Sunday, September 30, 2007


Yesterday was the SCA coronation, held at the beautiful Masonic Temple in downtown Indianapolis. It was so beautiful that I didn't want to spoil the atmosphere by running around taking pictures, so I'm afraid I don't have any to share.

But I do have a picture of my nearly-finished naalbound sock. I'm just a few rounds away from decreasing for the toe. This sock doesn't fit very well - the ankle is too loose and the instep too snug - but it's a servicable first project, and I'm sure the next pair will be better.

And that's a new needle with it - an ebony needle, made by Thomas the Mailer and often available through By My Hand Designs. I've long admired some of the beautiful hardwood knitting needles out there, but never indulged myself because of the VeryBadDogs. But a naalbinding needle is easier to hide and less of an investment, so I'll try it out. The wood is so delightfully smooth that it could pass for a steel needle, but it has a satiny finish that makes it a pleasure to use.

And I'm going to show off what I hope will be the beginning of a new culinary tradition - Friday Night Pizza Night. Aaron and I both read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle over the summer, and are tentatively embracing the notion of local food. Fresh food and organic food is easier to embrace, so we're eating as much of that as we can. In the book, she mentions a family tradition of pizza on Friday nights, and it seems like a good one to adopt. So this pizza is first topped with Aaron's pre-pesto (basil, olive oil, and garlic; frozen before adding the cheese and nuts) from his own basil, and probably his own garlic. Then we have slices of a magnificent orange tomato from the Cooley Family Farm, and rounds of fresh mozzarella (from Payless, but we're trying). We'll do our best to make a habit of eating delicious homemade pizza - it's a great way to save the Earth!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Giving Up

I've frogged the MS3 Mystery Stole.

A few years ago, I took a horrible class at Purdue. After weeks of misery and dissatisfaction, I dropped the class just a few days before Spring Break. I felt like dancing through campus to celebrate. If the professor had actually been seeing students during her office hour I probably would've mooned her. (She was holding a meeting, and had a secretary stationed to keep people away. How the he** does a humanaties professor get guard dog secretary, anyway?) Dropping that class (the only graduate course I've ever dropped) was a huge load off my back, getting rid of something that was unpleasant, labor-intensive, and useless.

This isn't like that. I was really excited when I started the Mystery Stole. I meant to work on schedule. I was outraged by the people who nastily complained about the design. And while I thought the finished project looked a bit unbalanced and awkward when laid out, it looked magnificent when modeled.

But I didn't ever get to the modeling part. I never finished the first clue. If I'd made better progress I'm sure I would have finished it. However, since this is all I ever completed, I'm saying goodbye.

Then there's the theme. I didn't think I'd care if the theme was Swan Lake, or Dante's Inferno, or anything else. But nearly half of this shawl is the "Cat's Paw" stitch, representing a pas de chat step from the ballet. And having once sat through a tedious, interminable production of Sleeping Beauty, which included a dancing-cat segment that Would Not End, I fear that anything which even symbolically combines cats and ballet would weigh on my shoulders like a ton of bricks, no matter how delicate.

So now my shawl looks like this. I'm sorry our relationship didn't work out, and that I didn't produce the something beautiful that the pattern deserved. I've never totally frogged and abandoned a project before, but it's probably a useful skill for a knitter to learn. Now I just need to learn to be ruthless and move on.

I may buy the pattern, because I really like the two-winged version, and I could substitute the cat's-paw section with something less psychically disturbing.

I've also signed on for Secret of the Stole. So I won't feel like I've wasted all the lovely lace yarn and beads, and maybe I'll do a better job of keeping up this time.

The Mystery Stole isn't the only thing I'm giving up....

I also have to stop this habit. Now. Before it gets any worse.

That's yarn on my nightstand. Two skeins, and I came close to adding the Cherry Tree Hill and the Knit Picks Memories. It started innocently enough - I got the package with the Fleece Artist kind of late in the evening, and I wanted a little more time to enjoy it. So it came to bed with me. Then I pulled out the Socks that Rock so I could finish the Hurricane Sock from my fabulous pal Darlene. It's been in a bag for awhile, so pulling it out was like Christmas all over again - "Wow! I have Socks that Rock! In Jewel of the Nile!" - so it seemed like a happy sentiment to fall asleep to.

But I wouldn't want this to get out of hand. After all, I own a lot of skeins of yarn I really like. And Aaron is sick, so I should be nice to him, and last night hesaid something like "you're sleeping with your yarn?" and I'm sure his distressed concern wasn't entirely codeine-fueled...nor was it entirely concern for me. So he can rest easy - the Socks that Rock is in a knitting bag, and the Fleece Artist is on its way to the stash. I'll probably even put away the Yarn Harlot's book now that I've finished it, since I don't want to look like a creepy stalker or anything.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Holy cow.

I've tried really hard to avoid turning this into a political blog. There are a lot of issues I feel very strongly about, and I wouldn't hesitate to share my opinion in casual conversation, but talking politics here is time taken away from knitting, and I also feel pretty strongly about knitting. I'm also concerned that political discussions in a public forum tend to lead to uncivil discourse, and I wouldn't want a safe place to reach out to knitting friends to be marred by the death threats and name-calling from strangers that so often plague female bloggers.

But today is different. Today the biggest balls in the country aren't in anyone's yarn stash; they're in the heart and mind (is this metaphor getting too weird?) of Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, who introduced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with these remarks today. So I'm posting it on a knitting blog because I feel compelled to share it.

Many who read this may not know that one of Aaron's cousins was a graduate of Columbia, and was killed at the World Trade Center. While I don't believe Iran had any connection to that attack, nontheless I like to think that he is honored by this speech, by his alma mater's blow against global terrorism and fascist bastards in general. I'll be wearing my Columbia t-shirt tomorrow!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It must be March.

Because I've just finished the January/February Sock Club socks. This is the third pair of Fascine Braid socks I've made, and even though the first pair were my first normal socks ever, these have taken much longer than the others. These are made from Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn in the Alpine colorway. They're also the first set of socks I've done on two circular needles - thanks to a gift from Debbie, who was my River Knits Secret Pal last year. I'm not sure if the two-circular method is really faster for me (especially since it took me eight months to finish the socks), but it's nice to worry less about dropping needles and stitches when traveling.

Especially since these socks have done a lot of traveling. They've visited Niagra Falls, and traveled to Chicago for Camp Obama. They've literally been to Hell and back. They checked out the Vince Lombardi trophy, and saw a total lunar eclipse. And they've been very patient socks - the first one was finished back in April, but only now does it have a mate.

One finished pair of socks means time to work on another, right? I'm trying to avoid casting on anything new until a few more projects are off the needles, but there's still plenty to do. I went for something appropriately historical yesterday, and made nice progress on my naalbound sock. It's really beginning to look like a sock.

And I'm concerned that I haven't shared enough pictures of my lovely new spindle, so do enjoy this one. Notice how the sunlight gleams off the wood. Notice, too, the fun varigated color of the wool...and think about what I might do with an ounce's worth of yarn. Handspun yarn definitely does not count against any sort of yarn diet. Which means I may be doing a lot of spinning in the near future.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Aaron and I are in Lincoln City, (it's near Santa Claus) for Rendezvous at the Bridge, an SCA event sponsored by the Shire of Riviere Constelle (aka Evansville, IN). Aaron decided that we didn't want to say in the Lincoln State Park cabins, which turned out to be a pretty good decision since it was over 90 degrees today, and doesn't seem to be getting cooler. I love this extended summer, but I'd love an extended 80-something degree summer even more....especially when I'm wearing Viking clothes.

All sorts of things go on at an SCA event. The fighting - combat wearing more-or-less real armor but with wooden swords - is the big sexy highlight that everyone notices. Most of the younger men and quite a few of the women fight, but one of the nice things about Rendezvous is that there are all sorts of other activities going on.

Including this. This gentleman from Ohio brought this bird for a falconry demonstration, which caught the interest of the SCA people, the regular park visitors, and all of the naturalists. How often do you get close enough to a falcon that you could reach out and touch her? (Not that anyone would want to reach out and touch something with a beak and talons like hers, but the owner did let people hold under his careful supervision.)

One of our favorite activities is the hound coursing. In the Middle Ages, rabbits and other prey were released and chased by sighthounds for spectators' amusement. At SCA events, a plastic grocery bag tied to a string is released (and run through a course with pulleys and a drive wheel), and the hounds are at least as amused as the spectators. A lot of the SCA hounds are retired/rescued from dog racing, but any dog can participate. Oscar hasn't tried coursing yet, but Max proved to be a natural, displaying a strong coursing instinct at his first event. Unlike the greyhounds, who usually make one run, Max would be happy to run all day - the luremaster usually gets tired before he does.

Here, an Italian Greyhound is about to be released by Her Royal Highness Aislinn, Princess of the Middle Kingdom (the SCA's regions are "Kingdoms," each with monarchs chosen by combat). Traditionally in the SCA, the greyhounds course for the Queen's enjoyment, and the Italian Greyhounds are the Princess' pack. That's the luremaster on the left (with the lure powered by a very non-medieval car battery), and at his cry of "Tally ho!" Aislinn will turn the little dog loose so she can chase the plastic-bag lure.

Lincoln State Park isn't very dog-friendly (they're allowed in the park, but can't stay in the cabins or enter any buildings), so we didn't bring ours, since there wouldn't have been any convenient place for them to spend the day. But the more serious coursers (who, I should add, also generally do a lot of really good work with greyhound rescue) brought their dogs, so there were plenty to go around. Aaron was the biggest guy there, so he was asked to keep an eye on Bruno, an 85-pound puppy who looks like a hound/bear crossbreed.

"Hold your Hounds!" is the command heard over and over during a morning of coursing. These dogs love to run, and so even the little ones have to be restrained when it's not their turn to course. As soon as the lure starts moving, all the dogs start barking and howling and begging to join in the chase.

Normally, you wrap a harness around the dog's chest, straddle him, and hold on tight. But Bruno was too tall for Aaron to straddle, so he'd have to be picked up to keep him from running. And he turned out to be smart enough to discover all of the different ways a dog can try to squirm away. Aaron probably got a harder workout than he would have from spending the whole day hitting people with (and being hit by people with) big sticks. But Bruno was a magnificent courser. I can't wait to see what he looks like when he's full-grown.

I spent the rest of the day on more sedate activities, including teaching a class on fingerloop braiding. I first learned how to make these braids when I was in high school, when the DMC-floss "friendship bracelets" were popular. Later I found a very similar technique in a Piecework article on Japanese loop-manipulated braids, and then learned that there were English texts from the 15th century on with instructions on how to make all kinds of loop braids. My student and I have our feet up because the braids are worked under tension, and that's the easiest way to hold one end.

So here's a scan of a few braids. From the left, the first two are basic 5-loop square and flat braids. Then there's a 4-loop spiral braid, and a striped variation of the spiral. The three-colored braid is the "Grene Dorge" or "Barleycorn" braid, which I teach as a combination of the techniques learned for the first two types of braids. The last two are my teaching samples from the class, and change patterns midstream; so the first is both spiraled and striped, and the green one has square sections, flat sections, and sections with two skinny braids.

Further textile indulgence came from the merchants' area in the form of a new spindle. All of mine are either too heavy or too light for spinning knitting-friendly yarn, so even though I've been trying not to shop, I couldn't resist a visit to the Driftwood Spindles booth. (There will be a link here as soon as I find a good address!) This gentleman makes spindles from all sorts of intersting wood, and in an Ollivanderesque visit I handled many of them until I found the perfect one - 30 grams, with a whorl and shaft of something exotic. Others were more aesthetically pleasing, but this one felt perfect in my hand. An extra dollar bought me an ounce of naturally-dyed corridale wool, so I sat down to play.

Almost every SCA event includes an feast, and this one offered an especially tasty example. I put the spindle and other projects down long enough to dine on beef and noodles, roast pork with apples, spinach salad, mushroom tarts, and Russian cream, all made more enjoyable by the park's delightfully sensible policies on bringing in alcohol. Next week I look forward to Coronation, with more craft time and more tasty food, but, alas, no wine. I'll have to break out the white wool.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Productive Weekend

Finally, I have some finished projects to report:

Heather's second sock is FINISHED, just over three weeks late. I know they've already been designated her Christmas Season kickoff socks, scheduled to debut the day after Thanksgiving, so I hope the delay hasn't made her worry too much. And here are both sides of the finished sock - I hope it matches the first, which is still with Heather!

I love making Turkish socks. The first socks I ever learned to knit were Eastern-style, toe-up socks. I didn't get around to doing a proper sock until much later. I tried to start a regular sock, long ago, but got bored pretty quickly with the 6 inches of ribbing for the cuff. With Turkish socks, you start with the most fiddly bit at the toe, and then the sock gets bigger fast. So by the time you start to get bored, there are several inches of inspiring progress! You can also try on the sock as you go, so it's easy to make sure they fit.

Now it's time to start designing Michelle's sock. I know which yarn I'm going to use, but I need to come up with a pattern. After that, I'll be looking forward to my sockday!

I also finished my set of three dishcloths. The first is the standard diagonally-knitted dishcloth, the second is the waffle pattern from this baby blanket, and the third is the Annie washcloth. All are made from Sugar-n-Cream yarn, or something similar. Tomorrow they'll be mailed off to trade for more ply-split braiding instructions, and then I'll have a new (and, I hope, stash-reducing) fiber hobby.

So now I get a break from obligation knitting for awhile. I've already cast on the second Monkey!

Friday, September 14, 2007


Aaron may no longer be in Germany, but that doesn't mean we've completely given up visits to Oldenburg. It's just that now Oldenburg is a 3-hour drive away - as long as we're content to visit Oldenburg, Indiana.

Oldenburg is a town of 647 people, but it's as interesting as a city ten times its size, and it has a visitors' center to welcome tourists. (It' was closed, but we'll be stopping by on Sunday) It's one of those towns where people wave as you drive by - they really did. Oldeburg was first laid out by people from the German duchy, and it takes its heritage seriously. The street signs are bilingual. The arms of the city of Oldenburg are displayed everywhere (it's convenient for this "Village of Spires" that the city's crest has a castle on it). Even the gas station has Gothic-script signs, and fake painted wooden shutters around the windows. "Kitschy" does not begin to describe Oldenburg.

Even the grocery store gets into the German theme, although I never saw live bait sold at Spar or Plus. It's possible, these days, that you might see pumpkins.

I'm still finishing Heather's second sock, so it got to be the Traveling Adventure Sock in Oldenburg. Check out the fire hydrants.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tagged Out

Our box finished the race! POST knITS came in 7th (out of 20 U.S. teams), so we won't win any of Emily's fabulous team prizes, but we all wound up with nice dish rags. Emily's added a "Hard Luck Story" competition, and mine's already been submitted. I hope to win - both for the prize, and that no one else will have worse knitting luck.

It turns out that the "Knitting in Public" prize can be won with any dish rag picture - not just the one for the contest. So I may have to work on that one.

I've been working on other dish rags, too. This is the first of a set that will go off to Linda Hendrickson in exchange for some of her beautiful Ply-Split Braiding patterns. It would be faster, I'm sure, to buy them, but there's something fun about bartering with another artist. And it's definitely good to know that my knitting will go someplace where it's wanted and appreciated.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gee, Math is Hard

I'm photographing my stash and my projects for Ravelry, which gives me a chance to revisit old WIPs - or in this case, old mistakes.

Last fall, I decided that the Lana Grossa Croisette Cardigan would be a lovely Christmas sweater. Instead of Croisette, I decided to knit it in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, in a lovely Christmas green. I made some other changes, too, re-writing the pattern so I could knit the body all in one piece, instead of fronts and back. And I didn't like the idea of sewing on the lace border - it made more sense to do the border first, then pick up stitches to knit the body.

It wasn't easy to work out the directions for the translated from German pattern, but eventually I figured it out and produced this lovely lace border. And I picked up the stitches, as planned, and worked the one-piece body.

It wasn't until I started the sleeve border that something seemed wrong - three repeats of the lace were awfully snug around my arm.

Then I tried on the sweater. And discovered that I'd have to corset like Dita Von Teese to get this to wrap around my waist.

What went wrong? When I planned the number of lace repeats, I was only counting how many stitches I'd want to pick up for the body. It turns out I should have been counting inches. And I need at least half again as may.

So once I can work myself up to do it, this picture will be all that remains of my first attempt at the sweater. The whole thing has to be frogged, so I can do a longer border and begin again. Maybe in time for this Christmas.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

It's Here!

I have my Ravelry invite! I'm VeryBadDogs, and I can't wait to start playing.