Monday, July 30, 2007

Mostly Sunny

The Tour de France concluded yesterday during a drizzle in Paris (and a thunderous downpour roundabout Exit 151). But the sun is almost ready to come out – and my Soleil for the TdF KAL is mostly complete. I'd model it, but I need to re-knit the right shoulder so that it matches the left, then finish the neckline and armholes.

Soleil pieced

I'm basically happy with the shell. I love its pretty lace and curvaceous shaping. It was a quick knit, even with several mods: lengthening the body, reducing the number of bust increases, raising the V-neck, deepening the armseye, and using short rows to create a sloping shoulder rather than a straight one. Were I to make another, I'd add backwaist darts to reduce fullness in back as well. I hasten to note the pattern is well-written, just sized for someone quite short-waisted and rather bosomy. Ce n'est pas grave, especially not after reading Lynne Vogel's magnificent Fit Central, a master class on fitting knits (I can't wait for the book!).

The TdF Knit-along was a lot of fun, thanks to diligent organizers Meg and Debby, who posted excellent, frequent Tour updates, KAL updates, and fun links to recipes and resources for vocabulaire français. This year I was less than enchanted by the Tour itself (hélas), but a companionable KAL makes up for a lot. A big merci beaucoup to the hosts!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Winged Rummer

Ah, the Garden State!

Ripening cherry tomatoes

Last night DH woke me from a blissfully unaware slumber to inform me that it smelled like "God's toejams" outside and that the very whiffy odor was at its extreme whiffiest not in the Meadowlands, but around the Hoffman-La Roche plant. Me: Mmzzzhuh? Today there's not a trace of the bad smell and not a clue to its identity. Harmless, we hope.

Soleil is making progress, a consolation for strange midnight alarums and even for the scandals that continue to plague professional cycling. I love her pretty waist shaping – thanks, Brigitte, for the advice on length (be sure to have a look at her magnificent Jade Starmore Amphora).

Soleil waist shaping

I plan to finish the TdF KAL, but I've become fed up with the TdF – too many integrity issues in too many places for my taste.

Meanwhile, an inflammatory "rummer" was posted to the MS3 group and all hell broke loose.¹ No doubt because of my long familiarity with such things, I initially read the variant spelling of rumor as the comparative form of rum. Which may not apply to any one person individually, but one Internet conflagration later it is demonstrably true of the aggregate. Adquirit eundo [she gains strength as she goes].²

P.S. Please send healing thoughts to Lynn at NeedleCraftique (Exit 151). She shattered her upper arm in a freak fall in the parking lot. Surgery, a titanium rod, pins, staples, and six months of physical therapy are involved.

¹Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV, Line 918, said by the Archangel Gabriel to fallen angel Lucifer.
²Vergil, Aeneid, Book IV, Line 175, attribute of the formidable monster Rumor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Welcome Sunshine

There's less than one week to go in the TdF KAL, it's RAGBRAI week, and I've begun to wonder if in the rain I missed a chalked arrow, made a wrong turn, and somehow ended up in a different event, perhaps even l'enfer du Nord. I've changed bikes projects yet again. VoilàSoleil!

Soleil in progress

The cabled tank had fit issues – I was swimming in the smallest size. Rather than spend a lot of time in knitty analysis to resolve the trouble, I went stash diving again and surfaced with a new pearl, a bundle of vintage Pingouin Corrida 4. I bought the yarn at the defunct Bell Yarns in NYC, but it originally came from Roubaix, a French milltown which is the finish of the famed Paris-Roubaix bicycle race (despite its name, the race starts in Compiègne). Hallmarks of the Queen of the Classics (or Hell of the North) include rough cobblestones, mud, rain, snow, bottlenecks, and treacherously sharp turns. Seems strangely like my interior knitting landscape. Hm.

By happy contrast, Soleil by Alexandra Virgiel is a terrific pattern – flattering to la forme féminine, clearly written, satisfying to work, and very wearable. Not to mention I'm back on track for a tricot jaune of my own [g]. The guilty twinge caused by abandoning cables for lace was instantly cured by the IK Fall 2007 Preview ("Exploring Cables"!), expecially Tangled Yoke Cardigan by Eunny Jang. It's even stopped raining.

The NY Times recently ran an article on the Bicycling Paradox, a curious phenomenon I've noticed many times. The assumptions that apply to most other sports, such as running, don't apply to bicycling. Among amateur cyclists, fitness, stamina, and recovery are not necessarily correlated with age or body shape. Recreational cyclists of all ages, sizes, and shapes happily peddle around on bicycling vacations (sigh, RAGBRAI) that require a sustained level of activity unimaginable in most other sports. Best of all, and what the article neglects to mention, it's fun.

Monday, July 23, 2007

La La La La

[Blogger seems to have gone haywire. I did not revise my blog 20 times Friday afternoon, but I'm told that's what's showing up on some feed readers. I hope things have calmed down.]

It would seem almost everyone else in the Mystery Stole 3 Knit-along is taking a short break to read Deathly Hallows.HP cover I most likely won't see the copy I reserved from the library until August, so the break = a chance for this slow bee to catch up. All I have to do is knit like the wind whilst singing with hands over ears to avoid spoilers. DH loves spoilers. He limits himself to reputable sources, but reads avidly. Then he looks like he's going to plotz if he doesn't discuss them with someone, preferably me. Uh, I appreciate the sentiment, dearheart, but LA LA LA LA!

Here's my washed and blocked gauge swatch (note to self: less tension on the bind off, do not slip edge stitches).

Gauge swatch

And here's somewhat rumpled progress through Row 35. Which means the gauge swatch currently is bigger than the WIP. I'm using a skein of Skacel Merino Lace that has been in stash so long I can't read its colorway (I think it's 036 Beige) and clear iridescent beads from stash. I was hoping for better light for the photo – neither is quite true – but it's been raining like crazy today.

MS3 at Row 35

The reading period is also an opportunity to wade through the stupefying volume of email generated by the KAL.Mystery Stole 3 Slow Bee button I've considered switching to Special Notice (= special messages from the listmom only), but there's the occasional rare gem, not least the excellent button that Bonne Marie made for the Slow Bees (she also has the best WIP photo, one of the few that gives a sense of scale). I particularly appreciate the not-on-target motif (it's apt in so so many ways) and display mine with pride.

Some other gems include:
  • Gracious listmom Melanie was interviewed by USA Today (article pending); the reporter is in the KAL.

  • T. and J. of Baad Medicine are organizing a Hanami Stole KAL (another Melanie pattern), to start in September after MS3 is finished.

  • Tiffany reported the MS3 list has become the talk of the G.I. Joe list (who knew?).

  • The German word for argh is argh (ditto).

  • Blogless nessazimm identified Woolite as the Work of the Devil – despite the name its pH and optical brighteners are NOT kind to wool or silk.

  • And blogless Leslie posted a link to vegan Knit Night cupcakes, which strangely resemble the Yarn Bus (sadly damaged by a freak tornado).

The MS3 KAL even has a charitable cause, Genesis Women's Shelter. Listmom Melanie mentioned this worthy nonprofit mainly because certain entrepreneurial participants pressed her – donations are strictly freewill. She blogs about domestic violence and the shelter here.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Not a Plastic Bag Lady

Yesterday morning brought spectacular lightning and monsoonal rain, but that scarcely dampened enthusiasm for the New York-area launchAnya Hindmarch bag of the Anya Hindmarch I'm Not a Plastic Bag cotton shopping bags at Whole Foods. The bags have sparked riots in some places; roundabout Exit 151, even with a purchase limit of three per customer, the entire stock was gone within minutes, leaving long lines of disappointed eco-fashionistas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when the designer spoke to the NY Times, it was not about sustainable agriculture nor about Fair Trade, but about the value of created scarcity.

I could use a new market bag, but wasn't about to stand in line in the rain. So I re-purposed a UFO from last summer, Meta Thompson's Crocheted Bag for Holding Yarn, in Spin-Off Summer 2006. Although the chili pepper colorway still has great appeal, I lost interest in the somewhat tortuous pattern some time ago.

Crochet bag

The medallion is now the bottom of a string bag in progress that's sorta based on Judy Gibson's Turkish Stitch String Bag. I adjusted the stitch count to accommodate the medallion and modified the version of Turkish Stitch given in the pattern to k2tog in Row 1 and ssk in Row 2 to emphasize the pretty faggoting (hard to see when the bag is in the formless blob stage).

String bag in progress

Given the gross mismatch between needle (U.S. 11 or 8 mm) and yarn (crochet cotton), I'm having a little trouble keeping the tension as even as I prefer. I'm trying not to obsess – it's a string bag, fergoshsakes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Town Greenmarketing

My Saturday bicycle ramble to the Branch Brook Park Farmers' Market got sidetracked because I spent too much of the morning gossiping becoming informed about a current cause célèbre roundabout Exit 151, a proposed 80-foot (24 m) T-Mobile cell phone tower on the local Lutheran Church. Judging by this sign across the street from the church, I'm guessing their request for a zoning variance isn't going to be granted.

No cell phone tower

(Church of the Improv turned down a cell phone antenna deal because of multiple concerns, not least the unknown health risk to children in the weekday and Sunday schools and the tenuous connection between the church's mission and overt commerce.)

I also spotted some of the new crosswalks that are stirring up a fuss in town.New crosswalk Their advantages over a plain old pair of white lines weren't immediately obvious to me (functionality? durability? esthetics?? cost???). I'm willing to be persuaded, but if they become as slippery in the rain as most pavement paints, then I have concerns about ped and bike safety. These have much more paint in the space traversed by pedestrians and cyclists and so would seem likely to become dangerously slick.

Peddling along, I went to a greenmarket a closer to Exit 151, the Montclair Farmers' MarketMontclair Farmers' Market at the Walnut Street train station. It's a modest-sized market and yet there were all kinds of good mid-July produce – greens, berries, early stone fruits like apricots and sugar plums, early corn, early tomatoes – and the promise of the main crop to come. A number of NJ peach farmers swap with farmers farther south to extend their respective selling seasons, so there were luscious Southern peaches. The pickle-on-a-stick vendor wasn't there, but there's a new cheese vendor and a couple baked goods booths.

I parked my bike in the shade and as soon as my back was turnedBike squeaky toy the squeaky toy on the handlebars became irresistable to kiddies small and large. All the time I was shopping, I could hear squeak, squeak... squeak, squeak. No one seemed interested in the JelliBell. Maybe a Pylones bell would be more entertaining.

On the way home I passed this fine fellow, the scarecrow on Watchung Avenue.


Sometimes persons unknown place baby scarecrows next to it. One year three babies appeared over the course of the summer. This summer there's no babies... yet.

Last night I pedaled off to hear a presentation on trash recycling. And almost immediately felt like a bad person for drinking water and other beverages packaged in single-serving, single-use containers. Guess I need to lay in a supply of Nalgene bottles and use my hydration packs more often.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Coup Fourré

Uh, oops, wrong game. It's a TdF rest day, but I'm knitting away on the Tour de France KAL.

At first, things seemed to be going rapidly downhill and backwards for me in the KAL. I knit still more swatches, but that je ne sais quoi was je ne sais où. This is for Bay Cardigan by Mags Kandis, in Mission Falls Spring 2001 aka Simple. Nice, but... er, hm.

Bay Cardigan swatch

This is for Bobbly-Pointed Edges by Jean Frost, in Knitters 52, Fall 1998. One motif has the bobble edge, the other doesn't.

Bobbly-Pointed Edges swatch

I cast on a non-bobbly Bobbly-Points, knit a bit, was underwhelmed. The notion of a tricot jaune of my own receded into the distance and Gingernut's excellent La Lanterne Rouge pattern started to seem très àpropos. (The TdF rider with the fastest overall time wears the maillot jaune [yellow jersey]; the rider with the slowest overall time is known as the lanterne rouge [red lantern], from the hazard light on the caboose of a train.) I began to think it possible that I might expend my entire supply of Classic Al in swatches.

Rather than do that (!!!) I rummaged in stash and changed bikes projects. Behold Cabled High-Neck Tank by Kathy Zimmerman (IK Summer 2004) in Cascade Sierra, color 02. I'm loving the stitch definition and the balanced cables.

Cabled High-Neck Tank begins

For speed and because I loathe seaming, I'm knitting in the round. The tendency for circular knitting to bias (because it's actually a spiral) does not seem to be affecting the cables, but we'll see.

Knit and Fight the Black DogAlso see: Gingernut is blogging to increase depression awareness at Knit and Fight the Black Dog. Winston Churchill was among the many sufferers of the disease, which he called his black dog. William Styron was another; his Darkness Visible is the harrowing yet hopeful account of his descent into a catastrophic major depression and his slow recovery.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's a Wash

Yesterday my DSL went out (again), so I'm back on dialup (again). I don't think it was Friday the 13th bad luck juju, more like Verizon installing FiOS in town and messing up DSL and POTS juju. ETA: Nope, that was the last time. Several hours on the phone with several help desks confirmed that this time the real problem was my anti-virus program was protecting me by shutting down all Internet activity. [Eyeroll] But an excellent package arrived from Lucy, the prize for her 100th post contest, so on balance it was a pretty good day.

Goodies from Lucy

Inside there was Tofutsies (made from crabs!), pretty beads and beading wire, a Chibi with elegant bent-tip needles, and yummy chocolate coins. Thank you, Lucy! One of my goals for the Summer of Socks is to knit with new-to-me yarns and Tofutsies is on my list (however did you know???).

While I totally get knitting socks, I've never quite seen the appeal of knitting washcloths – until I saw this pattern. I made mine in Jersey orange, of course.

Jersey orange washcloth

It's easy-peasy, fun, and strangely satisfying. I'm going to treasure it forever. Find your (U.S.) state here.

Finally, and especially for new-to-the-Garden-State Bezzie, who decidedly did not have a good Friday, here's a bit of Weird NJ, a famous rebus, the South Orange south orange.

South Orange orange

Today is open garden for a bunch of organic gardeners roundabout Exit 151 and there's a farmer's market I want to check out, so I'm off on a bike ramble. It's a gorgeous summer's day – and Happy Bastille Day to Francophiles everywhere!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Expecto Harry

In anticipation of a very Harry weekend, I transfigured my HP bookscarves into wristbands. They're a bit easier to wear in this weather than most HP finery and also less likely to provoke stares of uncomprehending hostility. Although while I was struggling to take this picture (with my digicam, photographing one's own wrist requires about as many contortions as photographing one's own feet) my neighbor actually came out on her deck to gawp. Muggles.

HP wristbands

That wisp about my wand needle is not a corporeal Patronus, it's something from the Department of Mysteries. More on that later.

Two-thirds of participants in the bean poll favored waiting to see what the bean arch would do. Alas, gentle readers, it started rotting (DH: "See, I said you should have helped it!").

Poor bean arch

I usually plant pole beans at two-week intervals, so I had some good-sized replacements ready.

New beans

The odd thing is this year it takes a discerning eye to distinguish between the beans I planted six weeks ago, four weeks ago, and two weeks ago. Usually it's obvious. Dunno what's going on.

My humble thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. It would seem that for many people who experienced them, the 1967 Newark riots were more deeply and lastingly traumatic than even the September 11 attacks. Ground Zero almost immediately became a place of pilgrimage; 40 years later the Central Ward remains a place of fear. That in part may explain the long silence. It's no small thing to confront the painful past and break that silence.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Flip Side of the Summer of Love

I just saw a powerful P.O.V. documentary, Revolution '67, on the July 12-17, 1967 riots and police action in Newark, New Jersey. The events of 40 years past in New Jersey's largest city form a violent flip side to the "Summer of Love" and their consequences still loom large today.

As its name suggests, P.O.V. is not without a point of view and the documentary will not sit well with everyone. However that may be, every NJ resident should know this story. But... NJN is not airing the documentary. At least you can view the trailer via YouTube.

Or view here.

If you remember the Newark riots and police action or have a response to the documentary, please feel free to comment. If you grew up in NJ, how did you learn about what happened in and to Newark?

ETA: This week in Newark there will be numerous memorial events, including free screenings of Revolution '67. Mayor Cory Booker has declared that flags will fly at half-staff and will dedicate a plaque in memory of the 26 people killed. The Newark Public Library and the New Jersey Historical Society will have educational exhibits. For some of the sponsoring organizations, this is the first time they have acknowledged the turmoil of 40 years ago.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Church Wedding with Crafting

WithWedding card the addition of a simple border on the swatch, a bit of handstitching, and some [cough] calligraphy, the wedding card for my pastor was finished. The inspiration for the project was Ann Budd's Knit Your Own Greeting Cards but the intertwined trees motif was taken from the Enchanted Forest Aran Sweater (VK Fall 1992, also P701). ETA: I just noticed the pattern is called Twin Trees II in Barbara G. Walker's A Third Treasury.

The wedding service was on an auspicious date (7/7/07) and beautiful. Or perhaps I should say complete, in both the earthly and the spiritual senses. Church of the Improv was full of family, friends, and church members of all ages, races, cultures, genders. The guest preacher crafted a liturgy that allowed for laughter, tears, joy, and solemnity and that was inclusive of wedding guests unfamiliar with Christian traditions. The happy couple was radiant.Wedding souvenirs In the wedding party, the women wore satin, the girls innumerable crinolines, the men and boys barongs. The soloist and string quartet were superb and the organist played the Widor Toccata "a little faster than the metronome marking." There were bubbles (more fun than rice or birdseed) and a reception in a big tent on the parsonage lawn and thoughtful favors, fans (it was hot) and flipflops (for those who wore heels).

Afterward, there were fireworks. It was the annual township display, postponed from July 4 because of the rain, but it seemed like a fitting end to a very happy day.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Bean Poll

I had an eventful weekend, so to keep gentle readers amused whilst I catch up, here's a bean poll.

Green bean arch

My pole beans have been behaving very strangely this year, none more so than this sprout emulating the St. Louis Gateway Arch*. It's been like that for five weeks. The stem gets thicker and thicker (see a normal stem in the background), but it doesn't lift its head out of the ground. DH thinks I should "help" it. I'm inclined to wait and see what it will do on its own. What do you think?

What to do with the bean arch?
Help it
Replace it
Something else (elaborate in the comments)
Free polls from

My first tomato suffered a setback. It's almost ripe now, and that has not escaped notice.

First tomato

Dang birds. Ah well, c'est la jardinage.

* The Arch frames the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case was heard before going to the U.S. Supreme Court, 150 years ago.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Our Fourth of July holiday was cool and variously included overcast skies, thick fog, tempestuous wind and rain, and great peals of low-frequency thunder so powerful they shook the house (I've been in smaller earthquakes). Puny human fireworks were no match for the elements!

The bad weather kept me indoors, re-reading Order of the Phoenix and knitting swatches. For the Tour de France KAL I swatched Uptown Toffee, another Norah Gaughan pattern, published in Knitter's K61 Winter 2000 and also anthologized in Jackets for Work and Play.

Uptown Toffee swatch

I like the Nantucket Jacket swatch better, but prefer the Uptown Toffee silhouette. What I really really want is Nan with long sleeves and no hip-enhancing gores. Hm. [Ponders posting limericks, thinks better of it] More swatches to come.

Enchanted Aran Forest swatch

One of my pastors is getting married at Church of the Improv. It's not every day one has a pastor get married, so I knit up the intertwined trees motif from the Enchanted Aran Forest cardigan to decorate her wedding card. After a bit of fiddling, I settled on No. 30 crochet cotton and U.S. 4/0 (1.25 mm) needles (pictured with Jersey quarter for scale, click to view larger).

My prediction that my first tomato would be ripe this week would seem to be another casualty of the unseasonable weather – the patio tomato is not merely not ripe, it's also got greenback (= patchy color, particularly noticeable on the shoulders, indicative of woody spots).

Unripe tomato

Greenback sometimes can be corrected in the garden by heavy mulching and by burying banana peels and Epsom salts in the tomato patch. A bucket or two of clean wood ash would be great too (but I don't have any handy). I'm not sure what to do for a container plant – erm, mebbe foliar feeding? Suggestions welcome. Heheheh, mad tomato science ahead.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer Tour

While pottering in the garden and pondering the vagaries of the Supreme Court the other day, I suddenly noticed a scaly tail sticking out from the weeds habitat. It turned out to belong to this Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina. I noted her winning color, which is surprisingly good camouflage, very like dappled sunlight on leaves.

Eastern box turtle

AfterTour de France KAL button the doping scandals of last year, I was feeling rather down on professional cycling in general and the Tour de France in particular. Even the novelty of the start in London and coverage on YouTube seemed insipid. Then Meg and Debby organized the Tour de France KAL (also, Katherine revived the Tour de Fleece SALà chacune son Tour) and I started brushing up on my scanty vocabulaire français. Merci, mes chèries!

I'm participating in the General Classification – that is, working on a project that poses no exceptional technical challenges and will not necessarily be finished during the Tour, July 7 through 29 (no sprinting for this tortoise). I have a bunch of lovely KFI Elsebeth Lavold Classic Al in colorway 010 Pinewood that wants to be a cabled cardigan. Teehee, when I'm finished I'll have my very own maillot jaune – or perhaps one should say tricot jaune.

Nantucket Jacket swatch

I haven't decided on a pattern yet. This is a swatch for Norah Gaughan's Nantucket Jacket on the cover of IK Winter 2006. Swatching is training – I won't cast on for the cardi until the Grand Départ July 7. Between now and then, there's U.S. Independence Day and more swatching. Happy Fourth and à bientôt!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Jersey Spinners

After much coordinating of calendars, Deb pulled together a meetup of local spinners at Risa's home. It was a relaxing day – perfect weather, congenial company, lots of fiber. I brought orzo salad for the table and lace flying discs for everyone as a keepsake of the day. Y'know, Jersey Spinners. Jessica, Risa, and Kim posed together with theirs.

Jersey spinners

Embarrassing to relate, I neglected to take pix of Deb [blushes, hangs head]. Er, here's one of her MOO cards, pictured with a familiar object for scale. I'd never seen a MOO card before – they have tremendous visual and tactile appeal, not to mention are just über-cool.

Deb's moo card

Even more embarrassing to relate, I did take pix of everyone's spinning (click on photos to view larger).

Kim's spinning   Deb's spinning
Risa's spinning   Jessica's spinning

The wheel spinners did their subtle best to convert the lone spindle spinner (me). Before I so much as unpacked my spindle, hospitable Risa got out her Lendrum and some spare roving and let me try them. (Hm... the Lendrum is like a three-speed cruiser bicycle. Classic. Nice.) After the delicious potluck lunch, I reverted to my trusty spindle and my Spun Stitches project, the never-ending braids of Blue Face Leicester.

My wheel spinning   My spindle spinning

(It occurs to me that wheels have an unexpected benefit: treadling exercises the shin muscles, often a serious problem area for older women. Compared with, say, knitting needles, wheels seem rather costly, but compared with exercise equipment, wheels seem quite reasonably priced. Not to mention most fitness routines do not include yarn production as a bonus. Hm....)

The day wound down with some swapping. After the success of Jaywalker cycling socks, I've gone gah-gah for Magic Stripes in Jelly Bean or Regatta, so Risa swapped me some similar-looking Regia.

Regia sock yarn

A happy end to a happy day. Thanks to all, and especially Deb and Risa!