September 29, 2004

The View from the High Dive

Since, no thanks to The Claw, I am on the wagon knitting-wise, before I left my house for Ferals on Monday I cast around for something knitting-free yet knitting-related I could do during the get-together. My eye fell on the Janine Pillow with its as-yet-uncut steek, and I decided to take it with me to get advice from my Fellow Ferals on cutting it.pillow5.jpg

What I envisioned:
We would have a long, serious and intense discussion about how to sew up the two columns of stitches on either side of the cutting line to prevent the stitches from unraveling. This would be followed by a similarly long discussion about what length and tightness of stitch I should use on my sewing machine; how sharp and large my scissors should be, what my hormone levels should be, what phase the moon should be in, how the planets and the stars should be aligned, and whether or not Cuzzin Tom should be in a meditative state, holding together the world as we know it, when I actually cut the steek; and how much alcohol I was entitled to drink after I cut the steek and the pillow disintegrated into a pile of navy blue, green, pink and yellow yarn, which I was sure was what would happen. After these discussions, I would go home and procrastinate for however long I damn well felt like until I actually got up the nerve to do the sewing and the cutting.

What actually happened:
As I predicted, there were indeed a few mutterings about sewing up the steek but they were not the mutterings I had imagined. Instead, they went something like this:

“I cut a sample sweater for a class many years ago without sewing the steek first, and it has never unraveled so now I just cut."

“I never sew up my steeks. I just cut."

“So-and-so, who is a Fair Isle and Steeking Goddess, never sews up her steeks. She just cuts.”

“I read in a book, don’t bother to sew up the steek. Just cut.”

And then slowly these disparate mutterings coalesced into this, which they voiced as one: “Ryan, don’t sew. Just cut. Now. Here. With Us. In Public. Completely Unprepared.” The normally friendly and civilized group stopped short of pounding their fists on the table and chanting, “Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut!” Images of Lord of the Flies started to flit through my mind...and I was Piggy.

In the meantime, MaryB had surreptitiously added “runway lights” to the steek so my loud squeals of protest that I wouldn’t know where to cut and would get lost along the way and would most certainly slash right across the middle of the pillow and it would be all their fault for pressuring me fell on seven pairs of deaf ears.


In desperation, I played my last defensive card which was to announce that I didn’t have any scissors. In a blinding instant and with a loud clatter, all of this appeared in front of me:


By this time we were laughing so hard we had to wipe the tears from our faces and soon after, yes, Dear Friends, I cut. Without Sewing. There. Then. With Them. In Public. Completely Unprepared.

And here it is:


And a not very flattering picture of Yours Truly holding my trophy (Norma, note the nails. They are currently sparkly hooker-purple.):


Ferals, love and hugs to you all! In fact, I had such a good time Monday, I don’t think I would really have minded if the pillow had fallen apart. Much.


Dear Readers, be sure not to miss the limerick Cuzzin Tom added at the bottom of last entry's comments. It's a mite crude, very funny, very creative, and very Cuzzinish. Cuzzin, I'm sending you a virtual cheek pinch!

Posted by Ryan at 09:37 AM | Comments (26)

September 27, 2004

I Think Lisa Is Using a Voodoo Doll...

Those of you who are long-time readers of Yarn Harlot will remember the knee-slappers she posted in March of last year about The Claw, the name she gave her hand when it rebelled against her attempt to use, in The Claw’s estimation, the wrong needles, the wrong yarn, the wrong pattern, or all three. Those entries had me on the floor and were, in fact, the ones that got me hooked on Harlot’s blog. Well, now that I have it, come to find out the Claw ain’t so damn funny after all. Fortunately, my hand has cramped up in exactly the shape I need to use my mouse, so computing and blogging go on!

On the positive side, for Lisa, this means that she can, with a little effort, roar past me in the Faina row count since I got all of two rows knit before I begged The Mysterious K to take my knitting bag away from me. (TMK loves it when I ask her to do this. As a supportive partner who wants to help me get better, she is willing to take possession of the knitting bag. As a not-so-supportive partner who is, in truth, 41 going on a mischievous 14, not only does she take it, she hides it. This weekend it was on the bathrobe hook on the back of her bedroom door. I think this is her revenge for times when I foil her plans to have a second brownie.)

So, since I can’t knit and sure as heck don’t have any photos, I thought I would post the article I wrote for our Guild’s newsletter about things you might want to consider if you want to start a blog. It’s not a terribly entertaining article (no mention of our fantasy fiber commune, I'm afraid) but soma youze might find some helpful information in it.


So You Think You Want to Blog...
© 2004 Ryan Morrissey

When I saw my first Internet weblog (“blog”)—essentially a public, online diary that people anywhere and everywhere are invited to read and comment upon—I was aghast, truly aghast. I believe my hand even flew up to my mouth in horror. I couldn’t fathom wanting to hang your personal laundry out to air on the web, much less inviting complete strangers to read it. Then and there, I made a solemn, eternal vow that I would never have a blog.

Fast forward a few months, when I decided to plant a natural dye garden and dip my toe into the natural dyeing world. When the dye garden was bursting with fresh, green seedlings, it occurred to me that I might want to document my seedling-to-swatch experiences and share them with other knitters. It further occurred to me that I would most likely want to include photos of my dyed swatches; it further occurred to me that I have always loved to write; and it further occurred to me that the Net might be a good place to post my writings about my experiences. And that was when I realized I was sliding swiftly and inexorably into the world of blogging, like a hapless animal into quicksand.

I have now had my blog for about 1.5 years and can sincerely say I haven’t regretted a minute or a word of it. Through the blog, I have made great “e-friendships” with generous, kind, and humorous knitters and non-knitters from around the world, have had the great pleasure of meeting some of my readers face-to-face, have renewed some family ties, and have been able to spend many pleasurable hours writing about knitting, dyeing—and, yes, even my personal life.

If you are planning on starting a blog, here are some things I’ve learned that might help you get started on the right track:

  • Make sure you have time to write and maintain a blog. You can spend a considerable amount of time writing and editing the entry; taking photographs for the blog; processing, “tweaking,” and uploading the photos; responding to reader’s comments and emails; and maintaining the lists of blogs that you read and extraneous links, not to mention the time you spend just pondering what you’re going to write next. I spend approximately 7 hours a week on my blog, 4-5 hours on my (relatively long) entries, the rest taking and processing photos and answering comments.
  • Decide how often you are willing (or, more importantly, able) to update your blog. I update mine every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Some writers update every day, some once a month, some on an irregular basis that averages out to every two or three days. Make sure your readers know how often you plan on updating, since your more faithful readers will come and check your blog every day. For this same reason, if you are not going to post for a while (you’re going on a vacation, you’re too busy, you need a temporary break from blogging), let your readers know. They will appreciate this and will be waiting for you when you come back.
  • Make a concerted effort to include photographs in your blog. As knitters, your readers will greatly appreciate pictures of yarn, fiber, fleece, knitting tools, and your one, two, ten, twenty or fifty current projects.
  • Pick a blog name that lets readers know it is a knitting blog and conveys your blogging “vision” or “persona.” I chose “Mossy Cottage Knits” for my blog in an effort to convey the coziness of knitting inside my small house on a rainy Seattle winter day.
  • Decide what the “parameters” of your blog are going to be. Do you want to write exclusively about knitting or do you want to include broader topics? Do you want to discuss religion and politics and invite debate among your readers, or do you want to stick to tamer, less-controversial topics? Do you want your entries to be humorous and anecdotal or simply objective reports of your day-to-day activities?
  • Regardless of your initial vision for your blog, be willing to “go with the flow.” Your blog will most likely be a dynamic, changing entity that metamorphoses regularly. My readers, their comments, and the events in my life play an important role in defining what appears in the blog, and it’s not always what I had envisioned—usually it’s something better!
  • Use links in the body of your entries to add depth to your blog and provide further information to your readers. For example, if you refer to someone else’s blog, link to that blog. If you mention something or someone obscure, link to a web site that provides more information about that person or topic. If you refer to an event that you wrote about earlier in your blog, link to that blog entry so your readers can refresh their memories. (This is especially helpful for new readers.) While this may take more time, I do find that my readers appreciate the links and make a point of visiting the other sites.
  • If, on your blog, you list the names of other blogs that you read, take time to keep that list up-to-date and accurate. Bloggers are constantly changing web addresses, changing the names of their blogs, going on hiatus, or discontinuing their blogs altogether. These changes should all be reflected in your blog list.
  • Be prepared to deal with blog “spam,” unwanted and usually distasteful “junk” comments that are posted on your blog. Last year, in one night, my blog was hit with 3000 such comments. Fortunately, my blog hostess was able to remove these for me, and it turned into a nonevent, but you still have to spend time deleting the occasional spam message and finding ways to prevent the spam from occurring in the first place.
  • Keep a running log of ideas for blog entries. I maintain a Word document, currently three pages long, in which I keep ideas inspired by my readers’ comments, experiences I have had that I want to write about, and interesting links. This helps me retain fleeting ideas and gives me a constant source of inspiration for my blog entries—particularly helpful for those days when you have “writer’s block.”
  • Avoid writing your drafts in the blog software itself. Instead, write them in another application like Microsoft Word, save the draft, and copy the text over into your blogging software. You do not want to lose everything you spent the last hour writing simply because you’re blogging software “hiccupped!”
  • Be judicious in what you are willing to post. Don’t post anything overly personal or anything that you wouldn’t want the whole world to know. Also, I highly recommend against writing, especially negatively, about your job, your employer or your co-workers. You will be surprised by how far word about your blog spreads and who actually reads it.
  • Protect your identity and those of your family members by using only first names or blog “nicknames,” and by not posting pictures that show home addresses, car license plates, or places of employment. Using graphics software, you can crop this identifying information or blur it. Similarly, don’t write about other people, or post photographs of them, without their permission.
  • Don’t be surprised when total strangers walk up to you—in my case, usually at Guild—and start asking you personal questions as if they’ve known you all your life. You’ve just had the great pleasure of meeting what I call a Dear Reader, a fan of your blog! In my opinion, those moments are what make the blog all worth it—the opportunity to meet in “real time” people who share your interests.
  • Lastly and most importantly, let your readers know loudly and often how much you appreciate their willingness to spend some of their precious spare time visiting your blog!
  • Posted by Ryan at 11:05 AM | Comments (21)

September 24, 2004

Nature Photograpurr!

Some of you may remember the Pseudo-Adopted Cat who started visiting my house last year. A few months after he started coming around, and well after I had started giving him liberal handfuls of Kitty Krunchies, I noticed, to my horror, that written on his collar in teeny-tiny letters were the words, “I am diabetic.” Urk. I stopped feeding him snacks instantly, and was sure that he would start showing up less often as a result, but, no, to this day, regular as clockwork, he’s outside my door in the morning and waiting by the same door when I come home at night. If he isn't in my yard when I get home, when he hears my car, he will come tearing over from wherever he is in the neighborhood and lead my car up the driveway. So, what do I have that he still wants? Simple—trickling water. The PAC is addicted to trickling water. In fact, if I turn on the sprinkler, he will come racing over from the opposite end of the yard to partake, making that funny sound cats make when they’re excited and running at the same time, you know, the meow that is long and drawn out yet very staccato because his feet are trotting so furiously across the ground. Long story short, although I can’t give him Kitty Krunchies, I do go out of my way to make sure he gets all the trickling water he wants. See?


Oh, if you only knew what it took to get a photo of le wee pink tongue! As anyone who owns cats knows, cats don’t just drink. How plebeian, how ordinary, they say! Instead, they lap, lap, lap, swallow; lap, lap, lap, swallow; lap, lap, lap, swallow. Ergo, my challenge was to take the photograph during “lap, lap, lap” (wee pink tongue out) and not during “swallow” (wee pink tongue in). My first five attempts? Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. Swallow. Then I tried some rapid-fire photography like a fashion photographer. Give it to me, baybee! Love the camera, baybee! DO it, baybee! But, again, nothin’. So then I went the animal behaviorist’s route, trying to get inside his tiny kitty brain and understand and internalize his drinking tempo. Soon I found myself bouncing, toe-tapping and shimmying to his drinking rhythm, even chanting, out loud, “Lap, lap, lap, swallow! Lap, lap, lap, swallow!” I mean, I was gittin’ doooooown to the funky kitty music. Then, during the one nanosecond between a swallow and a lap, I stopped the dancing, stopped the chanting, and snapped the winning photo. Success! Of course, I felt like I complete dork but, hey, the only one there to see me make an ass out of myself was the cat.

My reward for the trickling water (and for forgetting to turn it off so my water bills have taken a small spike in the last few months)? Hours and hours of this, by my side:


Knitting Knews
Lisa's and my "Faina-Together" is progressing well. It's my first "knitalong" of any kind and I'm enjoying it immensely, especially now that I've found out that Lisa is making exactly the same mistakes I did... What? Isn't that the point of a knitalong, to make sure you're all equally confused and frustrated? It isn't?

Here is a picture of the scarf from a few days ago. The scarf is much more delicate and the design is much more defined than this picture would have you believe but, hey, I was all worn out from playing fashion photographer and animal behaviorist...


Posted by Ryan at 11:39 AM | Comments (18)

September 22, 2004

Secrets Revealed!

To wrap up our fantasy trip to our fiber-y utopia in the sunny meadows of Okanogan, we will now reveal to you that The Mysterious K and I seriously—no, I mean, seriously—discussed snapping up those 40 acres, commune or no commune, and even had our financing all figured out, but our scheming was brought to a screeching halt by six little words: “Timber rights can be purchased separately.” In udder woids, if we don’t buy the timber rights, the previous owners can march onto the property and whack down trees whenever they feel like it. Um, I don’ think so, mon’. (Barb, where is that Monopoly box? Need money for those timber rights. And for the plasma TVs, satellite dishes and 20 remotes that TMK, Janine and Norma are now demanding for the commune. And the new Scrabblearium that the levitating Cuzz' demanded.)

Waving a fond and tearful adieu to our commune, we now return to regular programming:

Remember how I’ve been hinting that the clock and the Oak Leaf Scarf were for A Very Special Person? The VSP was, in fact, TMK’s mother. The Event for Which Secret Things Such As Clocks and Scarves Were Being Made was her surprise 60th birthday party (which was guaranteed to be a surprise because her birthday isn’t actually for another two months). The surprising, the partying and the giving of gifts took place last Saturday.

Imagine what this event was like for TMK and me: Our typical Saturdays consist of quietly puttering around her house, just her, me, and the dawg, playing Scrabble (no, not the dawg—but she says she could if she sat on our laps so she could see the board), drinking tea or coffee, watching anything and everything on TLC and the Food Network, playing video games, knitting, gardening, and woodworking. This last Saturday, however, thanks to the weather which did not cooperate (the day before, yes; the day after, yes; the day of, no), we had 26 people, including 7 children, aged 1 to 11, crammed into TMK’s small living room. Such pandemonium! In fact, yesterday afternoon TMK called me to tell me she had just discovered salsa smeared all over one of her walls. Kids. Gotta love ‘em.

tooter.jpgBut, really, the whole thing was a hoot, starting with the fact that the mother opened the front door, peered in, gasped, and slammed the door shut. We finally coaxed her in—and the free-for-all began. It started with great hootin’ and hollerin’ and huggin’, segued into piles of barbecued sausages, salad, baked beans, chocolate cake, and gifts, and ended hours later with the Mother and her two sisters, the Little Old Aunties, sitting in a row, giggling hysterically, and performing a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” tableau for the cameras.

How do I describe TMK’s extended family? For people who have watched the Sandra Bullock movie “While You Were Sleeping,” I can shorthand it for you: They’re like that family. They travel around in packs, they suck you in whether you want to be sucked in or not, and they hug a lot.

To understand how I feel about all of this, you have to understand a little about my upbringing (I believe Big Sister and Cuzzin Tom can testify to this). In my family, we are experts at the ”East Coast hug,” specifically the subcategorical “Princeton hug,” since that is where my family lived. To do the Princeton hug, you stand a good foot to foot-and-a-half away from the person you are greeting, lean in towards each other, pat each other perfunctorily on the back (pat, pat, pat), making sure there is no physical contact, not even cheek-to-cheek, and back away quickly, avoiding eye contact because you’re embarrassed by such a profuse display of emotion. There aren’t even any air kisses, just the bend, the pat, the backing away. TMK’s family members, on the other hand, are experts at the Big Italian Hug which is so tight and goes on for so long you feel as if your eyes are going to pop out (or you’re going to fart, whichever comes first). And the Big Italian Hug can come out of nowhere. It's two hours into the party, you’ve survived the initial “hello” hug, you’ve put your eyeballs back in their sockets and have gained control of your digestive system, you’re talking unconcernedly to someone about this or that, and all of sudden, the swoop, the grab, and the big, long squeeze. TMK loves to watch her reserved, formal partner interact with her family; it amuses her greatly.

And, here, the reason why I knit a scarf for this woman:

After the party the Mother and all the Little Old Aunties and their various and sundry SO’s and relatives decided to go to evening mass (which, of course, involved a lot of Big Italian Hugs, never mind the fact that we were going to see them all again in an hour). At some point during the chaos of getting them in and out of the one bathroom, getting the right person together with the right coat, and getting them all out the door and into the right cars, the mother said to me, “You know, I pray for you every day.” Realizing that that statement could have been taken many ways, including "I pray to God every day for you to turn from your heathen and sinful ways," she said, “What I meant was I pray to God every day to thank Him for your presence in our lives.” Wow. And double-wow. Where are my knitting needles? I feel another scarf coming on.

(P.S. Need I say the clock was a big hit? Rumor has it TMK is hunting down some maple to make one for me!)

Knitting Knews
Although I put the Oak Leaf scarf in a gift box, decorated it with a riot of multicolored ribbons and presented it to the mother with great fanfare, it was all a façade, since five minutes later I ripped it back out of her hands and scuttled off with it like a rat into its hole. See, the night before the party, I had been fondling the scarf, eyeballing with satisfaction how all the stitches and lacework had fallen into place after blocking, and saying my last goodbyes to it, as it were. When I got ready to put it in the gift box, I folded it in the middle—and noticed to my horror that one side was a good two inches shorter than the other, despite all of the careful measuring and folding and counting and calculating I had done while knitting it. Now, there are “trotting horse”* errors and then there are errors like this which demand fixing, so the scarf is now in my possession, will be frogged a bit, and reknitted.

The proof:


In the meantime, I’m continuing with Faina’s Scarf and enjoying it immensely. I am now getting ready to do three 79-row repeats, which is a bit daunting, but overall it’s going very well, and I would recommend this pattern to anyone. (Lisa, did you get your copy of the pattern?)

*By way of explanation for non-knitters, there’s a saying that if an error on a knitted project can’t be detected by someone going by on a trotting horse, then it’s not worth fixing. Don’t ask me why a trotting horse and not a jogger, or someone in a Go Kart, or on a bicycle or in a low-flying airplane. I haven't the foggiest. Besides, the only person I know who can actually have someone trot by her on a horse is Karen, so how helpful is this rule anyway?

Posted by Ryan at 08:43 AM | Comments (20)

September 17, 2004

The Commune, Part II

Monday, September 20: I'm not ready for our Commune—which blossomed wonderfully beyond anything I had imagined—to disappear into ArchiveLand quite yet, so I'm leaving this up until Wednesday, when regular programming will resume. Until then, please continue to join The Mysterious K and me in our little fantasy world. Coffee, tea, and home-baked breads are set out on the rustic plank table, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, women and men are a-weavin', a-knittin' and a-spinnin' and there are plenty of fantasy jobs still available!


I cannot tell you how much The Mysterious K and I have enjoyed everyone’s participation in the Mossy Cottage Knitting and Fiber Commune on Horsesh*t Road. And, if I had any sense of the perfect dramatic exit, I would end Mossy Cottage forever on this fantastic, upbeat, coming-together-as-one note……………but naaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Based on yesterday’s record-breaking 47 comments (the previous record, as Cuzzin Tom noted, was held by the “neighbor’s robotic sex” entries so I’m happy to see you all have your priorities straight), here is the current version of the commune:

Number of Members (not including participating SO’s or children): 37 and counting!! (Joan, you’re right, we may need more than 40 acres. Who knew?!)

Buildings, besides domiciles:

  • Sanctum Sanctorum Stashorum, of course (which, by the way, has been variously misread as (Rick) Santorum, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and “scrotum.” Maybe I need to rethink this name.)

  • Animalarium and Barnarium or, to give it a more circus-like feel, the Barnum

  • Natatorium (Cool! I didn’t have to make this one up! TMK insists on something large, heated and luxurious. With a diving board. No problem. We’ll just raid Barb’s Monopoly game again and we’re good to go.)

  • Foodarium with, of course, an attached Chocolatarium

  • Daycareium (I didn't think I could get away with calling it the RugRatarium)

  • Yogarium (or the “Yogyurt”)

  • Administratarium

  • Clinicarium (or the “Health Hut”)

  • Theaterarium (or the “Drama Dome”)

  • Educationarium
  • Server- and Systemarium

  • Plantarium (yep, like a planetarium, only not)

  • Cribbagearium (Cuzzin Tom insisted)

  • Routerarium (TMK insisted)


  • Monkarium (a special place for Cuzzin Tom because he’s, you know, all celibate and stuff. And I understand that when he meditates he floats around and knocks things over, so I say he needs to meditate in his own space and trash his own possessions. Of course, if he meditated in the Sanctum Sanctorum Stashorum, he wouldn’t hurt anything; he’d just bounce gently from stash pile to stash pile. But it would be annoying if you were heads-down on a knitting project and all of a sudden your strand of yarn got snagged on Cuzzin Tom’s unmanicured big toe and off your project, your yarn and your needles floated, but you couldn’t wake him up, because, in his meditative state, he might very well be the only thing holding together the world as we know it. Which means you’d have to just sit and wait and hope he brings your project around again. These are the sorts of small things we’ll have to resolve as we go along. This and, apparently, what kind of yoga we’re going to teach.)

New positions and positions added-to:

Admin and Tech

  • Bankers: Barb in Texas, who is willing to contribute her Monopoly money, and Lisa in Oregon who is looking for loose change in her furniture

  • Counters and Keepers of the Monopoly Money: Angela, Samina

  • Update: 1:48pm PST Procurer of More Monopoly Money by Way of Grants: Emma (yup, this is the same Emma who only applied to be a visitor at first but now she has a bona fide job!)

  • Attorney: Kim (who is already hard at work on the yoga issue)

  • Writer of Irate and Sanctimonious Letters to the Local Press Defending our Lifestyle: Julia

  • Additional Tech Support: StalkerAngie

Sports, Dance, Health and Such

  • Update: 1:48pm PST Doctor: Lorette

  • Additional Belly Dancers: Kit and Joan

  • Additional Midwife and Baby Whisperer: Alison

  • Co-Director of Games: Debra

  • Yoga Instructor: Nathania

  • Pool Girl: TMK

Crafts, Arts, Music and Games

  • Additional Basketmakers: Samina

  • Quilter: Nathania

  • Maker of Marvelous Costumes: Lisa

  • Provider of Endless Beaded Stitch Markers: Marti

  • Defender of the Right to Crochet: Robbyn

  • Feerless Steek Cutter: Janine

  • Second-Sock Finisher: Susan

  • Finisher of UFOBOs (Unfinished Objects Belonging to Others): Maggi

  • Update: 1:48pm PST Procurer of Fleece: Melinda

  • Fiddler: CarolineF

  • Update: 1:48pm PST Flautist: Ali

  • Poet: Maggi

  • Photographers: TMK and Anj

  • Update: 2:27pm PST Portrait Painter: Emma

  • Update: 2:27pm PST Cribbage Mentor, although she'll have to fight with Cuzzin Tom and me for the right to this position. More work for Attorney Kim!: Mary


  • Bakers: Nathania, Angela, Kim

  • German Pancake Provider: Robbyn

  • Maintainer of the Never-Ending Crockpot of Chili: Chery

  • Update: 1:48pm PST Baker of Jolly Decent English Scones: Ali


  • Professor Anne’s Teaching Assistant: Kristen (who, by the way, Anne, really is a graduate student in, of all places, Pittsboig)


  • Animal Husbandry: Robbyn and me.

  • Pooper Scoopers (Hey, don’t look at me! They volunteered!): Samina, Janine (who, together, are Jamina.)

  • Cat Groomer: CarolineF

  • The Lady with the Furry Anne, who is different from Professor Anne.
  • Worm Farmer: Professor Anne's husband, Sam. This is why.

Hey, who can do hair and nails? My nails are currently an astonishingly hooker-like sparkly bright pink, and I plan on keeping them that way.

Phew! I'm exhausted! But, as always, if I’ve left anybody out, lemme know your special skill! I've got a few updates left in me.

Posted by Ryan at 10:22 AM | Comments (34)

September 15, 2004

Welcome to the Mossy Cottage Knitting and Fiber Commune

The idea of the Mossy Cottage Knitting and Fiber Commune was inspired by the many readers who declared recently and in quick succession that they were abandoning their lifestyles, jobs and hometowns to move up here (har, har, har, everyone; har, har, har). Come! Join me on a quick tour of our new commune!

Members: Knitters, weavers and spinners, male or female, of any…er…“persuasion,” plus spouses, significant others and children, who want to live a fibery, communal but upscale-ish lifestyle.

Location: On these 40 acres in Okanogan, Washington. Gorgeous, no? Too bad neither I nor TMK nor anyone I know owns it. A minor detail.

Housing: Upscale yurts and geodesic domes with one super-colossal, ginormous dome for our Sanctum Sanctorum Stashorum.

Our Animalarium will include: Everyone’s pets, including, of course, Scooter, Cuzzin Tom’s parrot, plus sheep for the shearing- and spinning-inclined; angora rabbits for me, Robbyn and Melinda; a few extra corgis for LindaK, TMK, and Bron; horses for Nathania, TMK, Joan, Anj and me; a couple of alpacas; and one hamster. (Yes, TMK, I boldly fly in the face of your “no rodent” order! Ha-HA!) UPDATE, 11:18am: Big Sister reports she can also contribute a snail and some hermit crabs to our menagerie.

Transportation: In the interest of quiet and reduction of noise pollution, I vote for Segways.

Woodworker: Need I say? Except she needs to learn how to make spinning wheels.

Basketmaker: Vanessa.

Cooks: Everyone except me. Trust me, I'm doing you a favor.

Organic gardener: Norma

Almost-organic gardener: TMK

Musicians: TMK and Rachael’s new (ahem) “friend,” code word "Banjo Girl."

Scribe and historian: Norma, the court reporter.

Spiritual advisor, for those in need: Cuzzin Tom, of course (but, Tom, you’ll have to work on your Father Mulcahey act). UPDATE, 11:15am: Cuzzin Tom says he also wants to be Director of Avian Studies. Done. (Hey, I could get use to playing God!)

UPDATE, 3:14pm: Lay Spiritual Advisor: Janine. Both TMK and agree that just being in Janine's presence has a calming affect. She'd fit this role perfectly.

UPDATE, 3:26pm: Meg Swansen Channeler: Janine. While Janine is calming your inner child, she can simultaneously teach you how to design killer Fair Isle. Cool, no?

Storyteller: Sheila, who can make up colorful story full of wacky, folksy characters at the drop of a hat

Drama Director: Nathania (who, I believe, has been in movies or acted or, at the very least, has hobnobbed with the Hollywood elite. Am I right, Nathania?)

UPDATE, 3:34pm: Midwife: Stephanie

Child-rearing: We’ll do the “village” thing to free the moms and dads up to knit and spin and weave. And for those who are allergic to children, like TMK and me, we’ll have one child-free dome to escape to. Coincidentally, it'll be the Sanctum Sanctorum Stashorum.

Librarians: Anj, who currently does this for a living, I believe, and me.

Dance instructor: Belly dancer extraordinaire, Lisa.

Education: Anne, who is a professor at Duquesne University.

Games Director: My sister, who just recently received an air hockey game for her birthday. She needs to share. UPDATE, 11:18am: Big Sister reports she can also contribute a trampoline and hot tub.

Sports Coordinators: Debra, the baseball nut; Rebecca, who runs triathlons and swims for miles just for a lark; and Rachael, who recently ran 17 miles for the first time. (I know, I know, TMK; you like sports, too, but you’re already cooking, gardening, doing woodworking and providing tech and networking support (see below). Leave something for the other children.)

Directors of the Natural Dyeing Department: Melinda and me.

Monthly newsletter: Karen, who currently does a great job of it for Guild, plus anyone who wants to contribute.

Surveillance and security: StalkerAngie

Tech support, network administration: TMK, although this means that we will all have to use Macs.

Honorary Member: Barb from Texas, who has never met another knitter and whose sole responsibility will be to come be with us.

What am I missing? I know I’ve left some folks out but that’s because I don’t know what your special skills are. Robbyn? Joan? Samina? CarolineF? What unique skill can you bring to the table? Who still needs a job? Who wants to be assigned to one of the jobs already listed? And, oh, yeah, who has $50,000 to buy the land?


Thank you for joining me on this quick tour of the commune. The exit door to RealityWorld is right this way...

Posted by Ryan at 10:56 AM | Comments (47)

September 13, 2004

Transmogrification Complete

(Note to self: Do not apply chapstick to lips just before combing dog. Ptooie.)

Remember this pile o’ oak from my June 30 entry?


It is now this:


Amazing, no?

When The Mysterious K finished the clock, she brought it into the house from her woodworking shop, ostensibly to acclimate it to the indoor temperature and humidity, nevermind the fact that, it being the middle of September, the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity are exactly the same, but let’s not tell her. She put it on top of the entertainment center and, I kid you not, it—and its gently swinging pendulum—transformed the whole house, infused it with a tranquil and soothing “heartbeat” that hadn’t been there five minutes before. Theoretically, we were supposed to be watching TV but most of the night our eyes were a little above the TV and to the left, watching the pendulum. (Some of my looooooooooooooooooooooooooooongtime readers may remember my entry on "sprinkler watching". Same thing.) Anyway, this lovely clock is soon to be given away, so we are enjoying it as long as we can.

Knitting Knews
The gay knitting group on Sunday ended up being the perfect mix of straight and gay women, about ten all told, including a woman who was so eager to join the group she came despite the fact that she hadn’t knit in 25 years, had a broken leg, was on crutches, and had had to bum a ride from a friend because she couldn’t drive. That sort of enthusiasm puts the rest of us to shame, don't it?

If you don’t include the unsettling moments when an addlepated and odor-challenged homeless gent decided to wander in, help himself to water from the water cooler, and reach across everyone to the middle of the table to help himself to some M&Ms, I think this first meeting was a great success. I’d love to see more people at the group, especially more guys (preferably not addlepated or odor-challenged), so come on down if you can! The next one is Sunday, October 10, 2-4pm, at, again, the Fiber Gallery. (Also, if you haven't been to the Fiber Gallery, I recommend a visit. The owner, Mary, carries a lot of rare and unusual yarns, including bamboo !)

Posted by Ryan at 10:29 AM | Comments (18)

September 10, 2004

The Grass is Always Greener...

In an article I recently wrote for my Guild’s newsletter, I suggested:

Regardless of your initial vision for your blog, be willing to “go with the flow.” Your blog will most likely be a dynamic, changing entity that metamorphoses regularly. My readers, their comments, and the events in my life play an important role in defining what appears in the blog, and it’s not always what I had initially envisioned.

And here is a classic example. Today I find myself unexpectedly posting a picture of grass. Just grass. Dear Reader Norma, if you’re out there, this is for you. The Mysterious K pleaded with me to post this picture to prove that not all of her grass is in need of liberal and frequent applications of Rogaine. Here, a snapshot of her front lawn greenery, which she hand weeds on her knobbly knees. Luscious, no? So, to you, Norma, TMK and I both say, neener, neener. (For inquiring minds, the beautiful red flowers in the back are a miniature petunia-like ground cover called Calibrachoa "Million Bells." A great plant, if you're looking for a new annual to try next year. They come in red, purple, pink and a unique butterscotch and can be found at almost any nursery.)


I don’t have much else to write about today a la Gratuitous Story of the Day, but I do have two great links to share. Those of you who visited Vaire’s “Malvina” on Ebola Day will appreciate these pictures of the new clothes Vaire has knit for her, including, for the poncho-crazy, a miniature poncho.

And those of you who have a soft spot in your heart for puppies and baby bunnies (which should cover just about everybody except Satan, who doesn't read my, I don't think), will melt at the pictures of the puppies and bunnies on this blog, specifically the first picture under the "Puppies" heading and the one picture under the "Bunnies" heading. Make sure to click on the pictures to see the larger versions. You will instantly become a big melted puddle on the floor, gar-awn-teed.

Knitting Knews
Since the knitting part of the Celtic Pillow is done, the striped sweater is done, and the Oak Leaf Scarf is 75% done, I felt I could get away with adding a new knitting project to the queue, and decided to start Faina’s Scarf. My vision was to do this in a beautiful, unique color, something unusual and rare and exotic and breathtaking—but couldn’t find any such animal, in the right weight, at my LYS. So I went to Plan B, which was to ask myself what color would really cheer me up in the middle of a rainy Seattle winter. And the answer came back, “Self, the color that would really cheer you up in the middle of a rainy Seattle winter is Bright Tomato Red.” So I scouted around for a fingering weight yarn in BTR, which I found in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino. The pattern actually calls for a sport weight yarn but that makes a scarf which is 10” wide which, in my mind, translates to a scarf that is almost one frickin’ foot across—so I’m going with fingering weight and smaller needles in an attempt to downsize it a bit.

My opinion of the pattern? Very intimidating at first glance, since the instructions for the 423(!!) rows of knitting cover the back and the front of the main sheet of paper plus all of one side of an insert, and initially swirl into a morass of unintelligible chicken scratches. But once you take a deep breath and get started, taking it a row at a time, it’s a wonderful pattern. It’s not hard if you know how to do basic lacework, but you certainly have to concentrate and you…er, at least I…have to count your stitches at the end of every right-side row to make sure you haven’t left out an increase or decrease. Other than that, it’s the perfect balance of easy and mentally challenging, and somewhere along the line I realized that this pattern is the reason copyrights were invented: It’s unique, detailed, creative, beautiful, functional, and obviously the result of some extreme cranial sweat on Ms. Letoutchaia’s part.

One note for anyone planning to knit this pattern: When it says, "Cast on very loosely," it means Cast. On. Very. Loosely. Even if you are the Queen (or King) of Loose Cast-Ons, dig deep down in your soul and find a way to cast on even looser. I consider myself a QOLCO but still found I had to frog and cast on again because, with my first attempt, the scarf started making a big, loose, loopy curl right from the get-go.

Oh, wait, I forgot—I have a photo. Note no curl. See note about loose cast-on.


Upcoming knitting get-togethers: On Sunday, I'm going to my first knitting get-together for Men and Women Like Me and Men and Women Who Are Not Like Me But Wanna Knit With Us Anyway. If anyone wants to join, it will be at the Fiber Gallery from 2-4. On Monday, Ferals. On Wednesday, Guild. Party on, dudes!

Posted by Ryan at 03:30 PM | Comments (20)

September 08, 2004

America's Next Top Model

Thank you to everyone for their Get Well wishes. By early afternoon of Ryan’s Day of Grump, the attack of ebola had passed and I was feeling much better, if a little wonked out by my sudden and extreme U-turn on the Highway of Good Health.

Labor Day weekend was very quiet. In fact, the most exciting event was repainting The Mysterious K’s garage door. In white. Yawn. So, for your entertainment, more about the striped sweater, including what I hope you will find are entertaining photos.

(Non-knitters, you may want to skip this paragraph. It will probably bore you cross-eyed.) Just when I think I’ve got this knitting thing down pat, I do something so goony it surprises even me. At the last Ferals, I started picking up the stitches for the collar of the striped sweater, specifically, 19 stitches along the left neck edge. But no matter how many times I picked up the stitches, frogged them, and picked them up again, I still ended up with a good 2” of the neck without stitches. That is, until Dear Kit pointed out to me that the left shoulder, where I was picking up a goodly portion of the stitches, does not constitute part of the left neck. For those of you who don’t knit, trust me, knitters around the blog universe are rolling their eyes at me. And I, personally, am laughing at the image of a finished, seamed sweater with 1" of purple ribbing sticking straight up from the shoulder.

Anyway, thanks to Kit’s handholding, I got the collar knitted and the pieces of the sweater sewn together, and here be a picture:


Dissatisfied with this uninspiring photo (after all, just how many times can I take a photo of a Finished Object on the snow-in-summer ground cover?), I cast around for a better background, perhaps a more exotic plant…a quirky piece of furniture…a colorful surface…an interesting prop…and what should wander into my line of vision but The Dawg—which led to this:


Lest you think we tranquilized Frankie for our selfish ends, she is, in fact, happily and willingly demonstrating her best trick, the “Towel.” When she was a pup, I taught Frankie, on command, to lie down on her side on a towel so we could wipe her muddy feet and low-rider furbelly before she came in the house. At some point, the actual existence of a towel became immaterial, and now, in response to the command, she will just flop over on her side wherever she is.

“Towel” is particularly amusing when Frankie is already in the “down” position. Rather than slowly and carefully lying over on her side, as a larger, more gangly dog would do, she abruptly flops over with great enthusiasm and abandon. And if she does happen to be on a towel, she will follow “the Frankie Flop” with great snuffling and wuffling around in the terry cloth loops, and will propel herself around the surface of the towel with her hind legs.

However, as much as I enjoyed watching her do the “Towel,” I still felt unsatisfied with my photographic efforts. Which is when I noticed that the dog and the sweater were about the same size…


And, for good measure:


Before you even suggest it, I didn’t have a snowball’s chance of putting her legs through the sleeves. In fact, immediately after these photos were taken, Frankie decided she was done, took a step, got the sweater tangled up in her legs—and chaos ensued. I believe she even did a face plant, a complete snoot-in-the-dirt face plant. Oh, but we had a larf.

Final thoughts: This was a great, fun pattern. If you’re a beginner looking for something easy and fast to knit for someone age 2 through 12, I recommend it, especially if you want to try your hand at two-color knitting. I found no mistakes in the pattern, per se; just a couple of instructions that could have been written more clearly—and yes, I got stuck at exactly those places, and, yes, Dear Kit helped me out. Smooches, Kit!

(Note to Jenny in Pittsburgh: Today's news reports that the Fischer Fire was started by a spark from a bad exhaust system on a dirt bike. Oy.)

Posted by Ryan at 09:05 AM | Comments (23)

September 01, 2004

Warning: I Am In A Mood

I couldn’t feel worse today if I tried: migraine, stomachache, nausea, exhaustion, hot flashes (no, not that kind) interesting…er…digestive activities, plus the worst commute since chariots clogged Roman roads—and in a loaner car, no less, since my car is in the shop, with, according to the latest, the upholstery to its convertible top completely removed in a hunt for an elusive leak. And my tinnitus is driving me insane. Rather than infect everyone with my poopy mood, I think this usually more cheerful blogger needs to take a blogging break for the day, don’t you? Due to the Labor Day holiday, no posting on Friday or Monday either, but I’ll be back in fine fettle next Wednesday, cross my heart. In the meantime, everybody go visit Malvina at Vaire’s site. One look at her cheered even me up! Oh, and Vaire is knitting my Alhambra sock pattern! See her version here.

Update: Feeling much better now, most likely buoyed up by the good wishes of my Dear Readers. Thank you, Cuz, StalkerAngie, Nathania, Norma, Barb, Rachael, and Vaire. I suppose I should have mentioned—which will explain, Cuz, why I was at work—this ailment, whatever it is, comes on pretty regularly, so I know it's something that can just be waited out, especially if I apply liberal amounts of ibuprofen and caffeine. Don't know what it is (although The Mysterious K insists it's ebola), don't know what causes it, DO know I will always get better.

Posted by Ryan at 09:49 AM | Comments (16)