Thursday, September 28, 2006

Its conventional wisdom that if you don't look for a boyfriend, he will come. While I haven't found that to be the case, because where is he already, dammit?, I have found that sometimes, when you're not trying, the most amazing things happen.

In August, as you know, I went on a major yarn diet, and a cast-on freeze. Every day was a struggle. It was hard just to get up in the morning knowing that the day was not going to hold a new project, or a yummy skein of yarn. I trudged through the weeks. I posted my progress. I counted the days until September.

And, now, it's September. The freeze is over, let the buying begin! And, you know what, since I've returned from the Cape, I have not cast on one project, nor have I bought any yarn - and I only realized it last night when I plunked down five skeins of Koigu on the counter at Rosie's to start Maude - huh? when was the last time I bought anything? I am successfully on the road to a slimmed down stash, and I didn't even know it! (Now, if I could only look down and find that my pants don't fit because I've lost ten pounds without trying).

And, I've been faithful - to Sarcelle - amazing. Aside from ripping out the Jaywalkers, and casting them on in a bigger size, I really haven't worked on anything else in September. I've finished the straight rows, and once I find where I put the pattern, I can begin the very exciting decrease rows.

Am I on the road to reformation? I think maybe I should have remained blind to my newfound good habits. Because you know what else they say about boyfriends - when it rains it pours - now that I've reigned in my stash, and been faithful to one project - the avalanche might begin again anew. Although, I did walk out of Rosie's last night, completely forgetting about the Koigu I had left on the counter . . . that's not to say, I'm not going to go back and buy it today.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I've had a few questions about Sarcelle - huh? how the heck to do you do that? So, I thought I'd put together a little poorly produced (why o why can't I work my digital??) tutorial on the pattern. 1. Here's your first row. Basically, it's faggotting followed by Barbara Walker's Honeybee lace pattern. Just click on the pictures to enlarge the text.

2. On every row, you have a decrease (k2), followed by a yarnover (or 2,3 or 4), followed by a SSK. This row is the third row of the pattern - on the first row, there was one yarnover between the 2 decreases. On the second row, this yarnover was dropped - you can see the arrow pointing to the dropped yarnover if you click on the picture. After the yarnover was dropped, you yarnover 2x.

On the fifth row of the pattern, following the k2 decrease, the four yarnovers are dropped off the needle. As you can see, in my blurry picture, there are now four bars of dropped yarnovers. After casting on four stitches with the backward loop caston, you take the right hand needle, and knit into those four dropped yarnovers.

See, sort of. So, you knit into the yarnovers, then yarnover again, then knit into the bundle again.

Now, you have three stitches.

And, you cast on four more stitches with the backward loop, and end with a ssk.

Ta Da!

Is it Safe to Take Your Needles to a Bar Near You?

Today is a momentous day in Philadelphia history - the long awaited smoking ban goes into effect. Knitters everywhere can rejoice - our yarn will be free from the lingering effects of second hand smoke - or will it?

Personally, I go to a bar to drink, not to knit, and since knitting and drinking don't mix, I don't think I'll be taking advantage of this emancipation proclamation for knitters, but frankly, what are the odds that anyone is actually going to "police" this ban? Let's take a look at the courthouse, a municipal building that has been allegedly smoke free for years.

When the smoking ban first went into affect, smokers fled to the stairwells of the Criminal Justice Center. Lawyers, victims, cops and criminals all blended together in a sea of nicotine haze - which was all fine and good, I guess, except that there are only six elevators for 11 floors of courtrooms, and of those six, 2 elevators are programmed not to stop on every floor on the way down. So, while it would be nice to shoot up and down the stairs between my visits to the ten different courtrooms I may have to visit on any given day, in my Anne Taylor suit and my Bandolino shoes, its just not worth the stink. This feeling was shared by many, and enter stage left - Judge Seamus McCaffery to enforce the smoking ban. Yes, Judge McCaffery, of Eagles court fame, and currently a Judge on our Superior Court, cracked out his whip, roamed the stairwells, and tossed all offenders.

But, Judge McCaffery has moved on, and the stairwell, slowly but surely, has returned to a stink pit. So, if in this building that is the alleged hub of law enforcement and justice, directly across the street from the Mayor's Office, you can still catch a smoke, who's going to be putting out the butts at McGillan's or Independence Brew Pub, or Fergies, or any other long established smoking haven?

I guess an argument can be made that smoking is a necessary evil at the courthouse - that it serves to calm tensions in a building fraught with contention, emotion, and jacked up levels of anxiety. I'm confident that we would all rather have the parties in a criminal case take a moment in the stairwell with a calming cigarette, rather than jump the bar of the court and start pounding the crap out of a defendant (which, believe me, has happened). And, before someone turns themselves in to start a lengthy jail sentence, who really wants to deprive a guy of his last smoke? And as a necessary evil, maybe it's not such a great example of nonenforcement, as police turn a blind eye to smoking (and maybe have a smoke themselves) to prevent a greater harm.

But, given the smoking ban track record in Philly, I'm not taking my knitting to a bar near you anytime soon.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sarcelle is speeding along nicely, I just wish I could get a better picture of it so everyone could do the appropriate drooling. This is the most relaxing lace pattern I have ever knit. While there is patterning on both sides, every row is basically the same, minus one stitch on each side of the yarnover bundle. You can't really tell from the photo, but each yarnover "bundle" looks like a little butterfly (again with the butterflies!), and I can't wait to see what they look like blocked. I've finished the increase section, and am 14 repeats into the straight rows. I have to look at the pattern again, but I think the straight section is 36 repeats - so that would make me at almost the halfway point. Sometimes when I knit, it's a race to the finish to see what the thing is going to look like. This knit, however, is like a long stroll on the beach, and when the sun begins to set on the horizon, it's sad to think of packing up my beach chair, and putting it to bed.
Did I mention that I bought Anne on the Cape? Not to be distracted from Sarcelle, but I have had this particular skein of Anne on the brain. Apparently, this is a discontinued color called Katherine Hepburn -- which leads to two big questions marks - why would you discontinue this color? and why would you discontinue Katherine Hepburn??? Is it like retiring a legend's number, like Joe DiMaggio, or Ritchie Ashburn? I get it when I go to the ballpark, and a jersey is retired, but why would you retire this beautiful green color? And who would put Katherine Hepburn out to pasture? Anyway, since this skein is an endangered species, it needs to be something very special. Any ideas anyone? I'm thinking Swallowtail, from Interweave, but I might save it a bit longer, until I get the appropriately inspired - I want to make a Philadelphia Story, not a Sylvia Scarlett.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Not a Rockin Sock

Before I left for the Cape, I faced the knitter's biggest dilemna -what knitting do I pack (as opposed to mine non-knitting friends, which, I and the Italian customs officer discovered at the border checkpoint between Switzerland and Italy,is how many condoms do I pack -- and from the size of the ziplock bag that the border patrol held up, laughing, the answer is more than one per day). Not only what goes with me on the plane, but what goes in the bag. The bag was easy - I was taking my Black Bunny and my Print O' the Wave, which has been sadly neglected (but I'll get to that in a minute, and offer rationalizations as to why this had to be so). Anyway, almost of all of my knitting is on Addi's, and while I knew that knitting needles are still allowed on planes, I was nervous - I did not want to sacrifice my Addi's (you never know - I could take them into the bathroom, melt them down, and turn them into sparklers). So, I thought about taking my Jaywalkers, but that thought was accompanied by the thought that they really are too small, and need to be ripped out and begun again -- but then again, maybe they don't, and I think I'll put that decision off for another day.

So, while I stressed about whether to take a cab or a the train (see several posts below), I also worried about plane knitting, and what to take. So, I got up early (not that I ever had actually fallen asleep), and like a nutcase, cast on a pair of socks with my Claudia Handpaint at 5:30 a.m. Like a madwoman, I finished the cuff before I made the final decision to throw caution to the wind (and my bank account), and spring for the cab. I knit in the cab, I knit in line at the airport - and of course, the inevitable questions - what are you knitting? who are you knitting it for? This age-old misconception that knitting must involve gifting. And, as we've all experienced, why does my knitting become an invitation for talking?

Anyway, by the time I actually looked down at my knitting, I hated it. The fabric was too loose, and even though my size 1 wood double points were plane appropriate, they were still the wrong size. And, down to zero's I went. And now . . . I still don't like it.

I thought I loved this yarn, this colorway, but now I'm thinking not so much. Maybe it's the pattern I'm using, Lupine Lace, and the way the purple is pooling all on one side. But, I had no problem tossing these socks aside after they had served their purpose, entertaining me on the plane.

Oh, but I wasn't done with socks on the Cape. As I mentioned below, we took a little trip to the Lobster Pot lady, who graciously agreed to sell us a few of her orphan skeins - and behold - my cashmere socks, dubbed Orphan Socks:

I can't even tell you how yummy these feel on my feet. Everyone needs a pair of cashmere socks. In retrospect, I would make them more stripey, and mix up the colors more, but truly, these socks were about they way they feel, not the way they look, at least for me.

Hmmm . . . so you've noticed that one toe is not quite done. Well, I'm in no hurry to finish the toe - a. because it's September, and b. because Christina did such an excellent job grafting the first toe, I think I'll let her graft the second toe -- why mess with perfection!

Now, the Print o' the Wave. Yes, the wedding has come and gone at which I intended to wear Print o' the Wave. Before I left for the Cape, I of course, got a manicure -I attempted to knit a repeat of Print - but every row I was making a mistake - I think I was on pattern overload - when you've repeated a pattern so many times, that the next repeat is such a drudgery that you just can't get anything right . . . anyway, to save Print from any further unknitting (or horrors - ripping!), I put it away for awhile, and have been concentrating on Sarcelle, which just does not photograph as beautifully as it looks. I've finished the increase section, and am a little bit into the straight rows. Hopefully, it will become photographable soon, because it is a good knit, and I want to do it justice.

Monday, September 11, 2006

When I was a kid, four or five, my parents both participated in a floating mah jong game, or in my dad's case, a floating pinochle game. Once a month, it was at our house, I was summarily banished to my room. I would hover around the staircase, and eavesdrop on the grown-up talk. There was smoking, there was a wee bit of drinking, there was Sinatra on the radio, and a lot of reminiscing - what were you doing the day Kennedy was shot? I'm not sure I knew who Kennedy was (those were the days that I thought Walter Kronkite was the President), or what it actually meant to get shot, but I remember being afraid - of the quiet, the stillness, the sense of sadness - - the sound of clicking tiles would stop, a card would remain dangling at someone's fingertips, and it was if the moment were just yesterday.

I didn't understand - this notion of a moment in time, where everyone shared a collective grief -- and, now, it's impossible not to - and it won't matter if its the fifth year anniversary, the sixth year anniversary, or the 20th anniversary -- the moment becomes today.

We walked to the courthouse, like we always did. My friend, we'll call her E, was telling a story. E was known around the courthouse as the fast talker, never stopping for air, and certainly offering no room for interruption. So, when I got a call on my cell phone, I burried it, and tried to keep up with what she was saying. We walked into the courthouse, and went our separate ways. I checked my voicemail, it was my friend Sue, at the gym, watching t.v. from the treadmill - I think I heard something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center - I don't know if it's true, it sounds like bullshit - let me know if you hear anything.

I went upstairs to the courtroom. Between bitching and moaning about our every day trials and traumas - where's the judge, where's the sheriff, can you get my client up? can you believe I have to try this stupid weed case? I have fifty billion things to do - oh, did you hear something about the Trade Center.

I was at the Trade Center once, in 2000, to buy 1/2 price Broadway tickets in the lobby. After buying tickets, my friend Kathryn and I stood in line for maybe five minutes, to ride the elevator to the top, but I was impatient to get our New York day started - Century 21 was across the street, there was serious shopping to be done. So I said, eh, I'll come back some other day . . .

The rumors were flying. The Judge wasn't on the bench, I needed coffee. I went to the Public Defender's office on the 4th floor of the courthouse. The t.v. was on, the picture was grainy, we didn't have cable. I picked up the coffee pot, and turned to the t.v., and the building went down. Did that building just go down? We all got closer to the t.v., our noses practically up to the glass, between the graininess, the smoke, we said, nah, that can't be . . .

The courthouse closed. We all went back to the office. My office was around the corner from E's - I went in her office, and her officemate, Lee, was in a panic. He had just gotten off the phone with his best friend, who was on the trading floor - get out, he told her - get out. Luckily, she was on the 11th floor, and she did get out.

Lee went to NYC the next week, and he and his friend took the ferry, and went to a firefighter's funeral - on the ferry ride back, they met a group of fire fighters who had made the trip from the mid West - they invited them to dinner. Friends from all over the city migrated to the restaurant, until they had a group of maybe 20 people. At the end of dinner, Lee went to pay the bill - the waitress told him - it's been taken care of - did you see the couple sitting next to you? They heard they were firefighters, and they picked up the bill.

E wasn't so lucky. Her sister worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. I regretted not picking up my cell phone -- that regret is today - would that have been the time difference between one last phone call if she had only known sooner? We know that she was on the phone with her boyfriend much of the time - the smoke, they couldn't see, they couldn't get out . . . E and I aren't close anymore. She works in a different office, but I hear about her occasionally. I thought of her today, and I know, that for her and her family, tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary, plus one day.

E left, and I went to my office. I called my best friend Kathryn, who I knew worked near the Trade Center. Why I was able to get through to NY, when so many other people needed to, I don't know. Kathryn was fine - her company had moved out of the World Trade Center complex the month before, she was on her way home, but she couldn't reach her parents in Kentucky - could I call her parents? I took down the number, and dialed the phone - and I found myself telling perfect strangers that their daughter was fine, that she would call when the phones were working - not to worry. I could hear the relief in her mother's voice - and that moment, too, is again today.

As more news trickled in, I began to worry about my own parents. My parents are retired, and travel often - 3-4 times a year. I lose track - it's a cruise, it's a bus tour, but I always know what day they're getting back, because the obligatory phone call must be made, or the guilt trip that follows will be unavoidable. I knew they were flying, I knew they were flying from the West Coast, and that's all I knew. Luckily, my brother had their itinerary - and, they had gotten grounded on the runway, in Canada. My parents spent the next night in the Canadian airport, but on the next day, families from the area began arriving at the airport, and "adopting" the stranded Americans. And, I know, that my parents will always be grateful for the kindess they received from these strangers, the Canadians.

After four days, my parents, after talk of renting a car, or perhaps taking a train, managed to get a few connecting flights to Harrisburg. My brother and I drove to Harrisburg, and met the plane on the runway, literally. Harrisburg is a small airport, and at the time, it was still an airport where they wheeled a staircase up to the plane, you got your luggage from under the belly of the plane, and your family could wait on the runway. My parents deboarded, and grabbed us - the smell of them is still very much today.

At the time, I was dating a bartender, an army veteran. When I spoke to him, he was throwing his gear in his truck, and heading to Fort Dix. What are you going to do when you get there? I asked, you're not in the army anymore. But, he went, and he was told to go home. In the week that followed, he tried to reenlist, but was told that he couldn't because he was a single parent. The only way to reenlist was for him to get married. He spoke of a distant cousin who might be willing, or an old friend. There was something unspoken in the air between us - my patriotism just could not go that far - I was not going to marry a stranger in an act of craziness brought on by an insane act. And, that was for the best. He's now married to the perfectly right person for him, and instead of reenlisting in the army, he became a fireman.

Sometimes, I'm conflicted - about just who I am, how I identify myself. Of course, on this blog, it's easy - I'm a knitter. But so often, being Jewish and being an American does not equate to being a Jewish American - it's harder than that, complicated. Growing up, I was one of four Jews in my class. I sat out of chorus, or any other overtly religious school activities. I grew up in a Catholic neighborhood, and our house was the house on the block the priest would skip. We were sore thumbs, and we were other.

9/11 was a few days before Rosh Hashona. Services were solemn, and they were packed. Some wanted the comfort of a congregation. Some, to pray, to be embraced by faith. Some, wanted answers. The Rabbi approached the podium. Would we say the shema early? Would there be a special prayer for peace? Is this a moment of silence? He motioned for us to rise, and he played the national anthem.

And that feeling, is also today.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It's What's inside that Counts

In the words of our beloved Dr. Houseman of Dirty Dancing fame, when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong, and Betty Hosegood, I was wrong about your book, Not Tonight Darling, I'm Knitting. Instead of ragging on you, I should have been offering you consolation, that your lovely coffee table book was shrunken down into a tiny novelty book, inappropriately named, and the victim of a ill-conceived marketing strategem. This is what I wrote about Not Tonight Darling a few months ago:

Is this a bad 70's porno film? The barechested, waxed down man on the bed? The bangs, the yellow (??), surely arylic yarn, the title, the author's name????? - Betsy HOSEGOOD (poor woman)???? All you need is that bad "bow chik a bow wow" music. No my friends, this book, which in it's description promises, "This glamorous and gifty book will inspire knitters everywhere to pick up their needles and join the fun. With real-life knitting stories, yarn shopping advice, a fresh look at knitting fashion and knitting testimonies from celebrities, this book is a must-have for anyone who loves to knit," will arrive in your local yarn stores in the fall. What celebrities? - a knitting testimonial from Anna Nicole Smith? Debbie Gets Her Knit on in Dallas?

Well, I have now seen Not Tonight Darling in person, and you would never know from the cover that inside is a treasury of vintage knitting photos, and a roundup of knitting fashion through the ages. The book, in its way, tries to explain how knitting has emerged as the new "in thing," when it's really always been a societal constant. I can't say that I bought the book, or that I even read much of the text, but the photographs alone make this book worth a second glance. Had this been published in its appropriate format - a large, glossy, coffeetable compendium, as opposed to an attempt to sell, I suppose, to a younger audience in a sexed up format, it might be sitting on my coffeetable now, next to my swift, and a bowl of lovely yarn.

So, while I passed on Not Tonight Darling, I did buy Tracy Ullman and Mel Carter's book, Knit 2 Together. Unfortunately, the server at work is not cooperating about uploading photos, so I'll put up a photo of the cover when I go home. Much to my surprise, I love this book. This book is not for the faint of heart -- while there are a few patterns that are appropriate for beginning knitters, the patterns are for the most part, challenging, and require a commitment to learning a new skill, stitch or sewing technique. Even your basic scarf is turned on its head, so to speak, with the addition of a bonnett. Instead of your traditional baby cardigan, you have a hooded cape. Not only are the patterns, such as the herringbone doctors bag, and 2 piece suit, for sophisticated knitters, they're designed for the serious fiber lover as well - the patterns feature all of my favorite yarns - Koigu, Blue Sky Alpaca, Noro -- I don't have the book in front of me, or I would go on. There's no skimping here. Often, I pick up a book, like a pattern, and immediately start thinking of a yarn substitution. Not the case with Knit 2 Together.

And, the text is reminiscent of, dare I say it, the Yarn Harlot, as we follow Tracy and her knitting/fiber obsession. Her stories are our stories - running out of yarn inches from completion of a pattern, pattern modification that has gone awry requiring pounding on your LYS's door at the crack of dawn, and well, stories that simply can't be ours - our personal driver shutting the door on our yarn, and driving away, dragging a project along the road with the studio car. Witty, down-to-earth, and to a certain extent inspiring - as a novice knitter breaks out, tries new things, and becomes a creative, adventurous knitter - this is a great addition to the modern knitting library.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Welcome to the Joy House!

On the ground for all of ten minutes, we were off to our first yarn store, a Stitch Above, in Providence, RI. A Stitch Above, however, had multiple personality disorder, as half the shop was a yarn store, and the other half was a leather goods entity - I want to sell fanny packs, no I want to sell yarn. Yarn, Fanny Packs, Yarn, Fanny packs!

The pounding schizophrenia drove us out the door, and for Knitty D, into the arms of Vera Bradley. No photo available - just say no to Vera!

Then, after a light lunch, we were off to Plymouth, and Knitting Treasures. Treasure I found indeed. Here is my handpainted mohair (project to be discussed later in the week). Oh, and that is that Mayflower rising in the background, and here is my educational excursion for the trip - Plymouth Rock. I suspect that this is not the actual rock . . . at least they don't charge a fee for admission.

After spending a restful night with the Six (count em SIX) Bach beagles, in the morning we were off to see the Lobster Pot Lady, dyer of exquisite cashmere yarns. Here we are in her sale stash - cashmere

And, mohair.

While not quite ready to retire, the Lobster Pot Lady was doing quite the hard sell to convince Knitty D to move to the Cape, and become the next Lobster Pot Lady. And, what will the next dyemistress of Lobster Pot fame get for her money - a dyeing studio? Well, if you count the lobster pots on the stove, and the turkey fryers in the backyard as a studio . . . Developed on a nearly no overhead budget, with your basic kitchen items as tools of the trade, it's a thriving business, the yarn is beautiful, and what could be more idealic than sitting in your backyard on the Cape watching your cashmere yarn cook and dry? I was a bit jealous envisioning Knitty D's fiber future, but on the other hand, I'm such a Philly girl, I think it would take more than a mohair blend, or a worsted cashmere to get me to move . . .

But, speaking of business . . . I think Knitty D and I are going to incorporate. A lot of podcasts put a donate button on their blog, and fund the podcasts that way. I'm not comfortable with that - I think we should at least sell something. So, we spent a lot of the weekend experimenting with tote bags, iron-on transfers and making stitchmarkers. I have to say, we've completely mastered the stitchmarkers, and some of them are truly lovely. Unfortunately, I didn't take even one business class in law school -- it was all about crime and punishment for me - so I have my handy dandy The Small Business Start-Up Kit, and once we have a bank account, I think we'll go the Etsy route, and sell our notions bags that way. I'm also thinking about soliciting advertising, but I don't know . . . I don't know what podcast listeners think. Any opinions? In theory, if we had charged listeners $1 per podcast a la a subscription, we would be making about a $1,000 per episode - which would have funded the sound equipment we sorely need (one reviewer called our sound atrocious - loved the podcast, acknowledged that we were working on the sound, but the sound is shitty nonetheless, and I pretty much agree). Would an ad be such a horrible thing?

But enough shop talk, on the the whales. The weather was pretty lousy most of the weekend, but on Monday, the sky cleared, and we were off to Provincetown and the Portuguese Princess Whale Watch. The Whale Watch guarantees the sighting of a whale, so Knitty D has a theory that at the end of the journey, if there are no whales, a buzzer is sounded, and the mechanical whales are released.

Luckily for us, following Ernesto, the whales were restless, and there was no need for the mechanical twins. Knitty D's pictures are much better than mine. While I usually have very sturdy sea legs, I found myself not quite seasick, just a bit disoriented, and I was more concerned about holding onto the rail than taking pictures of Midnight and her calf, who is still too young for a name:

And, after the whale watch, to get my bearings back - off to the Turo Winery for a bit of wine tasting to settle the ol' stomach.

Ah, the Cape Vacation . . . yarn and wine, oh, and six beagles.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Greetings from the Cape

The night before I travel, I never sleep. Generally, I'm not a fretter - maybe when I'm on trial, but that's usually because I have my opening or closing running through my head, or perhaps I'm doing a fabulous Perry Mason cross examination in my waking dream. But, in general, my mom and my brother are the ulcer-makers, and I get a full eight hours. So, what did I keep myself up all night worrying about, the night before a completely relaxing retreat to Christina's parents Bed and Breakfast on Cape Code, the Joy House? Possible turbulence, as Ernesto approached? No. Lost luggage, it's never happened to me before, but there's always a first time? Nah. No, I watched the minutes on the clock tick by while I worried about whether I should spend the $26.00 + tip to take a cab to the airport, or whether I should get up early, and drag my weighted down bag to the train, for a mere $7.

Even though I was up in plenty of time to take the train, I opted for the cab. Why not splurge? I reasoned, money is tight, but it's not like I'm spending money on a hotel room, or even a roundtrip ticket. And, really, how much yarn could I really buy on the Cape?

Gosh I wish I had that $26 back when the Lobster Pot lady pulled out her orphan skeins of cashmere that she was willing to part with at cost . . .

Needless to say, I should have taken the train. I've been hemorraghing money all over the Cape, as we've visited yarn stores from Plymouth to Dennis to Chatham, and back again. I've purchased cashmere, and mohair, and sock yarn, and alpaca. I've bought needles to get projects started (I've already finished a cashmere sock . . . but more on that later), beads to make stitchmarkers, and of course, patterns.

Tomorrow, we're going whale watching. Hopefully, the boat won't capsize - my yarn needs a good home, and I intend to provide it!

More adventures from the Joy House tomorrow!