Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bump in the Night

Happy Halloween! I'm looking forward to handing out lots of candy this evening and also to exasperating six-year-olds with my (not on purpose) bad costume guesses.

Halloween duckies

Oddly enough, I got these duckies at a Reformation Day supper (= at church, y'know, Ein' feste burg ist unser Gott, etc). They're supposed to glow in the dark. They don't. I checked.

In honor of the season, I started a Glampyre pattern, Bold and Bulky Mini Cardi (in Fitted Knits and also free online) in Malabrigo Aquarella, colorway 02 Soriano. I made pretty good progress – all that's left to knit is the right sleeve and the sleeve, neck, and button bands.

Aquarella cardi

Stefanie Japel's design is brilliant, the pattern is meticulously well-written, the photoset is great, I got gauge exactly, I love the shaping, and the sweater fits perfectly. But... the rakish silhouette makes me feel like an M.C. Hammer action figure, so I'm going to frog it. EEK!

ETA: Please send some knitterly love to Shonda, who lost her husband last night in an auto accident (not the one in her October 9 post and not what I had in mind when I titled this post).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dishcloths Gone Wrong

The Halloween decorations roundabout Exit 151 seem to be more elaborate (and possibly less tasteful) every year, so I thought perhaps I'd do my bit with an homage to Valentina Devine's haunting Scream. For those unfamiliar with the work, it's a patchwork curtain of many staring faces, intended to convey a woman's experience of the horrors and privation of war. There's a photo in America Knits by Melanie Falick, previously published as Knitting in America.

I knit up a prototype and have been trying to imagine a whole bunch of them pieced together, strung on a frame, flapping in the breeze in my front yard.

Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong
Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong
Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong Dishcloths gone wrong

I dunno. To me it looks like dishcloths gone wrong – disturbing in its own way, I suppose, but I'm not entirely confident about where it would fall on the tasteful/not so tasteful continuum. Alarming the neighbors is OK, but I'd rather not produce an unintended lampoon. What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Meanwhile, blogless Kelli mentioned at MY SnB that her friend Tim, er, needled her a bit about knitting, something about needing to get a life. The bloggers present promised to offer a public knitterly rebuttal. Gentle readers may consider this a meme – tell off Tim! – if they so wish. Or, given most members of the SnB are making, have made, or plan to make Monkey socks, perhaps that should be sock it to Tim. Respectfully, compassionately, and nonviolently, of course.

Red Monkey sock

Friend Tim, all I can say (with Eliot) is while many have heard the mermaids singing, each to each, knitters are fortunate in knowing that, actually, they do indeed sing to us. That pleasant shock of recognition, the thrill that one is known and called by name, the joy in belonging – these are wild and wonderful things in a stark, commercialized world that measures out life with coffee spoons. To be sure, at times it is the part of a true friend to question, even to criticize. So permit a stranger to suggest (with Neruda) that handknitting can contain both utility and goodness, happiness and beauty, and that that is a considerable and a very worthwhile thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nothing to Show

Blogless Nancy, Katie, and I carpooled to Rhinebeck on Sunday and a grand time was had by all, except I have nothing to show for it. My digicam took some establishing shots, then stopped functioning. The batteries were freshly charged – maybe it was this sick jack-o-lantern photo that did it (courtesy students of the CIA).

Sick Jack

Sunday Blogger Bingo was congenially laid back.* I met, chatted with, and/or spotted quite a few squares, authors, and bloggers including (sorry, no pix): Alison, Ann and Kay, Anne, Clara, Jennifer, Jess, Jessica, Kristin, Risa, Mama Squid and Squidette (thanks for the spinning advice!), Stephanie in her Kauni, and Bingo center square Mel, whose handsewn kilt is a marvel.

The day was unseasonably warm, so warm that very few people could stand to wear their knit finery all day. It was a sadness – one of the best things about Rhinebeck is crisp weather = the chance for leaf-peeping and sweater-ogling. (The f-f-felted backpack did very well.) The goddess of knitting must be toying with us mortals – last year it was almost too cool for a sweater without a coat and I suspect some knitters prepared for this year by knitting heavy sweaters. Hm... wonder what will happen next year.

*How laid back was it? It was so laid back there was a fair selection of STR at The Fold. Perhaps it's a sign.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fear of Felting 2

Pilopoiiaphobia.* It's a manageable condition, not a problem, sez I, and here's proof: my felted backpack for Rhinebeck. At least from the outside, with Blogger Bingo, Jersey Represent!, and CROP Walk buttons.

Rhinebeck backpack

The finishing touches involved a bit of machine sewing and a lot of hand sewing, including the interminable I-cord, which forms the decorative bottom piping, top drawstring, and straps of the backpack. I added a lining, basically a rectangle of fabric that was folded in half and seamed, folded to form a bottom, and hemmed at the top like an inside-out tote bag. Simple enough, except post factum I decided slip pockets and a top drawstring would be nice, and took it out. Many contortions followed [cough], with the result that the inside is still not ready for its close up, Mr. DeMille.

Alas, the Tagliatelli sweater will not be making an appearance at Rhinebeck or indeed any time soon. The Not Enough Yarn Banshee got the better of me – she's been chortling and reminding me about other UFOs, the biotch. Better judgment would suggest calling it quits. But I can be mulish at times. (DH would heartily agree, if he dared.)

GreenDay vest

I wonder what the clinical term for "unreasoning determination to have a new sweater for Rhinebeck" is. (Something-mania, I suppose.) At least this is intentionally a vest, Tikru's GreenDay Vest (so apropos given the last post). I'm loving the big and little cables and the weskit-y notch, and am looking forward to the Suomi finish.

Speaking of the last post, trek commented that fluorescent lighting gives her headaches. Some people may find it helpful to use "daylight" compact fluorescents (those with a color temperature of 6500 K, which mimics sunlight) or a combination of fluorescent and incandescent lighting. Or perhaps one could replace a porch light with a CF, which come in regular and yellow "bug" colors. It's not an all-or-none proposition. Environmental problems tend to accumulate by tiny increments; conversely, even small positive efforts can and do multiply into substantive improvements.

A case in point (and thinking about Rhinebeck again): another easy thing one can do to help save the planet is to make proper use of public recycling bins (home recycling is different matter). Public Works coordinators report that many people don't separate their trash when separate, clearly labeled containers are provided, which defeats their purpose. I like to think it's a matter of education and mindfulness and the formation of good habits. We'll see if Rhinebeck offers separate bins; if not, why not; and if so, whether fiber folk use them properly.

*Pilopoiiaphobia is the unreasoning fear of f-f-felting. With thanks to Fyberduck for the crafty etymology.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bright Idea

Oops, I missed Blog Action Day on the environment yesterday (seen on Chappysmom). Wouldncha know it, I was at a meeting of the Interfaith Environmental Coalition, a group that has plenty of ideas.

One of the best ways to save the planet that I know of is to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.CF bulb Just one makes a difference; five or more is even better. To the consumer, CFs may seem expensive initially, but in the long run their longer lifespan and thrifty use of electricity save money and maybe more than money. For utility companies and municipalities concerned about power failures, the energy savings are so significant they often offer good discounts. It's no coincidence that in Chicago, which suffered a deadly heatwave in 1995, subsidized CFs are 99¢. Consider the impact of climate change – then don't curse the darkness, get a CF.

The new generation of CFs includes chandelier bulbs, dimmer bulbs, spot bulbs, and outdoor bulbs. Several synagogues roundabout Exit 151 will be selling reduced-price CFs for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Montclair has a buy five, get one free program for township residents (contact Gray Russell). A good online source is

The November 19 meeting of the Interfaith Environmental Coalition will include a tour of Temple Ner Tamid, which received grants to install a $300,000 solar array. Houses of worship are often ideal for such installations, as many have a long east-west roof (= full-day sun exposure). It sure beats trying to raise money by hosting a cell phone tower! I'll take pix if I can.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not So Canny

The weekend past was intended for experiments in putting up food, but I scrapped canning after getting advice from canny knitters blogless Kelli and Kim at MY SnB. There's nothing like consulting group wisdom. Apparently only a well-regulated pressure canner will kill botulism bacteria and I don't have access to one. So I oven-dried and froze stuff instead, which is easy and safe, but not as photogenic as pints full of garden goodness.

Oven-dried cherry tomatoes

See what I mean? These cherry tomatoes might as well be raisins. I made the mistake of drying some of them until they were crisp as potato chips. Blech. About the moistness of a prune seems to taste best. Even only partially dried, it's amazing how the former superabundance now fits neatly into a small corner of the freezer.

While the tomatoes dried, I finished Sockapalooza angel socks for D; they jumped in the mail today. They're BRIGHT, to amuse her patients. I hope they fit and D wears them in good health!

Fire on the Mountain socks

These Cedar architecture socks may be the handsomest socks I've ever made. I can't get over how the sear-your-eyeballs Fire on the Mountain colorway knit up so nicely in plain old stockinette stitch. The STR also washed beautifully – the wash water was perfectly clear (excellent dye job!). I used Soak in the limited edition A Scent for Celebration fragrance, which is pleasantly cinnamon-y.

While the socks dried, DH and I saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age. The movie owes more to fiction than history, but was cheesy fun, with able actors, sumptuous costumes, and great locations (including The Escorial and the white cliffs of Dover). The spectacle is definitely worth seeing in a theater. On the downside, the story is hackneyed, the pace is ponderous, some camera movements are annoyingly intrusive, and I spent 'way too much time over-thinking the title... which wasn't canny.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

After and Before

After two passes through my front-loading washer, the mini backpack felted beautifully. Funny how expensive yarn felts more nicely than cheap yarn. The Lamb's Pride became dense, just right for the bottom and top, and the Yoroi remained supple, excellent for the sides. Here it is in front of my moss-covered wall, blocking on a shoebox.

Backpack blocking

The stats:

     Before: 10"L X 7"W X 14"H (25 X 17 X 35 cm)
     After: 8.5"L X 6"W X 10"H (21 X 15 X 25 cm)

Edges sometimes felt unevenly, so I used non-stretch, non-shrink crochet cotton to confine the top edge. That worked well, although the Lamb's Pride became so hairy after felting, it was a pain to remove. I also coiled and tied the interminable I-cord drawstring to prevent reduce tangling, as suggested at Noni Designs.

Backpack before felting

Now I'm searching for lining fabric. The search is not going well – if I want to take the backpack to Rhinebeck, an expedition to the NYC Garment District may be necessary. At least I have buttons. (CROP Walk donations and pledges currently stand at $170. Woo-hoo!)

Meanwhile, Norma makes home canning look so easy and worthwhile, I thought I'd try it. I've got tomatoes, I've got canning jars, I've got absolutely no experience. [Cue Sorcerer's Apprentice music]

Tomatoes on scale

I did a bit of research. According to the USDA guide Selecting, Preparing, and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products, 1.5 lbs (1 lb, 8 oz or .68 kg) of raw tomatoes cooks down to 1 pint (.47 l) of canned tomatoes. So... that's what a pint looks like, before.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Noodling Along

Today it's MUCH cooler (and raining) and Tagliatelli on big needles still makes sense, so I'm noodling along. Although the original plan, Sandpiper, got scrapped because I couldn't stand using the heavy, cumbersome baseball bats size 19 (15 mm) needles. Plan B is a modified version of Deep Breath by Kirsten Hipsky, a top-down, in the round, no seams boatneck sweater, on size 15s (10 mm). Here's a semi-formless blob progress photo.

Tagliatelli WIP

Even these needles are so monstrous that none of my stitch markers fit. I'm using cabone rings instead. I bought a package of cabone rings in the last millennium (I dimly recollect it was for crocheted buttons) and haven't used it up yet. It may well be a lifetime supply.

I'm loving the sweater, but... with the smaller (comparatively) needles, I worry that the burn rate is too high. Oh gah. The sweater is shaping to be another round in the epic struggle, Jersey Knitter versus the Not Enough Yarn Banshee.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Must Be the Heat

It's Columbus Day, yet the lawn looks like August [sigh] and the tomato patch is still going strong – lush foliage, lots of flowers, plenty of fruit. Not to mention I can't find matching gloves. Strange.

Columbus Day tomatoes

The unseasonable warmth makes me wish I had planted melons this year. And for some reason I'm thinking this...

Knitting needles etc
Size 19 (15 mm) oak knitting needles with size 2 (2.75 mm) bamboo and size 6 (4 mm) walnut needles, bamboo chopsticks, and ash baseball bat for scale

plus this...

Colinette Tagliatelli, a tape yarn, in colorway Venezia

is a good idea for Rhinebeck.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Shameless Blegging

My turn to indulge in some shameless blegging. Y'know, fundraising for charity via blogging. It's for a good cause!
CROP Walk button
One of my favorite good causes is the annual CROP Walk, a charity walk held in various communities nationwide to benefit local and international anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. I not only give money and help organize my local Walk, the Montclair CROP Walk (which serves Montclair, Glen Ridge, Nutley, Bloomfield, and Verona), I even know the Executive Director... although [cough] on the day of the walk, October 21, I'll be at Rhinebeck (I'm a square!)... which means I gotta do my blegging now.

It's easy to advocate for CROP Walk, which is responsible, efficient, and interfaith in its operations and unusual for a walk-a-thon in that walk sponsors (ie, donors) have the option to give to the general fund or to designate any of a number of recipient organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, CARE, Heifer Project International, or World Relief, to name just a few. Donations are tax-deductible in the U.S. to the full extent of the law.

CROP Walkers

There's oodles of online resources about CROP Walk – program updates, resources for children, financial statements, etc – which I won't parrot here. Suffice to say that whether you're interested
in learning more

or in joining a walk yourself

or maybe even in sponsoring me [vbg]

lots of information is ready at hand.

I'm participating as part of the Church of the Improv team and have the modest goals of raising more money than my pastor [teehee] and landing our Walk among the Top Ten in NJ. Even though I'll be away on the day of the walk, I'll bike the route more than once before and after, to assess conditions and to put up and take down signs for the walk. So never fear, I'll more than go the distance!

CROP Walk button

If you have any questions, just leave a comment or send an email to jerseyknitter [at] gmail [dot] com – I'll respond as quickly as I can. And especially for Kristen, who appreciates slogans, here's the CROP Walk motto:


Friday, October 5, 2007

The Big Box

MyK1T2 Swap button Knit One, Tea Too swap package arrived in a big box – thank you, Cheryl! Do good things come in big boxes? Heh. Just have a peek at this lot (pictured against my mossy wall, to catch this morning's foggy outdoor light, in emulation of Kaffe Fassett). There's:

Yarn: Superwash fingering dyed by Cheryl herself, which I think wants to be Coriolis socks (another Cat Bordhi new pathway).Yarn
Tea: Wissotzky gunpowder green, Twinings oolong, Twinings lemon and ginger, Tea of Life passionfruit.Tea
Tea treats: Kate Reilly Blarney Scone mix, Trappist strawberry preserves, Anna's ginger thins, tea biscuits.Treats
Handmade items: treasure bag containing stitch markers and hard candies (I love how they look like marbles) and an intriguing felted hotpad.Handmade
Tea accessory: Mug adorned with orchids and hummingbirds.Mug
Et cetera, et cetera: wax melts and fall-themed teapot burner, pink initial sticky notes (it's not easy to find my initial!), teapot recipe cards, organizer, fall-themed "kitchen in a bag."Et cetera

Thanks also go to swap organizers Mary, Channon, and especially to my groupmom Devonshire.

Now, it's time for a tea party!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Red Rock and Sock

The reason for enduring airport hell and scary hotel buffets was a family reunion in Las Vegas, which is fabulous (the sign says so)!

Fabulous Las Vegas

My first visit to Sin City surprised me. Everything had a soft, rose-colored glow, perhaps from the feldspar and iron oxide dust blowing in the high desert winds.* It's not a bad place for a family reunion, as long as the family members are mostly adults and not scandalized by things like open containers and smoking almost everywhere. There's something for everyone in a very small area. When we weren't doing stuff together, our horde quickly sorted itself into small groups of gamblers, show goers, gawpers, shoppers, clubbers (night), clubbers (golf), nappers, and explorers. Gentle readers will be unsurprised that after a bit of gawping, DH and I drove off with the other intrepid explorers (and my current travel sock) in search of natural beauty.

Red Rock and sock

We went to Red Rock Canyon in the mountains about half an hour west of the city. The canyon is a great place for hiking, road and mountain biking (there are nice facilities for cyclists!), technical climbing, and camping. (NB: Sufficient water and proper footwear are must-haves, also a comb and tweezers to prise off cholla spines.) For the less ambitious or less able, there's a paved nature walk and an excellent scenic drive. Here's a view from the nature walk – the corral in the middle distance is for the managed herds of feral burros and feral horses.

View from nature walk

The austere beauty of the place reflects its complex geology. There's perpetual springs and arroyos [intermittent creeks] that feed the meadowlands [las vegas] below, old gray limestone and younger cross-bedded tan sandstone and red sandstone. (I've always wanted to see a good example of cross-bedding, so was really happy.) These are ancient marine sediments, normally found in layers with the oldest at the bottom and the youngest at the top. But at Turtlehead Peak, a thrust fault (the Keystone Thrust Fault) has lifted the old limestone above the young sandstone.

Turtlehead Peak

It was much cooler in the upland canyon than it was in the Las Vegas basin. When the sun went behind the canyon walls, the temperature dropped so fast that we saw a mysterious, highly localized ground fog form and dissipate over the course of a few minutes.

Ground fog

I'd love to go back and explore some more. Viva Las Vegas!

*How windy was it? It was so windy, the dancing fountains had to be turned off.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Jet Lag

Well, I survived airport hell and am back at Point A. There will be a short delay whilst I catch up on sleep, laundry, and other backlogged stuff. To amuse gentle readers in the interval, here's the strangest thing I ate while away – a slab of fake egg.

Strange egg

It sorta looked like a fried egg, except this horror was steamed, uniform in texture, and came in thick slices, like refrigerator cookie dough. A puddle of ketchup improves many things. Not this.

Strange egg minus two bites

What's the strangest thing you've (intentionally) eaten while traveling?