who had brought her book and her writing journey to life for us. The jealousy had vanished completely and had been replaced by my wishing her more and greater successes in her writing career, and hoping she would come to another Guild meeting.

As for my resentment toward “Socks Soar,” now that I've been shamed into realizing it's a “real” book written by someone with the soul of an author? Well, I was amazed at how many women in the room were knitting socks on circular needles, all of whom were doing so as a direct result of having read Cat’s book. Although I suspect that a good percentage of the sock projects were “for show” and would be jettisoned back into the dark recesses of various closets immediately after the meeting, it was still an extraordinary experience to have an author, her book, and the living effect of that book all percolating together in the same room . But, lest you think I’ve gone completely over to The Dark Side, I’m sticking to my dpns! A girl can never have too many puncture wounds!

Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM | Comments (7)

November 19, 2003

Knitting As Domestic Abuse

In September, I posted a series of entries about Cultural Icons That You Think Are Creepy. With help from My Dear Readers, I ended up with this marvelous list: Sock monkeys, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Roger's meow-cat meow-puppet, Curious George, Winchel Mahoney puppets, Howdy Doody, Betty Boop, Lamb Chop, and anything that is made out of a sock and has a face. K and I have one more cultural icon to add to the list, our mutual loathing of which I think has brought us closer over the years: Teletubbies. This is a serious, Class-A Loathing of a Cultural Icon, complete with creeping flesh and slight feelings of nausea. In fact, one day, by mistake, we walked down the Teletubby aisle in a toy store. When we realized where we were, we glanced at each other and, without a word, ran out of the aisle. What a sight that must have been—two forty-something women fleeing from children's toys! So, to keep K in check, I have threatened to knit her this for Christmas. When I emailed her about her new Damocles sword, her email back to me said something along the lines of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo!!!!" Heh, heh, heh, I say, as I twirl my Mustache of Evil.

On a completely different topic, a moment of silence for the corncam. The corn has been harvested, soon to appear on a Thanksgiving table near you.

Knitting Knews
I am trying to self-medicate myself out of my knitsnit with liberal doses of fiber but I seem to be taking one step forward, one back, to wit:

As I mentioned in my last entry, I finished the baby socks on Sunday expressly in order to bring them to work on Tuesday when the Mother and Wee Bairn were to visit. One step forward.
Forgot to bring the socks to work. Mother and Wee Bairn have come and gone.One step back.

I frogged the World's Largest Sweater, cast on fewer stitches and started knitting it up again. One step forward.
Took this photo to put in the blog and noticed the big loose, lumpy loop in my cast-on. One step back.

bigsweater2.jpg

Started an eyelash-yarn scarf. One step forward.
Got about a foot into it, my Denise needle and cable came apart, and three stitches ran straight down through the scarf in an unrecoverable eyelash-tangledy fashion. One step back.

Loved the comment by Vanessa about her current knitsnit. She was wallowing in a full-blown snit, indeed, punishing her knitting by doing needlepoint instead, until, that is, a thrummed mitten kit arrived in the mail. Then, as if by magic, snit? What snit?

I suspect I will get yanked bodily out of my snit by the mere fact that tonight is Guild night. If you are a sock knitter, you are most likely familiar with Cat Bordi who wrote "Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles." Although I am sticking stubbornly to my dpns and refuse to be Bordi-ized, I'm intrigued to see that she is the Guild speaker for tonight. Apparently she recently debuted a new novel ("Treasure Forest") and is coming to speak to us about it. I will report!

Dye Garden Dyegest
As an antidote to our current truly weird weather, in which the temperature dropped almost 30 degrees in a very few hours, and we went from enjoying a balmy warm evening to waking up to 1" of snow, some summertime daisies from K's front yard:

daisies.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 09:26 AM | Comments (11)

November 17, 2003

Life is Rrrrrruff!

So, just how spoiled is our little pooch? Well, here is the doggy equivalent of the "mint on one's pillow" that awaits her on her bed every night when she completes her evening constitutional. Need we say more? (Thank heavens K cropped and enlarged this picture because, due to the particular shade of brown of the cookie, the original photo looked like a heart-shaped piece of dog poo. Not the image I had had in mind.)

cookie.jpg

However, lest you think life is all champagne and caviar for Our Alarmingly Large-Eared Daughter, here she is, lying exhausted and spent, after a long day of folding laundry.

laundryday.jpg

Knitting Knews
Got off track from the pink baby socks, then lost the first one, then found it, then finally got my act together and finished the socks this weekend. Just in time, too, since Mom and Baby are coming to our weekly signing lunch tomorrow. As for the pearl button, who needs all that fancy photo-editing software to convince your Dear Readers you've taken the pearl off when, hey, you can just turn the sock over and, badda-bing, badda-boom, no pearl! (Okay, okay, okay; the pearl comes off tonight...)

pinkbabysocksdone.jpg

As Lisa, one of My Dear Readers, will tell you, I had a knitsnit last week. Hated everything I was working on, couldn't find one of the pink socks (see above), was frustrated with the World's Largest Sweater, and had tried the Acoma sock again with thinner yarn and still hadn't had any success. Do you, My Dear Readers, occasionally have knitsnits?

Dye Garden Dyegest
I dyed with the salal berries this weekend and just got what I'm going to start calling Ryan Brown, my signature color, sort of a dark tan. I'm starting to think perhaps I didn't wash or alum this batch of yarn properly because I have seen a lot of Ryan Brown lately. The good news is I still have plenty of flowers in the freezer so I can continue to experiment away through the course of the winter. The bad news is all the food in my freezer smells and tastes like slightly fermented, slightly moldy flowers. Blech and double-blech.

Posted by Ryan at 10:19 AM | Comments (4)

November 14, 2003

Don't You Ever Knock?

I feel a little conflicted about posting today's Kooky Kraft because the artist's heart is surely in the right place, namely, wanting to honor the firefighters who died on 9/11. But, really, would a firefighter want to be memorialized in the form of a burly, mustachioed construction worker who got caught trying on his wife's wedding gown? I think not...

Knitting Knews
A lesson learned...

After I wash my hair, I apply a silicon-based defrizzer to make it smooth, shiny, manageable, yaddayadda, whatever BS it says on the bottle. Recently, after a shower and a session with the defrizzer, I settled down to knit with a new pair of smooth, almost Teflon-y metal needles. I soon learned that, thanks to the hair product that remained on my hands, there was no holding on to those puppies. They squirted straight out of my hands like a cartoon banana out of its skin. And picking them up again? Fuggedaboudit. The firmer my grip, the faster and farther they squirted. Fortunately, they were circular needles so their mad dash to freedom came to an abrupt stop at 24". Who knew that one of the most important lessons I would learn about knitting was Never Knit After You Wash Your Hair?

Dye Garden Dyegest
The floral eye candy for today is a clematis flower from K's yard:

clematis.JPG


Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM | Comments (4)

November 12, 2003

I Feel Blue

At work yesterday, I scratched my back inside my shirt with what I thought was a capped pen. Imagine my surprise when I caught a glimpse of my back in the mirror last night and discovered inky blue lines everywhere, most traversing my back from side to side but some definitely concentrated around a now very blue mosquito bite. The most embarrassing part? This isn’t the first time I’ve done this.

Knitting Knews

My Number One knitting goal is to knit The Perfect Sweater. By Perfect Sweater, I don't mean one that fits perfectly or is knit perfectly or is the perfect fair isle design. By "Perfect Sweater," I mean the type of cozy, oversized sweater you would wear to take a post-prandial walk on Thanksgiving, visit the horses in the barn on a foggy fall day (although first I'd have to get some horses and a barn), or eat a warm cup of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich while reading a good book. I thought I found The Perfect Sweater in this pattern:

sweaterpattern.jpg

Unfortunately, the largest size for the pattern was based on a chest measurement that I haven't seen since I was 11. And since you know by now that I just sort of stumble around in the world of knitting, you know I haven't the faintest idea how to customize the pattern for a more zaftig figure but I'm giving it the old college try—and it's not going well. Because The Perfect Sweater requires, of course, bulky yarn, I'm using some Wool-Ease Thick & Quick from my stash, size 11 needles for the rib and size 13 for the sweater. My swatch said I would get 3 stitches/inch but it must be 3 stitches and a skosh because on my needles I now have, as I called it in my last entry, The World's Largest Sweater. Here, a picture of the ribbing for a sweater that you might not wear to the barn but which would most definitely fit around the barn.

ribbing.jpg

Dye Garden Dyegest
For this entry's memories-of-summer picture, some oregano and tri-color sage from my yard:

oregano-sage.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 10:21 AM

November 10, 2003

Get Out Your Sewing Machines!

I’m always delighted when a Dear Reader sends me a Kooky Kraft, as Melinda did a couple of weeks ago. Now, lest you think this is just another piece of humorous fluff, I assure you it is an intellectual and educational quadruple-threat. It delves into the issues of sewing arts (how to make underpants out of handkerchiefs); physiology (why Japanese women can wear handkerchief-underpants and we apparently immensely huge and beefy American women can’t); the constructs of the English language (why the word “panties” is plural and “nose” isn’t); and philosophy (the question one must ask oneself: “Am I a better person for knowing how to make underpants out of handkerchiefs, especially ones that I can’t even wear?”). So, welcome to the world of higher education!

Knitting Knews
What does it say about how much I knit this weekend that the minute I lay down in bed both forearms went numb? That can’t be good. Yes, I knit uh-lot. Fortunately, however, I get to blame K and the Dr. Muto video game, of which much was played this weekend (and in which we have evolved from an ordinary butt-stomping gorilla to a mechanoid gorilla that has exhaust fumes leaking from his various joints and, one would presume, super-butt-stomping abilities). K plays the game, furiously flinging herself left or right or forwards or backwards thinking it will make her missiles go respectively more to the left, more to the right, faster or slower (it doesn't). I, on the other hand, knit and say helpful things like “You missed an isotope!” or “You missed a vial of life!” or “Maybe if you aimed a little more that way…” or “Look out for the shark (or steel piranha or giant death-dealing octopus or circular-saw-wielding bulldog or acidic green goo)!” Yes, I am the cyber-equivalent of a backseat driver. At any rate, while K careened wildly about in her chair, I started the second baby sock; started The World’s Largest Sweater; and cast on for the second reincarnation of the Acoma Socks.

In other Knitting Knews, a co-worker who is selling her house and wants to divest herself of her excess worldly belongings handed me a large bag crammed full of unwanted acrylic yarn. I have no objections to acrylic, per se. In fact, the yarn I’m using for The World’s Largest Sweater is somewhat woolish, somewhat acrylic-ish. However, this stuff was frightful. Blogger Robbyn calls some similar yarn “stranded corncob,” the perfect description. Long story short, I, in turn, gave the yarn to a wonderful elderly Belgian neighbor of K’s who is always looking for free yarn of any kind for her charity knitting projects (and blanches and twitters and fusses and has the vapors whenever I tell her what I paid for the yarn from my most recent project). But, before I handed the yarn over, I rescued all of this from the bag:

needlesonleather.jpg

Of course, what am I going to do with three 29” inch, size 7 metal cable needles. Uh, anyone want one?

Dye Garden Dyegest
Here, another photo of one of the other summer denizens of The Mysterious K’s yard, an astoundingly pink dahlia, “Fire Magic.” If you say to yourself, “Surely it can’t be that pink” and adjust your monitor to make it a more “reasonable” color, you will be doing this dahlia a disservice. Truly, it is a bright, vibrant, glowing fuschia, and a very profuse flowerer. Many of these dahlias found their way into my dyepot, although you can be sure K gave me the hairy eyeball every time I approached the shrub with my clippers...

brightpinkdahlia.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 09:48 AM

November 07, 2003

Be Still My Heart, Part II

First, proof that K and I are not the only zealots who would brave traffic, an insane parking arrangement, two hours with nothing to do after looking at the one or two museum exhibits we haven’t seen a million times (because we luuuuv this museum), hunger (because eating was one of the activities we had planned on to fill those extra two hours but the line to the café was astoundingly long), and unseasonably cold weather to watch the Concorde land. And this was only a quarter of the crowd! Oh, and, no, the plane in the picture isn't the Big C; it's some little Piper Cub or something. (An image just flashed into my mind of the Concorde lying on its side with a row of Piper Cubs nursing from it. I worry about myself sometimes...)

concordecrowd.jpg

And this was what the fuss was all about, the Concorde, not looking even faintly winded after breaking a world record for flying from New York to Seattle (which caused it to land half-an-hour early, to the frustration of the poor saps who came out to the viewing area at the time it was supposed to land. Neener, neener.). And, yes, it was worth every minute of the traffic, parking, hunger, cold, blahblahblah. The pilots waving the American and British flags made one feel a mite farklempt, although I did wonder about what design genius thought it would be a good idea to put windows that open that easily on a supersonic aircraft.

concorde1oooo.jpg

And, by way of an amazing creative-writing sleight of hand, I'm actually going to relate all of this to knitting. The knitting I've been doing for the last two years finally came into its own on this day because K and I were bundled up in the checkerboard scarf I knit for her last year, the Sisyphus scarf, and the Mary Mittens!

Knitting Knews
And, here, a picture of the finished Mary Mittens! The round object on the cuff of the mitten on the right is an oak-leaf-and-acorn button I slapped on at the last minute. I have discovered that, when you are as uncreative as I am, buttons can be your very best friends. Slap one on your knitted item and, voila!, you are an avant-garde artiste! I have every intention of sewing a button on the other cuff but I'm dragging my feet because I've noticed that the button helps me remember which is the right mitten and which is the left. (How do I dress myself in the morning?)

mittensonleather.jpg

And, here, for Mary, proof that the Mary Mittens fit:

mittenonmitten.jpg

Dye Garden Dyegest
Because I can't quite seem to let go of this section even though I'm not dyeing anything at the moment, I'll use as an excuse to keep it going some pictures of the other non-dye-garden flowers in K's and my yards. For starters, this beautiful rambling rose, the Dublin Bay, which K "rescued" from certain death in my yard and has had growing over her picket fence for the past three or four years. The buds start out black and open into the most breathtaking, profuse, and densely petaled flowers:

dublinbay.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 09:38 AM | Comments (5)

November 05, 2003

Be Still My Heart

I suspect Herr Freud would have a hard time explaining why I turned out...ahem..."the way I did," since I have a genuine "thing" for the most phallic of all objects: fighter jets and anything faintly supersonictransport-y. Every year I look very much forward to our local SeaFair, not because of the parades, not because of the hydroplane races, not because of the street fairs, but because K and I make an Event out of packing a picnic lunch and going to a local park to watch the Blue Angels fly by. And when my sister took me to the Torrey Pines reserve in San Diego, she must have wondered why I insisted on staring up at the sky when I was surrounded by all that eye-level oceanic and tree-ic beauty. Because I was looking for jets from the Miramar Naval Air Station, is why. (Didn't have much success. Saw a blimp. I'm looking for a F-16 or an F/A-18 or an A-6E Intruder and I get...a blimp.)

Knowing this about me, now you should understand why it's Christmas in November for Yours Truly. And my Christmas present? Why, nothing less than a British Airways Concorde, specifically this British Airways Concorde. Our Museum of Flight landed (pun intended) one of the decommissioned Concordes and it will be arriving at the Museum this afternoon. K and I will be there with bells on, ours noses mashed up against the wire mesh fence. Or maybe not, since I've seen the Concorde take off from Heathrow enough to know the plane makes a hellacious noise. Okay, maybe we'll be waaaaaaaaaaay behind the Museum peering through binoculars, but we'll be there!

Knitting Knews
A photo of the finished baby sock:

pinkbabysock2.jpg

Why does it have a pearl button sewn on it when so many people advised against it, you ask? Because, the truth is I sewed the button on before I asked the question. And while K is perfectly happy to be my Photo Wrangler, I suspect she would balk at my asking her to airbrush out the pearl button and somehow make that part of the picture look all perfectly pink with colored nubbies just because I didn't want to look like a doofus in front of my Dear Readers.

Dye Garden Dyegest
The dye garden continues to get blacker, and more frozen, and sadder-looking as our prematurely cold fall progresses. On the bright side, it has become an absolute haven for the birds in K's yard. If you are a natural dyer and bird watcher, or just a bird watcher, I highly recommend planting what we planted. Legions of chickadees and sparrows are gorging themselves on the marigold, cosmos and sunflower seeds. Add a squirrel or two and the garden would indeed, as K says, look like a Disney cartoon.

Posted by Ryan at 09:31 AM | Comments (4)

November 03, 2003

The Toast of the Art World

(You know you have Very Special Dear Readers, when you merely post a blurb saying "posting late today" and you still get comments. You'ens, or as Anne would say "all y'all," or as Anne's father would say "allay'all," are the best, Dear Readers!)

Well, I've beaten the Sense of Responsibility Monster back into the Sense of Responsibility closet and have regressed to my nonchalant, free-wheeling, devil-may-care, come-what-may Self, at least until my next dental appointment or the next time I have to force myself to take three cookies instead of the twenty I really want. On to blogging!

Some of my more perceptive Dear Readers noticed that, on Friday, I skipped right over my promised subject, that being what happened to the piece of wayward toast. Can you blame a girl? I mean, it was Halloween; surely a picture of a pumpkin sweater took precedence over all else, even a decades-old mystery. But now, properly chastened, I present The Answer to the Puzzle. This is what happened to the piece of toast.

Knitting Knews
Madly knitting away on the second Mary Mitten. This is the first time I've needed to finish a knitting project for my health. My unmitten'd hand turns quite blue when I venture outside in the mornings and doesn't understand why I don't just hie myself to the local five 'n' dime and buy myself two matching mittens, already! I just tell it, "Knit faster! Knit faster!"

I'm also working on the baby socks for our network administrator's new bairn. Last Friday, my excitement got the better of me and I wandered down the hall to show the administrator what I was knitting. Oy. Try to explain four double-pointed needles when your audience can't hear or speak and your American Sign Language is sorely lacking. I think I managed to squeak out "You only use two at a time," but who knows? I might just as easily have said, "The green giraffe ate fourteen blue tambourines at high noon."

Here, a picture of the first sock with cuff and heel done. Methinks I'm going to buy pearl buttons and sew one on each cuff. (Question to the mothers out there: Is this dangerous? If I sew the button on tightly, is there still a danger that the baby might pull it off and swallow it? Ack! There's that pesky Sense of Responsibility again! Back, I say! Back!!)

pinkbabysock.JPG

Dye Garden Dyegest
I received a lovely email from Judy Green, the author of "Natural Dyes from Northwest Plants." Finding myself unexpectedly in touch with the author of that quirky but fun and informational book has felt rather full-circleish and symbiotic, even yin and yang-ish. I needed a natural dyeing book, preferably a detailed one about dyeing with local plants, and she provided exactly that. As the author, she needed to know that someone was enjoying, benefitting from, and using her book, and I'm providing that. And, as K and I suspected, the book was pounded out at home on a Selectric!

Posted by Ryan at 02:44 PM

Late Entry Today

Dear Readers, just a note to let you know I'll be posting to the blog later rather than earlier today. While I'd rather be posting to the blog, life—and that annoying grown-up sense of responsibility that makes you watch what you eat (even though you don't wanna), take yourself to the dentist (even though you don't wanna), and not spend all of your money on yarn (even though you wanna)—seems to have gotten in the way.

Posted by Ryan at 12:09 PM | Comments (2)