September 27, 2006

Ugly Duckling Redux

First, as a proud auntie, I have to send a big shout out and a "you go, girl!" to my niece, and, although I may be biased on, oh, so many levels, I think you will want to, too, when you read what she’s doing.

This bright and caring young girl has become involved in a program in which children assume the roles of United Nations representatives. Like the real representatives, they have to represent a particular country, champion a specific real-world issue associated with that country, and do their best to convince the rest of the “United Nations” to fund and support their chosen issue. Guess what country she has chosen? Mongolia! And guess what the issue is that she will be “campaigning” on? “Our” children, the ones who live on the streets and in the under-city tunnels! I’m just completely in awe of this program and of how my niece has taken the Dulaan issues to heart. You’re a pretty special kid, niece!

Secondly, imagine my delight when I received an email earlier this week from local knitter Irina containing this picture of a sweater knit from Avalanche yarn. As I emailed Irina back, “The last time I saw this yarn, it was lumped together in nondescript, amorphous skeins in a [clean] garbage bag, and now look at it!” But that is, after all, the magic of knitting, isn’t it, Dear Readers?

SteppeSweater2.jpg

Irina calls this the “Steppe Sweater” and says that, in its current incarnation, it would fit a child 10-12 years of age and would require approximately 600 yards of bulky yarn. She is writing up the pattern for this size and for a smaller one and I will post it to the suggested patterns site when I get it.

Distributing this yarn has been like having a college-age child who is good-hearted, friendly and easygoing yet who is a sloppy dresser, is sorely lacking in social skills, has a bad case of acne, and has B.O., but whom you still have to send out into the world to sink or swim. And two weeks later, he comes back with all of his appealing personality intact and yet now looking like Prince Charming with perfect skin, dreamboat eyes, a white, toothy grin, and charisma to burn. And this keeps happening over and over, thanks to people like Melinda and Irina!

I may or may not post Friday, Dear Readers, since, around noon-ish that day, TMK and I are climbing into our Conestoga wagon and heading over the mountains to Eastern Washington to visit the “mother-in-law” who has had wrist surgery. Not quite a trip to Venice but I’m looking forward to it all the same!

Posted by Ryan at 12:57 PM | Comments (18)

September 25, 2006

Last Year It Was Cloud Hats, This Year It's...

Remember how I said that I was going to knit Avalanche Vests until my ears bleed? Ta-da!

vests.jpg

All knit with Avalanche yarn, the ones on the left and right knit in the original colors, the vest in the middle knit from the cream-colored yarn that was subjected to a liberal trowelling-on of grape Kool-Aid.

The buttons I found for the red vest had a look, feel and matte color so identical to that of the yarn that it was as if someone had taken some of the yarn and processed it through a magical Buttonator, for reals. It’s hard to tell from this picture but, in the real world, if you squinched your eyes while looking at the vest, you wouldn’t even be able to see the buttons, they blend so well. As Stephanie would say, very "matchy matchy."

redbutton.jpg

And I think these sophisticated yet earthy silver buttons give the purple vest a little je ne sais quois:

silverbutton.jpg

I did discover while knitting Vest #3 that I need to make some modifications to the pattern—not errata, more clarificata, if you will. However, this does not seem to have stopped our Robbyn from putting the pattern through its paces! I am so thrilled!

I also learned this weekend that I’ve completely lost my sock mojo. I’ve knit, what, 30 pairs of socks? Meet #31, otherwise known as the Sock That Has Kicked My Glutes from Here to the Galapagos and Back.

badsock.jpg

Other than the change in color, do you notice anything strange or unusual or complicated about this sock? Anything? No? That’s because there isn’t anything strange or unusual or complicated about this sock. It uses the old vanilla formula of cuff, heel, heel turn, gusset stitches, gusset, foot, toe, and my old tried and true pattern, Evelyn Clark’s Railroad Rib, which I have knit three or four times prior.

I’m firmly convinced that the sock has become a sentient being and hates me with a vicious, blind hate, like something from one of the tackier episodes of the original Star Trek. It’s the kind of sock that you put down oh-so-gently and pick up oh-so-gently, only to discover that ten stitches have escaped from the microscopic needle and have run six rows down just for the hell of it; the type of sock which develops a problem in the middle of the gusset which somehow forces you to frog all the way back to the beginning of the heel; the type of sock which makes you pick up 15 stitches on one side of the heel and 19 on the other and not notice until much, much later. And the sock is determined to drag both me and TMK down to the ninth circle of hell because this is the Koigu (now Koigu and Lorna’s Laces) sock I promised TMK I would make her to compensate her for the fact that I spent 110% of last year’s knitting time on Dulaan. Having watched me struggle with the sock until I was spitting, swearing, foaming at the mouth and clawing at my cheeks, she has been reduced to cringing in her chair and whispering guiltily at me across the living room, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.” Tragic, this, all of it. But as God is my witness, I will prevail, even if I have to clamp the sock into a vise grip to do it.

P.S. If you need a good laugh, take a gander at this entry from knit-blogger Erika who recently moved into a new abode.

Posted by Ryan at 01:37 PM | Comments (23)

September 22, 2006

Ryan Backpedals Like a Madwoman

Oh, the English language. Sometimes you just want to grab it by the short hairs and twist until it collapses on the floor and begs for mercy. To wit:

On my last entry, Becca left a comment saying, “I'm totally there for 5 before the end of October. I think my mom is still making items that she didn't finish in time for July.”

And Ginnie wrote, “I have one done already and will promise 5 by October’s end.”

Embarrassingly effusive smooches and hugs to Becca and Ginny for their willingness to bungee jump off the Dulaan cliff, but to clarify: If I do go ahead with the “sign 2,007 people up” event, you will have until next July to knit the five items, not just until the end of October. 10 months, not one. 300+ days, not 30. 39 weeks, give or take, not 4. October is merely the month when I will ask people to make the commitment so I can see how much play this new version of my “scam” will get; you will then have 10 months to make the five items.

But I can see, given how my last entry was written (see “short hairs” above), how you would think I was Machiavellian enough to demand 5 items in a month. But, no. Step away from the needles.

Thank you to the other knitters who are offering prizes for the competition. I may take you up on that! If I do this. If. If. If.

And, woot!, I am so excited—Franklin, cartoonist extraordinaire, current knit-blogging "it" boy, and aspiring practitioner of the way of universal compassion, has clambered on board the Dulaan bandwagon! He is so on board that he is already planning a knit-in and doing mega Dulaan PR on his blog. Thanks ever so, dude!

bluebar.gif

On the fiber front, the weekend before last, Blogless Elaine, Leslie, The Mysterious K and I went to the Puyallup (pew-A-lupp) Fair. After having downed some of the buttery scones that the fair is famous for, we very quickly discovered the building where local crafters—jewelry makers, spinners, knitters, potters, weavers—peddled their wares. As we walked in, TMK grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, emphatically and perhaps with even a very faint Mafia-like, threatening undertone, “I. Do. Not. Need. Any. More. Roving.”

So how do you explain this?

redroving3.jpg

This top is a beautiful, a rich, bright, consistent red that just begs to plied with another color for a fun, kicky yarn. La Mafiosa purchased it from Lin Schwider (site only seems to load in IE).

TMK will tell you that her spinning has been, well, meh. Her singles were thick-ish and slubby and the fiber—especially the softer, smoother fibers like the alpaca and the merino—broke constantly. And she just could not get the hang of what the other spinners seemed to do: Sit back comfortably, hold the fiber in one hand, and feed it forward with the other. So she decided to just take a step back, as it were, and spend as much time as she could at Ferals and at the fair observing other spinners. And, boy howdy, did that work! May I present her practice bobbin:

practicebobbin.jpg

This bobbin has on it a little bit of every roving or top she owns: the alpaca, merino, wool/silk blend, Wensleydale, Corriedale, CVM, blue-faced leicester and mutt. And from personal observation, I can tell you that it is all fine and slub-free, and that she spun all of it sitting back and feeding the fiber! Remarkable!

She has started spinning the red roving but it’s going slowly because every few minutes she has to stop, get up, steer me away from the wheel, and remind me that my drool is not helping the spinning process any. I can’t wait to see what happens with that roving, and I can’t wait to knit with the yarn she makes out of it. Oh, sorry, TMK. No pressure.

And while she has been perfecting her new skill, I have, as I mentioned, been dabbling with Kool-Aid. Here is the purple Avalanche yarn which, absent some armhole ribbing and a button or two, is now well on it’s way to becoming Avalanche vest #3. It’s more grape-y looking than this and very variegated with a few unfortunate blops of dark purple but it has a friendly aura to it and is knitting up well.

purplebulky.jpg

(P.S. In answer to the recent questions about making pants for Dulaan, F.I.R.E. will take anything we send them so, Ella and kmkat, bring on the pants!! Now, true, warmer is always better, but let me remind you of (a) the man who had no floor or windows to his house because he had sold the wood and the glass for food and (b) the baby boy who was wearing nothing, I repeat, nothing, but a light jacket in 20 degree weather. Given these circumstances, trust me when I say that pants, whether they be of single, double or even triple thickness, will be put to good use.)


Posted by Ryan at 11:23 AM | Comments (26)

September 20, 2006

And They'rrrrrrrre Off!

The launching of Dulaan on Monday felt remarkably like the start of the Kentucky Derby. I swear I felt the ground rumble as knitters came pounding out of the starting gates, sweatin’ and snortin’ and wild-eyed! A hosing off, hot mash, oats, hay, carrots, a roll in the dirt, and a neck pat for everyone when the race is over.

Trickle-downs from the announcement:


  • Norma and Gerald gave the launch great play on their blogs. Always appreciated, because the biggest challenge for me is getting the word out.

  • Cuzzin Tom has also been talking up the project. As he should since he started the &*%$#!$! thing (and then fled to Mongolia, but I’m not bitter). Apparently he will actually be helping distribute some of the items this winter in the Eastern Gobi. I expect some fabulous photos from that quarter!

  • Robbyn has announced The Dulaan 2007 Kick-Off Contest. Go! See! Compete! Win pretty yarn!

  • In answer to Minnie’s question, I will definitely be doing the Brigade this year but I’m going to try something slightly different, something, dare I say, slightly edgier? Because our 2007 goal is so humongous, in the month of October I’m going to try to get 2,007 (same number as the year, get it? I’m so clever I could just die.) people to commit to knit five items for Dulaan, giving us right off the bat—if this insane idea works—10,035 items. Everyone who finishes their five items (or more) will then be eligible for a drawing for a Really Spiffy prize, perhaps a set of Denise needles. I haven’t decided yet. Just from Monday’s comments alone, Kirsten, Norma, Nancy O., Connie, and Cass already qualify. But wait until October, until I officially launch this insanity, to sign up. My brain needs time to sort out all the details. And the rest of me needs time to chicken out. 2,007 is a hella lotta people to track.

  • In answer to Minnie’s question about what we’re knitting this year—the same as always: Clothes for children from ages 2-10 primarily but anything and everything else you make will be welcomed with open arms. And don’t forget the fleece blankies! F.I.R.E. says the blankets are their Numero Uno most important item.

  • Melinda has knit and posted the pattern for an Avalanche Sweater, big bruddah to the Avalanche Vest. Thank you, Melinda! I’ve forwarded your blog entry to my contact at the rug company because she says everyone there is on pins and needles, waiting to see what we make from the donated skeins.

  • MaryB, I definitely do want to have a Seattle Dulaan knit-in, and soon. Maybe the middle of or the end of October? I’ll be in touch.

  • Caroline asked how to put the Dulaan button on her blog. Caroline, the one thing I do know is that you have to right-click on my button, click “Save Picture As” and then save it to wherever you keep your blog files on your computer. Then, if blogspot is anything like MovableType, you’ll have to upload the image to your blog the way you would any other picture. If there are any blogspotters out there, can you provide mo’ bettah details? I get this question a lot and would like to be able to answer it more intelligently.

To help keep you inspired, two more photos from F.I.R.E., a “before” and an “after.” The first photo shows a young girl who wasn't going to be able to go to school in the winter because, per Meredith, Mongolian schools won’t let the children attend unless they are dressed warmly enough.

before.jpg

The second photo shows her completely kitted out in her knitted items (only some of what they gave her). Now, come winter, she will be able to attend school—proof that we’re not just sending clothes, we’re creating opportunities.

after.jpg

Keep in mind that, although in the “before” photo she’s wearing a t-shirt and shorts, when the photo was taken it had already snowed that year.

On Friday, photos of the knitterly/fiberly goings-on in the Ryan/TMK household.

Posted by Ryan at 11:22 AM | Comments (25)

September 18, 2006

Dulaan 2007!

Announcing...

Dulaan2007LogoLarge.jpg



1. An Overview For Newcomers to the Project
2. Information For Returning Participants
3. How Can You Contribute?
4. What Is Our New Goal Number?

1. An Overview for Newcomers to the Project

children-neighbor.JPGDulaan is a cooperative effort of the Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E., 501c3), Mossy Cottage Knits, and the Kunzang Palyul Chöling (KPC) Buddhist community of Poolesville, Maryland. Dulaan (which is Mongolian for “warm”) is dedicated to helping the struggling and impoverished children and adults of Mongolia. Due to economic and political upheaval, unusual and disastrous weather conditions which have devastated the nomads’ livestock herds, and “normal” weather conditions which frequently reach -40 degrees in the winter, there are many children who live in heating ducts below the capital city of Ulaan Bataar, and adults who scavenge through garbage heaps to survive. (For more pictures of the extreme living conditions in Mongolia, see these earlier blog postings—Entry 1, and Entry 2.)

To help the Mongolians, the Dulaan Project encourages crafters to make and provide two kinds of items: double-thick fringed fleece blankets like this, and knitted or crocheted items. The knitted or crocheted items can be made out of any warm yarn: Wool, acrylic or blends. You can make anything: Scarves, hats, blankets, mittens, socks, neckwarmers… And you can use any color.

You will need to ship your finished items to the F.I.R.E. by July 1, 2007 so they can be shipped to Mongolia in time for the winter. See this detailed flyer (in pdf format) for address information and specifics about how to box and ship your items. Feel free to use this Box Inventory Form to list the contents of your box when you get ready to ship.

See "How Can You Contribute?” for all of the options and possible activities related to this project. As you can see, if knitting clothing or making fleece blankets are not your cup of tea, you can help us by simply getting the word out.

Please note that this project has no political or religious affiliation. We have no agenda other than to provide the Mongolians with the essentials needed to survive harsh winter weather.

back to table of contents

2. Information for Returning Participants

Thank you to all of you for the phenomenal success we had in 2006. As you know, originally 2006 was supposed to be the final year but, because of the overwhelming response and the number of items contributed, we will be continuing Dulaan for at least one more year, if not more.

The deadline for this year is July 1, 2007. See "How Can You Contribute?” for a reminder of all the different ways you can help with the project.

Here is this year's list of suggested patterns, including, as always, the patterns that have been designed specifally for the project.

I have reposted the Dulaan button for you to steal, and the Dulaan Box Inventory Form for you to use for your boxes.

back to table of contents

3. How Can You Contribute?

1. Make fleece blankets. I’ve included two blanket patterns on this list of patterns.

2. Knit or crochet items. I’ve listed quite a few suggested patterns on this list, but you can knit whatever you want as long as its warm and durable!

3. Help spread the word. Feel free to print and distribute this color flyer or this black & white version (both in pdf format). Give it to your friends, your guild members, family members, co-workers or local scout troops; post it at your LYS; post it at your place of worship; link to it from your blog. Talk the project up; put it in your guild newsletter. Be creative!

4. Copy the Dulaan button in the upper-right-hand corner of this page to your server and display it on your blog.

5. Design patterns for Dulaan.

6. Visit this blog for updates!

back to table of contents

4. What Is Our New Goal Number?

Just as we did last year, our new goal number will be one more than the year before. Therefore, this year our new goal number will be:

12,086

Obviously we have our work cut out for us!

Welcome, everyone, to another year of Dulaan!

back to table of contents

Posted by Ryan at 01:00 PM | Comments (27)

September 15, 2006

Brave New World

In March of this year, I wrote:

“Since small talk and socializing have historically not been TMK’s cuppa tea, it has always been my habit, when we are at parties or gatherings, to touch base with her, even if just through eye contact, to make sure she isn’t getting overwhelmed by all the badinage. This means that there is always a faint but definite “live wire” between us; the one of us always knows where the other one is and how she's holding up.

About half-an-hour into Monday night’s [Ferals], I noticed something odd. There was no “live wire,” no hum, no “invisible connection,” no pull between me and her. How could this be?! I looked around for TMK and discovered, to my horror, that she was—there’s no good way to say this, so I’ll just get it out—perfectly happy. Mon Dieu! And sacre bleu! She had quickly been absorbed into the spinning group and was, in fact, quite contentedly chatting away while fondling different fibers (cashmere, silk, alpaca—yummers!), looking at the different types of spinning wheels and, at one point, using Andrea’s wheel to practice plying. In short, she didn’t need the faintest bit of rescuing. Huh.”

Well, ever since that shocker, things have gone from bad to worse. During the last couple of weeks, TMK had been making some vague noises about perhaps going to Village Yarn & Tea’s monthly spinning night. Not surprisingly, “we” were going to go, because I assumed that she would need me to go with her to make introductions, be the icebreaker, be the bridge between her somewhat-non-fibrous world and the insanity that is the world of knitting and spinning.

As the days progressed, though, I noticed a strange phenomenon: She stopped saying “we.” And started saying “I.” As in, “I, TMK, am going to voluntarily go to a social event and spend time with a room full of strangers, engaging in small talk. Alone.” Whuh?! Had the world gone mad?!

Once I realized that she was, in fact, determined to go to the spin-in alone, I started taking mental bets on when my little introvert would chicken out. 2 days before? Nope. 1 day before? 1 hour before? Nope. 5 minutes before? Nope. Right on schedule, off she went, lugging her (borrowed) Louet and a handful of aqua blue-faced leicester. And there were no huge claps of thunder and lightning did not strike the earth.

Then I entertained myself by taking bets on how soon she would come home. Would she make a sharp u-turn halfway there and be back on her doorstep in 15 minutes? Nope. Half an hour? Nope? 1 hour? Nope. 3 hours later I get a call from a perfectly happy and chipper TMK saying so-and-so, so-and-so and so-and-so had all been there, and she tried different wheels, and she spun, and she talked, and…

Yes, the world has definitely gone mad.

What did I do while the world as I knew it fell apart around me? I stayed home perfectly contentedly and Kool-Aid dyed some of the avalanche yarn. I opted for grape (9 packets; after all, we were talking majorly bulky yarn) and came out with an unsatisfying, blotchy, slate-gray purple. However, a large pile of green Kool-Aid packets and another four skeins of avalanche yarn are still burning a hole on my kitchen counter. This Dr. Frankenstein ain't done yet!

I also started doing yet another design of the Avalanche Vest. My most favorite style of knitted item, bar none, is anything that has a cable band running around the bottom like Coronet, Kepler, or Samus or has the cabled look and feel of Rogue and Eris so I’m trying to design a version of the vest that has a horizontal cable around the bottom, vertical cables bordering both sides of the front, and a stand-up cabled collar. The results so far have been, um, interesting. It doesn't help that, for my experimenting, I'm using leftover bits and bobs of avalanche yarn, so the cabling along the bottom is a dark terra cotta and the body of the sweater is a bright acid-yellow. Not a good look.

Posted by Ryan at 11:31 AM | Comments (13)

September 13, 2006

PlayStation: 1, Ryan: 0

Sometimes I can be truly pathetic. Witness last night. The Mysterious K was invited to a baseball game by Pasticcio Patti so TMK and I made a deal: I would spend the evening at her house, I would dog-sit and, in return, I could use the Playstation. (Not that she hoards the Playstation in a Scrooge-ish manner or dusts it for fingerprints whenever she leaves the house for a few minutes. It's just that we usually play it together; it's a relationship "thing." I do, however, have one crappy, low-tech RPG game that she has no interest in and that I play on occasion when she's not around.)

What this meant was I spent from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. figuring out how to get the game started. Three hours, people, with an occasional break for a shower, some curry, and the call of nature. Had you been a casual observer, at one point you would have seen me staring hopefully and eagerly at what looked like a very promising blue screen while holding in my hands every remote control--four, I think--that I could find. But, no, none of the million tiny, black, rubbery buttons--and I pressed them all--did the trick. I did manage to turn on and off (and on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off) all of the other mysterious black boxes stacked on her entertainment center and somehow I managed to set her TV sleep-timer to 180 minutes but, no, the game never started, no little figures started to march across the screen, no gold, armor or general bling was collected, no loathsome swamp creatures were massacred.

In my defense, TMK had told me to press some button, somewhere that said "Video." And when she came home and I whined pitifully at her about my three hours wasted and about how I had held up my end of the bargain by feeding and watching the dog and how I did not get to play my video games and how she owed me, she pointed at a button on the TV remote control that very clearly said..."Input." Video. Input. Video. Input. Nope, not the same word, not even remotely (pardon the pun).

bluebar.gif

As promised, here is the pattern for the seamless Avalanche Vest (it's in pdf format). Warning: This pattern was written by someone who knows just enough to be dangerous. Although I had a mountain of help from my knitting senseis, I still recommend that you treat every bit of it with great skepticism. I had a great time writing the pattern, though, and intend to knit these little vests until my ears bleed.

Which reminds me. I do not, I repeat, do not believe in horoscopes or any of that astrological mumbo-jumbo. That does not mean, however, that I'm not occasionally, um, sucked in which is why I know that yesterday's Yahoo horoscope for Aquarius said:

"Creating new things will bring you an exceptional level of satisfaction right now."

Huh.

Posted by Ryan at 03:27 PM | Comments (10)

September 11, 2006

TMK, I've Got Your Back!

9/11. Thinking about it. Not talking about it. Let’s move on.

First, looooong-time readers (especially Rebecca) will remember this posting from 2003:

“In my city, some of the on-ramps have traffic lights that quickly alternate from red to green to red to ensure that only one car enters the highway at a time. Recently I witnessed a driver interpret the alternating lights oh-so-literally. When the light turned green, she inched forward; when the light turned red, she stopped. Then she did this again. And again. And again. And again. Until f-i-n-a-l-ly she reached the Magic White Line that signaled the end of her strange little odyssey and sped off.”

Friday, I saw this same thing again. For the third time in all.

Please, somebody explain to me what these people are thinking. That the light is actually just a test of your reflexes? That it has a bizarre electrical short and that, until it’s fixed, you are compelled by law to respond to its every nuance? That the light was installed by one of our more mischievous City of Seattle engineers? That 4:45 p.m. on a Friday afternoon was a good time to bust out in some comedic performance art? Please help me understand!

Also on the hard-to-understand side but something that will be appreciated by you fiberists out there, I present the Kooky Kraft of the day (although this isn’t a Kraft but more a genuine business venture), Welsh sheep-poo paper. No comment.

bluebar.gif

We spent most of this weekend learning that the human anatomy is ass. My bad back got well enough just in time for TMK to pop hers out again. Fun times. So we engaged in a lot of couch-warming and TV-watching which allowed me to (almost) finish the (almost) seamless version of the Avalanche Vest, “(almost) finish[ed]” because the ends need to be woven in and the buttons need to be attached and “(almost) seamless” because you do have to seam the shoulders, a whopping 14 stitches total, 7 on each side.

red_avalanche.jpg

I won’t say knitting this seamless version was easy but I documented everything, no matter how small, as I went along so the pattern should be pretty spot on. The only thing I’m missing is how much yarn I used, either by weight or by yardage. I know that it takes four skeins of Avalanche yarn, but I have no idea how much that actually is. I hope to solve that mystery and post the pattern this week.

Responses to a coupla comments: Kathleen wanted to know how big the Amber hat was and commented that her Cloud Hats seem to come out big. Kathleen, the Amber hat would fit teens to small adults. Also, I have seen some Cloud Hats come out the right size (again, teen to adult) and others come out, as you say, large, even for an adult. I tend to be a very tight knitter and the pattern was written for my knitting style, so you might want to go down to size 10 or 9 needle to get a smaller hat. Also, the hat size can be controlled by going down in increments of six stitches. I have knit a few Cloud Hats using 54 stitches instead of the recommended 60 or 66.

CarolineF: On behalf of TMK, may I say thanks for the words of encouragement on the merino! TMK was frustrated enough to go back, for now, to her tried and true—blue-faced leicester (thank you, Anj!)—and was able to spin, spin, spin without mishap, so it must just take practice and understanding your wheel a little better.

Question to you spinners out there: The blue-faced leicester is variegated. It goes from white to light aquamarine to medium aquamarine. If you ply two singles of the variegated white/aqua together, won’t the colors just get muddy, and won’t you just end up with a sort of personality-challenged medium-aqua yarn? Remember I know nuthin’ about spinning but it seems to me that this is what would happen. Alternatively, I could leave all the spinning and plying and question-asking to TMK and not stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong.

Naaaaaaaaaah.

Posted by Ryan at 11:35 AM | Comments (25)

September 08, 2006

Learning Stephanie-Speak

(Sorry for the late post today, Dear Readers. The blog host was not cooperating.)

Things I learned from and about Stephanie:

1. Things are either “ass” or “not ass.” For example, American beer: “ass.” Seattle coffee: “Not ass.”

2. Lake Ontario is large enough to surf on. Apparently Torontoans (Torontoites? Torontohoovians?) are inordinately proud of this little-known fact and enjoy springing it on unsuspecting and geographically challenged Americans.

3. There is no “south” in Toronto. You can go east, west or north but not south because, well, see Overly Large Body of Water above. We have a lot of "south" in Washington, a south that continues all the way down to Oregon, California, Mexico, South America, even Tierra del Fuego, if you're feeling adventuresome enough. At the end of our tour of downtown Seattle, we had to walk ten blocks south to get back to Stephanie's hotel and I think even that little taste of the unknown, of the physically impossible, left her feeling confused and twitchy. It was our revenge on her for her having sprung the vastness of Lake Ontario on us when we were so unprepared.

4. Communication between Americans and Canadians goes much more smoothly if you can whip an entire atlas out of your purse. Which she did.

5. Canadians give distances in time, as in, “it would take 15 minutes to get to that restaurant which, by the way, is not ass.” Americans give distances in, well, distances, as in, “The restaurant is five miles away and, you’re wrong; it is ass.”

6. She can get anybody—and I mean anybody—to hold La Sock for a photo op. It is a remarkable talent. You think, “Nope. No way. The fishmonger would never…” and five seconds later, you are all huddled around her digital camera, peering at a picture of a local fishmonger holding her sock and, in fact, playfully peering through it as if it were a loupe. We have, however, discovered her secret: a unique, stealthy, "swoop in and swoop out" technique which leaves the victim holding the sock and reeling from the camera flash before he ever knows what hit him.

7. If you make the mistake of drafting fine merino top (which doesn't, apparently, need drafting), when you spin it, it will get sucked out of your hands and into the spinning wheel so fast you will be left gasping and sputtering with astonishment and disappointment. (TMK, who received a pantload of beautiful white merino top from Stephanie and which she tried to spin last night, reports that, at least in her case, even if you don’t draft it, chances are you will still be left empty-handed, clutching vainly at the place where the strand of top used to be, gasping and sputtering with astonishment and disappointment. This is ass. Although, perhaps, with practice, this will become not ass.)

8. The molecular weight of heparin is 3.2. Don’t ask.

Moving on. As promised, photos of the two FOs completed last weekend.

The first one is a sweater knit using an online pattern I can’t find anymore and Paton’s Décor acrylic/wool blend, in both a purple, green, brown variegated colorway and in a dark plum purple. The collar of the sweater shown in the pattern was obscured by the collar of a shirt so, all too late, I discovered the sweater was designed with a boat neck. In my world, boat necks are about on par with sock monkeys so I slapped a collar on. I wasn’t sure how it would work since the boat neck had so little shaping but it worked poifectly!

patonsweater1.jpg

This is a hat I knit using leftover Cascade 220 and this pattern. The pattern caused me much aggro since the chart, which is all of 4 x 5, had two mistakes in it (round 3, square 3, and round 5, square 3 should not have “x’s” in them) but this hat was still fun, easy, and a great way to use up mini-balls of yarn. It was also the first hat I’ve knit where you make a flat “envelope” at the top and then meet the two flaps in the middle, origami-like. Again, fun. A keeper. The pattern I mean, not the hat. The hat has Ulan Baatar written all over it.

magknitshat.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 02:29 PM | Comments (24)

September 06, 2006

TMK and Ryan Expand Their Culinary Horizons

We knew this long holiday weekend was going to be unusual; we just didn’t know how unusual.

We were recently invited by (sadly, now blogless) Elaine and Leslie to join a dinner club, essentially a potluck with a college education master’s degree. We were thrilled to be invited...until we heard what the September “Ingredients of the Month” were:

(1) Apples. Snap! No prob! You can do anything with apples: appetizers, salads, entrees, sauces, breads, even Angry Pie. The all-purpose ingredient. Easy-peasy. As good as done.

(2) Rose hips. Yep, those weirdly alienesque, bulbous, reddish berries that appear on rose bushes after blooming, used by Native Americans (which we are not), natural-healing juju types (which we are not), medieval reconstructionists (which we are not), people who drink herbal teas (which we do not) and, apparently, Swedes (which we are not).

And the ingredients had to be used together, in the same dish. And we had been assigned appetizers, often the artistic showpiece of a meal.

That’s about when little beads of sweat began to form on our upper lips and we started to exchange anxious, sideways glances, playing a fruitless (pardon the pun) mental game of "chicken." Rose hips?! What do we know from rose hips? We wanted to impress the people at the dinner club, not (a) kill them or (b) look like a coupla bush-league rookies. So, we rushed home and squeezed together in front of the computer, only to find this:

“Anyone using rose hips for cooking should remove all the seeds. They are covered with sliver-hairs that, when ingested, irritate the digestive system and cause what the aboriginal people call 'itchy-bottom disease.'"

“Itchy-bottom disease?” Well, this was not going well.

But we soldiered on, and eventually decided to make miniature phyllo-dough cups (store-bought, pre-baked, ready to go; we weren’t stoopid) filled with brie (no rind, for those of you who remember the infamouse brie rind entry) and home-made apple, rosehip and wine jam, which would then be baked and sprinkled with toasted and diced almonds.

Proof of our insanity, jars of apple, rosehip and wine jelly made by none other than the infamous TMK herself.

jam.jpg

Ultimately, though, we had fretted and sweated for nothing. The dinner was wonderful (although next time we’ll bring sparkling apple cider and stemware so we won’t look like such rubes clutching our cans of Coke amidst what turned out not to be just a gathering of gastronomes but wine connoisseurs as well). Everyone made us feel very welcome, and we even received a smattering of applause for our offering. Huzzah! And, remarkably, almost every single dish served—the other appetizer, the salad, sorbet, pork loin, stuffing and vegetable—included, yes, both apples and rose hips and was out of this world, both sweet and savory and unquestionably delicious!

And no one, as far as we know, has come down with itchy bottom disease. Elaine?

To top off our unusual weekend, we had the privilege of spending considerable time with La Stephanie, including during her book signing, a dinner, a lunch, and a leisurely wander around downtown Seattle.

Here, La Stephanie photographs La Sock against a background of La Puget Sound...

steph-sock.jpg

and, here, La Stephanie and I ham it up for the camera. (I have no idea where that ultra-casual, arms-flung-wide stance of mine came from. That’s just not me. Perhaps it's the look of someone who has successfully avoided itchy-bottom disease.)

ryan-steph.jpg

In-between playing bon vivant and being a gibbering, fawning celebrity fan, I did get two Dulaan items finished. Photos on Friday!

Posted by Ryan at 12:55 PM | Comments (18)