Sunday, January 29, 2006

Seven Cs

C is for cookies. Despite many temptations, the cookie monsters in this house are steadfast in their choice:C is for cookies! Ruth Wakefield's classic Toll House chocolate chip cookies with double vanilla and 150% chips, no nuts, dough chilled prior to baking, at peak about 20 minutes out of the oven, a fleeting moment when the cookie is warm, not hot, the crumbs have become very crisp, yet the chocolate is still almost liquid. The cookie monsters even demand these for Christmas and other holidays. Their connoisseurship does not admit chips other than semi-sweet chocolate – no milk chocolate chips, no crushed potato chips, no butterscotch or cinnamon or Heath Bar chips, no mini-chips, no chunks. The most recent nefarious experiment was to use a few sweet dark chips instead of semi-sweet. It failed ignominiously – the adulteration substitution was noticed. Needless to add...

C is for chocolate, which really ought to be added to the USDA food pyramid in its own category. The Field Museum in Chicago has an excellent traveling exhibit that includes natural history, social history, economics and Fair Trade, and free samples (!).

C is for Citius Altius Fortius (Latin for Faster Higher Stronger), the motto of the Olympics. In that spirit, inspired knit bloggers in the blogosphere are offering various Torino Olympics (February 10-26) knit-alongs, buttons and links below.

Knitting Olympics button   Eddie Along button   Not a button

  • For competitive types, there's the 2006 Knitting Olympics, hosted by Stephanie. She would seem to be in training for the 2010 Vancouver games and has six rules, over 1,800 participants, a movement to ban the mighty Wendy (who isn't interested in playing), and gold medals – only gold medals.
  • For calm process knitters, there's the Eddie Along inspired by Eddie the Eagle and hosted by Margene. She has two roolz, one of which is enjoy the process.
  • And for charming slackers, there's the Homer Simpson Olympic Knit-along aka Too Lazy to Make a Button hosted by Susan. She has three rules, a motto, and beer.
  • No Olympics is complete without collecting buttons. Some of my favorites are over at Bead Slut and JenLa. The latter pretty much captures my feelings.

Another Olympics button   Yet another Olympics button

C is for caritas, the Latin root word (as long as I'm on a Latin kick) for charity. Many knit bloggers support charitable causes, which is commendable. I knit my bit, particularly prayer shawls, but tend to keep my charity knitting off the blog.

C is for controversy. I find the current struggle over the ownership of certain words – such as "stitch," "and," "'n," "bitch" – leaves me cold. Commerce and plenty of corporate attorneys are involved, of course. Jenna gives her usual penetrating commentary in her aptly named Stitch v. Bitch; more partisan views may be found elsewhere.

C is for Chinese or Asian Lunar New Year, which this year fell on January 29, although some people celebrate for pretty much an entire month. Happy New Year! It's the Year of the Dog, also the Year of the Sox, 200Sox. I do seem to be obsessed with socks this year.

And C is for cotton and cashmere and camel and for cable and the ubiquitous Clapotis. That's my mini-version under the plate of cookies. The cookies, incidentally, barely lasted the photo shoot.

(See the rest of my ABCs.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Molasses in January

Stash inventory continues at a slow-as-molasses-in-January pace. (That's slow as, not slow because of.) Yarn inventory is pretty much complete, but the floss contingent lags. The old way of organizing floss was to wind all the colors needed for a project around a folded-up sheet of looseleaf paper. It took a few minutes. One new method is Floss-A-Way, billed as The Instant Organizer. Ha!

Old and new floss organizers

Floss-A-Way is a set of tiny, tiny zip bags, complete with a write-on area to record color numbers. I got the 100 pack, so useful for all one's Embroidery Floss & Specialty Threads. So time-consuming, too.

For needles (the kind with an eye), there's the Sweetheart Needle Book. This one belonged to DH's grandmother.

Sweetheart Needle Book

As for needles without an eye, I'm experimenting with lace patterns from the magnificent book Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller, using peacock JaggerSpun Zephyr (50% wool, 50% Tussah silk). The center pattern is traditional, Print O' the Wave, and the edging patterns are paired Ocean Wave, shown without and with flash.

Lace without flash   Lace with flash

This proved remarkably difficult to photograph. Without flash, the embossed spine of the waves and other texture shows nicely, but not the structure of the lace. With flash, the graceful cresting wave shapes and zigzag trellis show well, but the silk in the yarn flares like it's radioactive, obscuring the pretty texture of the stitches. Not to mention the yarn is much more green, much less blue than it appears in either photo. Or the dye is staining my bamboo circular needle green, which is making me purple.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Sun'll Come Out

Today was one of those days roundabout Exit 151. It rained. It was cold and dangerously windy. Numerous things went wrong. It was one of those days when inviting over Thing 1 and Thing 2 actually seems like it could be a good idea, or at least couldn't hurt. And I'm not talking about Alison's nifty pattern. I mean the original hyperactive blue-haired terrors.

But today's mail included a nice note (with sheep to sweater illustration) from my SP7 pal. Inside was a West Virginia quarter!

Nice note and West Virginia quarter from my SP7 pal

Thank you, Super Secret Pal! WV is the current quarter and I didn't have one. Not to mention it's from the Denver mint, which makes it extra-special (most quarters hereabouts are from the Philadelphia mint). Tee-hee.

Tomorrow the weather forecast is for sun and spring-like temperatures. Coincidence? I think not!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Five Bs

B is for bicycle. My trusty ride (note sock in progress perched on seat) is a Giant Option X, nothing fancy, just basic transportation for errands around town,B is for bicycle commuting from NYC, and the occasional noncompetitive event. The biggest noncompetitive bicycle event in the U.S. is Bike New York (properly, the Five Boro Bike Tour) – 42 miles, all 5 boroughs of New York City, 7 bridges, 30,000 bicyclists. My favorite parts are riding traffic-free in Manhattan and the incredible views from the bridges and in Brooklyn. This year it's Sunday, May 7, the same weekend as the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. Both are good, and trying to choose between them is a bummer.

B is for blizzard, defined as a severe winter storm with winds blowing in excess of 35 mph. The one that roared through the area on Saturday left more ice than snow. I'm not much of a winter cyclist, but the self-described "crazy people" at Ice Bike brave the most extreme conditions.

B is for blog. This is my first year of blogging and so far it's been a blast. I've particularly enjoyed joining knit-alongs and exchanges, of which by far the best is Sockapalooza, hosted on The Blue Blog. Sign ups for the third round, Sockapaloooza (yes, three Os), begin soon January 24.

B is for bifocals. While squinting at the chart for Circling Alphabets, I suddenly realized that symbols that used to be clear and bold now are more than a bit hazy. Boing! I've ordered my first pair.

And B is for bamboo and bison, two yarns I'd like to try sometime. But I'm sticking to my yarn diet and not buying anything new!

(See the rest of my ABCs.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Extreme Cold of January – Not!

Stash inventory continues to take up almost all available free time roundabout Exit 151. It's not that my stash is so extensive; rather, it's so disorganized! Having hauled the stuff out from its many nooks to examine it, I need to put it back. And, alas, the weather is not cooperating. My plan was to put the stash on the back porch, exposing it to the extreme cold of January (die, müths, die!), but it was 60 F (15.5 C) yesterday and almost as nice today... no hazard to müths at all (and perfect cycling weather).

However, let me quickly note for the record:

Got my scarf. Thank you, Fiona! There's more than one surprise here.

My International Scarf Exchange scarf from Fiona

Got my button. Love those sock monkeys! Sign-ups open mid-January.

Sockapaloooza (yes, three Os) button

Sorry to be so brief – I'll have a more substantive post in a day or two.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Secret Pal Seven Questionnaire and Responses

Greetings, SP7 pal! I'm currently on a journey deep into the heart of darkness, that is, taking stash inventory (the horror, the horror!). This task has come to color all my knitty thoughts, plans, dreams, and responses to this questionnaire.

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand?
LOL. I love natural fibers, but find that synthetics can be put to good use too.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?
This year I want to learn to handspin. I also hope to crochet more. For someone who crochets as an adjunct to knitting, I seem to have accumulated an inordinate amount of crochet cotton.

3. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
In theory, straights are in a long box, circulars in a bag, dpns in another bag, interchangeables in their own case, hooks in a chipped mug. In practice, needles may be found in the knitting bag (with or without knitting on them), behind the sofa, or fallen into a wormhole from which they emerge sometime later strangely unchanged.

4. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
Over 20 years. I have a lot of experience, but still am learning new things, which is wonderful.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
No. Online commerce can be useful, but whenever possible I try to support my LBS, LYS, greenmarket, etc.

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

7. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Yes! I especially enjoy trying nostalgic treats and regional specialties.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
Gardening is my fave, but painting and fixing the house absorb the most time.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I can play mp3 files and particularly enjoy knitting podcasts. Alas, I'm still on dialup, so it takes all night to download things!

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
I spend a lot of time in NYC = wear a lot of black, so I like anything that goes with black, except neon brights.

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

12. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Yes, yes, yes, yes. I even have indoor and outdoor versions of each. Please don't judge me.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?
Wool or wool-cotton. My all-time favorite is Rowan Wool and Cotton (sadly discontinued).

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Some acrylics are unpleasantly crunchy. Rabbit angora because of allergies.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?
Stash inventory! The plan is to catalog everything, upgrade müth-proofing, separate the sheep from the goats – er, make that keepers and non-keepers – and knit up as much as possible... to make room for new stuff, of course.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
LOL. I'm a process knitter, so my favorite is always my next project.

17. What are you knitting right now?
In between taking stash inventory, I'm working on a pair of modular socks and a multidirectional scarf.

18. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
It depends on the task at hand.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
In theory, bamboo for size 3 and up; metal for 3 and under; steel for really fine stuff. Don't much like plastic (or exotic wood). In practice, I use whatever works best with the yarn – and I adore my set of crazy faux tortoise dpns.

21. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
Yes. I generally don't wind yarn unless I'm going to use it immediately.

22. How did you learn to knit?
By making swatches from Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting 1 & 2. Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Color remains an inspiration.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?
Some date from the age of the dinosaurs. I confess to bad cases of both second sock syndrome and second sleeve syndrome.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?
I dunno. I enjoy animated movies, but don't really have a favorite character. If I had to pick, maybe Cookie Monster or Felix the Cat or Totoro.

25. What is your favorite holiday?
The Fourth of July (U.S. Independence Day). Roundabout Exit 151, it's a community celebration with a parade, various expressions of civil rights, barbecues, and fireworks. I usually ride in the parade with the bicycle unit.

26. Is there anything that you collect?
Yes, 50 state quarters. Right now I'm missing Kansas and West Virginia.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
None. I just buy the issues I like. VK, IK, and Rowan are favorites.

28. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on?
EZ's Knitting Around – I'm thinking about making a pi shawl. I'm looking forward to the new books from Mason-Dixon Knitting and from Wendy Knits!

29. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
What a question for a process knitter! Magic loop, handspinning, and needle felting top the current list.

30. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
Yes. Using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' system, circumference 8 in (20.3 cm), length 9.25 in (23.5 cm).

31. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)

Thursday, January 5, 2006


This post is a placeholder for the 2006 ABC-along, a fortnightly journal of photographs organized around the alphabet (26 fortnights = 52 weeks = one year). The plan is to add to this post as the ABC-along progresses.

After several attempts, however, I'm having an extraordinary amount of difficulty creating a table for the images. Sorry if that's messing up the RSS feed. I'm going to quit for the moment, but will try again soon.

[In the best of all possible worlds, a fine table would appear here. After some delay and much fiddling with HTML, a fine table appears, but not immediately below. Please scroll down.]

   A   Kagami mochi or abstract snowmanA is for abominable abstract snowman. This was intended to suggest a kagami mochi, a New Year's tradition in Japan, but some seem to think it's a snowman! See January 5.
   B   B is for bicycle   B is for bicycle (note sock in progress on the seat). I use mine for errands around town, commuting from NYC, and the occasional noncompetitive event. See January 16.
C   C is for cookies!   C is for cookies (with mini Clapotis). Despite many temptations, Tollhouse cookies are the favorite in this household. See January 29.
D   D is for digging out   D is for digging out. The path to a neighbor's house, with yellow yardstick for scale, after a weekend storm. See February 12.
E   E is for eyes on the prizes   E is for eyes on the prizes. It's a worthy goal this Mardi Gras for ABC-Alongers, not to mention for visitors and residents of New Orleans. See February 28.
F   F is for flower   F is for flower show. The Philadelphia Flower Show provides a welcome respite from winter and inspiration for the new growing season. See March 12.
G   .G is for Great Falls.  Photo by Andy Szymczak.   G is for garden. I don't have any decent ones of mine right now, so here's a photo by Andy Szymczak of the Great Falls of the Passaic River. See April 5.
H   H is for Holiday Sox and the Yarn Harlot   H is for Holiday Sox. These were very very very late, but they got to meet the Yarn Harlot at the Rutherford Public Library. See April 17 and April 11.
I   I is for iris gardens   I is for iris gardens. It's a bit early for iris flowers at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens, so here's a photo of the big sign with the little basket o' I prizes. See April 26.
J   Jersey pound coin   J is for Jersey. The Bailiwick of Jersey, namesake of New Jersey, has its own passports and currency and is famed for its fine cattle, potatoes, and wealth of endangered species. See May 17.
K   K is for kabuki   K is for kabuki. When I saw Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami in NYC two years ago, I was seated in the mud section. An indelible experience to be sure. See May 21.
L   L is for lemonade   L is for lemonade. It's the summer elixir of life and also a mighty engine of commerce. Every summer dozens of lemonade stands pop up around Exit 151. See July 10.
M   M is for maps   M is for maps. I heart maps. Among my many favorites are these new NJ bike tour maps, spread on an ancient Rand-McNally Road Atlas. See July 10.
N   N is for New Jersey   N is for New Jersey. The flooding along the Delaware River has receded, the budget impasse is settled, and the state is open again... but did anyone notice it was closed? See July 10.
O   O is for organ pipe wasp nest   O is for organ pipe wasp nest. Organ pipe wasps, or blue devils, build intricate tubular mud daub nests. This one is about the size of my hand. See August 8.
P   P is for poison ivy   P is for poison ivy. For reasons unknown, I have a lot in my (cough) garden this year. See August 15.
Q   Q is for Quaker sampler   Q is for Quaker sampler, or rather the materials for same. It's time to remove this one from the project queue. See September 8
R   R is for raptors   R is for raptors. The Montclair Hawk Watch, celebrating its 50th anniversary year, is an ideal place to look for migrating raptors such as this broad-winged hawk. See November 7.
S   S is for Sky Mirror   S is for Sky Mirror. This temporary installation by Anish Kapoor is fascinating in every mood. See November 7.
T   T is for tomato   T is for tomato. These f-f-f-felted beefsteaks may not be too tasty, but they're keepers. See November 7.
U   U is for ubiquitous   U is for ubiquitous. Why do some things achieve knitting stardom? I know not. See November 7.
V   V is for vote   V is for vote. My polling place is a primary school. Classes remain in session on Election Day and there's always a bake sale. See November 7.
W   W is for wrenching   W is for wrenching. It's time for the fall overhaul. (But bicyclists don't usually use monkey wrenches.) See November 21.
X   X is for xenolith   X is for xenolith. This puzzling specimen from Mt. Desert Island, Maine is inside out – it has igneous insides and metamorphic outsides. That's theoretically impossible. See November 28.
Y   Y is for Yuletide   Y is for Yuletide. A favorite pasttime during the holiday season is gawking at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. When I can't gawk in person, I gawk on TreeCam. See December 4.
Z   Z is for zest   Z is for zest. This time of year my fridge is full of bald citrus. See December 29.

With many thanks to Anne, who organized the ABC-along; Margene, who offered an eXcellent prize for finishers; and the many participants, whose photos and essays often were entertaining, ingenious, and deeply affecting. It's been a great year!


Five As

A is for abominable snowman, or perhaps abstract is more apt (see the previous post).Kagami mochi or abstract snowman The photo was meant to suggest a kagami mochi, two cakes of mochi [mashed sweet rice] topped by a daidai [a small orange]. It's a New Year's tradition in Japan to bring good luck, prosperity, and longevity. I've heard various explanations of what it's supposed to represent... the New Year's sunrise over Mt. Fuji is one interpretation. Those who commented seem to think it's a snowman. That's a new-to-me example of crossed-in-translation, quite a wonderful one [vbg], particularly as newness is an auspicious way to start the New Year! Thank you for that, blog friends, and happy 2006!

A is for Anne, who organized the 2006 ABC-along. Thanks, Anne, I'm having fun already!

A is for Acting Governor Richard J. Codey, a dedicated public servant and very decent person who makes politics seem like a worthy and honorable profession. In New Jersey, no less. He will leave that office when governor-elect Jon Corzine is sworn in on January 17, but will continue to serve as a State Senator and Senate President.

A is for the avalanche of horses painting currently on the Horse Park of New Jersey (roundabout Exit 98) website, also see the sidebar. (Notice the sunrise over the snow-covered mountain – it's a kagami mochi!) For those who don't know it, the state-run Horse Park is, among other things, kinda like a spa for horses.

And A is for alpaca and acrylic and angora, and The Scarlet Letter, a great source for sampler patterns. One of my favorites is Circling Alphabets. I have the chart and the hope that the ABC-along will provide the impetus – finally! – to stitch it.

[Edited to add: For an 'abominable' snowman of another sort, see Keeping Me in Stitches, who already has the 2006 Knit-Alongs page up and running and also has Big News.]

(See the rest of my ABCs.)

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Kagami mochi in Habu A-32B-35, Crystal Palace Kid Merino colorway 0204, and Rowan Designer DK in colorway 1.