Archive for October, 2006

Bride ideas

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Once a month now, David’s Bridal Barn sends me an e-mail reminding me that only “X” number of months remain until my wedding.
Eight months to be exact.

For those of us who have been confirmed bachelorettes and might be plagued by just the tiniest bit of commitment-phobia, these periodic e-mails—which I believe are intended to make me desire even more bridal stuff, since the deepest and most spiritual of life events in America are, after all, an exciting opportunity for shameless commerce and gross materialism—give me the momentary sensation that I’m suffocating.

I get over that pretty quickly when I think about how great Alex is and how enthusiastic and confident I feel about the marriage.

A little knitting never fails to calm me down, either:

But here I am, at the age of thirty-eight, confronting the American bridal industry, a disturbing mega-business that seems based on a whole series of dubious and even dangerous assumptions about what weddings should be, how much they should cost, and how they are supposed to fit into the context of one’s life.

I think the most distressing assumption—which as far as I can tell goes unquestioned in all the bridal magazines—is that every bride should try to “drop a dress size” before her wedding.

Can we talk?

I’m all for eating properly and exercising and feeling healthy, but why must I be smaller by next June? Alex loves me as I am now and the only other people who will be at our wedding and related celebrations are people who already love me and see me as beautiful.

Nobody is going to say, “Gee, that would have been such a lovely wedding if only the bride hadn’t been so fat. What a shame she couldn’t drop a dress size before the event!”

No one is going to say that. I guarantee it.

But here’s my question: why as women are we still being asked—literally and metaphorically—to take up less space? Be smaller? Quieter? More compliant? More pleasing to others?

Size 00?

I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last, to note the disturbing philosophical implications of Size 0 and Size 00 clothing.

We’re really being asked, in rather clear terms, to become an…absence.

This is hardly an exhaustive treatment of this very complex subject. But, dear readers, here is my pledge: I will eat well and enjoy my food. I will keep my energy up. I will be strong.

I will laugh loudly if I want. I will argue. I will refuse to hide my intelligence. I will offer opinions. I will invest in myself as a person and not an object.

A few years ago, an well-meaning old friend said he wasn’t very optimistic about my ever finding a mate. I was probably thirty-two at the time. “Ellen,” he said, “you’re going to be a tough match to make. You’re complicated and you have a big personality.”

It’s true. I take up space. Many, many men do not like that quality in a woman.

Some happy day perhaps those men will evolve.

But even if they never do and even if they are made profoundly uncomfortable by the existence of women like me, I will continue to be who I am. And I am not a zero—neither literally nor metaphorically.

I’m baaaack!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

I hit my front door last night at 10:30 p.m., and got up this morning at 6:15 a.m. to get to work by 7:30 a.m.   Not a lot of turn-around time there.  Midmorning today I felt like I might just fall right over.

Nevertheless, I had a great time in St. Louis with my family members and my knitting pal Carol. 

Sarah & Carol 10-27-06 

Carol and I went to Knitorious on Friday, a great little LYS, and basically spent the day there: looking at all the yarn, looking at all the yarn again, going out for lunch, and then coming back and looking at all the yarn once more.  We did actually make some purchases; Carol bought some beautiful dark teal bamboo yarn for a cardigan she’s planning, and I bought two skeins of Malabrigo, one gorgeous little ball of laceweight mohair, and a ball of Nashua Handknits Creative Focus Worsted to do some experimenting with.  (Pictures to come later in the week…)  Oh, and two skeins of buttery soft merino to make gauntlets for Harvey.  (I also took some of Carol’s unwanted stash off her hands–we’ll address that later in the week as well, OK?  OK.)

On Saturday we went to Grant’s Farm for a little time with the animals and fall foliage.

Grant's Farm goats 10-28-06                                                      My three-year-old nephew, cavorting with the goats.

tree at Grant's Farm                                                              A beautiful tree.

black swans                                         Black swans.


A llama, who, soon after this picture was taken, spit viciously in my face.  I guess my sis was right:  those llamas cannot be trusted.

Did you know that they give out free beer at Grant’s Farm?  You can get two “samples” (actually full-size cups) per person per visit.  Isn’t that just the coolest thing?  Could there be a better reason to visit St. Louis?  Needless to say, we all (well, the adults) availed ourselves of this generous offer.  And entrance to the farm is free as well.  This kind of deal almost does not exist in this modern world. 

Some people might even think that being spit on by a llama is a small price to pay for free beer.

Heated debate

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Beautiful as all these trees are,
what this means is that it is getting cold in New England.

Alex and I, as graduate students on a limited budget and also reasonably intelligent people with a distaste for getting robbed blind by the natural gas company, have not yet turned on the heat in this house.

Every time we think about it, like when we notice the frost on the walls in the morning or see a bottle of vodka left out on the counter overnight that has frozen solid, we remember what the bills were like last winter.

You know it’s pretty bad when even the dog is wearing a scarf indoors:
I found this lying around and figured I’d put it on. Pretty nice scarf, if only Ma would take these sticks out of it.

I mentioned to Alex that it was 54 degrees in the house this morning and that maybe, just maybe, we should think about turning on the furnace for the season.

He thought for a moment, then said, “How are my wool socks coming along?”

Another pause. “You could think about making me some fingerless gloves, too.”

I am interpreting these apparent non sequiturs as a “no.”

Remember the dude who asked me if I was now living in a Jane Austen novel? Because of the Middlesex Fells? Right. I thought I was living in a Jane Austen novel, but apparently my lot in life can be more accurately described as Dickensian.

I will be spending most of the winter wearing fingerless gloves and a hat indoors. I will hereafter answer to “Cratchit.”

Due to the frigid conditions in my home, I have been knitting away on the Wildflowers scarf Shelley appropriated earlier today:

And just because I can’t resist, another close-up:
Wildflowers Scarf, if casting you on was wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Last night, Alex and I were brainstorming cheaper ways to keep warm this winter and, short of setting ourselves on fire (which, when you think about it, really takes care of the problem in both the short and long term!), most of those solutions had to do with wool.

Alex’s initial suggestion was a “house cozy” that could be completed and then precision-dropped from the air to cover the entire house and serve as external insulation.

(Good thing I have the LYS job! My employee discount will sure come in handy when I go to purchase the yarn for the house cozy! I’ve estimated it will take approximately 705,000 yards of aran-weight wool.)

We quickly came to see the house cozy idea as rather impractical and—inspired by my Wildflowers scarf—shifted our creative energies to the idea of His ‘n Hers Full-Body Wool Union Suits with convenient rear access flaps and hoods! Mine in the Wildflowers colorway, of course, and his in either the manly Granite or suggestively feral Jungle colorway. I haven’t decided which would be more exciting. Opinions?

I think that that cable fabric stitch I’m using for the scarf would make a delightful overall pattern, don’t you?

We’ll kiss high gas bills goodbye, not to mention our dignity and self-respect! Never say I’m not always, always thinkin’.

And speaking of goodbye to all that, my other attempt to stay warm in the house involves a new pair of boots. I love them almost as much as the Wildflowers Scarf. They were, however, classified as combat boots by their manufacturer, which they are…

if the last time you saw action was the Battle of the Somme.

But listen. I gotta run. I need to spend the rest of the afternoon chopping up some of the furniture for kindling.

Woolcott and other danger zones, redux

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I just want to put this out there: for those of you who wrote or commented yesterday in defense of domestic felines, I completely respect your feelings and your taste in pets. In fact, I have a small and rather handsome cat I can offer you for a low, low price! Free shipping is included! (Sorry, no returns.)

And now, back to knitting…

Yesterday was a prime example of why working at your LYS endangers both your pocketbook and your immortal soul.

I was in the mood to work with some yarn with body yesterday, yarn I could really feel. Meaty yarn. For all its very real charms and delights, Alchemy Haiku is not that yarn. Icarus is not that project.

If I weren’t a LYS employee, I would have been forced to do one of the following:

a) suck it up and knit a few rows of Icarus anyway;
I’m lounging here seductively for all I’m worth, people, and she still won’t give me the time of day.

b) go back to working on that afghan in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted that I started two years ago and then abandoned after one pattern repeat (yes, I know…you’ve never even seen that project on this blog…we’ll discuss this later…);

c) work on a sock and yield to its not inconsiderable but different charms and thereby learn a life lesson about how it is important to “love the one you are with” and “quell your desire for that which you do not have, becoming day by day more like the Buddha”;

d) finish Rogue’s sleeves;

e) go to a matinee showing of Marie Antoinette;

f) mix up a batch of margaritas and break out the guacamole!

Instead, since I work at Woolcott, this happened:
Three skeins, Manos del Uraguay, Wildflowers colorway, “cable fabric” stitch from 450 Knitting Stitches, Vol. 2, The Harmony Guide, U.S. size 7 bamboo needles (appropriated temporarily from store)

Here’s a little close-up of that lovely, textured, meaty cable fabric:

I love this scarf. I really do. I love these colors, I love this yarn.

And I’m becoming day by day less and less like the Buddha.

Cowboy up

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Since my dear sister is leaving on a 19th-century-style train journey tomorrow and will be able to do hours and hours of uninterrupted knitting, which makes us green with envy even though green is not a becoming color on us so happy for her, I will be the lone KnitSister for the rest of the week.

Y’all are just going to have to cowboy up. As we used to say back when we were ridin’ the broncs and ropin’ them dogies. Ah, them were the days!

But I digress.

While Sarah is riding the Trans-Midland-Empire Railroad, I will be stuck here, still knitting Icarus,
For all the trouble he’s given me, I still find him breathtakingly handsome…

still trying to get my conference presentation under control, still trying to be frugal,
I have no idea where those balls of Koigu came from…

and still living with a murderous and very stupid cat.

Much has been said about the differences between cats and dogs, but I think the following contrast tells the whole story for me: when a dog owner dies tragically and alone in her home, it is common for the authorities to arrive days later to find the dog, in a heart-rending show of loyalty, still guarding the lifeless body; when a cat owner dies under similarly tragic circumstances, it is common for the authorities to arrive days later to find that the cat has eaten parts of her face.

Yes. I know it’s horrifying. But even if you are a cat lover, I challenge you to deny—and be honest, now—that if you were suddenly rendered lifeless, after a couple of days your feline “friend” would forget who you were and start regarding you as a really big helping of Fancy Feast.

I am resisting the joke about gravy as being too tasteless even for me.

But Zeno, our cat (or rather Alex’s cat by a previous relationship), is—in addition to being inexplicably surly and probably homicidal—the dumbest cat I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

As you may have noticed, like most stepparents, I have mixed feelings about my stepcat at times.

The mix is about 90% loathing, 10% disgust.

This morning, Zeno got “stuck” in the driveway again (here he is atop the hood of the derelict truck, photographed through my office window last summer). He has done this 5,874 times and has yet to learn anything from experience.

He then spent the better part of 45 minutes sitting outside my window meowing. Apparently, he had once again gotten over to that side of the house and completely forgotten how to get back. This, added to his general confusion about how windows work, left the poor little demon high and dry. I tried to speak to him about it through the window:

Me: Dude, you can go right back through the gate, where you came from, and come inside and see me. I mean, if that’s what would fly your flag.

Zeno (shoots hateful look): Mrak-mrak!

Me: I’m telling you the truth. You’re the one with trust problems.

Zeno (sourly): Hell-whoa.

Me: Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not opening the window. It’s freezing out there.

Zeno (plaintively): Hell…whoa.

Appallingly, this kind of woman-cat conversation can go on for literally hours. But I think we’re stuck with Zeno. No one else would adopt him. He’s foul, after all.

No, I think we’ll just have to endure.

And luck being what it is, the little devil will probably live to be twenty-three.

Cowboy up.

What’s in your bag?

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

I’m going on a little trip this weekend with my sister-in-law, Pam.  We’re going to St. Louis to visit Rob’s brother and his family, and we’re taking the train from Kansas City.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Lots and lots of wonderful, relaxing knitting time.  So, my thoughts today naturally turned to the all-encompassing question of which knitting projects to take.  Should I try to take things that are simple?  Small?  Something new?  Something I might be able to finish?  Or, perhaps, all of the above?  Because, after all, nothing could be worse than running out of things to knit on a trip.

Of course I must take Blue Bamboo, since this is likely to be the most uninterrupted knitting time I’m likely to get on her.

blue bamboo 10-24-06

And then, for those moments when I need something easy and portable, the sherbet socks, which as you know I’ve been working on since late summer.

sherbet socks 

And in the “something new” category, this skinny pink scarf that I started last week.

pink scarf 

This is Reynolds “Rapture,” 50% merino and 50% silk, and it is really luscious stuff.  Perfect in this openwork rib pattern, if I do say so myself.

I decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to clean out my small knitting bag.  I dumped it out on the bed:

knitting bag contents 

The contents:  1 knitting book, 1 knitting magazine, remainders of 6 different sock yarns, 6 partial balls of yarn (some large, some very small), 1 full ball of yarn, 4 circular needles, 3 swatches in progress (attached to 3 of the aforesaid needles), completed swatch of the tufted yarn, the sherbet socks, several handwritten charts, and a yo-yo.

I must admit that I have dumped out this same knitting bag more than once in the past few months, and all or nearly all of the same things were in it then, too.  They all went right back in, obviously.  I’m not sure why it should be so hard to clean out a knitting bag, but there it is.

My question for all of you:  What’s in your knitting bag?

knitting bag

Middlesex Fells

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

I subsisted for most of last week mainly on this:
Note the marketing emphasis on “Original Flavor.” Right-io. Let me just say this, dear knitters: if you find yourself drinking CVS Nyquil-Knockoff Cold Medication for the flavor, seek professional help.

The only positive result of my lingering respiratory ailment is that I am now within striking distance of finishing Icarus. 15 rows remain. The excitement Chez Mad Dog is palpable!
Even if this week’s photos look remarkably like…last week’s!

Icarian close-up, with extra texture. He’s a very attractive boy, don’t you think?

Want to place a bet on how long it will take me to finish him from here? My goal is to have him knitted, blocked, and ready to take to my conference in Vancouver, B.C. by late next week. Can I do it?

Here’s my thinking: Icarus has already journeyed with me all over the United States, and I think he’s ready to do some international travel. He keeps hinting that he’d like to go to Monte Carlo, but I’m not falling for that. Knowing him, he may get up to shenanigans even in Canada, but I’m willing to take the risk.

Shelley, meanwhile, has run out of patience with my cold.

Around noon yesterday, she moved from sitting at my feet to sitting right by my chair. She then put one paw on my leg, and gave me a meaningful look that unmistakably said, “You know and I know that you’ve been shortening my walks all week because of so-called illness. Do the right thing. Make it up to me. Take me to the forest. Show me the habitat of the wee beasties my people call ‘prey’.”

Off we went to our local Primeval Forest,

the Middlesex Fells.
The dappled path into the woods. Wasn’t there something about this in the Brothers Grimm? Hmm.

When one of my California friends learned that I was living near something called the “Middlesex Fells,” he said, “Dude, like, are you living in a Jane Austen novel now?”

Dude! I so am!

In spite of being a canine and having a rather shallow brain pan, Shelley’s suggestion that we go to the forest could not have been more apt. I believe this may have been the best weekend in the area for leaves.

I realize that pictures of autumn leaves are a photographic cliché, but I cannot help myself. (I also like to share my autumn walks with all of you, but especially Monica, who does not get this kind of fall color where she lives.)

Besides. It is, as Jane Austen would say, a truth universally acknowledged that a knitter in possession of a good digital camera must be in want of an autumn forest.

Primeval forest and sky:

Primeval forest with light on leaves:

Primeval forest log and leaves:

New England, magnificent:

More Icarus progress when I return on Wednesday…

Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend

Friday, October 20th, 2006

It’s been quite a week.  Without going into the sordid details, I’ll just say that I’ve learned anew the truth of the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”  And now I know this truth anew as well:  “Do me once, shame on you.  Do me twice, shame on me.”  I don’t intend to get done again.

It’s at times like these that I really appreciate my fiber enterprises as a way to disengage from work thoughts, refocus my mind on something constructive and creative, and relax.  I’m the kind of person who needs to actively remind myself that there’s way more to life than work, and working with fiber does that for me.

I got fired up this week about working with some of my naturally-colored fleeces, so I did some combing last night.

combed grey Romney 

This is a grey/light brown fleece which I bought about a year and a half ago.  I finally got it all washed this summer, but just began combing it last night.  Isn’t it amazing how different these colors are?  They really did come from the same fleece. 

grey Romney fleece 

Wool is astounding.  (When I combed these, I took them over to Rob.  “Look at this!”  I said.  “Look how different these colors are!  They’re from the same fleece!”  “Hmmm,” he said.  Yes, it’s true.  I am a fiber dweeb.)

Then I worked on some black Shetland which I also bought a year and a half ago.

combed black Shetland 

(It’s hard to take a good picture of this wool, because it really and truly is black.)  I have almost all of this combed, yet I haven’t started spinning it.  It’s such beautiful wool that I want to be sure about what I’m doing with it before I start.

It’s starting to get cold here.  I need my hat, coat, and mittens when I walk Hugo in the morning.  In honor of Ellen’s first foray into stranded knitting, I dug out this UFO that I nearly finished late last spring:

stranded hat 

A stranded hat from a pattern in 45 Fine and Fanciful Hats.  This is a good example of what I was talking about the other day; to make this hat I dug around in the stash for single balls of wool that were about the same weight, going more by color than anything else.  The dark brown is handspun, naturally-colored wool from a sheep named Cinder.  All the hat needs is some kind of finish on top (in the book she makes little stuffed bobbles for the tops of the hats–pretty nifty) and a good blocking.  Maybe a couple of ends worked in, too. 

These hats are great fun to make, and if you have a good stash they don’t even cost anything.  (Since I already bought all that yarn, now it’s free.  See?)

Have a good weekend, everybody.  The Knit Sisters will return, renewed and refreshed, next week!

The Icarus report

Thursday, October 19th, 2006


Eastern Massachusetts: In other news today, there have been unconfirmed reports that so-called “KnitSister” Ellen Bales has begun the fourth and final chart on Icarus.

The shawl, a.k.a. “Mr. Icarus” and “Dr. Wax Wings,” has been known to be travelling with Bales since mid-August, when he was first spotted in her company in Denver, CO and Las Vegas, NV. A representative of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in Las Vegas noted that a “Mr. Icarus” had been arrested on August 18th at the Luxor Hotel Casino for public indecency and had been fined an additional $500 for impersonating an angel at the high stakes gaming tables.

In recent weeks, however, there have been no further reports of Icarian misbehavior and it has appeared that the once rocky relationship between Bales and her young charge has smoothed considerably.

In one recent interview, Bales stated, “We’ve put Vegas behind us now, particularly that unfortunate incident involving the backless feathered chaps. No matter what the rest of the world may say, I believe that Icarus is basically a good boy. And there’s more of him to love all the time!”

Bamboo report

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

I have been working away on Blue Bamboo and on her leaf motif on the upper back.  My progress thus far:

Blue Bamboo 10-18-06 

This would make me feel pretty good except for the fact that I’ve already decided to rip back the entire leaf motif once I get to the top of the chart, shown here:

blue bamboo chart 

I made a couple of mistakes, you see, which will forever haunt me unless I correct them.  Plus, this motif has been such a raving bitch an extraordinary challenge to chart that I’m still not sure if the chart is correct.  Therefore, I feel I must knit the thing at least once more to make certain of my charting.  Sigh.  Things would be sooo much simpler if I didn’t feel I had to follow my vision for this garment.

I’ve also had a renewal of interest in spinning, and have been working diligently away on the angora blend.

angora blend on bobbin 10-18-06

Can you see the progress?  Can you, can you?  Well, say that you can even if you can’t, OK?

I have a couple (har, har–yes, I know I can’t fool you) of fleeces upstairs that are calling my name now that the cold weather is arriving, and I can’t help but think it would be fun to spin some singles that would go a little more quickly than this laceweight angora nonsense.

Oh, and sis? I can’t believe that you’ve never done any stranded colorwork!  Are you holding one color in each hand or holding them both in your left hand?  (For those that might have wondered, Ellen and I both knit Continental, aka picking not throwing.)  The great thing about colorwork, among other things, is that you can feel entirely justified in picking up one or two skeins of some beautiful yarn, as long as you stick to about the same yarn weight with all your purchases.  “Well, I’ll just include this in my next multi-colored project,” you might think.  You understand, I’m speaking completely hypothetically.  I myself have never justified a yarn purchase in this manner.  I’m just helping the rest of you out, is all.  All part of the Knit Sisters package.