Archive for September, 2007

Am I blue?

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

I have been happily spinning away on the dyed Corriedale lamb’s wool, which, as I mentioned last week, I obtained from the Homestead.

dyed Corriedale lamb's wool

Here’s the drill:

I take out a big handful of locks (while sitting on the couch watching movies, naturally), and comb them up into a series of beautiful rovings.

combed Corriedale                                          A representative sample held by Harvey.

When I fill up this red bag with combed fiber,

red sack 

I start spinning.

purple-blue yarn on bobbin

I filled up an entire bobbin this week, which I wound off into a ball.

Corriedale lamb's wool singles

I am planning on making this a 3-ply yarn, for several reasons.  One, I’ve never spun a 3-ply yarn, and life is all about new experiences, right?  (Sure, whatever…)  Two, I have read that 3-ply yarn is actually better for use in knitting than 2-ply.  Supposedly, it fills in the stitches more and is rounder in cross-section.  Three, I saw a photo of a 3-ply handspun yarn in the new Spin-Off magazine that I just absolutely think is gorgeous, and I got inspired to try my hand at a 3-ply yarn.

I’m really, really enjoying spinning this fiber.  It’s very soft, and each little combed roving is slightly different, which I think gives the yarn a sort of richness and also holds my interest as I’m combing.  I’m looking forward to seeing the finished yarn, which I think will have enough color variation to be visually interesting while still having enough cohesion to read visually as one color. 

Till next week…

These activities are dangerous

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

While the debate about Minnie’s suitability for me continues to rage in the comments, I did want to say a couple of things:

1) I think the decision to knit something is often based on the level of interest one has in the pattern (here, the beading, the interesting stitch patterns, the rather interesting shaping of the garment) and the yarn one has chosen (here, Classic Elite’s Classic Silk, which I still love and stand by fully). The question of knitting challenge, however, is often tragically ill-matched with the question of the wearability of the garment in question.

In this case, particularly with the question of the whether this interesting garment was really going to look good on a short, curvy woman who frankly needs to accentuate her waistline lest she look like a small, peripatetic sausage.

2) With all due respect to commentators Helena, Cindy, Lorinda, and my own sister (and y’all know I love you), I am not reknitting those sleeves in any way, shape, or form.

Those sleeves are dead to me.

In the meantime, while I decide if I ever want to knit again or if I would rather sell my stash and large cache of Addis and begin a 12-step program for recovering knitters (I’ve already admitted that I have a problem…Minnie, that is…), I’ve been dealing with other issues.

As you may know, this dog
is the light of my life. As a shiba inu mix, she is also an excellent guard dog.

The combination of her need to patrol the perimeter of our property and her need to be outdoors as much as caninely possible has meant that we have always had a dog door for her so that she could go into the fenced backyard at will. She is not a digger or a fence jumper, so I can allow her this freedom even when we are not home. She loves it and it has always worked out just fine.

Last Thursday, however, Alex got home before I did to find that the fence gate was open. And where was Shelley? Sitting right in the middle of the yard as if nothing unusual had occurred. Like the terribly good dog she is.

Nonetheless, I nearly had a brain aneurysm when he told me this. I think I said something measured, calm, and thoughtful like, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Like my entire family had died in a plane crash.

See, the great thing about me is that I meet every crisis with aplomb. Right. But never say I don’t have a good sense of drama!

Although there was a space for one, we hadn’t wanted to put a lock on the gate for reasons of convenience and the latch had always seemed pretty reliable. Until now. So I began casting about for some sort of intermediate solution—something to keep the gate from blowing open in the wind, something short of a lock.

Here’s where it paid to be a knitter:
Latch reinforcement fashioned of U.S. Size 8 aluminum knitting needle and blue point protector.

Please keep door closed. With a knitting needle if necessary.

This kept me happy for about 18 hours while I searched for a more permanent solution. That’s when it occurred to me that a carabiner would probably be perfect for the task.

So I bought this on Friday:
The Neutrino!

Wonderfully, it had a tag attached to it that read: “Warning, this product is for use only for rock climbing and mountain climbing. These activities are dangerous. You are responsible for your own actions! Misuse can result in SERIOUS INJURY or DEATH.”

I felt rakish and adventuresome just buying such a thing.

I am no rock climber, but this tag has led me to reflect upon the relative merits of knitting as a pursuit. There are fiascos like Minnie of course. But then again, it occurs to me that every time you buy point protectors or stitch markers, they blessedly don’t come with a tag that essentially says, “Fool! Now you gonna die!”

I find that heartening. Maybe I won’t quit knitting after all.

The awful truth

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

Finishing Minnie (yes, it’s true!) has put me in the mind of that genre of jokes in the good news/bad news form, my favorite of which is this:

Mr. Jones goes to the doctor to get the results of some recent tests. When the doctor comes in, he looks at his patient’s chart and he shakes his head. He says, “Mr. Jones, I have some good news and some bad news. Which would you like first?”

Jones says, “Well, let’s bite the bullet. I’ll take the bad news first.”

The doctor says, “Okay. The bad news is that you’ve got pancreatic cancer and the prognosis is not good. I’d give you six months to live.”

Jones says, “Wow. Um. That’s pretty bad. So what’s the good news?”

The doctor brightens and he says, “The good news is that my son got into Harvard!”

By the way, if you ever find yourself working as a college counselor at a high-test private school attended primarily by the children of NYC’s wealthiest people, don’t try to tell that joke at a parent meeting. Unless you enjoy stony silence.

Believe me, I know from whence I speak.

But I digress…

So the good news first in this case: Minnie is done.
Here’s the back. Fairly pretty, I think.

I’ve begun with the photo of the back because full frontal shots can only point us toward the awful truth—Minnie is not a flattering sweater on me. Maybe on someone, but not me. That, my dear, dear friends, is the bad news. After all that work. One could simply weep.
Knitter or Mack Truck? I have even worse pictures, but to post them? The shame is too great!

What have we here? Why, it looks like an unflattering handknit sweater that was furthermore a hellish thing to knit and caused its creator nothing but grief. Woe be she who picks the wrong garment!

Chez Mad Dog is a dark, dark place today.

And in fact, I must run. Alex has offered to take me to see Eastern Promises, the new Viggo Mortensen film in which my man Viggo appears buck naked but for his tattoos.

Apparently, there is a feeling in some quarters Chez Mad Dog that there is nothing like Viggo Mortensen naked to cure what ails a girl and make her feel like her sunny self again.

I cannot, I fear, argue with that logic.

Dreaming of the sea

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I have been doing two things over the last week or so, (well, in addition to going to work, unpacking boxes, spending time with Harvey, walking the dog…) and those two things are
1) knitting on Howard’s socks and
2) spinning

In fact, I finished Howard’s socks today and, contrary to my usual pattern of leaving a project finished but for the weaving in of ends, went ahead and worked in those ends right away.  Aren’t you proud of me?

Howard's socks

If you’re thinking that these socks look rawther large, even for men’s socks, you’re right.  What can I say?  He has big feet.  So big, in fact, that I knit the heels and toes out of a coordinating solid because I was afraid I would run out of yarn otherwise.  And it’s a good thing I did, since I was left with only a few yards at the end of the second sock.

And, at the wheel, I have been working on some dyed Corriedale lamb locks:  combing a bag full of roving with my small hand combs, and then spinning away.

purple-blue yarn on bobbin

I got this wool (along with some other goodies) from Homestead Wool and Gift Farm in Wisconsin.  There were some very lovely things in the box that arrived from them, and I’d encourage all you spinners to check out their website.  Also, Sandy is a wonderfully nice person to work with.  She even sent a sample of one of their other offerings and a pretty little sachet of lavender, which, if I had to guess, I would say was probably grown right there on their farm.

In the process of moving, I have re-discovered some gorgeous spinning fibers that I had tucked away, and I got an urge last week to spin up something beautiful–something different.  I pulled out some carded batts that I had ordered some time ago, set the wheel on the lowest ratio, and started spinning.

I call this skein “Ocean,” since it reminds me of the sea.  Not that I’ve spent that much time in my life at the ocean, mind you, but those colors do seem like what the sea should be, I think. 

Sometimes it’s the dream of something far away and beautiful that keeps me going.

Last gasp

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Fourteen rows left to go:
Never has a sweater been so anticipated, and yet never has the urge to quit and make Tangled Yoke instead been so great…

The only thing that is keeping me going is your encouragement and the appreciative remarks of customers at the yarn shop who keep popping in when I am working on her and who are kind enough to say, “Oh, that’s so beautiful.”

This is, I imagine, just like being the frazzled mother of an adorable-looking three-year-old who has been throwing tantrums all afternoon, but has calmed down just in time for a neighbor to drop by and say, “Oh, isn’t she just an angel! What a cutie pie!”

Besides, I think people are primarily seduced by the beads. But then again, given that I am now knitting this sleeve for the excruciating second time, I’ll take what I can get.

I gets weary, and sick of tryin’…

Back to the needles, my friends. And if I know what’s good for me, I won’t look up until those fourteen rows are done…

On deck circle

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Way-ell, folks, it’s late in the game, bottom of the ninth inning, and Minnie is up to bat:
We’re counting on her to take ’em one day at a time, give 150% every game, and do everything she can to help the ball club. Even if she has made a lot of mistakes this season, on and off the ball field.

Meanwhile, in the on deck circle, we have Alpaca with a Twist’s Highlander (shown here in colors #4011 Lady Fern and #4010 Lichen), just waiting for his big chance to show us that he can be a contributor to this outstanding fall team of yarns:
He drinks a lot of beer when he’s not on the diamond and chews tobacco and spits, but he’s so soft, lofty, squeezable, and lovable that we forgive him.

And waiting in the dugout, Reynolds Whiskey (in color #86 Deep Raspberry), a yarn that has just been brought up from the minors:
But has already been slated for Eunny’s Tangled Yoke Cardigan in this fall’s IK.

Meanwhile, Minnie is still up there facing some nasty heat and a pitcher whose attitude has turned surly. Twenty-nine excruciating rows to go, sports fans.

If you ask me, it’s time to bring in a pinch knitter.

How do you like them apples?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I laughed out loud at Shelley’s “burial” of the apple in the sofa.  And then I showed it to Harvey, and he laughed out loud too.  And then I showed it to my co-workers…

And then….well, OK, I’m going to have to back up here a bit.

I’ve been doing some spinning lately, and have gotten back to work on the white Suffolk lamb’s wool.

white lamb's wool 

I’m combing this on my small hand combs, which produces a beautiful spinning fiber that is very easy to spin,

white Suffolk on wheel 

but, like all combing, also produces a lot of waste.  In the picture of the fiber above, you can see that waste fiber tucked down there on the left-hand side of of the basket.

Well, on Monday evening I was spinning away, and when I went to bed I put everything away except that I left this:

waste fiber on the couch

on the couch.  Yes, that’s right, it’s a small tuft of waste fiber shoved under the pillow.

When I arrived home on Tuesday afternoon, that little tuft had been transformed into this:

Hugo's nest

Although it may not be completely apparent to the untrained eye, it’s clear to me that Hugo had been hard at work here, making a little doggie nest out of this wool, and happily sleeping on it for most of the day.  (If you look closely, you can see the dog fur there on the black couch.)  Imagine, if you will, a large dog working and working and working to get that little bit of wool spread out into a nice comfy mat to lie down on.  I have no doubt that he would have made a giant, Hugo-sized wool mat had he had enough raw materials to work with. 

You’ve got to admire that kind of persistence.

So, Shelley, I think Hugo has seen your bet and raised you one.  How do you like them apples?

Bond girl

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Remember this?
Minnie with misbegotten, accursed right sleeve and the beginnings of a reasonable left sleeve.

Now the left sleeve looks like this:
A left sleeve I can stand behind.

And the formerly misbegotten, accursed right sleeve currently looks like this:
I believe in second chances.

So now you know how I spent Saturday night. Frogging.

Don’t say it. I know what you are thinking: this woman lives a life of constant danger, thrills, and excitement!

The name’s Bond. Jane Bond.


Friday, September 7th, 2007

Sometimes you have to take what you can get in this life. If you are an American, like me, you will probably take it in large, even bulk, quantities (Oh, CostCo! Mon amour! How great is mine love for thee, with thy ample 50 lb. bags of sugar, thy voluptuous barrels of velvety ketchup, thy shapely buckets of golden canola oil…more, more! I’m still not satisfied!) and hoard it in your basement or garage.

Apparently, even my dog has absorbed this received idea of American existence. Here’s the story.

Alex’s birthday started with his traditional greeting from Shelley,
Gettin’ up, birthday boy?

and progressed inexorably, in the way a birthday should, toward dinner at our favorite restaurant, Chez Henri. Eating at Chez Henri is a genuinely special occasion for us because we only venture through its inviting portals when we have been gifted with large sums of birthday cash.

To do so more frequently would surely lead to bankruptcy and ruin. But what a way to be ruined!

The food is excellent and so is the service.

Shelley meanwhile had been left in charge of home and yard security. Since we moved to the new house, Shelley’s affection for the new backyard has been plainly evident, not least because we have an apple tree that has been dropping its fruits all summer.

Windfall! I may never have mentioned this, but my dog loves fruits and vegetables, and much though I have attempted to toss out these apples (some of which aren’t in the best of condition by the time they hit the ground) in a timely fashion, she has nonetheless eaten several.

By “several” I mean about forty or fifty. Over the course of the summer, of course.

The tossing of the apples is a Sisyphean task. Toss out ten or twelve in dubious shape, find fifteen more on the ground when you come home. Roll that boulder up, watch it roll back down.

Watch your dog gnawing on a windfall apple. Again. Go slowly mad.

That said, she paces herself. I’ve never seen her eat more than half an apple at once. Lately however, having observed my futile yet dutiful attempts to dispose of the apples, she has taken to digging holes for the half-eaten ones and burying them in the yard.

Even a dog begins to see the inherent problems with this method pretty quickly.
Hey, I may have a shallow brain pan, but dirty, rotted apples are a no-go.

So we arrive home from Alex’s birthday dinner to find the living room in some disarray. Most notably, the corner piece of the sectional, which normally looks like this:

Looks instead like this:

Yes, that is what you see, tucked quite deeply into the very corner of the sofa cushions:
A windfall apple. I ask you now to contemplate the effort required to BURY an apple in a sofa when you don’t have an opposable thumb.

Hoarding behavior. Now where did she learn that?

In knitting news, the reconceived sleeve for Minnie is very nearly done:
Here’s how it looks fairly close.

Now attached to the sweater.

I am pleased with this progress. When I finish this sleeve, I shall face the grim business of frogging the other one.

Stay tuned…

A quarter of a century plus

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Today is Alex’s birthday, so if you get a minute, could you drop him a little birthday greeting in the comments? I’m sure he’d be mighty appreciative.
Portrait of a man who is now a year older, although you’d never know it. I attribute his youthful appearance to the beneficial effects of living with me. Okay, and also the minor fact that he’s well under thirty.

In honor of his birthday, and because he secretly likes this sort of flattery, I have assembled a list of the qualities that make him so great. The list is in no way meant to be comprehensive (as we say in academia when we are hedging), but it is a healthy start.

Why Alex Is So Great: A Completely Objective List of Attributes According to His Wife:

1. Alex frequently helps people out with no expectation of compensation, reward, or reciprocal favors. He’s just decent like that.

2. Alex has a great sense of humor and is extremely funny himself. This makes life with him so much fun. (Of course, I happen to think the one truly unforgiveable human sin is humorlessness. It it practically a form of cruelty.)

He has also endeared himself to me by invariably laughing at my jokes. A man who likes a funny woman is a good man indeed.

3. Alex is very smart.

He is the kind of smart that allows him to remember the etymology of the word “walnut” even though he last looked that up four years ago, to calculate the half life of a small polonium sample, to write database programs for the computer for fun, and to think his way around a historical question.

But he also has the kinds of smarts you need to tackle day-to-day problems. In a rational fashion.

I’ve seen some irrational in my lifetime, folks, and I can tell you: I like rational better.

4. Alex is generally cheerful. He tries, and mostly succeeds, in focusing on the good aspects of the day.

This is harder to do than it sounds.

5. Alex treats other people with kindness and respect, even if they are not in positions of great power or authority.

If you ask me, the way a person treats the waiter, the bus driver, the receptionist, or the cashier at CVS is a better test of character than the way he or she treats the CEO of General Motors or the Director of Admissions at Yale.

Alex passes.

6. Alex works really hard at the things he loves to do, like history of science, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse to act superior.

7. He is not easily flustered by snafus when they involve things over which we have no control. Like traffic. Or the dog getting skunked. Three times in the span of two months.

This is a great quality because life is frankly full of skunky dogs, infestations of mice, traffic jams, thunderstorms, grainy peaches, and flat tires.

8. Alex married me, which is a testament to his excellent and discerning taste.

9. He can’t carry a tune, but he’s got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?

10. And lastly, he’s really cute.

Happy birthday, Alex! And many more!