December 30, 2005

Kiss Your A__ Goodbye

(No posting Monday, Dear Readers. Back on Wednesday. If the universe still exists. See below...)

Rule #348 of Knitting: Stockinette curls.

Rule #349: A combination of knit and purl stitches prevents curling.

Rule #350: Rule #349 is a pile of complete and utter malarkey.

See, my plan was

(You can already tell this isn't going to end well, can't you? Any story that starts with “See, my plan was…” isn’t going to have a happy ending.)

See, my plan was to knit a quick little scarf as a Christmas gift for a two-year-old boy. Because Various and Sundry Traumatic Past Experiences have forced me to memorize Rules #348 and #349, I added a seed-stitch border to the scarf to prevent it from curling. It was supposed to look like this:

scarfbefore.jpg

However, when you pick it up off the flat surface whereupon it resteth, it reverts to its True Self which is amorphous, wormy, shapeless, and very, very inwardly curly:

scarfafter.jpg

Even TMK, who is a big fan of my knitting efforts and applauds even the worst crap I churn out, looked at it, paused, and wrinkled her nose. That tells me that I have finally managed to knit something that isn't even good enough for a two-year-old boy whose idea of being dressed up is making sure he got one leg in each pant leg and whose idea of being clean is making sure the mud stains from Wednesday cover up the peanut-butter-and-jelly stains from Tuesday which cover up the milk stains from Monday.

See, the Secret Knitting Mafia doesn’t tell you about Rule #349b: A combination of knit and purl stitches prevents curling, but only where the knit and purl stitches are. If the rest of your fabric is made of stockinette and is flat, it will curl and curl and curl until you want to scream.

So now, with 24 hours to go before the New Year's Eve Poker-Playing and Finger-Food Fiesta, which is when I plan on giving the mommies the scarf, I’m feverishly churning out an identical scarf which I will then sew wrong-sides together with the first one so that the curling of the one will negate the curling of the other. What I won't tell them is that while the little boy will think he’s sporting a warm and brightly colored gift from his loving “auntie” around his neck, he will, in fact, be wearing two rectangles of cosmic matter that are locked in an eternal and violent struggle against each another for ultimate intergalactic supremacy. Someday in the future, the scarf will explode, and the universe as we know it will cease to exist. My apologies in advance, especially to the women who had just gotten their nails done, and the men who had just waxed their cars.

Posted by Ryan at 11:17 AM | Comments (19)

December 28, 2005

Belch! (Excuse me. Sorry. It's all that darned Christmas food.)

Nothing like a return to blog world to brighten up the post-Christmas, pre-New-Year’s doldrums, I say! A happy hello to all my Dear Readers!

bluebar.gif

In a bittersweet moment In the movie, “Lilo and Stitch,” Stitch, the manic and fang-toothed yet weirdly adorable alien creature, refers to himself and the two Hawaiian sisters who adopt him as a “small and broken family.” Which, the first time we heard it, made us mist up instantly (you know, the kind of “mist up” that you try to pretend is caused by something in your eye). And which we also instantly adopted as a label for ourselves. I mean, we have no illusions about what a wacky little threesome we make: Two women who are in a committed, monogamous relationship but don’t live together, and an extremely short and red-furred substitute child. But we take care of each other as best we can, forgive the small transgressions, work through the big ones, and help each other avoid the bad in life, ferret out the good, and soldier on, which, in our eyes, is what makes us a family, small, broken, or otherwise.

And all of this always comes to a head at Christmas when, every year, without fail, TMK and I are blessed with an avalanche of thoughtful and carefully chosen gifts from family, from pseudo-family, and from each other; an abundance of good food (including French Puffs for breakfast and Cranberry Pork Roast for dinner!); and a few golden days during which those daily relationship “spats” just seem to disappear for a while and you reconnect as a couple. And this year was no exception.

Gift-wise, I won’t go into detail about the absolute embarrassment of riches, but I will let this picture speak for itself.

happygirl2.jpg

A 6-bar pack of Toblerone and a knitting book? Chocolate and sock patterns? Double-barreled Christmas heaven! Thank you, Big Sister and “mother-in-law.”

And another gift which made me gasp with surprise, a second black-on-black Mata Ortiz pot given to me by TMK, who, through great subterfuge, ordered it from the same place in Sedona where I purchased my first one.

mataortiz2.jpg

Here, the smallest member of the small and broken family poses for what looks suspiciously like next year’s Christmas card.

christmastree2005.jpg

And, here, modeling gig over, Smallest Member joyfully rips the crap out of some wrapping paper.

frankieripping.jpg

And a photo for my sister who doesn’t believe that I still have this Christmas ornament she made for me eons ago, one of those kinds that you make out of flour and water, bake in the oven, and then lacquer.

oldornament.jpg

I am all the luckier to still have this ornament since, the other, similar ones she made that year had, by the next year…um…succumbed to their flour-and-water roots and become soft, moist, moldy and odoriferous. My little guy has lost his hook for hanging on the tree but otherwise has survived unscathed, lo, these many years. (Is he not cute? And he’s a lamb! With fur. For fiber. For knitting. How appropriate—although when she made it for me, my knitting skills were nonexistent and, had I had a knitting needle in my possession, I would most likely only have succeeded in poking myself in the eye.)

Ah, but it’s good to be back! Friday, proof that I did get some knitting done between bouts of sleeping, eating, and wallowing in largesse.

Posted by Ryan at 09:22 AM | Comments (18)

December 16, 2005

Y2K?

I sense a great disturbance in The Force. The most current entries from various blogs, like Janine’s and Julia’s, seem to have disappeared into the ether—poof! A little bit of sleuthing led me to believe it was a Typepad thing but now I see that Norma’s Typepad site is fine and Rachael’s site—which isn’t a Typepad site, as far as I can tell—is also missing its latest entry. Whut the fuh? Could it be that the long-threatened Y2K chaos and "interruption of service" is finally catching up with us? Should we all be heading down into our well-stocked bomb shelters to live out the rest of our lives? (Fine by me, as long as TMK allows me to bring my entire stash.)

On a completely different subject, this morning it was an icy 25 degrees out. And I mean icy, you know, that kind of cold where every surface is frost-white, hard, and slick, the air hurts your lungs going down, and the inside of your nose gets weirdly crispy. Which is why, during my commute, I was astounded to pass a Mercedes Benz convertible, zipping along at 60 miles an hour…with the top down. You decide, Dear Readers:

No postings next week, Dear Readers, since I will on Christmas Holiday Christmas Holiday Christmas vacation. In the meantime, however, Frankie, TMK and I would like to dedicate this to all of you who have, by returning to the blog again and again and by being willing to share parts of yourselves with us, given us yet another year of fantastic and supremely enjoyable online fun:

santapaws.JPG

Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, and Happy New Year to everyone!! (Phew!)

Posted by Ryan at 10:58 AM | Comments (24)

December 14, 2005

Oh, But My Burden Is Heavy

This blog has become entirely too important to some people. Sure I’m late posting today but I didn’t realize how late until half an hour ago, when I received a phone call from my better equal half demanding, “Where’s the damn blog, poo-poo head?” And to think that 2.5 years ago I hesitated to tell her about the blog at all and now she’s its Biggest Fan and Sometime Contributor. And a bossy boots to, er, boot.

Never mind that at 10am I was in a meeting parsing Web site data and pretending, as the department manager, that I could discourse intelligently about things that are entirely over my head; at 11:25am I was in the Batmobile, its tires squealing as I raced madly to our local Honey Baked Ham store to procure sliced pork product in time for an 11:30am potluck; and between 11:30am and 12:30pm I was face down in a plate of delectable potluck goodies and making small talk with my co-workers, the blog not even the faintest blip on my radar.

But now this poo-poo head has run out of excuses. The entire rest of the company is downstairs doing White Elephant/Kris Kringle/Gift Exchange activities—which I loathe with a Scrooge-like loathing—and I’m up here twiddling my thumbs. So, while my too-full stomach makes curious and unattractive burbling noises, I present a feast for the eyes:

As my long-time readers know, I belong to a group of knitters called the Feral (for Fair Isle) Knitters. At our last meeting a week ago Monday, I swear that each thing the ladies brought out of their knitting bags was more beautiful than the last. Behold:

A brown cabled vest knit by Wendy for her red-haired munchkin Ralph:

brownvest.JPG

A pink sweater knit by my bestest pal June (I think this is for her niece):

pinksweaterfull.JPG

Just look at these perfect stitches!

pinksweatercloseup.JPG

As proof that at least some of us do indeed live up to the group name, two mittens knit by Suzanne using the same pattern but completely different colors. Isn’t it astonishing how different they look?

fairislemittens.jpg

And the best for last, a sweater being knit by Norma:

feralsleeve.JPG

This close-up shows the colors pretty accurately although, if anything, the colors are more jewel-toned. Betcha you just want to reach into your monitor and touch, don'tcha? Knew it.

feralsleeve2.JPG

Where’s my project, you ask? I believe I was on Version 6+ of the Neverending Hat so let’s just not go there, ‘kay?

From down the road a skosh, my nephews in San Diego modeling, one reluctantly, one luctantly (?), the fleece hats Big Sister is making for Dulaan:

fleecehats.JPG

All the hats, all at once’t!

allfleecehats.JPG

And, lastly, for a chuckle, a Kooky Kraft (scroll down to page 3 to see someone actually wearing—or having his brains sucked out by—this creation).

Posted by Ryan at 02:13 PM | Comments (18)

December 12, 2005

Girl Fight!

Remember how I said last week that the remodel of the guest room was going well and that “most remarkably of all, TMK and I have not beaten each other to death?”

Scratch that. Things have gone rapidly downhill since then...although I wouldn’t summon the divorce lawyers quite yet, since our last fight over the redesign went something like this:

“You suck.”

“No, you suck.”

(pause)

“You’re a stupid fart.”

“No, you’re a stupid fart.”

(pause)

“You’re a poo-poo head.”

“No, you’re a poo-poo head.”

(pause)

“You suck.”

“No, you suck.”

Etc.

And, ultimately, as Dr. Phil would say, we’re avoiding the real issue which is that there isn’t a single straight line in the guest room, not vertical, not horizontal—heck, I'm starting to suspect even time bends in this room—which is making the installing of the wainscoting a pain in the patootie, and that the true poo-poo heads are all those TV shows that fool you into thinking this stuff is easy.

But things are getting done. Again, the room before:

euww.jpg

The room now, painted and with some of the wainscoting up. You can’t see it in this picture but where the level is leaning against the wall, the wall actually bows out and back in again. Fun to work around. Not.

room2.jpg

The old closet door in a putrid, pointless plum:

plumdoor.jpg

And now:

whitedoor.jpg

And the one part of the process that went without a hitch—putting a brass switchplate up. Now that we can do!

lightswitchcover.jpg

In between bouts of “You suck,” I did get some knitting done for the avalanche of babies at work. The arrival of the twins gave me an excuse to try this pattern which I had wanted to try ever since Anj mentioned that her partner Sue had knit it. For this sweater, I used an outrageously bright, lime-green Plymouth Encore. The second one will be done in a bright purple, even though this may make me single-handedly responsible for scarring the twins’ psyches so deeply that, as adults, they avoid bright sunlight, wear nothing but brown and beige, and only speak in a whisper.

greensweater.jpg

My opinion of the pattern: Has its problems but is so fun, fabulous and fast, who cares? In fact, I can’t wait to start the second one.

That being said, there is one part of the pattern that befuddled me. Maybe someone can ‘splain it to me. Now, I understand short-rowing and have done it many a time (hell, I even survived making the Fiber Trends Felted Clog pattern which is as close as you can come to short-row aversion therapy) but I got lost in the short-row part of the sweater pattern.

Below is the confusing part. The part in bold is what’all I don’t understand and my questions/comments are in red. Note, you're doing all of this between two stitch markers that are about 30 stitches apart, and I understand that you're just supposed to shuttle back and forth between those two markers like a shooting gallery duck...but that's about where my brain short-circuits.

Round 1: K1,P1,K1, P1 (seed st) knit until 3 sts before next marker, K2tog,K1, PM, K1, SSP, knit until 3 sts before next marker, K2tog,K1, PM, knit until 3 sts before next marker, work a short row (got this/did this), purl back (to where?) and work another short row, knit (to where?) to finish (“finish?”) that short row, purl back to finish (“finish?”) the other short row, knit to the next marker, PM, K1, SSP, knit until 3 sts before next marker, K2tog,K1, PM, K1, SSP, knit until last 4 sts, work in seed st.

Fortunately, there was an out: The next paragraph contained 12 liberating little words: “You can omit the short rows on the back if you wish.” Which I did. Which ‘splains why the sweater is finished except for seaming under the arms, and why I’m hungrily eyeing the purple yarn.

Oh, and sixth time was the charm for the pink hat:

xmaspinkhat.jpg

P.S. TMK, you're a poo-poo head.

Posted by Ryan at 10:40 AM | Comments (20)

December 09, 2005

Olympics, Here We Come!

The latest score: Rats: 0. TMK: 2. Or 2.5, if you count the mummified one Exterminator Guy found in the crawlspace. Euuuw. And thank you, everyone, for sharing your rat/bat/cat stories. Some of them made me bray out loud, some of them made me wanna hurl, and some of them made me want to conduct a violent commando raid on the places that manufacture that sticky paper. (A violent commando raid on, or a peaceful protest at; I can’t decide. I have Rambo on one shoulder and Gandhi on the other but Rambo is currently beating the crap out of Gandhi, the riot police have arrived, and the whole thing is turning messy.)

Since I have completely run out of things to write about, and don’t even have any photos, it’s time to trot out my Fallback Story And True Confession.

My house is an A-frame style with a loft bedroom above the living room. To get up to the loft, you climb a circular staircase and, once up there, you can look over a half-wall back down into the living room. (Sounds all grand and dramatic, I know but, trust me, this place is s-m-a-l-l. There’s barely room for both me and the staircase in the living room. And God forbid you should invite a guest over. When Very Tall Brother-in-Law visits, the whole place shrinks dramatically, à la Alice in Wonderland.)

I keep my stash in the loft, which means that every time I want to add some new acquisitions, I have to climb the spiral staircase. That is, until the day I realized I could just as easily stand down in the living room and lob the balls of yarn up and over the half-wall. What makes this extra fun is there are no consequences. If you miss and hit the wall (which I do about 99.9% of the time because the wall is 20’ tall and very wide and, besides, in the dictionary, next to the phrase “throws like a girl,” you’ll see a picture of me), the ultra-soft projectile merely bounces off the top of the TV, onto the coffee table and onto the floor, no harm, no foul. And if you do get the yarn over the wall, again, it doesn’t hurt anything on the other side, no matter how hard you throw it.

Okay, okay, there’s one consequence: The bed, the furniture and the floor in the loft are currently 6” deep in disorganized piles of yarn and finding yarns to combine for a project is a complete nightmare.

That and, oh, yeah, I threw my shoulder out once doing this. But, hey, other than that…

Doesn’t this beg to be turned into a competitive indoor sport, Dear Readers, something akin to basketball? What would the scoring system be? 2 points for getting the yarn over the wall?

Extra points for how far across the loft the yarn travels before it lands? Bull’s-eye points for hitting the loft window?

More points or fewer depending on the size and weight of the ball of yarn—more points for chunky, fewer points for lace? Or would it be the other way around because lace is lighter and harder to throw? Would the ultimate challenge be finding a way to throw a piece of roving over the wall?

Fewer points if the yarn is already wound into a ball, more points if it's still in the less-aerodynamic skein configuration?

Extra points if it goes over the wall and then lands in something, like a vase?

Would you lose points if you hit the wall, but then gain points depending on how many things the yarn hit on the way down?

How many points would you get if the yarn bounces off the wall but you catch it? What if you skewered it with a knitting needle mid-air? While standing on one foot?

Oooo, what about a scoring system similar to skating? One set of points for technical merit, and another for artistry?

Oh, the possibilities! This will definitely have to become the official sport of The Mossy Cottage Knitting and Fiber Commune.

And, now, off to compose my letter of petition to the Olympic Games Committee…

Posted by Ryan at 11:59 AM | Comments (10)

December 07, 2005

Rat Bastard

rat.GIFThere are two things in this world that will send The Mysterious K running for the hills: Birds and rats. (So, heh, imagine how she behaves around pigeons, the proverbial “rats with wings.” Yeah, she behaves like that. I, on the other hand, stretch out my hand, say “Here kitty, kitty” (because, hey, what else do you say when you’re trying to entice an animal to you?) and try to convince them to land on me. When I was in Piazza San Marco in Venice and was covered in pigeons, I was very, very happy. Pigeons rock.)

So further imagine how TMK the Phobic reacted when, last week, she discovered that an uninvited guest of the unwingèd but scaly-tailèd variety had moved into her house. She simultaneously discovered what a completely useless dog Frankie is.

(I should preface this by saying that TMK is meticulous. The fact that she had a rat bastard in her house was not so much a sign of bad housekeeping or bad hygiene as of rat ingenuity. And dog laziness.)

TMK left the house early last week to run an errand. When she came back, she discovered to her horror that, while she was out, a rat had left 20 or 30 little rat “gifts” on Frankie’s kitchen bed. On the dog bed. Which reeks of dog. Which reeks of natural enemy. What kind of freak of nature was that rat, anyway?!! Apparently Mr. Rat had made free with the kitchen and had scuttled around to its heart content for God knows how long and the Useless Dog had not so much as budged from the couch. Perhaps she deigned to lift her head, but we will never know.

Since then, TMK’s best friend ever, Exterminator Man, has come and gone and the Rat Bastard has gone to the Big Wheel of Cheese in the Sky with an extreme case of whiplash. (Note to rats everywhere: Peanut butter is not your friend.) What we are left with, however, is a house that, overnight, has become extremely inconvenient for humans. The garbage can no longer resides under the kitchen sink but in the middle of the kitchen. The recycle bin ditto. And they both travel arbitrarily around. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve dropped on the floor in the place where the garbage can used to be. The cabinets under the sink have been lashed together with masking tape. Which isn't very strong. Which means that every time I wrench open the cabinet, having forgotten that the garbage can is now traveling around the kitchen floor, I have to tape it back up again. Every door has a towel stuffed under it, making them hard to open and close. The huge bag of dog food, which had also been visited by Our Little Friend, has now been made Difficult To Get To by dint of its being placed in a large, heavy, unwieldy tub.

But what makes it all worth it are TMK’s tales of what she did during the three nights of the three days she had to wait for Exterminator Man to come. She slept with all the lights on, she slept with the Useless Dog between her and the kitchen, and when she did, indeed, hear the Rat Bastard scuttling around in the cabinets in the wee hours of the morn, she shot out of bed, dragged Frankie with her into the kitchen, said the trigger words that are guaranteed to send Frankie into a barking frenzy (“Mommy,” “romp,” “Marco,” “Polo,” “frog and wombat," “French onion soup.” Don’t ask. And, yes, each one of these words has a story behind it.), and, I believe, joined in on the barking herself. All while scantily clad. What an image.

And I, as always, knit serenely on. Okay, perhaps not so serenely, since we’ve had a plethora of baby acquisitions at work. I say “acquisitions” because two are adopted, one who was rescued from druggie parents whose idea of “babysitting” was leaving the four-month-old baby in a car for hours while they went out to buy drugs and who subsequently had their parental rights terminated by the state, and another who is being adopted in China as we speak. Yet another employee has new grandtwins and one other employee has a baby in utero, with an estimated arrival time of sometime in May. For the twins, I’m currently working on one of these in remarkably bright lime green Plymouth Encore. The other one will be a similarly remarkably bright orange. The parents need not fear losing those babies in a crowd...

And we continue to work on the guest bedroom. The doors have been painted white, half of the wainscoting is up, the trim and the chair rail have been painted in preparation for being installed, the curtains are on order—and, most remarkably of all, TMK and I have not beaten each other to death. Woot!

Posted by Ryan at 12:07 PM | Comments (24)

December 05, 2005

A Four-Letter Word That Begins With F

TMK: Does things once. If they’re not perfect, she makes one attempt to wrassle 'em into a state of semi-perfection. If that doesn't work, she deals.

Ryan: Does things over and over and over (and over) again until they’re perfect. Has developed a few peculiar twitches as a result of being this way.

Which'all explains why TMK came completely unglued this weekend watching me knit one hat five times. One hat. Five times.

The issues were this:

Size (adult small, meaning small in circumference yet, as always, deep, in order to reach the adult ears which are always surprisingly far away from the top of the skull)

Pattern (feh; wherever the wind blew me)

Yarn yardage (I had 87 yards of a bulky yarn—and no bloody idea how much fabric that translates into. ‘Sides, I complicated things by being determined to use as much of the yarn as possible because, really, what the hell can you make with, say, 6.4 yards of leftover bulky yarn?)

So I tried:

Version 1: Rolled brim with 66 stitches on size 11 needles. Too big. Ran out of yarn.

Frog.

Version 2: Rolled brim with 60 stitches on size 11 needles. Too big. Ran out of yarn.

Frog.

Version 3: Rolled brim with 54 stitches on size 11 needles. Getting there size-wise but...ran out yarn. Eh? What gives?

Frog.

Enter Ryan’s Epiphany of Sunday, December 4, 2005: Rolled-brim hats are a frickin'-frackin’ waste of frickin’-frackin’ yarn! A good 50% of the yarn was being slurped up by a decorative element that is cute, granted, but completely useless. It doesn’t help the hat stay on, and it certainly doesn’t warm one’s ears. In fact, if you roll the brim down to cover your years—which negates the point of the rolled brim in the first place, yo’—it immediately curls up again…and keeps rolling up as the day progresses until you look as if you have a diaphragm perched on your head.

Time for a rethink.

Version 4: Ribbed brim (single layer) with 54 stitches on size 11 needles for the brim, and, what the hell, size 13s for the crown: Size now tickety-boo but, what’s this?! I had too much yarn left over, like, half the frickin’-frackin’ skein!. Oy.

Frog.

Version 5: Ribbed brim knit deep enough to fold up with 54 stitches on size 11 needles for the brim, and, what the hell, size 13s for the crown: Size tickety-boo, and it seemed as if I had reach the Holy Grail of Just Enough Yarn For Just Enough Hat—until I held up the completely finished hat and realized it was deep enough for the recipient to crawl inside of and live quite comfortably. It was larger than a New York City studio apartment, at any rate.

Frog. (Actually, a semi-frog, just down to the beginning
of the decreases. Would that be a "tadpole?")

Version 6 tonight, with the Ferals or at home. In either event, far, far away from TMK’s aghast stares.

(P.S. Nobody believe a word Elaine says about me.)

Posted by Ryan at 01:46 PM | Comments (19)

December 02, 2005

Slap On Your Drool Cups, Knitters!

At the last Guild meeting, our speaker was Marjorie Puckett of Honey Lane Farms. Marjorie’s presentation was curiously revealing, especially when she disclosed how, if you (a) don’t plan to breed your alpacas but simply keep them for pets or for their fiber, (b) don’t plan to show them, (c) don’t care if they have flawless conformation because, well, see “B”, and (d) are willing to have an all-male herd, you can buy alpacas at astonishingly reasonable prices, not the $265,000 paid for this handsome fella. (Proof! Look at the cost of the young male at the bottom of this page. He can be yours for a whopping $264,400 less than the other guy.) She also talked about the steep hidden costs and the complexities associated with getting llamas sheared and getting the fiber processed. For me, her straight talk about the ins and outs of alpaca husbandry was very refreshing, although I suspect alpaca breeders, shearers, and the fiber processors don’t much appreciate her brand of raw, renegade honesty.

But all of that paled in comparison to the piles, nay, mountains of alpaca yarn she brought with her. Have a look. Every centimeter, inch, yard, foot, however you want to measure it—pure alpaca, my friends.

alpaca4.jpg

alpaca3.jpg

alpaca5.jpg

Marjorie sells exclusively DK-weight yarn, and this stuff is lervly—soft and saturated with color. Let the record show, however, that I Did Not Buy One Single Skein...and, yes, it hurt to walk away, something akin to ripping your tongue off an icy pole (or, in TMK’s case, a Fudgesicle).

Speaking of fiber and such, after a long time absence, a new Kooky Kraft!! Here, thanks to Boing Boing, a coupla web sites featuring the an artist who makes things out of vacuum cleaner lint.

The artist's site

The MocoLoco site

A special hello goes out to my niece who called me for no reason, the best kind of reason, yesterday! Niece, the snow didn’t stay around very long so I wasn’t able to take photos for you. Sad face.

Big Sister, your Typing Toasties are finally in the mail!

(P.S. Dear Readers, my comments have been acting wonky. If you're having problems, please let me know.)

Posted by Ryan at 09:59 AM | Comments (25)