Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yet another reason to make handknit socks

I went to see Barack Obama speak yesterday in Chester, PA. I arrived at the crack of dawn to volunteer, and we stood in the rain, wind and cold for hours. However, I am happy to report that the only part of me that was not freezing and miserable were my feet, due in part to my handknit wool socks...

As I helped an elderly black woman with a walker to the handicapped seating section, we chitchatted about the weather, and I said casually, "I'm sure Obama will be worth the wait." She said, quite seriously, "I've waited 65 years for Obama." Being part of that, seeing a crowd full of young and old, black and white and hispanic and asian, college students and senior citizens, parents bringing children so they can own a piece of history, it was a remarkable experience and one I'll treasure.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take-home reader from the school of hard knocks?

I am hardly a high-maintenance elementary school parent, but I must confess to feeling a bit squeamish about the home reader that Miss Thang brought home the other night:

File this one under "R is for Roadkill."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rhinebeck Road Trip -- the denouement

I can honestly say that I didn't actually see Dolores for the rest of the trip. Laura asked about her a few times, but all Franklin did in response was mumble unintelligibly (I think it was Latin) and Jim seemed inclined to studiously avoid all mention of the topic, once he had exhausted his analogies to bygone Hollywood divas (his riff on Joan Crawford was highly enlightening, I must say).

Still, I had my suspicions. I couldn't help but wonder if Dolores had managed to get some wet-behind-the-ears desk clerk to slip her our key card. I opened the door gingerly when we arrived back at the room after dinner, but all was quiet. I noticed one or two odd things, though; when I left for the show, I was sure that I shut my computer down, but when I went to log back in again, I found all kinds of crazy stuff in the browser cache. (Most of them were, um, not consistent with Blogger's usage guidelines, shall we say, but here's a shot of one of the tamer ones:

Somehow I doubt Dolores' interest was scientific, you know?)

And during Franklin's booksigning, a redwell folder full of contracts was thrust into my hands by a prominent literary agent specializing in the crafts field. I must admit that my curiosity got the better of me. The top sheet was a marketing proposal seeking permission to use Dolores' likeness to sell merchandise; when I got to the page with a submission from the Thunderbird company, using the tag line "The hooch of choice for hoochie-mamas," I could read no more.

When we were ready to check out on Sunday morning, however, all doubt was removed. A sobbing chambermaid ran down the hall and pressed this into my hand:

And this odd notation was scrawled at the bottom of our Express Checkout bill.

In any event, all was quiet as we packed up the station wagon, sated by our weekend with friends and fiber. As we got into the car and fastened our seat belts, Laura timidly asked if we were going to wait for Dolores.

Franklin snapped, "We're leaving now. My plane leaves at 2:15 and I'm not missing it."

Laura looked uneasy. "But how will she get hom--"

The sound of Buddhist chanting from the backseat drowned her out.

"I think we'd better leave, Laura," I said quietly. "Franklin's starting to get stressed out and if we don't go now, he won't make his plane."


The chanting grew louder.

Jim helpfully clapped his hand over Laura's mouth and we drove away.

After I got back Sunday night, photographs with taunting messages began arriving in my email account via dummy addresses:

Et tu, Kathy?

And Dolores apparently went on a fact-finding mission to determine what, if anything, Mel wears under his kilt:

As the kids were helping me bring in my bags from the car, Nick showed me an empty Cristalle bottle. "Why did you bring this bag full of empty bottles home, Mommy?" he asked innocently. "Don't they recycle in New York?"

"Let me have those, sweetie," I told him quickly. And as our recycling bucket filled with empty bottles of Johnny Walker Red and cheap tequila, a wistful smile appeared on my face. Good old Dolores. I missed you, my friend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

President of the Lucky Club

Beneath my wisecracking, opinionated, profanity-laced, sarcastic mouth lurks a tender and loving heart. So it is completely without irony that I tell you that pretty much every day I feel like the president of The Lucky Club to have so many dear and wonderful friends in my life. This was made even clearer to me over the weekend.

My traveling companions, Jim, Laura and Franklin, are three of the most fun and amazing folks you'd ever want to meet.

(Geez, I must be in a good mood; when was the last time I actually posted a photo of myself?)

It felt luxurious to have driven up Friday night so that we could begin Saturday at a more normal hour (as opposed to getting up at 4 a.m. and drive), so after a lovely breakfast (ahem, at which M. Habit was frequently accosted by fellow diners/rabid fans) we arrived at the gates just as they opened.

This year, I felt that I didn't see that much of the show, but who cares? Instead I saw a lot of my friends. Like newlyweds Mel and David:

And talk about "when worlds collide": the Knitting Curmudgeon collides with Ve-Ve:

This is a very handsome new friend I made (I think it's Alan, please God, let it be Alan):

I got several hugs (and wisecracks) from Joe, who quite simply is just too handsome for his own good:

and also Lars and Ted (wait 'til I get to Ted!!! but that's a whole entry of its own):

and I even got (joy of joys) to meet Franklin's family:

including this adorable tot, who is clearly a future warshcloth knitter, as my ball of Sugar-n-Creme entertained her for hours:

I also got to spend time with Mindy, but for some reason I forgot to take out my camera at dinner Saturday night and take her photo, as well as some of the other hilarious dinnertime companions at our table...

So it's pretty easy to see why I don't have tons of photos of sheep, or yarn, or spinning wheels, or punkin-chuckin'. I can see all of that next time. But having friends like this? Priceless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rhinebeck Road Trip, part deux

We turned off the New York Thruway around nine o'clock Friday evening. Except for an occasional waft of ovine flatulence (reminiscent of Cool Ranch Doritos and Jagermeister), our trip was a delightful chance to catch up, trade gossip and talk yarn. We checked in -- Jim had thoughtfully informed them of our late arrival -- and pulled the car around to the back of the hotel so we could put our bags in our rooms. (Handy for us, we were only a few doors away from each other, in the same corridor.)

As we disentangled a bit of Romney fleece from Laura's tote bag, she looked over at the noisily gently snoring Dolores and said timidly, "Should we wake her up?"

Jim and Franklin exchanged uneasy glances.

"Absolutely not," I said firmly, carefully closing the liftback so it made a minimum of thunk.

"But Carol," the kind-hearted Laura protested weakly, "you have those child locks on the door so you can't open the doors from the inside--"

"Never mind, Laura," I broke in. I grabbed her hand and tugged. "C'mon, I'm starving."

Laura looked a bit dismayed, shooting a few baleful looks at the sleeping hulk in the back of my car, but Franklin was already putting his keycard in the slot to open the hotel door. (I thought I heard him mutter something along the lines of "I'd love to see Tom's face when he sees what Dolores does to the car" but maybe I misheard. Franklin doesn't have a vicious bone in his body.) Clearly, he wasn't going to wake her, so following his lead, I marched Laura toward the warmth and light of the hotel.

After a quick bite, we adjourned to our rooms. Laura still looked a bit troubled.

"Are you sure we should have left Dolores in the car?" she said, a note of skepticism in her voice. "It's kind of cold out there."

"She needs her beauty sleep," I told her, "just like, um, Norma Desmond before her big role in Sunset Boulevard, you know?"

"There are some parallels between the Gloria Swanson role and Dolores," Jim mused. "The faded scent of glory, the disproportionate sense of one's own importance, the young and talented writer who gets unwittingly sucked into her twisted orbit..."

Laura wasn't entirely convinced, despite Jim's insightful theories about the glory days of Hollywood cinema. "I still think she might be mad."

At this point, I thrust my copy of Guys With Yarn at her:

and Laura was quiet for a good long time.

At around four in the morning, there was a huge commotion down in the pool area. I heard the sound of breaking glass, muttered cursing and then a huge splash.

"What's going on?" Jim mumbled.

"You're dreaming, honey," I said in my best Mom voice, and pulled the drapes shut a little tighter. After double-checking that both security locks on the door were securely on, I drifted back to sleep, full of fibery dreams for the day ahead.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rhinebeck road trip

First I picked up Franklin Habit -- world-famous blogger, author, raconteur and all-around bon vivant -- from the airport. Then I loaded faithful traveling companions Jim and Laura into the station wagon, got the Mapquest printouts ready, and started swilling Diet Coke to stay awake. I had thought that the trenchant smell of lanolin and bourbon was due to some new aftershave of Jim's, when something made me glance in the rear-view mirror.

to be continued. . .

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting ready for Rhinebeck

Riddle me this: why is it that, on the rare occasion that I get nasty emails from bigots, they are always full of spelling and grammatical errors, to the point where they are almost incomprehensible? (Lucky for them, they always manage to make the hate come through, though.) Can it be -- dare I suggest -- that bigotry and ignorance go hand in hand? But geez, people, if you want your screeds to be taken even a little seriously, could you freakin' spellcheck them? Maybe read through them once or twice to make sure that every sentence has a subject and a verb?

Sheesh. (shaking head reproachfully) It's just impossible to find good screeds any more. I guess all the good ones are being made in China these days.

Best. Gifts. Evar.

I had occasion to receive some free gifts this past month. One was a lovely set of stitch markers from Zero on etsy.

Coincidentally, I just started a sweater in the round and had used a bunch of random stitch markers that I pulled from under the couch cushions (except for the one that had the squished MilkDuds on it) to mark the raglan decreases. So now I am going to switch out the old ones and add these beauts. These would be great gifts for secret pals or even to treat yourself...

This is just too much:

Heather sent this to me a few days ago. Is it not the cutest? I especially love the leetle Bunnies for Obama tag. I would totally buy a shirt that had the bunny logo on it (and I'd also buy one in the shape of a kitteh's head that said LOLCATS for Obama or Kittehs 4 Obama -- hint, hint....).

I hope I get to see some of you in Rhinebeck this weekend. I'll be moseying around all day Saturday and early in the day Sunday. I'm going to be at Franklin's booksigning for at least part of the time (Saturday, 12 to 2 at Carolina Homespun's booth) and I will bring a bag with some BBF inventory if anyone wants to pick up a skein at no-shipping/Rhinebeck-discounted prices. I'll be delighted to sign your personal copy of Knit So Fine, too, if you want to bring it or pick up a copy at the show. So if you see me, flag me down and say hi.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cavalcade of baby sweaters

We seem to be hitting another phase where people we know are having babies. Lots of babies. Two of Tom's coworkers either just had or are about to have babies, both of them girls, so I have two finished objects to show you.

This one is a little short-sleeved jacket from a Sirdar booklet.

The yarn is Paton's Silk/Bamboo, and while it is lusciously silky and has a great shine, and is a nice luxurious yarn for a baby gift, I'm not sure I'd use it again for a pattern with lots of garter stitch. The pattern was written for a yarn that also prominently contained bamboo, but I think the lack of elasticity in the yarn I used made for every teeny inconsistency in my knitting showing up in the garter stitch edgings. (Yep, I did block it, too.)

Sometimes I get in the mood where I just want to follow directions for a pattern rather than figuring it out myself. Even then, I sometimes find myself second-guessing the way it's written. This pattern was written so that you cast on a bunch of stitches for the front left, and then put some of them on a holder after the first row, and knit up the stockinette portion of the front first. Then you go back and put the 10 or 12 stitches from the holder onto a slightly smaller needle and knit the garter stitch edging separately.

I came really close to bagging this and knitting it all together, just doing the first 10 or 12 stitches in garter stitch and switching to st st for the rest of the row, but then I thought "Hey, don't be a know-it-all. Maybe there's some reason not apparent to you now for why they do it this way."

There wasn't. When it came time for the finishing, I had to seam the garter stitch edging that runs up the front to the front, which irked the shite out of me. I tried to figure out what possessed the designer to do it this way, and the only thing I could think of was that s/he really, really wanted to use a smaller needle size for the garter stitch edging than for the stockinette portion. Feh. If I did this again, I'd knit it all in one piece. And I'd use a yarn with enough wool in it that the elasticity made up for the switch between garter and stockinette.

Lesson learned: It doesn't always pay to be humble.

The second jacket was a much more satisfying knit.

Huge thanks to Liz K. for suggesting this pattern a long time ago as a quick and easy baby gift. It's from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and has the virtue of being knit in the round. All you do is graft the underarm stitches together -- no seaming required. It's so easy that you don't even have to do buttonholes; you use little beads that will fit between the stitches on the placket as "buttons." (I'm not convinced the beads will really hold the placket closed but it doesn't matter given the style of the sweater.)

This one was knit in the old stand-by, Plymouth Encore, for wash-and-dry ease. A big thumbs-up to this pattern -- although make sure you find the errata for it, as there is a substantially-revised version of it that changes the way the raglan decreases are done.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A salute

Today is National Coming Out Day. It's a day for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered to be open about who they are, and for heteros like me to open up and discuss issues that impact the GLTB community. I have begun an informal tradition here of posting on National Coming Out Day. I do this to honor and salute my friends -- those intelligent, funny, fun, decent people who add so much to my life -- who happen to be GLTB.

I'm a straight white woman who grew up in a middle-class family. I can never truly know what it's like to be GLTB in this world.

But I do know what it's like to feel fundamentally different from your parents, to feel that there is a major disconnect between what your parents think and believe, and what you think and believe. I know what it's like to have to close off a part of your life from your parents because they just can't handle it, I know what it's like to have conversational minefields with your family that you're constantly stepping around, and I know what it's like to know that if your mother knew some of your secrets, it would break her heart. That still doesn't mean I know what it's like to be GLTB in our society, but I do have a teeny inkling of some of what my GLTB friends must feel at times.

So today I salute you, my dear friends who add so much to my life, who make me laugh and who make me think. I honor your courage and your spirit in the face of ignorance and judgment and cruelty. I love you and I hope I live to see the day when you can love who you want and be who you are without fear or repercussion.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notes from Ravelry... (a new feature)

Today in Ravelry, you may enter a discussion as to what yarn would be the best choice for potato-scrubbing gloves. Or you may give comfort to the knitter who is reluctant to use her 50% acrylic/50% polyester yarn made by Fruit Of The Loom in case it is a valuable and sought-after keepsake. . .

Please be advised that I lerve Ravelry and I think it's the shizzle. But I still find some of the threads amusing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


It hasn't been that long since I blogged about our nasty encounter with yellowjackets. Well, our house must be very inviting to bugs (you don't think it's karma's response to all my moth repellent devices, do you?) because we are now facing Invasion of the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (halyomorpha halys, for Franklin and the other Latin scholars).

These nasty, crunchy, stinky bugs are invading the side of our house that gets the most sun. I scoop 'em up, I flush 'em, I even have taken to vacuuming 'em, and more keep coming. Sigh. I have it on good authority that these bugs hitched a ride from Asia in shipping cartons and since they have no natural predators here, tend to multiply quickly.

In the meantime, some sort of icky meal bug has infested my flour. (We are big fans of the Pantry Pest sticky trap.)

And to add to the overall bugginess, we had a visitor show up on the outside of a window:

A praying mantis. At least he had the good sense to stay outside. I have a rolled-up section of newspaper and I'm not afraid to use it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I was supposed to be caught up by now

The end of the summer was a bit frantic. Lots of family stress, no set schedule for the kids, vacation, and deadlines for some spring projects. I convinced myself that once the kids went back to school, I'd catch up. Well, the kids have been back at school for nearly a month and guess what? I'm still not caught up.

My house is filled with these:

Somehow I managed to be the collection point for the hats and scarves that Ravelry Obama supporters knit for homeless veterans. This week's big project is sorting and counting, so that I can divide them up and mail them to the people who will deliver them to the homeless shelters in their states. Charcoal has been enjoying the collection process, though; he's gotten dibs on the extra bunny-sized boxes. (I think someone needs boxhab, no?)

I am woefully behind on my sock/fiber/yarn clubs, and about a thousand other projects on my to-do list. I've been hoping to keep the BBF website better stocked, and in that regard, I did make progress; yesterday I uploaded lots of superwash merino sock yarn and some great rovings (merino/silk blend and some silky 100% Wensleydale):

So I guess I better load up on coffee and get those dyepots cranking. When I'm ready to scream with frustration, I remind myself: t's only 2 weeks to Rhinebeck.

Friday, October 03, 2008

An important public service reminder

The deadline for voter registration is rapidly approaching. So please, PLEASE, if you are concerned about the direction our country is taking, and you think we need some changes starting from the White House down, and you are sick of having an inarticulate numbskull in the Oval Office, please make sure you are registered to vote and please apply for an absentee ballot if you need one.

You can check a national voter registration database, and get information about registering to vote and getting absentee ballots for your specific state by going here or here. For example, if you live in Pennsylvania, like I do, you've got to register no later than Monday, October 6th -- which is this coming Monday.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A friendly challenge

Elvis completed his cap this weekend:

(okay, we haven't sewn the ends in yet, but still). Look at the pride in his face! In fact, he's having so much fun knitting that he is already bugging me to help him start a pair of matching mittens.

Wouldn't it be nice to help some other kids learn how to knit?

Well, it just so happened that I was contacted by the good people at Donors Choose, a nonprofit organization dedicated to hooking up teachers who need classroom resources and donors who want to help kids learn. Teachers are invited to submit proposals listing specific items that they want to use to help their kids learn; then donors can pick the specific proposal that they'd like their money to go to. During the month of October, bloggers ask their readers to help them raise money for some of the Donors Choose proposals. So I'm asking those of you who can spare five bucks or whatever to please go to my Donors Choose page here and help spread your love of knitting (and/or crochet) to some kids whose teachers want to help them but lack the financial resources to do so.

When I signed up to do this, I didn't know that the Knitting Curmudgeon was also starting a challenge, so let's see if we can at least keep up with Marilyn when it comes to fundraising. You know, in the spirit of friendly rivalry and all that crap. I make no promises to knit with Red Heart if we meet our goal, but I will sweeten the pot by drawing a name for a free skein of BBF sock yarn from amongst my donors...

Thanks in advance for your help! Once again, the link to my fundraising challenge is here.