Monday, May 29, 2006

Suddenly Summer

It's suddenly summer roundabout Exit 151. Today's high was 93 F (34 C)!

Over the Memorial Day weekend – before it became too hot – I went to the Presby Iris Gardens open house. While there I saw Anne and Anelia [*waving hi*] and also this amazing specimen.

Black iris

Having done Project Spectrum in orchids, a reprise in irises seemed only fitting. After all, the flower is named for the ancient Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Pink iris Red iris Orange iris
Yellow iris Blue iris Purple iris
White iris Crazy iris - gray with purple and brown Black iris

The sudden heat is simply mind-numbing, but I did manage to add some bloggy bling to the sidebar and faux categories to some posts thanks to Virtual Scratchpad. I do envy Typepad and Movable Type users their categories – we'll see how well faux ones work.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Summer Reading List 2006

For the Summer Reading Challenge 2006, I plan to read a book a fortnight, preferably but not necessarily from the list below, as some may be difficult to obtain and other reads may interpose themselves, not to mention the list is already too long and I'm in other reading groups that are reading other books. So many books, so little time! The challenge runs 14 weeks, from June 1 to August 31.

Summer Reading Challenge 2006 button

Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein
Her first and, sadly, last novel, set among the rich and stylish in Manhattan.

Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston
More rich and stylish folk: a fictionalized account of the affair between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King, the inspiration for Daisy Buchanan.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The outstanding movie Capote provided the impetus finally to read this influential "nonfiction novel."

MacBeth by William Shakespeare
Re-reading in preparation for this year's Shakespeare in the Park production, with (be still my heart!) Liev Schrieber in the title role.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
I've always wanted to read this; thanks to my excellent My Favorite Classic book exchange pal, Jamie, I can!

Salt by Mark Kurlansky
A history of the only rock we eat.

Shahnameh [The Book of Kings] by Abolqasam Ferdowsi
Tenth-century Iranian national epic; its nostalgia for pre-Muslim secular rule is still politically charged today.

Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello
Characters in a play not yet written; this and other plays of the absurd earned the author the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Summer by Edith Wharton
On my summer reading list for the last five years, but somehow never gets read!

Vellum by Hal Duncan
A highly recommended first SF novel.

Zorro by Isabel Allende
A frothy romp through old California.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summer Trekking

Back from the Post Office. Thanks to Anncie, I just had THE most amazing candy I have ever eaten, salt lakrids or Swedish salty licorice, in three varieties. She also sent a lovely postcard of Stockholm and a lollipop that was last seen in DH's vicinity.

Three kinds of salty licorice from Pansar

In return, I'm sending her saltwater taffy, a New Jersey summer specialty that every Jersey Shore town claims to have invented (and some lovely NJ postcards). But I don't think anything can match salty licorice... not Warheads, not Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, not li hing mui. I cheerfully confess that little Swedish children must be much tougher than I am – the one with flames on the package brought tears to my eyes!

A pocketful of salty treats can be handy on a summer hike or bike ride for those who tend toward hyponatremia. DH carries packets of NaCl or KCl; I'll carry salt lakrids. Now that I'm well fortified, I've signed up for Trek Along With Me, a Trekking sock- and hike-along hosted by Norma and Margene. Here's the necessary.

Trekking yarn, colorway 126   Hiking shoes, guides, and sandals

For the sock-along, the choice was obvious. I'm going to knit colorway 126, which reminds me of Brach's Neapolitan coconut candies. I'm not much of a fan of self-patterning yarn or those candies (sorry, Margene), yet somehow find the yarn irresistable.

For the hike-along, I can't decide from among the many possibilities. Maybe something to highlight the topographic diversity of New Jersey: Appalachian ridges, highlands, piedmont, coastal plains. Or maybe something to show off NJ history: Washington's crossing, the Underground Railroad, Liberty State Park. There could be car-free jaunts to South Mountain Reservation, Gateway National Park, the Shore. Or maybe a day outing on the great trails: D&R Canal towpath, Lenape Trail, Long Path, the mighty Appalachian Trail, the proposed East Coast Greenway. Or maybe a shameless bicycle ride-and-tie to as many LYSs as possible in, say, a 30-mile circuit from my house (panniers required).

At least my hiking shoes, guide books, and hiking sandals are ready to go! If anyone has any suggestions or would like to trek along, do feel free to comment.


I Contest Ordinals

The voting among the ABC-along I Contest finalists is over, yielding the following ordinal results:

  • Vicki of Knitorious and her Individuals received 51% of votes cast for first place. Her prize is two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Iris Garden.

  • Minnie of Dragon Mad Knitter and her Inheritance received 23% of votes cast for second place. Her prize is two skeins Katia Ingenua. Minnie has indicated she'll make Dulaan Cloud Hats from them.

  • Jane of Not Plain Jane and her very covetable Indigo received 13% of votes cast to tie for third place. Her prize is a Clover I-cord gadget.

  • Karlie of A Long Yarn and her "National Geographic" Indian pipe also received 13% of votes cast to tie for third place. Her prize is a Clover I-cord gadget.

Congratulations again to the finalists and thanks to all participants, who posted so many excellent, creative entries. The IJK patch in an abecedary often is a tough one! Let me echo Anne and say it was wonderful to view the entries and hard to select just three four finalists.

Incidentally, I'm rather fond of my I-cord gadget. Here's the current project, with a prop to hint at its identity.

Current I-cord project

Off to the Post Office. (Finalists, you will receive a package tracking number via email.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Two Ks

K is for kabuki. Many compare kabuki to opera and ballet – its stylized vocalizations and movements are torturous boredom to some, the peak of live theater to others.K is for kabuki I've never seen a full performance, which lasts all day, but two summers ago I was fortunate to be given tickets to a short program of six scenes from Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami [The Summer Festival: A Mirror of Osaka] in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center (program pictured). With the tickets came a cryptic advisory: "Please be aware you are seated in the mud section. Raincoats provided." (???) This was extremely puzzling as Damrosch Park is a tiled plaza with no lawn... and surely we'd be sitting in chairs... and why raincoats? We were obsessing about the performance before we ever got there.

When we arrived, sure enough, the usher murmured "Mud section" and handed us programs and pouches containing disposable rain ponchos. It turned out the mud section was the prime location, in front of the stage with seating on tatami mats and cushions. Some people already had their ponchos on, but DH and I opted for hurried scanning of the program (fortunately in English) to try to identify the mud scene. In due course we put on our ponchos and put up the hoods (much to the amusement of the people sitting in the section behind us), but a man sitting next to us scoffed at the whole nonsense and declined his poncho. Well, then the mud began to fly, off the stage and into the mud section, to no little reaction from the audience! The scoffer got soaked. Everyone loved it, perhaps the scoffer most of all, who was a good sport about it. Amazing to relate, the hilarious mayhem offstage was directly related to the action onstage, and the emotional energy later served to heighten one of the most intense scenes I've ever seen on stage.

I wonder if groundlings ever had so much fun.

And K is for kid mohair and kenaf, another cordage fiber getting attention for a bunch of uses.

See the rest of my ABCs.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Jungle Stripe Smackdown

Let intrepid knitters rush in where Broadway angels fear to tread! Tarzan (the musical) isn't exactly swinging for the fences – the King of the Jungle is no darling of the critics. So with apologies to Franklin, here's a Friday smackdown: Who shall be Queen of the Jungle Stripe? Stripe toe or solid toe? You be the judge.

Sisters, before ambition came between them

Kindly note that despite the vivid language, this "smackdown" is nonviolent. But not without consequences. The losing toe will be [gasp!] frogged and re-knit to match the winning toe. This jungle isn't big enough for two Queens – one toe is gonna go!

Who should be Queen of the Jungle Stripe?
Stripe toe
Solid toe
Free polls from

The poll will stay open until Wednesday evening feeding time roundabout Exit 151.

Yarn Pirate, my excellent SP6 pal who gifted me with the yarn, predicted that one skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Jungle Stripe would be sufficient for anklet socks. Sure enough, there's enough yarn for a pair even without contrast heels and toes, at least for my size feet. So the choice between stripe toe and solid toe is purely esthetic, rather than out of necessity.

Apart from the toes, these socks have another small nicety: mirror-image stitch patterning, because handknitters can.

Mirror images, because handknitters can

Incidentally, my paid image host is becoming more restrictive and is demanding more shoutouts, perhaps not the best business model for increased consumer satisfaction. Maybe it's time to make some changes. Because, hey, it's a jungle out there.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Vote for I Contest Finalists

This past week I've watched the spectacle of Verizon workers laboring in cold spring rain, doing something strenuous high in the air that involved immense spools of optical wire. I've also been pretty much without telcom service, although disinclined to whine too much, given the flooding in New England. Now that I can finally access the Internet again (woo-hoo!), I've been able to read email and view the entries in the ABC-along I Contest. Anne and I have conferred and it's time to announce the finalists!

There were many excellent submissions, including many irises (floral and ocular), tempting-looking ice cream, ingenuous illustrations of abstract ideas, and more. Thanks to all who entered! It was far too difficult to select just three finalists, so Anne and I decided to narrow the field to four finalists. As we can't have more finalists than prizes, I went stash-diving again. The result: now first prize is two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Iris Garden; second prize (new!) is two skeins of Katia Ingenua, a mohair blend yarn; and third and fourth prizes are Clover I-cord gadgets.

First prize is LL Iris Garden   Second prize is Ingenua   Third and fourth prizes are I-cord gadgets

The four finalists in alphabetical (of course!) order are:

     Jane of Not Plain Jane

     Karlie of A Long Yarn

     Minnie of Dragon Mad Knitter

     Vicki of Knitorious

Please have a look at the finalists' entries. ABC-alongers have until midnight Mountain Time on Sunday, May 21 to vote for their single most favorite among them on the I Contest poll. The number of votes received will determine finalists' ordinal rank. Results to be announced and prizes mailed on Monday.

Incidentally, this is what the inspiration for this contest, the Presby Iris Gardens (Exit 151), looked like this afternoon. Oddly, while the iris beds are at less than 25% bloom, the great chestnut tree and the azaleas are at peak and the wisteria standard and the immense lilac hedge are a bit past peak.

More photos to be inserted here   Still early at Presby Iris Gardens

At least there's no lack of flower spikes. If it ever stops raining roundabout Exit 151, the show should be pretty good.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Two Js

[O! The joy! I can post again!!]

J is for Jersey. The namesake of the Garden State is the Bailiwick of Jersey, which in turn was named for mighty Caesar.Jersey pound coin Insula Caesarea is just 45 sq mi (116 sq km) and is 40% larger at low tide than at high tide (!), yet it's the largest of the Channel Islands, famed for its fine dairy cattle, potatoes, and wealth of endangered species. Formally a dependency on the British Crown yet not part of the U.K., Jersey citizens have their own passports, speak English, French, and Jèrriais, and have their own currency, the Jersey pound. In the 1640s, Charles II granted Jersey Bailiff George Carteret holdings in the "new world"; Carteret named them (what else?) New Jersey.

(NB. The image of the Jersey pound is not mine; sorry, I couldn't find proper attribution for it. Could it be a coincidence that the New Jersey quarter also has a boating theme? I think not!)

Jersey is also a term for very fine wool, for finely knit fabric, and for garments and undergarments, particularly T-shirts, made from that fabric. If anyone knows why, please comment.

And J is for jute, my favorite garden twine. It's soft enough for use on tender shoots, composts well, and is reasonably inexpensive. It even makes decent beach sandals, more on that shortly.

See the rest of my ABCs.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Telcom Down

I've been having all kinds of telcom problems this week. If it weren't enough that my hardware is pretty much at the level of a hamster running on a wheel, there are Verizon trucks with giant spools of optical wire all over the neighborhood. No doubt that means I'll have super service in a week or two, but right now I get a dial tone maybe once in five tries and my ISP is running at 9600 bps. That's slower than most cell phones.

So it was only this evening that I noticed the hamster wheel has been spinning super-fast all day. Welcome, Mason-Dixon readers! If you came here looking for socks, you can find Ann, Kay, and the beaded rib with beads sock here and here; the Yarn Harlot and Diamond Patch socks here; Jungle Stripe socks here; and socks by my Sockapaloooza pal, Shannon, are here. There's a few socks at 200Sox as well.

That said, the current project not only is not socks, it's not even knitted. At least it's footwear-related.

Jute soles for espadrilles

More on the Interweave Crochet sandals in a bit, when normal telcom service has resumed. Meanwhile, I'm looking for my hairpin lace frame [sounds of rummaging].

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

MDS&W 2006

[Still struggling with Blogger.]

Rather than rhapsodize about the nice weather on Sunday or adorable livestock or perky knitbloggers or pit lamb sandwiches or the Modern Yarn carpool, all of which are lovely to be sure, I'll cut to the chase: my favorite purchases at MDS&W 2006.

Yak, yak

This splendid chocolate brown and light gray yak down is from The Fold. For the moment it goes into stash; when I get up to speed spinning [har], it will turn into something for DH.

The Fold also had ¡vicuña! down, which I've heard about, but never seen nor petted before ($225 per ounce; petting free). I have experienced The Legend! HOWEVER, they did not have any Socks That Rock yarn, because there was a yarn riot. Thundering hordes of binge buyers descended like wolves on The Fold on Saturday and cleaned them out in the first ninety minutes of the festival! Their entire stock gone in an hour and a half – 800 skeins! – none left for me. Toni Neal kindly took pity on me (or maybe she wanted me to stop wistfully petting the ¡vicuña!) and gave me a nifty Blue Moon Fiber Arts sample card with all three weights of STR attached. There was a binge-buying yarn riot at Koigu, too. I can't tell if that's a sign of unsustainable faddishness and a raincloud of boom-and-bust looms over the horizon, or something else. Surely not sour grapes.

However that may be, I'm taking my first spinning class from Stacey Rothrock in a couple weeks and (perforce) decided to forego buying yarn in favor of stocking up on roving and advice. I was certainly radiating gormless newbie spinner vibes instead of kickass experienced knitter vibes – previously, I've had only positive experiences with MDS&W vendors, but this year discovered they can vary as much as LYSs. One somewhat snooty vendor had cute snack packs of 30 colors of Merino roving, all unmarked and going for different prices (eyeroll – I'm not that gormless). The friendly and helpful folk at Cloverleaf Farms had clearly labeled roving in big yummy braids like challah; I picked some lovely blue Blue Face Leicester. (Colors are not true – that's the same photography towel background in each photo.)

Merino roving snack pack   Blue <br />Blue Face Leicester roving

Curiously, some spinners advised a newbie to try longer staple fiber, such as Merino, while others advocated shorter staple fiber, such as Corriedale or Blue Face Leicester. I'm told longer staple fiber is easier to spin, but newbie-spun yarn can fall apart more easily; shorter staple fiber is harder to spin, but holds together better through the irregularities of newbie spinning. (Experienced spinners feel free to comment.) I punted and got some of each. It's a bit worrisome, though. If the worst of all possible permutations occurs and spinning just doesn't work out, I'll have to f-f-f-f-felt the stuff.

The thundering Saturday hordes also snapped up all the totebags, which were particularly nice this year, and all the nice colors of T-shirts. But they overlooked the excellent cashmere laceweight at Hunt Valley Cashmere, a Maryland vendor, and the wool cobweb at Mistralee Farm Studio. So I got a sear-your-eyeballs marigold yellow tee (for visibility while bicycling) and some really fine yarn for some really fine prayer shawls. The yarns pictured are about 400 yds per oz (about 325 m per 25 g).

At the end of the day, while staggering back to the car, I noticed a woman wearing the most amazing crocheted dress, with cream and tan triangles, toting a gi-normous amount of fleece. The colorwork, shaping, and design details were masterful. Could it have been a Xenobia Bailey sighting? I'm a great admirer of her work, but have never seen a good photograph of the artist. While the rest of us plodded on the crowded walkways, tired and sheeplike, said mystery woman cut across a mowed field, striding out strongly and purposefully. I like to think it was Xenobia and that was revealing of character.

Indefatigable Kristen drove the MY carpool all the way there and back again, with Paige navigating and Katie, Christina, Jen, and yours truly tagging along. There was no singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" (mercifully), but there was sparkling conversation (mostly about hot guys), Katie's mom's delicious cookies (said to be Toll House, but I suspect a secret ingredient), seven-grain bagels, donuts, a box of joe, a half-gallon of iced tea consumed by one person (with consequences), and beef jerky that smelled like salami. Now that's a full service LYS! With thanks to all, it was an excellent road trip and (after several restorative naps) I'm looking forward to the next one.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Unexpected Scribble Lace

[Still having Blogger problems. Posts are stacking up!]

Ever since I saw scribble lace garments in Debbie New's brilliant book Unexpected Knitting, I've wanted to use her technique to make something other than a scarf. I love the Icelandic jacket in the book, so decided to start small with a scribble lace shrug and maybe work my way up.

Scribble lace shrug

Scribble lace is a delight, combining a very thin yarn or thread and a thick-and-thin yarn to produce a fabric with great personality and a fascinating, protean quality – just give it a shake and it changes. It is virtually weightless yet surprisingly warm. The back of the shrug shows off the visual appeal of the exaggerated, scribbling loops better than the front (click on photos to view larger).

Scribble lace shrug back

The shrug was knit up using one skein of each of Crystal Palace Kid Merino colorway 0204 (previously featured here) and Di.Vé Fiamma Stampato colorway 404 on size 15 needles. Ordinarily I dislike working on anything over size 10, but this was a happy exception. I couldn't find a button light enough and interesting enough to serve as a fastener, so went with Schiaparelli-style ties.

I wore the shrug to MDS&W over a white Modern Yarn PurlGurl short-sleeved tee (a dark long-sleeved tee works better for blog photography). There were hissing noises behind my back ("Scribble lace!") which were oddly gratifying, but I was a bit surprised by the number of people who wanted to pet it. With me in it. This doesn't happen when I wear other shrugs. Most people asked permission, which is one thing, but a few sidled up to cop a surreptitious feel, which is quite another! (Boundaries, people, honestly!) It was always a sidal approach. I became very aware of my peripheral vision. Now that was unexpected.

Despite that oddness, I see more scribbling in the future. The technique would seem to be like clay court tennis – a bit out of control and not to everyone's liking, requiring finesse more than speed or power. Happy news for a Tortoise!

Friday, May 5, 2006

Sockapaloooza, Received

[Apologies, I've been trying to post without success since Friday evening but have been having severe Blogger problems. I couldn't even sign in!]

At last it may be told that my Sockapaloooza pal is Shannon of the excellently named Yarn and Chocolate. Thank you, Shannon! I love my new socks of beauty! Here they are with the Helena, MT postcard in the package.

Sockapaloooza socks of beauty!

Shannon really sweated these socks. After trialing five (!) other candidates, she used Mountain Colors Bearfoot, a luxe Superwash wool, mohair, and nylon blend, which for her is a local yarn. Alas, its rich colorway – deep reds and teals – flummoxes my poor digicam; Shannon has a better photo. I love the Victorian colors – they match my Mrs. Beeton wristwarmers.

On receipt I immediately put them on and only reluctantly removed them! The socks are wonderfully comfortable, with a lovely sheen, bloom, and silkiness from the mohair. Although they are fuzzy wuzzy, I do not find them overly hot nor the least bit itchy – rather, they're perfect for the "variegated" spring weather roundabout Exit 151.

The socks are toe up with (I think) short-row toes and heels. The stitch pattern is garter rib, which is superbly defined in this yarn. Curious to relate, there's a teeny bit of flashing on the toe and 1x1 rib cuff, none on the foot, heel, or leg. Hm... must investigate this further. I woulda thunk if there's flashing in the 1x1 rib, there would be outright shazaaming in the garter rib, but no. Is it changing stitch counts or does garter rib tame the flash?

Incidentally, Shannon was a "stealth" pal who never contacted me – I had no idea who she was or what she was up to – or whether she was up to anything. But she came through, as sock pals usually do. So for all the Sockapalooozers out there anxious because of radio silence, not to worry (at least not yet). Some sock pals are taciturn, others loquacious; some enjoy daring their pal to find them, others focus on swapping socks. For some, silence is golden – it certainly doesn't necessarily mean your pal has bailed! It's 'way too early to determine that.

There are happy feet roundabout Exit 151 this evening. Thanks again, Shannon!

ETA: Uh-oh. DH noticed the socks, petted, and found them good. He, who has scorned Koigu and Lorna's Laces and Cherry Tree Hill and only grudgingly admired Habu A-113 (3/15 silk/wool), likes Bearfoot. It's a good thing our feet are different sizes.