Friday, December 29, 2006

Five Zs

Z is for zest. My fridge is currently full of bald citrus, mostly lemons, because I love me a little citrus-y zing in holiday cooking (and drinking) and also preserved fruit and peel for eating out of hand. I've tried many gadgets to part peel and fruit: graters, vegetable peelers, paring knives, zesters. Some methods produce fine crumbs, some strips of varying width and length. All tasty, yet the zealous quest for the perfect zest remains ongoing, the goal elusive. Not least among my desiderata: consistent pith-free Z-twist twists.

Z is for zero-g. BIL dearly wants to experience weightlessness. As a trip into outer space seems unlikely, he's dreaming of a parabolic flight (USD $3,000+ for one day of 15 flights).

Z is for ZZZZs. At this over-scheduled time of year, I'm always longing for that "long winter's nap." Staying up late obsessively playing Zuma doesn't help.

Z is for Zeneedle. It seems deeply fitting to have started the year and this photoessay series with Anne, founder of the feast, and to end it with Zeneedle and the eXcellent contest for finishers. I've enjoyed the challenges of the ABC-Along (despite occasional lapses) and often have been moved by the essays of other participants. Many thanks go to Anne and Margene for a special fiber-y year, in alphabetical order!

And Z is for zibelline, the ultra-luxe fur or fiber of the sable, Martes zibellina, and fabrics made of the same. What Eartha Kitt, Jhene, Kylie Minogue, Macy Gray, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, the Pussycat Dolls, and Vonda Shepard all want Santa Baby to slip under the tree.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Weird December

What a weird December! It's the day before Christmas eve: 63° F (17° C) outdoors, Blogger keeps bouncing this post, and I still haven't found the holiday stemware [eyeroll]. At least our Christmas ornaments are up.

St. Nick Knack ornaments

I made these when DH and I were engaged to be married. We've used them every Christmas. They're St. Nick Knacks from Vogue Patterns 1754, made using DMC cotton embroidery floss on wool felt, with kapok stuffing and gold cord and satin ribbon trim. I pretty much followed the pattern; were I to make more, I'd make the hanging loops shorter and use filament instead of ribbon.

As long as the month has been so weird, here's the Weird Things Meme:

1. I don't play memetag. That's not a judgment on bloggers who enjoy memes, just my (weird) choice. But, heck, it's Christmas and Deborah tagged me.

2. When kraken appear in movies, I think, "LOOK at all that yummy sashimi!"

3. One of my favorite search engines is elgooG, the Google mirror site.

4. Dry weather gives me nosebleeds.

5. I love mini-knitting (click photos to view larger).

I'm looking forward to the exhibit of micro-knitting in "Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting" at the Museum of Arts & Design next year. Be sure to click on the exhibit link – the pair of 1:144 scale gloves are not to be missed.

6. Generic greetings such as "Happy Holidays!" seem fine to me; conversely, I'm usually pleased rather than offended when someone wishes me a specific holiday that I don't observe. Unless there's a self-righteous implication I ought to convert, conform, and stop being so weird.

Consider yourself tagged if you like. Or not. Here's THE RULES for this meme.

THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the "6 weird things about you." People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as stated in this rule clearly.

In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says that "you are tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

Wishing you Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Steadfast Cookie Monsters

At the open of winter, there's not a whole lot of knitting going on roundabout Exit 151. Instead, here's a morality play with an opinion poll at the end.

The steadfast cookie monsters roundabout Exit 151 want only one cookie for ChristmasAlmost every form of cane sugar known to humankind and they wait for it to appear, initially with happy anticipation, but eventually with diminishing patience. They endure the annual list-making and the gathering of exotic, irrelevent-to-them ingredients. They may even volunteer to go to the store when it is discovered (mid-recipe, of course) that almost every form of cane sugar known to humankind is in the pantry, but no flour. They narrowly observe production because the baker likes seasonal variation, is unconvinced THE cookie is really a Christmas cookie, and has been known to do Very Bad Things.

These Christmas cookies were pronounced "okay."

OK Christmas cookies

But these unfortunates were mocked (click here to view).

These nearly provoked a riot.Frankencookies There were loud protests over the adulterated chips and dough. Curiously, the fact the chips are vanilla-flavored and not mint, as their appearance might suggest, only intensified the claims they are unacceptably mutated food. And if those affronts weren't cause enough, there was the additional concern the baker might assert the Frankencookies (it takes a monster to know one) are an adequate substitute for THE Christmas cookie. Which would be a very, very, very bad thing.

In the interest of world peace the baker stayed up late and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies using the recipe on the package except with double vanilla, one-and-a-half times semi-sweet chocolate chips, no nuts. The baker had some excellent Bromilow's chips on hand and stirred a few into the dough. Here's what's left of the batch.

Chocolate chip cookies

The steadfast cookie monsters were instantly mollified, indeed were happy and pleased. They also noticed the modification, but didn't mind it so much. The baker, on the other hand, thinks the richly flavored Bromilow's chips may be better in a cold dessert such as cannoli or cheesecake, or simply for eating out of hand.

Which leaves the poll question: Is it a Very Bad Thing to foist give Frankencookies to one's neighbors or bring them to SnB? Howabout church coffee hour?? Register your vote!

What to do with the Frankencookies?
Give them to the neighbors
Bring them to SnB
Serve them during church coffee hour
Any of the above are OK
All of the above are Very Bad Things
Free polls from

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Back from Croatan

That was weird. The blog went missing last night. Perhaps it was abducted by space aliens (that'll learn me to keep so many UFOs buzzing roundabout Area 151). Judging from the chronometer, after about six hours in a parallel dimension, it migrated. Now it has some shiny new implants features, notably Labels, which are similar to TypePad Categories. [ETA: Comments are cooler now, too.] Otherwise it seems unchanged. All in all, migration was not so bad.

Unloved multi-directional scarf   Frogged scarf

During the lost time one UFO, an unloved multi-directional scarf, morphed into a shoulder wrap, Tie One On by nona. Her clever pattern comes in three flavors; I picked the Mellow Green version and used Stacy Charles Ritratto in colorway 64 for the MC and Rowan Kidsilk Haze in colorway 630 Fondant for the CC. Here it is with the body finished but without the ties.

Tie One On wrap

Tie One On is one of those garments that look better, well, tied on than photographed flat, but my photography assistant took the day off and went on a three-hour cruise in the Bermuda Triangle. I knit to gauge; next time I'd make it slightly bigger for more ease. Just a personal preference – the pattern is fine as written.

I'd make more of these useful wraps, but I'm pretty sure Santa has a lace book in his sleigh, so am holding off casting on. In the meantime, I'm going to try to add labels to old posts. Let me know if you notice anything amiss – broken links, missing photos, strange RSS feeds, split infinitives, alien spawn, etc.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yarn Aboard! Port of Call: Exit 151

AfterHenry Morgan Marco Polo was hijacked twice in the course of his Yarn Aboard! travels, Amanda retired the unlucky Venetian in favor of a formidable Welshman: Captain Sir Henry Morgan. Soldier, privateer, sometime governor of Jamaica, namesake of the spiced rum, and inspiration for John Steinbeck's first published novel, Cup of Gold, as well as Captain Blood, Sir Henry always delivered the plunder goods. This time was no exception. He arrived roundabout Exit 151 on Friday with a lavish cargo, having made excellent speed from Lisa to me.

And what a cargo! Thank you, Lisa – it's like Christmas came early. I love everything. I love the lime-in-the-coconut colors of the Rhode Island postcard, polka-dot notebook, elegant WPI tool, coconut-lime-verbena shimmer lotion, and change purse made of a teeny sock. I'd been using whatever was handy to measure wraps per inch – how wonderful to have a proper gadget that combines beauty and functionality.

Lime in the coconut

I love all the fibery goodness: highly covetable Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop roving in colorway Blue Suede Shoes, Woolgatherings rainbow Blue Face Leicester roving, and orange mohair. Now that I've dipped a toe, so to speak, into the art and craft of dyeing, I really appreciate the work of master colorists. I've got many happy spinning hours ahead.

Fibery goodness

AndYummy treats I love the yummy treats. The Fair Trade chocolate vanished immediately, culprits unknown. I was intrigued with the all-natural, not too sweet Del's lemonade mix. So good! DH is a Newport Creamery awful awful fanatic, but next time we're in Rhode Island, we must stop at Del's.

One doesn't like to leave houseguests unattended, particularly guests with this one's propensity to pillage, but holiday commitments intervened. I suggested Sir Henry might enjoy an outing to see the exhibition of a magnificent autograph copy (ie, a book manuscript written in the author's own hand) of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, on display at the Morgan Library. (Knit the Classics is reading the book this month.) Despite his literary leanings and the possibility of a distant family connection, Sir Henry indicated he preferred a quiet night in. So we left him home alone. We returned to find the old boozehound had enjoyed a wee drappie but was still standing, albeit with the assistance of a clipboard.

Sir Henry and friends

The next day Sir Henry showed no extra sensitivity to light or noise and sailed promptly with the tide on a southerly heading to his next port of call. But not without first offering a raucous three cheers and 21-gun salute to clever Amanda for organizing (and re-organizing) this very excellent swap. I've enjoyed following the peregrinations of the several explorers and look forward to seeing all of them return safely to their home port. Hip, hip, hooray Amanda!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Well, that didn't work. The blog is still here in un-migrated (pre-migrated?) form. At least it's not splinched. At least I hope not... but, how to know? Argh, epistemological doubt!

Can you see me now?  (Just kidding!!)Kim mentioned she no longer can see pictures on my blog while at work. Sorry to hear that. I don't think that's a consequence of attempted migration and I'm also pretty sure my photo host is working OK. Maybe all the yarn pr0n alarmed your IT administrator and images are blocked?

To round out Fun With Computers time, I spent a frustrating 16 hours updating my anti-virus software. That's what happens when 21st century technology interfaces with my computer, which is akin to a hamster running on a wheel [squeak, squeak – the wheel, not the hamster]. When finally installed, the newly robust program promptly quarantined and deleted a bunch of email messages. Uh, if you're expecting an email response from me, kindly remind me what it is I'm supposed to know.

While waiting for the hourglass icon and the spinning icon to signify that which is signified, I rummaged through boxes in the basement searching for holiday stemware. Didn't find 'em. [Sigh] I know perfectly well we have more holiday stuff than three salad plates, two mismatched mugs, and two cups and saucers.

Holiday plates

However, I did find this promising-looking box.

Box of Maine yarn

Now here's an epistemological certainty: you know you're far gone when your stash is labeled by place of origin.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Blog Migration

Worn down by the incessant blandishments (mixed with tacit threats) from BlogSpot, I'm going to migrate the blog to Blogger Beta this week. Sorry if that messes up RSS feeds for a while.

I've backed up carefully, but should the blog disappear altogether, I provide these images for your contemplation, a knitter's version of "Croatan."

Croatan before   Croatan after

The golden promise of increased functionality awaits! See you (I hope) on the other side.

[Edited to add: Well, so far migration isn't happening for me at all. Successful migrations seem to take 24 to 48 hours. Unsuccessful migrations sound a bit like being consigned to Dante's Ante-Hell or attempting to Disapparate and instead getting splinched. Be sure to back up your template and content!]

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Ideo-o-o Spinning-o-o-o

The other day In Excelsis wondered if I've dyed anything for the Twisted Knitters DSK-along lately. Actually, I finished dyeing last month; I just neglected to blog about it. Ideo (Latin for therefore), this month is for spinning. But let me catch up first.

Lincoln lambswool dyed in primary colors   Lincoln lambswool dyed in blues and greens

After sampling different dyeing techniques in The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, I decided to scale up to production quantities using the spot-dye technique. Pictured are one 4 oz (113 g) braid in primary colors (a pale imitation of Stripey Tiger's far more beauteous roving) and four braids totalling 6 oz (170 g) in blues and greens, all of Lincoln lambswool. The colors are a bit off – the table was not refinished between pix.

I made another newbie spinner doh! discovery: braids of roving not only look cool, they're by far the most convenient way to store fiber. By following Loribird's excellent tutorial I eventually turned out a reasonable-looking braid o' roving. Simple enough, yet it feels like a big accomplishment. [g]

The Lincoln lambswool originally had a somewhat hard hand,Spinning-o-o-o! but it bloomed after dyeing. It's nicer to the touch now; also harder to spin into consistent singles free of soft, fuzzy spots. That didn't happen with the Merino blend or the Finn. It would seem some fibers are better suited to dyeing after spinning than before spinning. Huh.

Methinks spindling projects (and also scarf projects) have a tendency to enter a boring intermediate stage during which progress occurs, but photos of each increment become rather monotonous. Hm... must think of ways to insert gratuitous images of spindling (and scarf) progress into posts.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Three Ys

Y is for Yuletide. One of my favorite signs of the season is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree,Y is for Yuletide affectionately known as the Tree. A favorite pasttime during the holiday season is gawking at the Tree and also gawking at other people gawking at the Tree. Each Tree is a little different (the 2006 Tree is pictured) and yet there's always something infectiously happy about it. No matter how stressed or tired or jaded I feel, no matter how vast the crowds or ridiculous the traffic, a visit always restores my spirits. Not everyone feels the magic – my favorite annual overheard sour comment is "I've seen bigger." (The petulant absurdity of such comments never fails to make me merry.) When I can't gawk in person, I gawk on TreeCam (also see here).

Much of New York City (affectionately known as the City) is splendidly decorated in December. Other favorite holiday adornments include the glittering snowflake suspended above the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street (left), which is viewed to best advantage at night and from a distance (watch out for the crazy auto traffic). The façade of Saks Fifth Avenue is also decorated in blue-white and white-white snowflakes (middle), which at intervals twinkle in time to music. New this year are the giant falling snowflakes projected onto 30 Rockefeller Plaza behind the Tree (right). Judging from the comments around me, every photographer in the plaza was obsessed with capturing them!

57th Street   Saks Fifth Avenue   30 Rock

Your face hereY is for Your Face Here. Time magazine is holding a whimsical contest in conjunction with their Person of the Year issue. You can submit photos of your choice for Person of the Year. Selected photos will appear on an electronic billboard in Times Square at 43rd Street, New York City and in Dundas Square, Toronto. (You can nominate yourself – notice the dude with the cameraphone in the photo.) For more information, click here.

And Y is for yak. I bought some yak down at MDS&W – so far the luxuriously soft, but very short fiber has been beyond my ability to spin. I've also tried yak meat (and sprung it on unsuspecting guests) – most people can't distinguish it from beef. [ETA: Winter 2006 Spindlicity has a helpful article, "Spinning Down Fibers", which recommends using a supported spindle.]

Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Manly Scarf Continues

A cold front roared through last night: yesterday's high temperature was 72° F (22° C), a record for December 1, but it was frosty this morning. Time to get cracking on the Manly Scarf. In the Manly Scarf poll, King Charles Brocade garnered a commanding plurality, 41% as of this writing. Accordingly, I frogged the sample swatch, cast on, and started knitting away.

King Charles Brocade scarf

(The colors aren't quite right in the photo, but they're reasonably close.)

Thanks to all who participated in the poll and especially to fans of Other: Jen, who suggested seed stitch and the Guy Scarf, and Erica, who suggested man lace in the form of Hypoteneuse by Anne Hanson (see also Carole's man lace pix). It's always great to have other options.

The King Charles Brocade stitch pattern may be found in Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It's one of several patterns in a beautifully knit blue silk vest (to modern eyes, a tunic) worn by King Charles I of England on the day of his execution in January 1649. (It's bloodstained.) However unsuccessful he was as a sovereign, at the end Charles showed manly style, asking for warm clothes to ward off unseemly shivering: "The season is so sharp as probably may make me shake, which some observers may imagine proceeds from fear. I would have no such imputation."

A sentiment worthy of a Manly Scarf intended to ward off bitter winter winds, not to mention the name Charles means "manly." I love it when knitting and history come together.

Hairy Blue Face Leicester 3-ply yarnMeanwhile, Yolanda asked if I've been spinning. Well, I've spun up almost all the hairy Blue Face Leicester from the inferior vendor who shall not be named. The resulting 3-ply is lustrous and wiry and I hope will be hard-wearing. There should be about 250 yards (228 m) of yarn from 4 ounces (113 g) hairy fiber when all is plied up.

I finished the yarn using the simmer method described in Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. It's more involved, but does seem to set the twist more effectively than blocking yarn with weights.

Also, I've been rolling thrums from the Kool-Aid dyed fiber. The process makes my wrists tingle after only a few – I'm being very careful not to over-do.

Rainbow thrums

DH, bless him, has taken to singing improvised holiday lyrics: "Thrum, they told me, pa thrum-thrum-thrum-thrum!"

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Day Without Knitblogging

World AIDS Day 25th Anniversary button

It's been 25 years since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was identified and named. There's been some progress, yet the HIV/AIDS epidemic remains one of the worst in human history – and it's ongoing.

Silence, ignorance, denial, and lack of political will all play their parts in deepening the crisis, which threatens individual and public health, international security, and the global economy. Think you're informed? Try this online quiz.

For more information on HIV/AIDS, see:
World AIDS Campaign
National Institutes of Health AIDS Info
Centers for Disease Control AIDS Fact Sheets
Gay Men's Health Crisis Treatment Fact Sheets

And see this cogent interview with Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.