Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yarn Aboard! Undaunted

It would seemVasco da Gama that in the course of seeking a sea route from Portugal to India, Vasco da Gama's first Yarn Aboard! expedition was lost at sea. Perhaps they foundered in tempestuous weather while rounding the Cape of Good Hope or encountered the fatal Flying Dutchman or were enslaved by privateers even fiercer than themselves or succumbed to pestilence. It's been known to happen. Undaunted, generous Amanda outfitted a second expedition which arrived roundabout Exit 151 just in time for the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving.

Dom Vasco's new flagship was carrying choice cargo: a skein of Dicentra Sock Yarn in colorway Gilrain (Ringheads will note that Gilraen was the mother of Estel, or "hope," and Dom Vasco doubled the Cape of Good Hope – coincidence?); two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in colorway Black Purl (just the thing for pirates); Evelyn A. Clark's Acorn Socks pattern; a taste of Louisiana: travel-sized Tabasco sauce and Baum's praline pecans; Republic of Tea Sip for the Cure Pink Lady Apple tea and a pink notepad; and holiday greetings. Thank you, Amanda! I love everything, especially the wonderful yarn, and the delicious pecans were a big hit over the weekend.

Yarn Aboard! cargo

My plan was to give Dom Vasco a tour of the Lusophone communities in the Ironbound section of Newark, re-provision the ship with fresh Portuguese delicacies from Teixeira's or Coutinho's, then send him on his way. Alas, the gods laugh when mortals plan. The funny noise the car was making turned out to require a long sojourn in the shop. Temporary carlessness doesn't much bother me; Plan B was to give the great explorer a bicycle tour roundabout Exit 151. But it's been rainy/foggy and unseasonably warm around here, and (oddly enough for a seahawk) Dom Vasco seems rather susceptible to the wet. So this photo taken at Seaport Yarn will have to suffice.

Vasco da Gama visits Seaport Yarn

Mariners know well that time and tide wait for no one: the intrepid explorer sails on the morning tide, on a northerly heading. I've enjoyed the fun and hope his next port of call does too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Four Xs

X is for xenolith (from the Greek, foreign rock), a rock that has bits of other rocks in it.X is for xenolith This pirate-patched (or alien-eyed) example is a well-weathered breccia cobble from the shatter zone surrounding Mount Cadillac in Maine (collected outside the national park, of course). So far, there's no satisfactory theory to explain the shatter zone or this rock, which has a matrix of pale gray granite in which small, aligned crystals of shiny black hornblende outline sharp-edged fragments of dark gray basalt (theoretically, it's inside out). Theory aside, we use it as a doorstop.

X is for XOX, a sentimental favorite cable pattern.

X is for Xena, a recently discovered minor planet officially named Eris or object 2003 UB313. While I have no strong feelings about Pluto's planetary status, I do wish the astronomical authorities had conformed with past practice and honored the name selected by the discoverers of Planet X and its satellite, which they dubbed Gabrielle.

And X is for xylem, which with phloem comprises the wood of trees. Some yarns derived from plants use only phloem, but the fabulously exquisite Habu paper yarns use both.

[ETA 11/29/06: Margene is having a contest for ABC-Alongers who finish – the prize is xocolate!]

See the rest of my ABCs.


Monday, November 27, 2006

New Garden Clogs

It rained on the Thanksgiving Day parade, so I stayed home and tried out my new gardening clogs. My trusty old clogs (left) had been showing the scars of honorable service, so when I saw transparent clogs (right) at Loopy Yarns back in July, I bought 'em. I thought they'd be just the thing to show off handknit socks. Alas, the new clogs were not an immediate hit.

Trusty old clogs   New clogs not an immediate hit

For one thing, while they may be transparent, they aren't colorless – their glaucous cast makes my bare toes look positively cadaverous. Gah. They tend to develop an internal weather system, complete with fog and trickling precipitation (that doesn't happen with the old clogs). Plus I was dismayed to see their opaque cousins at Target for half what I paid. Nothing takes the shine off a purchase faster.

This weekend I tried them with light socks. This pair (left) seemed particularly suited for the fishbowl effect. But nothing beats handknit (right).

Fishbowl effect   Nothing beats handknit socks

I'm liking the new clogs better now. Not least because, clearly, I need many more pairs of striped socks. [g]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

T-Day Spinning

Happy Thanksgiving! The long weekend invariably is a nonstop whirlwind roundabout Exit 151, so let me wish everyone a happy, bountiful, and safe holiday now.

Were I as organized as some, I'd have yummy homemade pies to show off. As it is, I'm not and I don't (maybe later), but here's some 2-ply sample skeins (20-30 m) spun from my Kool-Aid dyed fiber for the Twisted Knitters DSK-Along.

Sample skeins

From left to right, Finn from the space-dyed top, Merino from the watercolor roving, Merino from the colorwheel roving, and Finn from the ombré top. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the Finn has nice sproing and a lovely lustrous sheen (I begin to understand why it's one of Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' favorite fibers) and the Merino is soft and lofty.

More pix to come on the other side of the weekend. My bicycle club has an annual T-Day spin to see the parade. Let's hope for calm weather – if sustained winds are over 23 mph (37 kph) or if gusts are over 34 mph (54 kph), then the giant balloons won't fly (and the ride over the George Washington Bridge will be bracing, to say the least!). At this hour the sky looks ominous – this year's Inflation Night, tonight in Central Park, is shaping to be a wild one.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


W is for wrenching, or bicycle maintenance. It was frosty this morning roundabout Exit 151, which reminded me it's time for the fall overhaul. This weekend I'm going to tune up the trusty bicycle:W is for wrenching clean the chain, gears, shifters, and other moving parts; switch from summer wax lubricant to winter Teflon lubricant; adjust the cables; check the brake pads; inspect the tires; change the batteries in the blinky lights; wash, touch up, and wax the frame; condition the handgrips and seat; and disinfect water bottles and hydration packs. Anyone who's seen the black fur that likes to grow inside hydration bladders – eeeuuuuuwww! – knows this last step is as essential to cyclist safety as the others. Incidentally, the monkey wrench and the crescent wrench on the left are just for show (notice how shiny they are) – bicyclists use hex wrenches, on the right.

W is for whaling. Sadly, Iceland is joining Norway and Japan in breaking the international ban on hunting whales. The gambit is not without consequences – tourism to Iceland, particularly for whale watch cruises, has dropped precipitously since the hunts began.

And W is for the wool, best of knitting fibers. Some knitters use wire, too.

See the rest of my ABCs.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Farrago

After getting caught in the torrential downpour yesterday evening, I felt like soggy cereal and wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed. But divers and assorted oddities kept trooping up to hinder that. Such troopers, those oddities.

Oddly, some skeins of Noro Blossom are put up at 50 g and some at 40 g, a 25% difference. They're clearly labeled, but the practice seems pretty poor to me. Here's how far one 40 g skein went on my twofer NaKniSweMo and Norovember sweater.

Noro Blossom sweater in progress

Not far at all. The sweater pattern, cryptically codenamed Y763, is in Noro No. 20, which specifies pattern requirements in skeins, 50 g skeins. I suffered an initial pang of there's Not Enough Yarn!, more effective than caffeine in keeping me from my pillow, but now *think* there's barely sufficient, assuming the pattern requirements are accurate.

I suppose this merely demonstrates yet again that those inhabiting the Noro World of Nature are more natural than anything else. Surely the truly greedy would be sharp enough to specify pattern requirements in 40 g skeins, to keep 40 g customers happy (or blissfully ignorant that we're getting short yardage) and make 50 g customers over-buy (at least they're getting yarn). As it is, 50 g customers are happy and 40 g customers under-buy and become doubly unhappy when they learn the reason.

Also odd, a spammer got through word verification and posted a long, long comment with lots and lots of links to products of dubious merit. It was easy enough to remove the comment, but not so easy to figure out how the deed was done. Perhaps the old-fashioned way, using a real, underpaid human in a developing country rather than a bot. I can sympathize – I've had jobs that kept me fed and clothed but basically sucked. However, I've also disabled anonymous comments.

Perhaps most odd of all, TreeCam would seem to be on the blink. While obsessively checking the view of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, I've seen instead what looked like the SkyCam ops center, some place in the Meadowlands, and blue screens. Wonder what's going on.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Resorting to the Bottles

It's been raining roundabout Exit 151 and the humidity has been making my hairy Blue Face Leicester turn stubborn again, twisting back on itself to form pigtails and refusing to ply. After all, if humidity causes human hair to curl, just imagine what happens to wool. It's enough to make one resort to the bottle... or maybe three.

Wine bottles used as plying stand

It turns out (unopened) wine bottles make a serviceable plying stand. I wound the singles into center pull balls on a ball winder, placed them on the necks of the bottles, and plied away. The slight tension on the singles greatly reduced pigtailing. Heavier bottles would be good – these tend to teeter a bit, which on the plus side does focus the attention, particularly when the red wine wobbles. Hm... must find some magnums.

I'd been thinking about knitting rolled mittens but the thrummed mittens in the new IK are awfully cute. Hairy 3-ply Blue Face Leicester yarn would make an excellent outside and Kool-Aid dyed Merino roving an excellent inside, doncha think?

Which reminds me of this immortal bit of poetry attributed to George A. Strong and likely also involving a bottle or three:

       He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
       Of the skin he made him mittens,
       Made them with the fur side inside,
       Made them with the skin side outside.
       He, to get the warm side inside,
       Put the inside skin side outside;
       He, to get the cold side outside,
       Put the warm side fur side inside.
       That's why he put the fur side inside,
       Why he put the skin side outside,
       Why he turned them inside outside.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Happy Merry

Happy: One of the best things about last night's Big Game was New Brunswick police reported no arrests and commended the "good, happy, clean celebration" that followed Rutgers' upset win over Louisville. Colonel Henry would have been pleased. There are three more games in the season, plus a much-anticipated bowl invitation.

Happy: Reading up on mohair spinning techniques proved helpful. It turned out my two recalcitrant Rhinebeck rovings needed a slower, heavier spindle – my beloved Featherweight is too fast and light for these fibers.Border Leicester and Blue Face Leicester micro-skeins But my (clunky) learner's spindle is just right.

At first the singles had intermittent hairy spots and the ends had a tendency to unwind and become fluffy. As I got the feel for the fiber, the singles smoothed out. They plied up tightly – all the trouble with pigtails and interlocking long hairs went away.

The resulting yarn is lustrous and strong, like other BFL rovings I've spun, but also rather itchy, which is different. In the photo, 9 is Border Leicester and 10 is Blue Face Leicester. I still don't know what to do about the fluffy ends.

Merry: The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has arrived. Watch it being decorated on TreeCam.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The Big Game

For many folk roundabout Exit 151, the Big Game is the Battle of the Unbeatens, No. 3 Louisville versus No. 15 Rutgers, tonight at 7:30 in Piscataway.

For those who haven't caught Scarlet Fever, here's another game. For Deb's birthday month calendar contest, here's the November page from my wall calendar.

November calendar

It's from a gardening calendar that features Northern and Southern Hemisphere species for virtually continuous bloom (no dreary winter pix). These sturdy flowers are a type of Protea from South Africa, where November = spring. They're the color of the NJ team, Rutgers scarlet.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

National Sweater Knitting Month or Norovember

Remember SAT analogies? Y'know,

      sweater : novel :: knitting : writing.

Clever ShannonNaKniSweMo button (author of Spin to Knit, among other works) has proclaimed November to be NaKniSweMo, analogous to NaNoWriMo. I've never attempted to write a novel in a month, but knit a sweater in a month? I'm there!

(Close readers will notice there was some community editing of nomenclature. I like to think the current acronym for National Sweater Knitting Month is a witty example of cabling or, if you please, tmesis and chiasmus.)

I was pondering knitting up an old Takhi pattern in Malabrigo Aquarella, but someone – Homeland Security? – would seem to be holding up the shipment. So that's pending sine die.

Happily, there's plenty of

      fish : sea :: yarn : stash.

Norovember button I have a bag of Noro Blossom that's been sitting around, enough (I think) for a quick sweater. As clever Kathy has decided this month is Norovember, this one will be a twofer.

There will be progress pix shortly. In the meantime, here's the gauge swatch.

Gauge swatch for NaKniSweMo, Norovember, and Zimmermania sweater

Amazing to relate, the swatch has almost no curl. And, oh, those Noro stripes!

      rhyming : poem :: striping : Noro.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

RSTU and gotV

[Yipes, am I behind in posting for the ABC-Along and other things! Catching up now.]

R is for raptors. When the blue jays seem particularly agitated roundabout Exit 151, it's time to head to the Montclair Hawk Watch,R is for raptors a tiny NJ Audubon Society sanctuary perched atop a cliff on the side of First Watchung Mountain. During the fall and spring, it's not rare to be able to see thousands of migrating raptors in a single day – the Hawk Watch, celebrating its 50th anniversary year, has the log books to prove it. Amazing to relate, this twice-annual spectacle takes place in one of the most highly urbanized environments in the U.S.; the lookout can be reached by public transportation. I just ride my bicycle. As it's not easy to photograph birds in flight, I've borrowed this photo of a broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) from the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

NB. The Hawk Watch observation platform is broad and very secure, but the short hike, steep stairs through a narrow cleft in the cliff, and metal ladder climbing to the platform may pose a physical and/or mental challenge to some. Appropriate clothing and sensible shoes are a must. Also, watch out for poison ivy!

And R is for ramie and rayon. Not among my faves.

S is for Sky Mirror.S is for Sky Mirror There's something wonderfully engaging about Anish Kapoor sculptures, and this temporary installation at Rockefeller Center is no exception. Its reflective surface and concave shape invite the viewer to peer at it, walk around it, explore its context. See more views here.

And S is for silk and suri alpaca and soy silk and stainless steel.

T is for tomato.T is for tomato Every year, one of my gardening goals is to keep some tomatoes in salad-worthy condition through the New Year, or at least through Christmas. Soil viruses are the enemy roundabout Exit 151, and I've succeeded only once. Some years the season is over in September. [Sigh] At least these felted beefsteaks will last longer than that.

And T is for Tencel.

U is for ubiquitous, an attribute sometimes identified with divinity.U is for ubiquitous I don't pretend to understand how some things catch fire in the knitting universe and suddenly are EVERYwhere. Whether it is merit or faddishness or a volatile mix of mass and class appeal. Or perhaps there are undisclosed promotional considerations or powers laws at work. Or, indeed, if knitting itself hasn't reached – or perhaps passed? – a zenith of popularity. Is some kind of crest-and-crash to follow? However that may be, here's some of my participation in knitting trendiness: mini-version of Clapotis by Kate Gilbert, Lantern Moon sheepy tape measure, and Yarn Harlot bookbookbook the first.

And U is for umingmak or oomingmak, also known as qiviut or musk ox (Ovibos moschatus). Another fiber I'd love to use some day.

V is for vote and Get Out the Vote.V is for vote Today is General Election Day all across the USA. My polling place is a primary school, which remains in session on Election Day and also holds a bake sale. It may not look like much, but humble appearances belie the great power inherent in free public education, free elections, and a little free enterprise.

Three districts vote at this poll. Today there were three electronic voting machines, one for each district. One malfunctioned, but poll workers were well supplied with Emergency Paper Ballots. Turnout was heavy!

During this long campaign season, I've had ample occasion to reflect that negative advertising would seem to seek not merely to smear the opponent, but also to create aversions strong enough to suppress voter turnout. I would hope it's not that easy to persuade citizens to voluntarily give up the exercise of their franchise – if you have the vote, use it. In New Jersey, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. For nationwide information, see Vote 411 or Election Protection 365.

And V is for vicuña, said to be the most luxurious fiber in the world (I got to pet some at MDS&W), and for Viscose, which is not.

See the rest of my ABCs.


Friday, November 3, 2006

Poll: The Manly Scarf

It's early November, the season of opinion polls. Kindly cast your non-binding ballot in the straw poll below.

Voter background: DH asked for a manly scarf and, upon receiving consent, quickly appropriated the choicest items in stash. He deftly uncoiled the hanks, hung them around his neck, admired the effect in the mirror, then settled to watch TV with the best of the bunch still in place. (Just to make certain it wouldn't become itchy during extended use.) His choice: Great Adirondack Yarn Company Nassau Tapestry silk and cotton in colorway 1207.

That was the easy part. Then I started swatching. And swatching. And swatching. Here's where I am so far (click to view larger – the stitch markers indicate where the patterns change).

DH is still undecided. So... which is your favorite among the candidates?

Which Manly Scarf pattern do you prefer?
Basketweave No. 2
Basketweave No. 1
Check No. 2
Check No. 1
King Charles Brocade
Free polls from

Write-in candidates are permitted in the comments, but in the event of malfunction or hacking by Princeton researchers, sorry, there are no provisions for Emergency Paper Ballots.