Archive for September, 2006

The Old Bandit Chaps

Friday, September 29th, 2006

I have one word for you: Netflix.

Over the past two years, Netflix has revolutionized my relationship with our “home theater,” a lavish facility here Chez Stoux D’Ent that includes a two-bit DVD player hooked up to a 13-inch TV. No expense has been spared to bring high quality entertainment into our gracious home!

I was always the person who got to the video store and—put on the spot—could not think of one thing I actually wanted to watch. Half the time, I’d just get overloaded and confused and go home with nothing.

Those days are over. Thanks to Netflix.

(I swear I’m not getting kickbacks from the company for writing this. I swear. But if you, Joe Netflix Marketing, are reading this now, feel free to get in touch with an offer. Everyone has a price. And the price of a graduate student continues to drop as her dissertation drags on. It’s a little-known scientific law called the “Inverse Sell-Out Principle.”)

And I get a lot of knitting done while I’m watching my DVDs from Netflix. Shelley can vouch for this:
Oh, dear God, why? Why? Dogs don’t wear shawls!

We’ve been systematically watching all the extant episodes of Deadwood and, inevitably, Battlestar Galactica. Some of you who know about my uneasy relationship with sci fi and fantasy will peg Alex as the prime mover behind BSG. I’m just dying patiently waiting for the humans to triumph over the cylons—predictable inspiring as that will be—and for it all to be over.

In the meantime, I’ve made the Regia Bamboo socks, the ones I so cruelly abandoned in August when I took up with Icarus in Vegas, my BSG project:
Ever notice how no one ever knits on a space ship? I just want to point that out.

But I can highly recommend a delightfully maudlin, 1979 Soviet film we got from our “people” at Netflix entitled The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath.

Not only does Irony have Soviet production values that are so bad they’re good, but it features many strange and jarring jump cuts, enough to make you suspect that the editing crew was painfully underpaid, driven by unreasonable time pressures, and chronically drunk on Stoli.

Comrades, these were good and prosperous times in Soviet Union!

But if you watch it, watch it for the subtitles. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

To be fair, most of the dialogue was translated pretty well (and, I want to emphasize, certainly far, far better than I could do from English into Russian), but the film also includes several songs sung by its main characters. Here things went terribly, horribly wrong.

Song lyrics that were presumably mellifluous, even moving, in Russian were evidently fed word-by-word into a Russian-English dictionary by someone with a rudimentary grasp of the English language and they came out on the other side limping and bleeding, maimed beyond all recognition:

“I cognize both wisdom and happiness…” Cognize?

“You have left your besom in the bathhouse/
And the trumpets are deaf making you…”

Anyone who can convincingly explain to me what “besom” means in this context wins a ball of Trekking XXL and an honorable mention in the design contest. Even if you don’t design anything.

And my personal favorite, which deserves a little context: the gist of the song—as nearly as I could make out through the fog of translation—was that it is potentially better to experience love that is not passionate, but steady and sustainable.

“I do not blush from a stifling heat upsurge/
Whenever your sleeved arm rustles my trousers.”

(For proper scansion—if, heaven help us, that nicety enters into this foul rendering at all—I believe that here “sleeved” is to be pronounced in two syllables, “sleeve” and “ed”.)

Let’s hear from the translator, shall we? What have you got to say for yourself, Boris Mikhailovich?

“Comrades, I translate Russian song into good English with large dictionary using first word I see in entry. Is usually most popular!”

Apparently, Boris Mikhailovich also provided translation services for other films, giving us such wonderful English titles as (I’m not making these up), “Galoshes of Happiness,” “The Old Bandit Chaps,” and “Karl Marx: Young Years.”

Only heaven knows what was intended by the original Russian titles, and heaven keeps its secrets. Even in the face of a stifling heat upsurge.

Scribble me in

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

I have one new photo today and it is of Hugo. 

Hugo 9-28-06 

Doesn’t he look sweet all curled up in his corner of the living room?  See that little orange thing in the corner?  That’s his favorite toy–it’s a stuffed Garfield refrigerator magnet that I think came in a Happy Meal years ago.  Somehow it has become a dog toy; with dogs, as with children, there’s just no knowing what they’ll take to.  He pulled the plastic eyes off right away, but now he just mostly carries it around in his mouth.

I’m starting to get a little worried about his undercoat growing back in this fall; so far it hasn’t and he’s seeming a bit thin in spots.  I suppose, as with so many things, I must just trust the process.

I could have taken more pictures of Blue Bamboo, but not that much has changed.  I’m still just knitting away on those 21 inches, and every photo looks curiously (or really not so curiously) the same. And I don’t want to bore everyone with the same photos day after day.

I started to get this niggling desire to START SOMETHING NEW last night.  I saw a photo on someone’s blog (sorry, I don’t remember whose) of their recently finished scribble lace scarf.  I’ve been wanting to try one of those for a while now, after reading about the technique in Mason-Dixon Knitting and before that in a Debbie New pattern in Interweave Knits some years ago.  Trouble is, I don’t really have the perfect yarns with which to embark on a scribble lace scarf.  I have some that might come close, but the ribbon I own seems a bit too narrow.  Hmmm.  Maybe a little yarn shopping expedition would be in order.

I started to think about ribbon yarn for scribble lace while lying in bed last night and I had an intriguing idea pop into my head.  What if you made your own ribbon “yarn” out of bias-cut strips of silk or rayon fabric?  There’s a technique that I’ve seen in quilting books where you sew a sort of giant tube of fabric and then cut it round and round on the bias to create your own custom-made bias tape.  Would it work to use that as ribbon yarn?  The possibilities for color would be endless, and depending on the fiber content of the fabric, the hand of your finished “yarn” could vary widely.  You could even hand-dye or hand-paint the fabric first before cutting it to get some interesting color effects.

Man, I need more time! 

Home is where the housework is

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

It is eerie, isn’t it, that my sister has a large stash of Danubio Style, the very same furry yarn that I deputized my friend to snag shameful quantities of at the Knit Out. Could there be something genetic in the attraction to brightly colored hairy yarn?

Is there anything we can do to avoid passing on this gene to our offspring?

On a related note (that is, the note of shameful yarn acquisition), the spirit of honesty forces me to make an accounting of the yarn that I have acquired since going on the so-called “yarn diet.” I shall proceed mathematically:
Four hanks of Nature Cotton.

Four balls of Danubio Style. Yessiree, there are four.

And what’s this? Two new balls of Trekking XXL, shown here enjoying their morning latte. I tell you, these yarns just move right in and make themselves at home.

Math is not my strong suit, but if I do not miss my mark, that makes ten total new balls of yarn. Where Operation Yarn Asceticism called for zero.

I find myself now thinking fondly of my dear uncle, who is always explaining his latest diet to you.

“Ellen,” he’ll say, while popping a massive bite of chocolate cake into his mouth and washing it down with a swig of port, “this is a great new diet. I’m cutting out all alcohol and sweets and most bread.”

Which brings us full circle…straight back to the genetic explanation.

Icarus is finally getting his feathers:
The excitement Chez Wax Wings ‘R Us can barely be contained.

But now we must turn to a darker topic: housework. While Alex was studying for his big exam—which he passed yesterday, praise be!—the house has descended further and further into chaos and savagery, particularly in those areas that are in his chore bailiwick.

Not exactly surprising and certainly forgivable.

However, at some point during the post-exam celebrations yesterday, my friend Dawn and I had this unsettling conversation:

Me: Oh, ha, ha, you know the house is a wreck because Alex has been so busy with this exam. I can’t wait for him to do his backlog of chores now that this is over! We’ve been living in degradation and savagery for the past two weeks.

Dawn: He actually does chores? Huh. I don’t mean to scare you because I know you guys are getting married next summer, but I don’t know a single married woman whose husband does his fair share of the housework. Personally, I had to spend the first two years of our marriage fighting with my husband just to get him to do minimal chores. And when was the last time he made me something to eat? I can’t even remember!

Me: Really? You mean this is really going to get worse after we’re married?

Dawn: Well, I don’t know. I’m just telling you my experience.

Now, you all know that I’m not exactly Heloïse myself, but I try to keep things above the level of chaos and savagery. Is Dawn’s dark prediction likely to come true?

Married women readers, what are your experiences?

Is Alex just doing chores now and executing unpleasant tasks like clearing off the Sunporch of the Damned as part of a nefarious plan to fool me into believing that we will have an equal partnership? When actually I will be stuck either doing everything in the house myself or having to argue about it constantly?

Is there any consensus on this topic? Do tell.

True confessions

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Ellen called me on Sunday night and gave me her account of the Boston Knit-Out, including the tale and description of the so-ugly-it’s-cool furry fuchsia yarn she managed to acquire.

“Oh my, that does sound dreadful!” I laughed.

Imagine my shame and horror, then, when I actually read her post yesterday and realized that that self-same so-ugly-it’s-cool furry fuchsia yarn (Katia Danubio Style) is a yarn that resides in my stash.  Not only does it reside there, but it resides there in several different colors.  Not only does it reside there in several different colors, I made a co-worker a scarf out of that yarn last Christmas.

Katia Danubio Style

I realize that anything I say in my own defense at this point will no doubt seem both slightly pathetic and self-serving, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I kind of like this yarn.  It’s a mostly wool fur yarn, which is rare, and I purchased it with the intention of using it in some felting projects.  (Which, no, I have not done yet.  There are many knitterly things I have not done yet.  That’s why I need to quit my day job and become a free-lance knitwear designer.  Oh sorry, that just kind of popped out.)

Aaanyhoo, Danubio Style knits up pretty nicely.  I was pretty pleased with the scarf.  It’s waaaay better than, say, the Fun Fur you get at Michael’s.  So there.

In other news, I am still working on those 21 inches of Blue Bamboo that come before the armhole shaping.  I’m into my third skein of yarn.  Will I have enough?  Only time will tell.  Stay tuned for further developments…

blue bamboo 9-26-06

Boston Knit Out

Sunday, September 24th, 2006


Despite inconsistent weather and threat of rain, the Boston Knit Out took place on the Boston Common this afternoon. But we are New England people! We are stoic and unmoved by inclement weather, which comprises 85% of our weather in any given year.

Icarus enjoyed the event, where he met many admirers:
It may be hard to see in this photo, but I am now well into the second chart. Someone, please. Alert the media.

At our Woolcott booth, a good time was had by all:
Kat and Tope knit while…

Joanna fondles the cashmere. The cashmere should feel honored, because Joanna is an actual, legitimate genius. I do not say this lightly.

Sean, meanwhile, demonstrated the wonders of On Line’s Solo, the self-ruffling yarn.


And here Sean models the lovely ruffled wrist-let:
If you have ever ruffled using the old method—the exponential increases—you will recognize what a godsend this self-ruffling yarn truly is. The last time I ruffled, I became nauseated and dizzy and had to lie down for a spell before I could proceed. I was…ruffled.

The festivities included spinners:
My ignorance of spinning precludes further commentary on this photo.

And there was…free yarn! What can one say, but “yes”?
A skein, or four, of Araucania Nature Cotton.

These people are just like drug dealers. “First one’s free.” Then they get you hooked and pretty soon you’ve got an entire room, or four, in your house packed with yarn and you’re robbing convenience stores to get more yarn money and…you know the whole sad story, don’t you?

This is painful to admit, but because I was feeling the horrible deprivations of my yarn diet, I got a bit addled and overexcited and in the heat of the moment did something indefensible.
And the winner in the “So Bad, It’s Almost Good” category is Katia, Danubio Style.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “That’s not so bad. She only has the one ball of the weird fuchsia furry stuff.”

Or four.

The shame is very, very great.

What makes it even worse is that I didn’t want to appear to be a Danubio Style glutton, so I roped Tope—who not only hates fuchsia but is a fine, upstanding person—into snagging the final three balls for me.

That’s when you know you’ve reached rock bottom. You’re just one step away from waking up in a room full of chunky fuchsia acrylic fun fur clutching a credit card receipt for $937.27…and having no idea how you got there or where all this yarn came from…

Tope is a good friend though. A very good friend. After she procured the Dubious Danubio Style for me, we silently contemplated the “sheep” directly across from our booth.

Kat broke the silence. “You know, I keep looking up at that thing and thinking a mangy dog has somehow managed to find its way in here. It’s disturbing.”

“Yes,” Tope said.

More silence. It was almost 4 p.m. The Knit Out was on its last legs, as were we.

“Hey,” said Tope. “Do you have time after this to get some food?”

“Yes,” I said emphatically.

“Great, let’s grab a sausage.”

Kat looked at me. I looked at Kat. Someone had to say it. It was just hanging there, like a ripe tomato on a vine.

“Great!” Kat said, her eyes twinkling. “There’s nothing I love more than grabbing a sausage!”

The Suspense

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

I’ve been plugging away on Blue Bamboo.  She now looks like this:

blue bamboo progress 9-22-06 

I realize that this is virtually the same picture I offered on Wednesday.  Not much to be done about that; I have 21 inches to knit before starting the armhole shaping.  I’m 1/3 of the way there.  I’m starting to have my habitual and predictable fear that I will run out of yarn halfway through the second sleeve.  That’s why I knit–the suspense.

blue bamboo progress 9-22-06 

I started listening to The Echo by Minette Walters last night while knitting.  She is one of my favorite mystery writers–her books offer a little more psychological drama than your garden-variety mystery.  Check out The Scold’s Bridle if you have a chance.  Come to think of it, I need to reread that one myself.

A couple of Friday-after-a-long-week photos for you all.

Hugo, apparently seeing one of the cats doing something highly suspicious in the corner.  (Actually, when aren’t the cats doing something highly suspicious?)

Hugo 9-22-06 

And Rob, looking both goofy and handsome.  (It takes a truly gifted man to do that, I’ll tell you.)  That’s another one of his artworks hanging on the wall above the refrigerator.

Rob 9-22-06

Have a lovely and productive knitting/fiber weekend.

The Red Mojito in Wonderland

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

A big hello to Westside PC, The Green Caipirinha, SuperMouth Beatty, and Blackberry Villa from me, The Red Mojito! May we knit long and prosper under our various new aliases, all thanks to The Blue Cosmo!

Westside PC, aka Diane, noted that my mother has refused to tell us any of her funny names. I suspect it’s because my mother actually is a superhero. So if she reveals her superhero name, well, her cover will be blown.

I’m basing this suspicion on my observations of her in the 70s and early 80s when she was raising two daughters, teaching 8th-grade English full time, running a household, seeing that we all got something to eat three times a day, and keeping up with contemporary literature and current events.

If that’s not super-heroic, I don’t know what is. Superman and Batman are both shaking their heads in wonderment still.

The Red Mojito started work on Tuesday at Woolcott and Company and is pleased to report that it was absolutely delightful. By definition, working at the shop means that I am surrounded by yarn and knitters. The Red Mojito in Wonderland.

This coming Sunday afternoon, I will be at the Woolcott booth at the Boston Knit Out, so come on over and see me now, y’hear?

A lot more than usual has gotten done on Icarus because—are you ready for this?—if it’s a slow day at the shop and there’s nothing else pressing, we are encouraged to knit during work hours.

I must have done something good in a previous life.

Remember that last skein of Alchemy Haiku?

Now it looks like this:

You cannot hold back the inexorable tide of progress! Especially with a swift and a ball-winder handy there at the store!

Icarus is now large enough to form a valley wherein the remaining yarn may dwell:

And, even more importantly, I am now ready to go on to the second chart!

You cannot imagine how eagerly I have awaited this day. Or, if you’ve been reading the blog lately, maybe you can…

Meanwhile, Alex is taking his big “General Examination” next Tuesday, so things are tense Chez Wax Wings ‘R Us. Under the circumstances, a certain amount of stress is perfectly justified.

Because basically, if you do a doctoral degree in any branch of history, one of the requirements will be that you pass an oral examination administered by a panel of four to five professors who sit in a room with you for two to three hours and grill you on approximately 250 books that you were supposed to have read in the previous five months.

This is the exam he has to take next week.

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, this is actually classified as “unlawful torture,” but they slide it through on the grounds that it is “traditional.”

It’s traditional torture.

No one thinks it is actually educational, but—like Marine boot camp—it shows that you’ve got guts, by God. That you are the kind of soldier student who can go into a room with four or five dazzlingly learned (and occasionally sadistic) people and come out in more or less one piece two or three hours later.

You have to go in there—and here I can’t do any better than to quote a friend of my parents who was given to rather crude turns of phrase—and “show them that you’ve got more *ss than they’ve got teeth.”

(As an aside, don’t you secretly love that quote? Even though it…how shall we say? Lacks refinement?)

It’s just the tiniest bit daunting. In precisely the same way that the fifth ring of hell is just the tiniest bit daunting.

So let’s all wish Alex well. And hope that our household can get through the next few days gracefully, calmly, and with no futher skunkings. There’s not too much more, frankly, that the traffic can bear.


Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I got all my hair cut off this week.  This was kind of a big deal, since my hair was pretty long.  My hairdresser, Linda, measured and said she cut off about 15 inches. 

Here I am, posing with my new haircut and new cardigan, Nicola.  My head feels light and free!!

Sarah's new haircut 

It was actually cool enough to wear Nicola today, which made me happy, even though I had to go to the doctor this morning because I’m just not kicking this cold.  It’s settled in my sinuses, and I’m now juiced up on antibiotics and Allegra.  Then I spent the afternoon in bed.

I did work on Blue Bamboo last night, and made some good progress, although I had to rip out both fronts after I realized that I had made a mistake on the edge stitches.  I had just been feeling pretty pleased with myself for my rapid progress; then I found my mistake.  Sheesh.  Pride goeth before a fall.

progress on blue bamboo

Here’s a detail:

blue bamboo detail 9-20-06

Barbara asked in the comments about how much experience I had before I started designing my own garments.  Weellll…that’s really hard to answer.  I was always one of those little kids who loved making things, and would come up with elaborate plans for things I was going to make (like little dolls and their clothes).  Often I didn’t get them made, but still!  I learned to sew and knit at a fairly young age, and so had early experience following other people’s patterns.

When you’re young, you know, you don’t have as much fear, and so it wasn’t long before I was branching out and making up my own patterns both for knitwear and sewn clothing.  I remember making my mother an original sweater when I was a teenager.  I also remember checking out the first Kaffe Fassett book from the library over and over, and seizing on that sort of freeform approach to making sweaters.  I made one sweater in that style, and looking back I can see that I made tons of mistakes, but I did have a lot of fun doing it.  I still have that sweater somewhere.  (I also remember some fairly spectacular disasters, mostly relating to sewn clothing.)

I guess I’ve just always been one of those people who wanted to know how to do things from scratch.  (Well, things relating to textiles.)  I’m rarely able to knit someone’s else’s design without changing it in some way, and a lot of times I just can’t find the “right” pattern that I see in my head.  So I have to make it up!  And from making up patterns to fit just me, it’s been a fairly small leap to expanding the size range.

I hope this answers your question a bit, Barbara!

Les galettes

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

I have resisted the strong temptation to bury Icarus under the shed in the backyard and he is, in fact, thriving:
I’ve even been sweet-talking some of these hot straight needles in my free time. Ever notice how they are kept in a, ahem, honey pot? If you take my meaning, and I think you do…

He’s getting a little rambunctious, but then again, he is a big boy for his age.

The fact that there is still an entire skein of Alchemy Haiku to knit up—and it is very, very clear that Icarus will take nearly all of it—is simply not discussed Chez Wax Wings ‘R Us.
Alchemy Haiku haiku:
Yoo-hoo! Just when you
thought Icarus was ending…
here I am, baby!

Truly, there is only so much reality one can bear.

But I have good news! Oh yes, indeed I do.

This afternoon I begin working at Woolcott and Company, now under the management of Sean, who keeps up not only a store blog but also blogs for himself over here and runs a great store.

The excitement is almost unbearable. I guess standing outside the store for three days wearing that sandwich board that read, “Will work for yarn” actually paid off.

Woolcott is located in lovely Harvard Square, home of the famous Harvard Yard of Harvard University, that august institution to which parents shell out big, big cash-ola so that their kids can work hard and make a good start in life for themselves.
The flower of our youth, shown here buckling under the stringent demands of the Harvard workload.

In any event, when you are in the area, come over to Woolcott and see us!

Most importantly, however, I believe that this new job may mark the end of my yarn diet. Hallelujah!

Speaking of diets and going off of them, Sarah sent Alex these mouth-wateringly delicious cookies for his birthday:
Seemed like a good time to remind him that marriage means sharing all that you have with your beloved.

How does a person make cookies this good? To me, it remains a tantalizing mystery. Can I offer you a piece of advice? If my sister offers to make you some cookies, just say yes.

We are now moving inexorably into fall, and the final blooms of the summer won’t last long. This makes them even more beautiful.


As lovely as an autumn bride:
It really was a lovely day for a wedding. And doesn’t she look stunning?

At last, because I promised my friend Lorinda that I would (and because it really is entertaining), I took her “My Ten Names” quiz. The results were not uniformly successful because I have no middle name and thus am somewhat crippled when it comes to constructing funny names of this sort (Mom, hi. What were you thinking again?), I still have a couple of very good ones:

My Superhero Name, formed from my favorite color and my favorite drink:
The Red Mojito

My Futuristic Name, formed from my favorite perfume and my favorite shoes:
Lolita Lempicka Fluevog

Lorinda, being a good and decent person, did not include the classic “Porn Star Name” in her list, but since I am horribly corrupt, I can tell you that this one is formed by using the name of your first pet and the name of a street you lived on as a child.

Mine is “Wag Aspen.”

But I was blown out of the water by my friend Damon, whose Porn Star Name is “Winky Dor-Mar.”

Can anyone top that?

Blue beginnings

Monday, September 18th, 2006

I sat down last night and sketched out Blue Bamboo.

Blue Bamboo sketch 

On this one I’m thinking ahead and deciding on a size range from the start.  I thought about things like armhole depth, shoulder width, and length for the whole size range.  (And I wrote them down, too!  You would think this would be self-apparent, but unfortunately it is often not so.  I have fallen victim to the “I’m sure I’ll remember that” syndrome more often than I like to admit.)

Remember the charts?

blue bamboo chart 

This is where I ended up.  It’s still not quite what I want it to be; I want the leaves on the back motif to be a bit longer and more bamboo-like, which naturally requires some re-charting.  But this is enough to be going on with.

And then I sat on the couch late at night and cast on!

blue bamboo beginnings 

The embryonic Blue Bamboo back. 

I’m planning on side vents, so I’ll be working the back and fronts separately for a few inches before joining in the round.  You didn’t actually think I’d be knitting this in pieces, did you?  Never!


P.S.  Ellen, I wore your silk shawl this morning when I walked the dog.  I felt simultaneously warm and glamorous!  Handknits can do that for a person.