March 27, 2007

The Koolaid tastes like wool

There's been a lot of interesting discussion recently about why people blog, what comments mean to people, etc., starting (I think) with a series of posts over at A Cunning Plan. Many people wrote about finding and building community via their blog and how comments are an integral part of that.

I thought about the pure glee with which I greet every single comment and promptly resolved to be a better, more frequent commenter.

In this, I have been a spectacular failure recently. I feel especially bad about it because of all the thoughtful, funny comments I've been getting.

I particularly enjoyed hearing people's thoughts on place, and the meaning of home. I liked Kristy's idea that there's a place you always know you'll end up eventually (for me that place is independently wealthy and surrounded by beautiful yarn, but San Francisco is a good choice too). I knew Marge felt homesick for New York City her entire life, even though she had never lived there(incidentally, all through college, Marge claimed she couldn't imagine living on the West Coast, and I am endlessly smug that such a hard-core East Coaster has managed to find happiness and a sense of belonging on the Other Coast. It happens so rarely that I need to gloat for a moment -I was right and Marge was wrong. Score one for my side of the country). I even heard from Jennie over at Twin-Knits, whose blog I've been admiring so much. So cool.

I also chatted with two knitters on the subway yesterday. One very French and very elegant knitter informed me that my sock was very good, but it really should be Red. After she left, another knitter sat down next to me, we talked sweaters for a while, and she turned me on to Debbie Macomber who wrote A Good Yarn and other fine, knitting-related novels.

All this on a subway system where good manners dictate that you do not speak to anyone else, ever, unless you are loudly demanding that they get out of your way or apologizing for whacking into them. If other knitters can break the no-talking-to-strangers-on-the-subway rule, I sure as hell can do a better job of participating in the knitblog community.

Despite slacking off in the blog department, I've been knitting studiously. It's not done, but a major component of Wicked has been completed.


More details tomorrow...

March 25, 2007

Stepping into the parlor

I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain the Yarn Safari concept to my coworkers last week. Perhaps understandably, the uninitiated find it strange to wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday, in order to get on a bus and ride two+ hours to a yarn shop in the company of 30 strangers.

Although when I was explaining the Safari to my coworker Awesome Meredith (who understands), another coworker looked over and said "Are you talking about yarn?" When I said "Yeah, why?", he said "I could tell by the look on your face."

He's starting to get it, I think.

And the knitters, they definitely understand. They know that behind this unassuming facade...


...lies a yarn shop usually spoken of in reverent whispers.

Despite the reverent whispers, I've resisted Webs for a while now. I knew they were cheap, but I thought of them as the big box retailer of knitting, menacing mom 'n pop yarn shops far and wide with their sheer size and ability to provide steep discounts.

What I found instead was a wonderful shop, with a warm, welcoming and knowledgable staff and, yes, very cheap yarn. They had set aside a room for us, knowing we would probably want a place to sit down with patterns and calculations. They gave us tape measures and Eucalan samples and mentioned that our room had a mirror if we wanted to see how a particular colorway looked against our faces.

One of the other knitters came in with a Lion Brand pattern that didn't specify the yardage per skein, so one of the staff members went online to the Lion site to check the yardage on the recommended yarn before helping her pick a substitute yarn for the project. They were that nice.

And the shop is very, very nice too.


Great yarns, great sample projects, an excellent selection of books, magazines and patterns. Not only do they have just about every yarn I've ever heard of (including many I had only read about), but they also have their own line, Valley Yarns, comparable to KnitPicks in variety and affordability.

But the real reason people go to Webs is the yarn warehouse. That's right, people. Yarn. Warehouse.


When the Yarn Harlot visited, she had been warned that Webs was overwhelming, and she had scoffed. Before visiting, she said "I'm sure it will be big. I bet it will be good, but it will not floor me. I am a Yarn Harlot. That means something." By the end of her sojourn, it was "When I am old, I shall live in the backroom at Webs and make myself a wool and mohair nest with a silk lining. It will be green and gold and soft." Does anyone else really wish they could be the Harlot when they grow up?

I actually had to leave my basket aside at several points to go outside and take deep breaths before resuming my shopping. It's amazing. They have Rowan, and Debbie Bliss and Auracaunia Nature Wool, and Alchemy Yarns, and many, many, many more yarns, all at fire sale prices. And almost all non-sale yarn is 20% off if you buy $60 or more. The discount knocked the price of Rowan yarn straight down from apalling to just barely an indulgence.

This is definitely the place to go if you're buying in sweater volume, as I was...


I got a sweater's worth of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed in the most intriguing orangey-brown, with gold and pink flecks, and another sweater's worth of Classic Elite Skye Tweed in an orange and blue-flecked raspberry. And, well, possibly another sweater's worth of Rowan Felted Tweed in a heathery blue-speckled purple.

Do you notice a theme? When I decide I like something, I do not mess around.

As if that wasn't enough...The first stop on the safari (the "mystery" part) was Wonderful Things, a perfectly nice yarn shop in Great Barrington. Even though I was going to Webs, I thought it would be rude to leave without buying anything (yeah, that's it). I limited myself to these two skeins from their truly impressive wall of sock yarn:


Superwash Me Light Sock from J. Knits, in colors Reno and Colorado. Because sock yarn doesn't count.

As we were driving back to Boston, people's yarn kept popping out of their bulging bags in the overhead bins. As yet another skein leapt out into the aisle, one of the knitters commented dryly "wow, it's an actual yarn-over."

And those are exactly the moments the Muggles will never understand.

Special thanks to the Yarn Safari ladies for being charming, funny, well-organized, and playing Wallace and Gromit shorts on the bus ride home. They're also organizing trips to Mass. Sheep and Wool, NH Sheep and Wool AND Rhinebeck. Carless Bostonians (or Bostonians that would just prefer to knit, rather than drive) should definitely check them out.

March 23, 2007

And on a less maudlin note

...I'm going to Webs tomorrow as part of my Half Mystery Tour!

I am well prepared to blog and buy, with a fully charged camera, sizeable gift certificate, and an irresponsible lust for yarn.

All the lurid details when I return tomorrow.

Knowing your place

I often say that my family is half a generation out of Appalachia, which isn't all that far from the truth. I was born in Tucson, Arizona, and I consider myself lucky, because I made it all the way out of the hills.

My Grandma Rose left the Kentucky hill country more than half a century ago, having only an eighth grade education, several children to support, and a penchant for horrible men. One of those men was my grandfather, Enos (who went by the name of 'Red'), and with him she had four children, including my father. My father grew up not in Kentucky, but on Kentucky Street, a grim little corner of Appalachia in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

My father eventually made it out of Kentucky Street. He met and married my mother, and eventually they had me. I grew up in Arizona and Oregon, thousands of miles from Kentucky and worlds away from Kentucky Street. All I know of Appalachia is the ancestral tale of poverty and desperation, malnutrition and teenage brides.

So to me, Appalachia isn't really a place where real people live. It's a place where hillbilly caricatures live, and a place you work your ass off to stay out of. So Twin-Knit's blog has been a source of endless fascination to me. Jennie is a knitter and musicologist who, until recently, was living in rural Appalachia, doing research on traditional music in the region. I've been making my way through her archives in the past few weeks (older posts available here), and am developing a more nuanced perspective on that part of the world for the first time.

Originally from Philly, Jennie recently decided to move home. She posted a lot about both places, about her decision to move, and about coming home. All of which got me thinking about place, the place you're from and what that does to you. And where my place might be.

I find that I miss Arizona. I miss the open sky, grey-green thorny plants, and finding good salsa and tortillas at every single restaurant and grocery store in the city. I miss road runners, horny toads and tumbleweeds. I miss big turquoise jewelry and people who know a double-ll should be pronounced as a 'y.' I miss being warm ten months of the year and seeing thunderstorms that knock down trees and flood streets and slay unwary golfers.

And I miss Oregon. I miss the valley we lived in, surrounded by hills that turned yellow-brown in the summer and forested mountains that stayed green year-round. I miss the hippies, and the coffee shops and bookstores I spent so many hours in. I miss the thrift shop dresses, vintage tweed blazers and clunky shoes I wore. I even miss the rain.

Most of all, I miss walking down a street and feeling connected to places. I enjoy my neighborhood outside Boston, but my first love and my first heartbreak and my first experience with death all happened in another place. Here, I don't walk past something and remember important and formative things that happened in that spot, and so Boston has never actually felt like home to me.

Is that normal? Does it ever go away? Do you build enough memories in a new place to make it feel like home? Or does part of you always miss those other places?

And if you always miss those other places, should you think about going home?

March 18, 2007


I realize this is heresy in some circles, but I'm anti-Rowan. I've only purchased one skein of Rowan yarn in my life: Kidsilk Haze, which I periodically try to knit up, then quickly stop because I absolutely hate it. Stupid tangly dental floss. This experience may have contributed unfairly to my anti-Rowan stance.

Whatever the reason, I had decided Rowan yarn was snotty and overpriced and not worth the money (again, I realize this may be completely unfair), and had resolved not to ever look at the their wooly delights available at my LYS. This stance changed rather drastically with the arrival of Vintage Knits in my house, courtesy of Knitpicks.

The book is beautifully photographed and had at least four sweaters I want to start immediately. Though I might have been better served just getting a Kim Hargreaves book (are there any?), as every single sweater I wanted was one of hers. More importantly, most of the sweaters I liked were knit in Felted Tweed, and I think the yarn is at least as much a part of their charm as the patterns themselves. If not more.

Given how gorgeous the yarns looked in the book, I decided I should at least look at them in real life. And holy crap, Felted Tweed might be one of the prettiest non-sock yarns I've ever seen.

So perhaps I've been too hasty in my dismissal of Rowan? Anyone know of a cheaper, but equally pretty, soft DK tweed that comes in gorgeous colors? Or should I just suck it up and shell out Rowan money? I've got a sizeable Webs gift certificate (thanks Kelley!) and will actually be there next weekend, so it might be a nice indulgence. And not too crippling with the Webs discount. What think you?

As mentioned in the last post, I also got a couple of color cards. The ladies in my knitting group were raving about Andean silk, so I wanted to check out the colors. None of the colors are calling to me right now, but the color card is an absolutely brilliant invention. Accurate color, plus you get to actually touch the yarn. And I can report that Andean Silk is indeed pretty and very soft.

The real prize from the Knitpicks box was Favorite Socks , though. This book has been well-described in other places - great patterns, good layout, etc. Top on the list for me are the Embossed Leaves and Waving Lace Socks, but there are at least a half dozen others I would happily knit. Really, a fantastic collection of patterns.

But first, the boyfriend has been agitating for a knitted gift. He first requested a sweater, which I informed him wasn't going to happen, given the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. So I told him to look through Favorite Socks and pick something. He picked these.

I dragged him to the LYS to pick out the colors (thus affording me a chance to fondle the Felted Tweed - I'm a sneaky one). Left to my own devices I would have chosen much more festive colors but dude really digs the beige. I also suspect he jumped on these because they specifically said Men's Hiking Socks and were clearly the least unmanly item in the entire book, but he claims to really like them. So I'll be knitting beige socks for a man with size 10 feet. That's love.

Before the yarn shop outing, the boyfriend and I were having a lively discussion about whether or not it's ok to knit during movies. I, of course, consider movies primo knitting time. He felt that movies should be watched together as a couply activity. So he (foolishly) posed the question to the ladies in the yarn shop. In unison they answered that of course they knit during movies.

When he said 'Wow, these really are your people,' one of the knitshop ladies said, without missing a beat, 'Well, you are in a yarn shop. We tend to gather here.' They even affirmed the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater, bolstered by a real-life post-sweater breakup tale.

And finally, the last time I was at A Good Yarn, I speculated on whether one of the employees was this blogger. In fact, she is that blogger. And she's one hell of a sock knitter. The best part? Her name is Ariel, too!

March 17, 2007

Clearly I was mistaken

On Wednesday, it was springtime. The flowers were peeking out of the ground, the sun was still shining when I got home, and the world seemed full of hope and possibility.

Then Friday rolled around. Now the only flowers I see are these.


It snowed all day Friday and well into the night, complete with howling winds and rattling screens. Gotta love New England.

However, this was the perfect excuse to hole up in my apartment (as if I need one - really) to work on Wicked. I'm happy to announce that I've finished the yoke, taken the sleeves off the needles and given him his first try-on.


I'm all puffed up like a proud mommy. He really looks like a sweater. Albeit a sweater that just barely covers the tops of my boobs and doesn't have any arms, but still, a sweater.

That yoke was nearly the end of me, what with the ever-increasing row length and what felt like miles of plain stockinette stitch. The main thing that got me through it were the encouraging comments and reminders that it would get easier after the yoke. So, thank you very much, ladies!

That's not to say there weren't also emergency measures - watching lots of Lost and Battlestar Galactica on DVD helped considerably. The awesomeness level of TV-watching around here has been high.

The only problem with said awesomeness is that Netflix clearly knows what a dork I am. And I'm convinced it's also judging me accordingly.

Kristy recently had much the same experience with Yahoo (though with less dorkiness and more knitting), which was remarkably cheering. Incidentally, her blog is excellent, as expected. And she has some lovely new socks you should really check out...

I'm off to paw through a recently-arrived Knitpicks box. I exercised tremendous restraint and didn't buy a single skein of yarn. Though it's possible two or three color cards snuck into my order, along with some quite lust-worthy pattern books.

Details later...

March 14, 2007

That spring it be sprung


Not only is this stuff growing everywhere, but when I got home from work it was light enough to take pictures outside. I feel like everything is just a little bit easier and more possible all of a sudden.

I also kind of feel like tongue-kissing every member of the agency that made the decision to change the clocks early. But that could be spring fever talking.

March 13, 2007

That's five seconds I'll never get back

In my office building, the lights above the elevator doors turn red if the elevator is going down and white if the elevator is going up. Everyone knows this.

So on the way up today, just as the (clearly white-lit) doors were closing, someone stuck their arm in and asked if the elevator was going down. The guy already in the elevator with me barked that the elevator was going up.

Then, as if the sharp tone wasn't enough, he started to sigh and roll his eyes and say 'God. Really.' Over and over again. When I made accidental eye contact with him, he said (without a hint of irony): I just lost five seconds because of that.

I know now that the proper response was: you've already lost another twenty bitching about it. Move on. Unfortunately, I'm not that quick.

This did teach me a little lesson. The next time I find myself infuriated over a momentary delay, I should make a concerted effort to remain patient and calm. Because otherwise I would be a gigantic douchebag.

March 11, 2007

Spring is in the air

...So it's a perfect time to be knitting a worsted-weight wool and mohair sweater, no?


That's right - I finally started Wicked. After blocking, my gauge was still a tiny bit off (4.75 stitches per inch vs 4.5). If my gauge were correct, I would be right between sizes. I figure slightly too big is cozy, while slightly too small means everyone would get an eyeful of my squidgier bits, so I decided to knit the next size up. That means I started with 100-some stitches and am gradually increasing to 300-some before splitting off the arms.

Now that's a whole lot of stitches (shawl knitters, feel free to scoff and remind me that some shawls have thousands of stitches in a row at some point), but really I'm a sock knitter, and socks have an entirely manageable number of stitches in a row.

I try not to think about it too hard, because if I do, I start worrying that I don't have the fortitude for sweater knitting. It doesn't have the architectural excitement of turning a heel, and it certainly doesn't have the thrilling variegated colors that keep me frantically knitting socks just to see what color comes next. Sometimes I look at Wicked and think "You mean, I've got to keep doing this same exact thing until I make an entire sweater?" Then I look at it and think "DUDE, I'm knitting a fucking sweater. How awesome is that?"

I've also been consoling myself with the Yarn Harlot's first book. Besides penning my new favorite phrase "trust your inner compass - it points to yarn", she also mentions that the average sock has something like 17,000 stitches. A pair, by extension, has close to 34,000. If I've knit socks, surely I can knit this. I will soldier on.

Plus, I'm a little bit smitten with my yarn. What with the stunning colors sock yarns come in, I tend to forget how much I like solid-colored Lambs Pride. Being just barely spun (or plied or whatever the term is) makes the yarn vary a tiny bit in width and it has a smooth, almost silky, but still very fibery sheen to it. You really feel like you're working with honest to goodness wool when you touch it, if that makes sense?

And there's just a hair or two of dark green/almost black twisted in with the apple green which gives the color more depth, and the mohair gives it a bit of additional texture. Really nice stuff. Unfortunately, this yarn has magical camera-defying abilities that prevent me from capturing its true deliciousness. Trust me, in real life, it's much prettier.

However, it is utter crap for train knitting. The mohair drifts off in a violently green cloud all around me that instantly clings to everything in a ten-foot radius. This hasn't entirely stopped me from subway knitting with it, but feeling bad about the exploding green hairball in my lap does take some of the joy out of it.

Meanwhile, my neighbors have this in the middle of their yard.

I keep looking around to make sure there isn't an old person lying crumpled in the bushes somewhere. Thus far, no old people, but the snow hasn't completely melted yet...

March 6, 2007

This is how things are going, take two

My laundry continues to teach me important lessons. Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner, so it’s pretty much the same lesson it tried to teach me last time. That laundry is one persistent little fucker.

So anway, I was trying to multi-task last night, doing laundry and tidying up my kitchen. The laundry did get done, and the kitchen did get tidied, but while I was making myself dinner, I also noticed that I’d stashed the laundry detergent in the fridge in my hurry to tidy everything up.

When you chop wood, chop wood. And when I do laundry, by God, one of these days I will learn to give it my full attention.

Then today, after an 90 minute-long 6:45 a.m. conference call, I found myself milliseconds away from hitting send on this email.

See if you can spot the problem...

Dear XXX,

Please approve the following access request:

Blah blah, boring technical details, blah blah, more details, blah blah blah.

Warm retards,

Yup. Warm retards. I’m pretty sure the director of training for all our European offices wouldn’t have found that nearly as funny as I did.

The knitting is going rather better than either the work or the housekeeping, if somewhat more slowly. I finished swatching for Wicked (I even did it in the round, as it will be knit in the round), then virtuously washed and blocked my swatch. If I ever get out of the office today, I get to go home and measure my (washed-and-blocked) swatch to see if I’m getting gauge.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I swatched in the round, then washed AND blocked my swatch? The Goddess of Gauge cannot fault me on this one. If I have a gauge disaster, it's all on her.

March 4, 2007

Change is good


I'm rocking the socks on two circulars.

March 3, 2007

Good times at a good yarn

My local yarn shop is about a half hour away by foot, and today couldn't have been a better day for the walk. The weather says it's in the mid-40s but my handy outdoor thermometer is hovering around 60. Either way, it's a welcome break from the rain, sleet and ice we've been having around here.

I had two goals for the yarn shop jaunt: one, get a &$^#ing size 9 needle to start swatching Wicked and two, to see if by chance they had any more Sunshine Yarns in Daffodil, or even a solid yarn of similar gauge in a complementary color. I'm desperately afraid I'm going to run out of yarn mid-way through the second Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker. When I asked the nice lady at the counter (who bore a suspicious resemblance to this blogger) about it, she reassured me that she's always had a ton left over when using that yarn. Given the number of socks she seems to knit, this was considerably reassuring.

I exercised impressive restraint while I was there, given A Good Yarn's sock yarn selection. I only bought needles. Though it's possible I also bought two size 2 circulars to finally try out knitting socks on two circs, in addition to the size 9 for Wicked. I've been ogling the Leaf and Tendril socks in Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, and I believe their time has almost come.

Then as I was leaving, I had another knitblogger-in-real-life sighting. Of all the people in the entire world to assure me that I had sufficient quantities of Sunshine Yarns, she would be the one.

So did I say anything? Even 'hi, love your yarn'? No. Why? Because I'm a gigantic pussy.

Sometimes you just can't think of a clever title

So I've been frustrated with school recently and have expended rather a lot of energy whining about the lameness of library science classes. Example A is one of my textbooks (Evaluating Information): This book is, basically, a very good undergraduate text describing how to formally evaluate social science and statistical research. Which would be fine were I not in GRADUATE SCHOOL.

At one point, the condescending pricks concerned authors actually wrote this:

This has been a long chapter. Without some prior knowledge about something called experimental design, you probably found the chapter complex. As more and more details were presented, you may have lost sight of the overall logic.

Seriously? For the record, the chapter was not particularly complex. Further, for almost $800 a credit I expect to be challenged on occasion. And failing that, they could at least flatter my ego.

What was that? Oh, you're here to see knitting? Well, this is what I've been up to:


Stash enhancement, swatching for Wicked (not pictured due to technical difficulties), swatching for the Somewhat Cowl, and starting the second Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker.

The new stash yarn is Patons Soy Wool Stripes, and it fell into my basket (along with three of its friends) while my newbie knitter friend Kelley and I were poking around at Big Chain Craft Store. I've never used it before, and I'm not sure how it will knit up. But it's made out of soy. And wool. And it makes stripes.

How cool is that?


I also started swatching for Wicked, having learned my lesson with the Experimental Socks. I plan to appease the vengeful Goddess of Gauge with a properly knit, washed and blocked swatch this time. And every single other time I knit something that needs to be a particular size.

This excellent plan was rather more time-consuming than it should have been due to my continuing denial about how tight I actually knit. I started the swatch with the needle size recommended in the pattern, but several rows into the swatch, it became clear that my knitting had the approximate drape and flexibility of a suit of armor.

Since I was at Big Chain Craft Store anyway and I don't have any circular needles of the proper length for Wicked, I figured I might as well buy the next needle size up. Of course I didn't actually remember what size needles I was currently using, so I had to employ the very precise "hold your needles up to the package and guess" method.

The size 8 circulars certainly LOOKED bigger than the needles I was currently using, so I bought them. And I'm sure these shiny new size 8s will look very nice with the other two size 8 circular needles I already own, but size 8s will do fuck-all for Wicked since I need a size 9.

Kristy asked if I was making the short or long-sleeve version, and I'm planning to make the long-sleeved one. Once I get a goddamn size 9 circular needle. Sigh.

Incidentally, "making wicked" is now one of my favorite euphemisms, briefly replacing "making the beast with two backs" in my affections. So this week hasn't been a total loss.

Meanwhile, I've also been swatching some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool from the stash. I've only used this yarn to knit lace, so I wasn't sure how it would knit up in plain stockinette. It's quite pretty, and my (washed-and-blocked) gauge is bang-on for the Somewhat Cowl.

Just one little problem...This is how it looks on size 4 needles, at 6 stitches per inch.


I'm pretty sure I can't get it any tighter, but it seems too loose for a sweater.

Have other people made solid items out of this yarn? How solid is solid enough for a sweater? How do you figure it out?

It's a freakishly warm day here, so it's really the perfect time to saunter over to my local yarn shop for yet more sock yarn size 9 needles. Wicked will not elude me for much longer.

P.S. I was tremendously comforted to hear that Kristy, too, has accidentally walked into someone else's apartment. But stupid Blogger reveals nothing of Kristy's identity, preventing me from telling her so myself. So Kristy, do you have a blog? You're really too funny not to...