Thursday, September 29, 2005

Guilt Trip

Still catching up on the blog backlog.

The now overdue Sockapal-2-za sock went hiking in Acadia National Park two weeks ago. Why confess this? Call it a guilt trip.

Sometimes it rained, and both sock and digicam had to don impromptu rain gear, also known as Baggies. This was not conducive to clear picture-taking. Here's the sock consulting a trail map.

Rainy day, sock in Baggie, trail map

The rain made the sock think better of attempting the famed Precipice Trail. The sock is not afraid of heights, but I am, and the Precipice is, well, precipitous during precipitation. A photo of the trail sign would have to do (click on the photo for a version large enough to read the sign).

Sock and Precipice Trail sign

But sometimes it was sunny. The sock summited Mt. Cadillac and posed next to the summit benchmark for proof.

Sock and Mt. Cadillac summit benchmark

Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England and one of the most beautiful of all national parks. Every sock should have a chance to visit someday.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Holly Goat Lightly

This quizzical creature is part of the Wild About Cashmere promotion at Saks Fifth Avenue. Her stomping ground is the Saks at the Short Hills Mall, roundabout Exit 142. She made her debut on the blog two posts ago.

Wednesday night was the first of two opportunities to knit in public as part of the Wild About Cashmere promotion. There was wine, tasty snacks, live music, many covetable items, a shameless advertisement disguised as a children's book, and the cutest stuffed animals, life-size and child-size versions of cashmere goats. The small size comes with a box equipped with air holes, as in The Little Prince, and is $90. I was afraid to inquire about the life size.

Book display

Most of the seating was on the sales floor, but one could take a turn sitting and knitting in the display window, if one desired. I tried it for a while, knitting, smiling, and waving at passersby, who variously looked amused, disconcerted, or mildly puzzled. That's my Sockapal-2-za sock from Lou and one destined for my sock pal (now overdue – eek) draped over the window dressing. I'm extraverted enough to sit and knit in a department store window, but become camera shy on the World Wide Web.

I'm knitting in public at Saks Fifth Avenue!

While I could never quite shake the feeling of being the carnival freak at a strangely snooty carnival, it was fun, in a bizarre way. I hasten to add I wasn't the only one knitting in public, but I don't have anybody else's model release to publish their image.

Clever Meredith of Yarnware coordinated this knit in public. If you'd like to KIP at Saks tomorrow, RSVP Meredith at Yarnware at 973-669-0372.

Meanwhile, many of the stores in the mall are supporting the Susan G. Komen Foundation by handing out all manner of swag, including excellent donation books. I'm afraid I'm far too déclassée and didn't quite get the concept of a donation book. "Ooh, great coupons!" I said, causing a bit of a scandal. Well, a good cause by any other name is still a good cause.

While I do try to stay current, the educational material on monthly breast self-examination still surprised me. Most women who do regular BSE first detect lumps when they are about the size of a quarter (0.8 in or 2.1 cm). Women who do not do BSE first notice lumps when they are the size of a silver dollar (1.4 in or 3.6 cm). Yikes. Monthly BSE is one way women of all ages can be proactive in their own health care.

I leave you with not one but two ethical dilemmas. Should I have stayed home and worked on my sock pal's sock instead of brazenly knitting in public (and devouring some excellent chocolate covered strawberries)? And should I be worried about showing my face on my own blog? Discuss amongst yourselves. I still have lots to catch up on.

Fibre Goodness

Still catching up!

Last week, I discovered The Fibre Company mill and factory store, located on the working waterfront of Portland, ME. The location is not in the least intimdating – DH and I simply strolled over from the posh Old Port district. Ever-gracious Daphne was kind enough to show drop-in visitors the range of artisanal yarns and felt available.

Photo of Daphne of The Fibre Company

Unexpectedly for the place and time of year, it was hot and dry, not ideal conditions for spinning – and not too comfortable for staff, either!

The yarns are fabulous blends of natural fibers – some familiar, some exotic – carefully spun and plied by machine to resemble handspun. The results have a lot of personality. Here's another view of the Khroma line.

Yarn without Daphne

Among the many rarities, the bison yarn was particularly intriguing. My only close encounters with bison have been at zoos or the natural history museum. Who knew such a huge, ox-like beastie carries such soft, spinnable, chocolate brown fleece?

Daphne has been trying to break into the show circuit for some time. Another visitor said MDS&W is looking for vendors; if so, the application process seems to suffer some discouraging glitches. If you have any advice for Daphne, please do give her a shout.

Incidentally, the other visitor, who raises and shows Shetland sheep, made her DH cough up a Maine quarter from his stash, pressed it into my hand, and was gone before I could offer suitable recompense or even proper thanks. Maine quarters are awfully hard to find (even in Maine) – I've been looking for one for two years. Thank you, unknown Shetland sheep woman! Fiber people rock!!

When my DH got hot and bored, he wandered out and found that a narrow gauge railroad runs by the mill, part of the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum. They have steam locomotives. Grumpiness was instantly forgotten; happiness abounded.

Finally, this week, while at the Elegant Ewe in Concord, NH (featured in Knitter's Stash), I saw the Fibre Company Terra line! Recognized it immediately at a distance of 10 paces, even among so many other yarns of magnificence. It was like seeing an old friend.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Overtaking the Asymptote Anytime Now

Currently, the blog backlog roundabout Exit 151 is growing rather than shrinking. September has been so full of blog-worthy (and other) events that, like the perpetually overtaken-by-events autobiographer in Tristram Shandy, I'm finding that even while I'm writing about things that have already happened, other things happen that demand writing about.

Yesterday was a case in point. I finally got around to opening Tuesday's mail, which included this gorgeous autumnal Sockapal-2-za cornucopia from (im)patient Lou. (The pumpkins are my current desk decoration.)

Photo of Sockapal-2-za cornucopia

Lou is a phenomenally talented knitter (be sure to check out her fabulous beaded Lattice Lace Wrap pattern) and incredibly thoughtful. My new socks are her take on a Lucy Neatby pattern that has bicycles on the legs!

Sockapal-2-za sock bicycle detail

Her enclosure card has another big wheel on it. Some spin fiber, others spin bicycles, and the world waggles on its merry way.

Photo of spinning wheel card and Sockapal-2-za socks

I love the beautiful patterned gusset and the wonderful fall colors. The yarn was dyed and over-dyed by hand, too, a marvelous example of the art.

But, wait, there's more. One foot of this pair of beauties bears an image instantly comprehensible to anyone who's seen a New Jersey license plate – it's the outline of the state. The other foot bears the profile of the top of the Empire State Building, complete with its distinctive zeppelin mast.

Photo of Sockapal-2-za sock detail

Put it all together and you have – my commute! In good weather I commute between Manhattan and roundabout Exit 151 by bicycle. I'm not fast, but (unlike most motorists) actually enjoy rush hour, especially in autumn when the air is crisp and the leaves on the trees are spectacular. These socks are so perfect – I'm dazzled, speechless. Thank you, Lou!!! I love my Sockapal-2-za socks!

There was yet more in the package: a thoughtful selection of postcards, notecards, and brochures reflecting the rich cultural life around Lou's home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There's great cycling in the area too. [Grin.]

Needless to add, I immediately began showing the socks a good time. On the left, they are gracefully reclining on the back of a life-sized cashmere goat stuffed animal at Saks Fifth Avenue (more about this wild adventure... er... later).

Sockapal-2-za socks at Saks   Sockapal-2-za socks with RAOK

And on the right, they are posing with an origami crane, cheery note, and clever handmade envelope with all manner of dates on it (er... the fruits of Phoenix dactylifera, not the other kinds), an RAOK from Julie. Thanks, Julie!

One might reasonably think that's a lot of fiber goodness for one week, but today there's even more! Today's mail (which I opened today) included a package from my SP6 pal, Pepe the Prawn. Thank you, Pepe!

Photo of SP6 goodies

How spoiled can one get? The package contained a whimsical card with the legend, "The Chemical Structure of Curiosity – Revealed at Last" and seven rainbow tabby cats who might be making a group sky-diving formation or maybe a mystery substance (hepcatane?); a Vosges Haute Chocolat exotic Black Pearl Bar that contains ginger, wasabi, black sesame seeds, and dark chocolate and comes with instructions on how to eat it; a tin of Chimes ginger chews in peanut butter flavor; and three skeins of variegated (!) Crystal Palace Waikiki rayon-cotton yarn.

Ginger chews are the sovereign remedy for traveler's tummy (always a problem for me when I fly), so the Chimes are going to Cleveland with me, unless I eat them all before flight time. The yarn is staying home, where it will be subject to more Alpha Female attempts to show a variegated yarn who's boss. I think I may need to meditate and attain a higher level of consciousness before trying the Black Pearl Bar. Or at least get a good night's sleep.

There is still more fibre goodness to come, but I simply must have a lie down now. Sweet dreams to all and may all stay safe from Hurricane Rita.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Secret Pal 6 Questionnaire and Responses

Hello, Secret Pal also known as Pepe "the King" Prawn! As you know, I'm playing catch up after being away from email. Not to mention I haven't yet seen Muppets from Space, a regrettable deficiency I will soon correct.

Thank you for taking time from your, er, consuming work for LJS to send that super-fantastic e-card. Here's my updated SP6 questionnaire with responses augmented to address your additional questions.

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?
This question always makes me smile. I enjoy knitting with a wide range of fibers and cheerfully covet luxe yarns.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?
All my spinning is done on bicycles. I crochet a little.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)
Linden tree pollen, gardenia, tobacco, and rabbit angora.

4. How long have you been knitting?
Over 20 years, and I'm still learning.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
No. Although online commerce is wonderfully convenient, whenever possible I intentionally and preferentially support bricks-and-mortar businesses, such as my LYS and LBS. But thanks to you, Pepe, I now know about Two Swans Yarns, a great new-to-me online resource.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
Lavender, ginger, or pine.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?
Yes (another question that makes me smile). I especially enjoy trying nostalgic and regional specialities. I love J-treats.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
My wise friend Pat keeps insisting that it's possible to eat local all year round, even in the climate roundabout Exit 151. This year I'm going to try to emulate her example and plant a winter vegetable garden before frost. We'll see what the hungry deer and rabbits leave me.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
Music or spoken word mp3s would brighten my commute. I tend to prefer acoustic over amplified music.

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
Anything that goes with black is fine, except neon brights.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
Sorry, that's personal.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)
A fire-new knitting ambition is to visit all the outstanding LYSs featured in Barbara Albright's Knitter's Stash – and have proof. I have a trip to Cleveland coming up; as I've already seen the Rock Hall and the art museum is undergoing renovation, a stop at Fine Points is a possibility, time permitting.

My cycling goals are incremental: to work up to a century ride (100 mi or 161 km), maybe the Seagull Century, then the City to Shore MS 150. I'd love to ride in RAGBRAI some day.

I started cycling when DH gave me a bicycle for my birthday a few years ago. I used it for quick trips to the library or grocery store. The trips gradually got longer and longer, the mileage adding up invisibly until I entered my first Five Boro Bike Tour – 30,000 riders, 40 miles (64 km), all 5 boros of NYC, with the mighty Verrazano Narrows Bridge at the end (the NYC marathon has it at the beginning). While the Five Boro was not a competitive challenge, it was a quantifiable accomplishment, and I was hooked!

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?
Wool or wool-cotton.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Some acrylic yarns have a disagreeably crunchy texture. Rabbit angora.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?
Doing the Alpha Female thing and showing variegated yarn who's boss. Or at least trying. So far, there's been lots of rebellious flashing, not much effective bossing, and very little of the desirable chinée effect.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Anything with cables or lace.

17. What are you knitting right now?
Besides a bunch of recalcitrant variegated swatches? Cindy Walker's lovely Leaf Socks from Socks, Socks, Socks, worked in Phildar Lambswool from my SP5 pal, Fannie.

18. What do you think about ponchos?
I like them, especially this time of year. They're fun for outdoorsy informal wear, although (of course) lacking the urbane dash of a ruana or the indoor allure of a fine lace shawl.

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
I like both – it depends on the task at hand.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
Bamboo for sport weight and heavier yarn; metal for fine yarn. I generally don't like plastic. [Gusty sigh.] I never do seem to have enough fine steel dpn knitting pins – I recently caught a few attempting to escape my totebag by poking their way right through the fabric! Elly's (sorry, no website) is my favorite local source for knitting pins; Lacis the only online source I know of for sizes 2 to 0000-0000.

21. Are you a sock knitter?
Yes. I usually work on five 0 dpns, but the Candle Tree gauge swatch was done on 0000s. I'm completely in awe of Betty Salpekar's A Lilliputian Christmas socks in Socks, Socks, Socks.

22. How did you learn to knit?
By making swatches from Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns 1 & 2, something I still do. Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Knits has been another source of ongoing inspiration.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?
Some living fossils date back to when dinosaurs ruled the earth. There's no pattern that I can discern: one-skein wonders, chunky knits, glorious colorwork, fine lace – all have equal opportunity to become living fossils.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
Cookie Monster is an old favorite, all the more so after I saw this chart. While most of the U.S. is at Bert, NYC and environs continue to fluctuate between what some call dull Ernie and bright Ernie. Would that we were all at Cookie! [Sigh.] I hear these days Cookie encourages healthy snacks in moderation, which seems utterly silly. He's a monster from the id, fergoshsakes, which by definition embodies unfettered indulgence.

Miyazaki movies are another fave. I'm not into J-culture as much as some, but I did visit the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka a couple of years ago, which was a lot of fun, although perhaps best appreciated by younger fans. One can't mistake the shuttle that goes from the train station to the museum, which is decorated to look like – what else? – the Catbus! Improbably, parts of Mitaka look very like Baron's neighborhood in The Cat Returns; other parts have yielded magnificent examples of ancient Jomon pottery; and there are lots of crows.

25. What is your favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July. It's a wonderful community celebration in my township, with a parade, barbecues, and fireworks.

26. Is there anything that you collect?
Yes, cookie recipes, paper bicycle maps (here's some examples of online maps), and 50 state quarters (I'm currently looking for the Kansas quarter).

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
None. I just buy the issues that interest me. This fall VK beat IK in my estimation.

28. Any books out there you are dying to get your hands on?
By some happy chance, I already have everything my book group is reading this fall. That leaves knitting books.

I've been watching GAAAA (!) – the Great American Aran Afghan-Along – with twitching fingers for a while. It might be fun to get the book and take the plunge.

There's Sally Melville's soon-to-be published The Knitting Experience Book 3: Color. If it's anything like Books 1 and 2, it will be brilliant.

Then there are the mysterious books that Wendy and Ann and Kay keep offering tantalizing hints about, due sometime next year. I may very well plotz from sheer happiness when I finally see them.

29. Any patterns you have been coveting, but haven't bought for one reason or another??
Fiddlesticks Flirty Ruffles Shawl, perfect for this year's birthday present from DH, a stash of JaggerSpun Zephyr yarn. Or Jenna's Eris Sweater.

[Added 10/06/05: I just noticed there's another question.

30. What are your foot measurements, and what kind of socks do you like?
Using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' excellent system: circumference 8 in (20.3 cm), length 9.25 in (23.5 cm). I like thin, stretchy socks. Also Christmas stockings full of Christmas oranges.]

Whew! That's really quite enough for one post, even at the instigation of an inquiring prawn. OK?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Well, I'm Back

I was There – away from email – and now am Back. For unknown reasons, Blogger is not accepting the backlog of posts that I have. Seasons change, and so do I. You need not wonder why.

More when the technical difficulties are resolved and I get this song out of my head.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Scenes from a Shawl Ministry

Just a quick post, because I'm pressed for time.

The Shawl Ministry Workshop today at Christ Church drew a congenial group.

Photo of congenial group

We had excellent resources, reproduced with permission from the Shawl Ministry website.

Photo of registration table

And we had nice take-home goodies to inspire and encourage our individual shawl ministries.

Photo of goodies

Many thanks to all who made the workshop possible, including the excellent staff of Christ Church – the ever-organized Cheryl and the super-fantastic Juan!

Omusubiya San banner

For those not into things Japanese, these are personified rice balls, or o-musubi, something I found at Kawaii Gifts, a place I learned about from my SP5 pal Becca.

Alas, I've not yet heard about my SP6 match up and don't have time to post the questionnaire. I'll be away from email for a week and will post again when I again have access.

'Til then, happy knitting! :)X

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Stripes Without Bobbles

Inspired by the golden-hearted Yarn Harlot and Tricoteuses Sans Frontières, Susan and Margene are hosting Give A Little for Hurricane Katrina relief. Can you help? If the glow of charitable giving isn't sufficient inducement to surf on by, they're also offering the most covetable prizes. Do have a look.

The suffering in the devastated Gulf Coast certainly puts a shameless personal plea for help into proper perspective. Shameless. Personal. My scarf for adventurous Celia's Scarf Exchange, a modified version of Amanda Blair Brown's Stripes and Bobbles, is almost finished. But I'm stricken with indecision on what colors to use for the bobbles. Can you help? Please leave suggestions in the comments. Thanks.

Here she is, Stripes Without Bobbles (click on the photo for a larger version):

Photo of Stripes Without Bobbles

Wonderful Fannie from Marseilles sent another SP5 surprise: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. I'm hooked and others must be too – it's the first book in a media triumph that includes two sequels, Toujours Provence and Encore Provence, a book group guide from the publisher, and a movie starring the author. Again, by a happy synchronicity, it arrived at just the right moment, after a truly dreadful week. Thank you, Fannie!

And thanks also to Christina for her e-card, which provided a timely, gentle lift.

Roundabout Exit 151, my township is currently hosting 38 hurricane evacuees, ranging in age from babes in arms to seniors. People longing to donate "stuff" now have names, faces, and shirt sizes! There's overflowing response to immediate needs and some thoughtful provision for the longer term as well. I certainly expect there will be a longer term – after so much horror and loss, I can understand why someone might not ever want to return.

Monday, September 5, 2005

An Inconstant Garden

A sad, but true, sequel for razzie fans. Last week we had nice grapes, not quite ripe.

Photo of nice grapes

This week we don't.

Photo 1 of no nice grapes

Here's a less cluttered view.

Photo 2 of no nice grapes

If that weren't enough, I've been flicked by Flickr, which assigned new URLs to my images. Gah. I'll re-code as quickly as I can over the next few days.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Relief in New Jersey

Donations of "stuff" sometimes are not helpful in the wake of disaster and, indeed, can be the cause of secondary disasters that divert vital resources. But there is urgent need of clean drinking water in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here's one way to help, from the New Jersey Office of Recovery and Victim Assistance (ORVA). Please spread the word!

-----Original Message-----
From: John Holl []
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 8:56 PM
Subject: Katrina: Bottled Water Donations, Armory Dropoffs

Dear VOAD/COAD Members:

General Maria Falca-Dodson of the NJ National Guard has asked ORVA to assist in getting the word out about donations of bottled water for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Beginning Thursday, September 1 and continuing indefinitely thereafter, the NJ National Guard will be receiving donated bottled water. Only bottled water still in original cases should be donated. The need is critical and I would urge all agencies who can donate water to do so immediately.

Donations will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the armories in the following municipalities:


Please call ORVA at 609-777-1248 if you have any questions.

Thank you.

[Added 9/03/05: For more information on Armory locations, see this .pdf from Senator Jon Corzine's office.]