December 30, 2008

I don't just receive gifts

Sometimes I make them, too.

Witness, Mom's Christmas mitts, delivered a mere two days after Christmas. Which, given how late last year's Christmas gift was, was mighty impressive.


Crystal Palace Panda Cotton in the Fall Herbs colorway, about 1.5 balls. Size 2.5 needles. 52 stitch cast-on, 2x2 rib, with a 10 stitch afterthought thumb.


I think the next time I make mitts like these I'll do a gussetted thumb. The afterthought thumb pulls the ribbing out of alignment - not ugly or unwearable or anything, but a gussetted thumb would be a bit prettier.


These cottony mitts are now pulling light duty in Arizona, so I'm glad they got a chance to experience cold weather at least once in their lives.

I have one more Christmas gift in the works (it's not late, it's just making the magic of Christmas last longer). Then we can move onto my latest sock obsessions.

Can't. Stop. Knitting. Socks.

December 28, 2008

This is why I give him handknits

From the Department of Yet More Awesome Gifts, I bring you the TRIP TO WEBS gift certificate that I, carless and 90 miles away from WEBS, received from my friend Bryan* for Christmas.

Click to view full size. Seriously, it's worth it. e.g., it contains the disclaimer that the gift giver is not responsible for...

PYDS (Post Yarnal Depression Syndrome): This is when a knitter is (for a brief period of time) in a heaven like place, surrounded by a veritable cornucopia of yarn but then has to go back to the real world where limited amounts of yarn are sold only in small shops with limited hours.

Bryan receives handknits, not because he's thoughtful and gives such excellent presents (which he is, and does). But because dude totally understands this knitting thing. Which is all the more amazing because he does not knit, nor was he raised by a knitter or otherwise trained in knitting appreciation in his early life.

So he got a Christmas hat. Cascade 220 superwash, roll-brim, basic stockinette. Details Raveled.


This plain black hat will replace the original plain black hat (also pictured) I made him a few years ago, right after I started knitting. The original hat was knit in Cascade 128 and looked kind of like butt, being about an inch too long for him, with an ugly puckery K2TOG around decrease at the top. However, he has been nice enough to wear this craptacular early knitting effort for several years and was long overdue for an upgrade. (As a bonus, now that he has a replacement hat, he's finally allowing me to fix the original hat, which will do wonders for my knitterly pride).

Though I think he probably deserves some socks, too...

* Thanks are also due to Bryan's uncle Alan, whose mad Photoshop skillz were employed in producing the gift certificate. Thanks, guys!

December 26, 2008

What I did on my winter vacation

Or eight really fabulous things about my trip to the Bay Area. In no particular order...

1. Wine. And cheese. "Vino con Queso" at Artesa, part of a fabulous Napa itinerary masterminded by my friends Kelley and Mike.



If it tells you anything about our priorities for the day, Mike finished all his wine at the tasting, Kelley finished all her cheese, and I finished all of both. Then I ate the rest of Mike's cheese.

2. It's green. And things are flowering. In December. This is obviously less exciting if you live somewhere warm, but coming from Boston, the greenery was startling. I kept stopping to exclaim over exciting things in people's yards (e.g., "Holy crap! A jade plant, growing! In the ground!").


3. They sell liquor everywhere. Again, less exciting depending on where you live. But liquor! In a grocery store! California is like an exotic foreign land whose customs I do not understand.


4. Geek trivia.


Barely visible on the horizon are the loading cranes at the Oakland docks, supposedly the design inspiration for the Star Wars Walkers.

5. Schnitzel, prepared by BFF Quinn's husband Brian and consumed enthusiastically (and to the point of pain) by me. That man can fry.


6. BFF Quinn! BFF Quinn!


7. Mike and Kelley, who deserted me, I mean, moved to the North Bay in September. As you can see, they have an uncanny ability to find dive bars wherever they live.


This is their local bar in Novato. Where I discovered that drunk old men find me hot. H-O-T-T. Hot. We all have our special talents.

8. New yarn.

Fiber Confections hand-dyed superwash merino from Quinn, who (unsurprisingly given her overall awesomeness) picked out supremely awesome sock yarn for me.


Knitpicks superwash fingering weight, Koolaid dyed by Kelley and gifted to me. It makes me happy every time I look at it.


Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Chinatown Apple colorway, scored at Llama Llama Knit in Novato. I'd never seen Dream in Color yarn in real life, and it is just as smooshy and lovely as I had always heard.


There were a million other wonderful things about the trip, so thank you Kelley and Mike and Quinn and Brian for host(ess)ing so brilliantly.

It was a perfect way to celebrate, and I can't wait to see you all again soon!

December 23, 2008

Season's Greetings from the Passive Aggressive Gifts Department

I joined Paperback Swap a few months ago, in an attempt to get rid of some of the many, many books I own that I don't plan to re-read. Those of you who are smarter than I am might point out that *swapping* books won't reduce the total quantity of books I own, but I would ignore you.

Anyway, I recently got a copy of Nancy Farmer's teen novel The House of the Scorpion via Paperback Swap. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find this inscription on the title page:

For XXXX -

This looks great! Maybe this will be the book to turn you on to literature - but you'll have to read it to find out!


Nonna, I'm guessing your efforts were in vain. But I'm sure your condescending tone and the recipient's clear lack of interest in reading had absolutely nothing to do with it.

If I thought forcing books on the uninterested would work, I'd be manacling them to chairs with their eyes jammed open and a book in front of them, like something out of A Clockwork Orange. But some people just don't like reading. As a book lover and trained librarian, this is painful to acknowledge, but it's true.

So for all you fellow bibliophiles out there, if someone you know and love doesn't like reading, buy them a goddamned video game or a basketball or a Bob Marley wall hanging or something, anything, that they will actually enjoy.

I'm off to do some Christmas shopping. Happy holidays, all!

December 22, 2008

And now for the gratitude

First, thank you to everyone that commented on my quitting smoking post. I really appreciate the support, encouragement and advice! I will be revisiting those comments come January.

As evidenced by the lack of blogging and, uh, any other form of communication, I've been a little busy since that last post. But I did finish the semester. My last semester of library school. Ever.

Which means I am officially a master's degree-holding librarian! Or will be in January, when the degree is actually conferred. In the interim, addressing me as Master is optional, but encouraged.

I didn't knit much at the end of the semester, but I did finish a pair of socks last month.


Basic stockinette, the usual recipe, details Raveled. Pretty, pretty, pretty.

I've got some double secret gift knitting to show off, too. And some pretty new yarn. Coming soon...

December 21, 2008

We interrupt the planned expression of gratitude

For cheese. Lots and lots of cheese: Valencay, Stichelton, Calcagno, Cappucetto Rosso and Captein Gouda.


My friend Bryan just gave me this for my birthday. With the most excellent advice of BFF Quinn's friend Siri (cheese pusher extraordinaire), he picked out some of the best damn cheese I've ever tasted. And I've tasted a LOT of cheese.

I can't even begin to say how awesome this is. Thank you!

Edited to add - This is the same Bryan I had this conversation with on Friday:

Me (extraordinarily excited about the arrival of X-Files Season 1 at my apartment): Guess what I got today!?!?

Him: A vampire movie? A zombie movie?

Me: Better.

Him: Yarn? No, yarn, DELIVERED by a zombie?

He knows me so well...

November 23, 2008

On quitting

I am by nature somewhat anxious. I agonize over important decisions, and unimportant ones. I worry about stupid things I said or did. Or things I haven’t done yet. I have trouble sleeping. Etc.

Stress management literature suggests various behaviors to help deal with these feelings of anxiety – deep breaths, calling a friend, going for a walk. Since none of these suggestions have been AT ALL effective for me, I once asked a friend for his suggestions. He answered: drink, smoke and eat. Heh. I can do that!

But as I’ve gotten older, the appeal of drinking has begun to wane (somewhat). And I found that I genuinely enjoy eating healthy, mostly natural foods in smaller quantities. So that just leaves smoking.

And sweet Jesus, do I love smoking.

I love that it distracts me, that it gives me something to do with my hands, that it soothes me, that it breaks up every work day with a much-needed excuse to step away from my desk. I love the aura of danger and reckless self-neglect and frank stupidity that surrounds it. I love lighters and ashtrays and the way a cigarette looks between my fingers. I love the way smoke curls up from my hand and my lips. And the tingling warmth that spreads through me when I take that first drag in the morning.

But as much as I love smoking, it doesn’t love me back. When I started smoking, cigarettes were less than $3 a pack. Not anymore. A $7 pack a day is a staggeringly beautiful skein of yarn in the first week. It’s a hot pair of boots in the first month. It’s a tropical vacation at the end of a year.

And quitting smoking means I probably won’t get bronchitis twice a year. It means I won't have to huddle outside on a frigid day, clutching a cigarette between numb fingers. The constant smoker's hack will dissipate. If I quit now I probably won’t get what I – charmingly – refer to as “puckery butt mouth.” It means the backs of my teeth won’t be stained brown within weeks of each dentist visit. My sense of taste and smell will improve (imagine if bacon could taste EVEN BETTER!!).

And most importantly, it means I’m much less likely to get cancer and die.

So for all these reasons, I am quitting. My quit date is January 8, 2009.

Wish me luck.

October 25, 2008

This ain't your MA's Wool Festival

Whoa. I've been to MA Sheep and Wool a few times now, so I thought I was kind of prepared for Rhinebeck. I was not prepared.

I was in fact dazed and overwhelmed by the number of vendors, the lines, the sheer number of people. And the yarn. Good god, the yarn. I think the yarn haze explains why I spent two days there and emerged with almost no pictures. And why it's taken me almost a week to write something semi-coherent about it.


My knittahs Jenny and Sarah were most excellent company on the trip, and not just because they can always be counted on to say "Yes, you DO deserve that hand-dyed sock yarn!!" Though that didn't hurt.

So what did we do in NY, besides buy yarn?

I watched Jenny entrance passersby with her spinning. I know she convinced at least one person to buy a spindle (or as I think of it, lured another member into the coven).


We stood in line for an hour to buy Socks that Rock. Turns out, knitters make excellent company. Best damn line I've ever stood in. And well worth it for these pretties...


We saw a lot of bloggers.... I completely forgot that reading each other's blogs does not actually mean I know someone in real life and totally hugged Kristy of Eleven Stitches when I ran into her on Saturday. Sorry about that. Your Venezia really was stunning.

We ate next to Franklin Habit at a diner. We stalked the Yarn Harlot. I felt kind of bad when she totally busted me right after I Kinneared her...


Until I saw this picture on Ravelry. Heh.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely at the Ravelry party, where we scored goody bags, free beer AND a sweet spot in the heated tents with the always-charming Susan of Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm, and her equally charming family.


We ate a whole lot of greasy food...


And I even did a little knitting...


I have the second sock about halfway done and I'd like to finish it before I start something else.

But damn, all that pretty new sock yarn is calling to me...

October 15, 2008

Guess what I did tonight?

Yup - had fun with Photoshop...AND...more importantly...

...took crappy pictures of the Yarn Harlot...




October 4, 2008

The wrong week to quit sniffing glue

So this week kind of blew in a lot of ways. And I’m missing out on both a friend’s pig roast and a blog fodder GOLDMINE (aka the Salem zombie parade) this weekend because I have too much to do (I realize that blogging doesn't help with the "too much to do" problem).

Plus, I keep whacking into things (while sober, thankyouverymuch), so I’m covered in large multi-colored bruises. I’ve decided to consider them a festive dash of contrasting color rather than a clear sign that I’m a little jammed up and distracted because of it.

But enough bitching. Let’s talk about knitting. Specifically, holy fuck it’s Socktoberfest!! I love Socktoberfest! My favorite time of year in New England AND a gazillion knitters making socks and talking about socks and posting lovely pictures of socks.

And I just happen to have started the most perfectly fall-liscious sock…


The usual – basic stockinette, 72 stitch cast-on, Meilenweit Megaboots Stretch, size 2 needles. But do you see those colors? Mmmm…

And I’m only a tiny bit bitter that October is stupid busy this year...Because since classes have been cutting into my knitting time, it seems only fair that knitting should start cutting into my class time. There are at least two other sock knitters in my Collection Development class (including this blogger), and they've been happily knitting away through the lectures and discussions. So finally I just started knitting too.

Sweeeeet...Three solid, blissful hours of sock knitting every week…

And, uh, learning. Lots and lots of important learning.

September 23, 2008

It's not lurking least not according to Knowledge Management jargon.

In KM, lurking is called "legitimate peripheral participation." Which kind of begs the question: exactly what would constitute "illegitimate" peripheral participation?

In any case, my classes this semester are taking up a lot of valuable knitting and blogging time, and the work/school schedule looks pretty brutal through the end of October.

So if it seems like I'm not posting as frequently or not commenting over the next few weeks, just remember, I'm still participating in the knitblog community.

Just, you know, peripherally.

September 20, 2008


It's official! I'm going to Rhinebeck.

Anyone else going?

September 19, 2008

A teachable moment

So last night for my Collection Development class we did a “walkabout” through the Simmons library. The idea is that you can pick up a general sense of materials usage, patron activity, and impending facilities problems by wandering through your collection. Which was kind of a neat practical exercise and a whole lot more fun than sitting in a lecture.

But you know what makes that kind of exercise even better? When your professor totally supports your master plan to test out the compact shelving’s infrared sensors by attempting to squash one of your classmates between the moving shelves. Sweet!

Turns out, you really can’t close the shelves when someone is standing in the aisle. Barring infrared sensor malfunction or possession by some evil force intent on crushing the life from all in its path (it could happen! And if it does I will be the only one who is not surprised – and I will be PREPARED! Also I should maybe watch fewer movies about demon possession).

I guess I can finally cross “irrational fear of compact shelving” off my list of reasons not to become a librarian when I finish my degree.

Maybe next week’s class will include an awesome learning opportunity that will help me get over “actively disliking the public” and “a deep and abiding love for the f word.”

September 17, 2008

Librarians - it's time to booze up and riot!

I know this is mostly a knitting blog, and I don’t generally rant about politics. But this Time article about Sarah Palin belatedly came to my attention today.

I won’t get into my other objections to Palin's candidacy (and I have many as a liberal feminist), but this portion of the article is more than enough for me:

[Former Wasilla mayor] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor.

So it’s possible that, as mayor, she wanted to ban books from the library and then threatened to fire the librarian who stood in her way? Now *that’s* the kind of person I want a heartbeat away from the presidency. If this pisses you off - and it should - let someone know. Blog about it. Tell your friends. Tell your families. Talk to other librarians. Or librarians-in-training. Or anyone you know that cares about freedom of speech and the separation between church and state.

For the ladies - consider contributing to this blog. (I know I have a handful of male readers – apologies, dudes). The blog started with an email sent to 40 women asking them to share why, as women, they felt Sarah Palin did not in fact represent *them*, despite Republican claims. The blog has since received 100,000+ responses from women all across America. If you feel that Sarah Palin does not represent you as a librarian, a free speech advocate, a reproductive rights supporter, whatever, consider sending them your reasons. Details below:

[W]e invite you to write to womensaynopalin AT gmail DOT com with a short, succinct message about why you, as a woman living in this country, do not support this candidate as second-in-command for our nation. Please include your name (last initial is fine), age, and place of residence.

And, for you non-librarians, libraries get requests to remove materials all the time. Most of the time, the answer is a firm no. To get an idea of the kind of materials library patrons have objected to, check out the American Library Association’s annual list of “most challenged” books.

If you’re like me, you can also look at it as a list of “Awesome Books I Need to Read.”

September 15, 2008

And drinking beer will cure all infectious disease

I came across this quote in my Knowledge Management (KM) textbook this weekend:

There is a definite correlation between KM and economic growth, as evidenced by a significant contrast in the social and economic indicators between the developed and developing countries...An analysis of these developed and developing countries...reveals a significant difference in the KM factors that have contributed to the considerable disparities not only in wealth, but also in education, population, GNP per capita, adult literacy rate, infant mortality, health services and other indicators of poverty and prosperity.

Um, yeah. The real problem with global hunger, poverty, illiteracy and inequality is inadequate Knowledge Management.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next librarian-in-training of having self-aggrandizing visions of what the information professions can accomplish. Information is power, and public libraries (for example) are uniquely positioned to help everyone, not just the privileged and the well-educated, gain access to the power of information. I like to think of it as sticking it to the Man, one book at a time.

But to claim that Knowledge Management principles have already "resulted in economic benefits and healthy competition in every sector and all aspects of human life?" Seriously?

So in the spirit of making unfounded and ridiculous pronouncements regarding the potential impact of our daily activities, I would like to announce that through knitting I will soon become RULER OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE.

Obeisance to your Supreme Ruler may be made in the form of yarn.

Let the fawning begin.

September 8, 2008

It's not you, it's me

Dear Firewalker,

We’ve spent a few weeks together now, and they’ve really been great. Your pattern repeat is perfection, not too complicated to work on while watching TV, but not so mindless that you bore me. And the way your red and the orange stripe up on the bias, sweetly sprinkled with a few bright yellow stitches? Endlessly charming.

But it’s just not enough, I’m afraid. And I think you know what the problem is, because we tried this once before. Back when I foolishly thought just changing from a size 1 to a size 2 needle would be enough. You were too small back then, but rather than presenting Megan (of the dainty feet) with yet another pair of tiny socks, I was willing to give it another try. I increased you to 82 stitches, and you were still beautiful.

And yet, here we are, back in the same place we were all those months ago.


I’m so sorry to do this to you, but it’s just not going to happen, you and me. You see, even at 82 stitches on a size 2 needle, you just aren't going to fit my undainty feet.

I wish you all the best in your next incarnation. I’m thinking you’ll make a really lovely pair of fingerless mitts.

Best wishes,

September 7, 2008

Paying it forward, vegetable style

I so appreciated the recipe suggestions you all gave me early in the summer, back when I was drowning in greens.

So I thought I’d return the favor, now that my CSA has been looking more like this:


This is loosely based on a recipe from The New Vegetarian Epicure, called “Summer Vegetable Pasta.”

I call mine “Christ! Eggplant Again?!? Pasta”. This recipe has many virtues - one is that it uses up a lot of those late-summer vegetables and, more importantly, it's the one and only eggplant preparation I have ever found palatable.

Servings: Will thoroughly sauce 1 lb. of pasta. Because I know how many of you appreciate getting thoroughly sauced.


Prepare this stuff first, through Step 2:
- 1 or 2 medium eggplants, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- 2 large onions, chopped medium

While the eggplant is draining and the onions are caramelizing, you can prep this stuff:
- A few tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 red, yellow or green peppers, cored and thinly sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, saving as much juice as you can, or 2 small cans diced tomatoes in juice
- 12 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- A few tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley

Accompaniments: A nice shaving of parmesan, a crusty baguette, some good wine and the foxy companion of your choice would not be unwelcome additions.


Step 1: In a large colander, toss the cubed eggplant with a few pinches of kosher salt. Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes.


Step 2: Meanwhile, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium-low heat in a large, heavy sauce pan or dutch oven. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and golden. 15-20 minutes.


Step 3: Squeeze excess liquid out of eggplant.

Step 4: When onions are almost completely caramelized, increase heat to high and add sliced peppers and squeezed eggplant to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant and peppers have softened and have little brown spots.



Step 5: Reduce heat to medium, clear out some space in the bottom of the pan, drizzle in a bit more oil and add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir until fragrant, about thirty seconds.


Step 6: Add chopped tomatoes with their juice to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until heated through and tomatoes have just started to break down. Turn off heat.



Step 7: Add olives and fresh herbs to pan and stir just to combine.

Serve sauce tossed with chunky pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni, etc).


Ingredients: As with my knitting, actual quantities and measurements are basically just estimates. Unlike my knitting, there’s really no way to screw this up, as far as I can tell. The key thing is just to cook the onions for a very long time, the peppers and eggplant until just tender and the tomatoes hardly at all. Then throw in the extras, like basil and olives and cheese, at the last minute.

I’ve made it with: 1 white eggplant, 3 peppers (1 red, 1 green and one big mild chile), and 4 fresh tomatoes…. OR … 2 eggplants (1 white, 1 purple), 2 green peppers, and 2 fresh tomatoes…. OR ….2 eggplants (1 white, 1 purple), 1 green pepper, and 2 small cans diced tomatoes in juice (1 can regular and 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles). All were delicious.

Step 1: I’m told by reliable sources that salting and draining eggplant this way improves both its flavor and texture. I don’t actually like eggplant at all, and I love this dish. Which makes me think salting and draining the eggplant is a magical, mystical step that should not be skipped.

Step 2: Caramelizing the onions over low heat takes for-freaking-ever, but is totally worth it. They add a really nice sweetness to the sauce.

Step 4: The original recipe has you cook the onions in a separate pot from the eggplant and peppers, presumably so the onions don’t overcook. I’m lazy and prefer to use as few pots as possible, so I just cooked it all together. But do keep an eye on the onions to make sure they don’t overcook at this point.

Step 6: If you are using canned tomatoes, add them a few minutes earlier than you would the fresh tomatoes - before the peppers and eggplant have completely softened. Canned tomatoes need to cook a bit longer than the fresh ones.

September 3, 2008


One of my college friends finally got with the baby-making program and produced a baby girl in August. I've mentioned before, babies are so not my thing. But I am all over the instant gratification of teeny baby knits.

There's just one problem. This particular baby is gonna be a total badass.

See, her mother named her Honoria, after a Roman noblewoman who refused to marry, had ridiculous amounts of inappropriate sex and conspired with Attilla the Hun to try to bring down the Roman Empire. That's a whole lot of name.

So, what should I knit for my friend's sweet bundle of badass?

I just don't think a hat and booty set is gonna cut it...

August 26, 2008

Minor loss of fidelity

Awhile ago, the Daft Crafter mentioned that she was looking for a kick-ass pattern to knit. One of those patterns you can’t stop thinking about, that's so good you just knit obsessively to the exclusion of all else and start resenting having to do things like eating and crapping because they take up valuable knitting time. I may be paraphrasing a bit there.

Anyway, she seemed to find that level of obsession with a pair of colorwork mitts. In malabrigo laceweight. They’re ridiculous and she’s awesome. Frankly, I’m a tidge jealous too. It’s been a long time since I’ve been that enamored of anything I’ve been knitting.

What’s that, you say, you’ve actually been knitting? Why yes, I have been knitting, thank you very much. Just not much, or particularly successfully. So what have I been knitting?

Completed stockinette socks – quite charming in their blue-green oceany way, but not a thrilling knit. But still! An actual finished knitted object!



Knit in Lana Grossa Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch (colorway 721), size 2 Harmony DPNs, 72 stitch cast-on, standard sock recipe. Yarn gifted to me by my coworkers as part of my appendix get-well package. Finished socks will be gifted to one of my fellow SNBers, who is not only an awesome sock knitter, but is also a graduate of my MLS program AND had her appendix removed by surprise some years ago. I can't think of a more fitting recipient.

As for the WIPs…well. Not so much.

Spring Forward – meh. Thinking the variegated yarn obscures the pattern. Also, pooly. And frankly a little too repetitive to be an obsessive knit. Possibly also too small.


There’s also a shawl and a sweater, both in a time-out. The former due to an unfortunate night where I played a super-fun game I like to call “I can drink wine, knit lace and watch Jeopardy at the same time because I am a Super Genius!" The latter due to poor pattern reading and a mistake I made in the VERY FIRST ROW.

Enough whining! You know what the solution is, right?

Yup, it’s time to start something new! Meet Firewalker. Pattern – duh. Yarn dyed by me. This yarn was previously a much smaller Jaywalker, with a much less cool name. Pretty, pretty, pretty…


It’s even prettier in real life, I promise. Does anyone else have a bitch of a time getting their digital camera to capture reds accurately? My camera can’t quite seem to believe anything is this gaudily colored and just smooshes the oranges and reds into a big blurry mess. I’ve tried different light (direct, indirect, etc) and different settings, but nothing seems to work very well.

If you have this problem, do you have a good solution? I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone will say that I really need a much better, shinier and sleeker digital camera, but any settings advice would be appreciated too...

August 10, 2008

Stash is not just for yarn

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “stash” as “To hide or store away in a secret place”. For knitters, stash is so much more than that, of course. However, “forgetting” to mention acquisitions to significant others who think “you have enough sock yarn” notwithstanding, mostly yarn stash isn’t much of a secret.

But I do have a secret stash. Except it’s not yarn. It’s cheese. Cheese stash is obviously more transitory than yarn stash, due to its perishable nature. But almost as exciting. Possibly more exciting, for me. Cheese tasting often ends with me squealing, jumping up and down and doing the “happy cheese dance.” Which kind of looks like I’m having a seizure, but you know, happy about it.


So, to stretch the analogy excruciatingly, I have the Cascade 220-type cheeses – ricotta, feta, parmesan, havarti, American cheddar, etc. Good, solid, basic cheeses. Perfect for tossing in pasta or making a sandwich. And usually something a bit nicer - like Malabrigo or Noro level – gruyere or a good English cheddar for eating on their own. And usually I’m completely satisfied with these nice cheeses. Because really, something that’s Malabrigo-Good is pretty effing sweet.

But every now and then you get something fantastically luxurious in your stash that makes everything else in your stash seem inadequate. And last weekend, a visit to the South End Formaggio did the same thing to my cheese stash. Formaggio is an insanely good cheese shop and everyone in or around Boston should go there as soon as possible. There’s a dude there that specializes in PAIRING CHEESE AND BEER. Go there. Go there now.

Our visit was especially awesome due to the expert guidance of BFF Quinn’s friend Siri, who works there when she’s not busy being a brilliant sociologist-in-training. And she hooked us UP with some amazing recommendations.


Meet (clockwise from bottom left)...

Gratte Paille
Morbier Marcel Petite
Persillé de Pont Astier
Reypanaer VSOP

This is the cashmere of cheeses. This is the dreamily soft baby yak down of cheese. This is cheese that makes me never want to eat any other kind of cheese again. Also, the Gratte Paille is cheese that BFF Quinn described as “glistening like a pair of sweaty balls,” which has nothing to do with stash behavior but did make me snort-laugh.

And much like new yarn, this new cheese makes me think all my old cheese sucks. Stupid cheese. But luckily, I know just where to go to get more...

I actually finished a pair of socks, and I got some pretty, pretty new sock yarn. So actual knitting content soon!

July 27, 2008

Not such a useless word after all

The predictive text feature on my cell phone is missing some really important words. Like “douchebag,” “crappy” and, most unbelievably, “brunch”. Anyway, what it lacks in being able to predict how I text, is more than made up for by having lots of words that I’m pretty sure have never been used in a text message in the entire history of texting – like tonsorial. And mordant.

Why do I mention this? Because it’s annoying, but also when I first got my phone, I thought “WTF does mordant mean!?!?” And now, I’m proud to say that I know exactly what it means. Because I have mordanted. I am a mordanter.

When we were at MA Sheep and Wool, the Daft Crafter and I bought ourselves a natural dyeing kit. Natural dyes require a mordant – a chemical additive that improves the light and color-fastness of the dye. You can either pre-mordant your yarn in a mordant bath or mix the mordant with your dyestuffs. And a few weekends ago, we mordanted the crap out of some yarn.


Incidentally, doing stuff like this with other bloggers is awesome. Because they're taking pictures of random crap just like you are. And no one thinks it's at all weird...Plus, they write fabulous posts about it, too...


The whole dyeing experience was extra exciting because we also tried out the new Knitpicks sock blanks. They’re machine-knit into a long rectangle in such a way that you can easily hand-dye SELF-STRIPING SOCK YARN. And since the sock blanks are knit two strands at a time, you theoretically end up with a pair of matching striped socks by knitting one sock from each strand. Fantastic.

So how did the natural dyes look? Well, on the right is my first effort, striped in Cutch and Madder. Mordant mixed in with the dye. Before heat-setting the dye, the two colors looked nearly identical on the yarn. Thus, sloppy-looking stripes. But still, fairly nice.


On the left is my second effort (100% ripped off from, I mean inspired by, the Daft Crafter’s efforts pictured below), striped in Cutch, Madder, Osage, Cochineal, Logwood Grey and combinations thereof. I love it shamelessly.


[Please note, the very, very serious expression on her face in this picture in no way represents the amount of fun we had. Mostly we were laughing. Also, drinking beer.]

And my last, premordanted in a mordant bath and then handpainted with a combination of the same colors as above. Pretty enough to make me resent all my other sock yarn for not being as pretty as this yarn.


The only real drawback to this whole process (besides rather more math than either of us were prepared for, and a whole lot of fussy measuring and timing things) is that you have to let the dyed yarn “season” for a week before rinsing it.

For an instant gratification type, I can see this being tough.

But it’s not as if I’ll be running out of sock yarn any time soon.