Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Entrelac Adventure

Fall finally arrived like that friend whose always 45 minutes to an hour late. Cell phones people, let's use 'em. Class went well at Stitch Therapy this past Sunday evening. The usual suspects were present: first-time hats, baby sweaters, traveling patterns, dropped stitches, twisted spines, and long tails. But then from the corner of my eye I saw someone pull out an Alexander Calder mobile made of wool triangles suspended on a long circular needle.

I asked what she was making — a Debbie Bliss Entrelac Blanket. Entrelac? It sounds like a Gastrointestinal problem. Entrelac is a technique that departs from traditional knitting by alternating rows of boxes at 45 degree angles. It takes equal amounts of patience and commitment. I imagine it was invented by someone stranded on an iceberg or possibly in the Gulag.

In theory it's construction should look more like this...

than this.

Source: "East Buidling Mobile", Calder Foundation, http://www.calder.org/

Without much time left for class, I had her pull everything out to the first row of triangles. I looked over the pattern. It’s beautiful and inventive but yo Debbie, could it hurt to show some step-by-step photos with your pattern?
Today I dropped off some basic Entrelac instructions at the shop from "Big Book of Knitting" (Katharina Buss, Sterling Press). On page 158, there are detailed instructions accompanied with photos. I recommend this book as an encyclopedia for intermediate knitters. It covers everything you’ll need: basic knitting, sweater patterns, finishing techniques, sewing, etc. Originally published as a thick, back-breaking hardcover book in 1999, it is now available in a less than spine-crushing paperback.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Roving in Morocco

I had dinner with Dan and Caroline last night. They're both recovering from jet lag comtemplating the work week. I brought some Guacho and Spanish cheeses (Istara and Patacapra) for the honeymoon slide show: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, fantastic Gaudi buildings, fortresses, ancient markets, villages tucked into moutains, passages carved by time, and of course the Germans. In Spain they did well with Spanish and Catalan, in Portugal they passed with Portuguese. And in Morocco? "Any language they can fleece you with, my friend." Dan forwarded to the slides of a gypsy woman forcing a henna tattoo on Caroline, demanding money then fleeing. In this situation the camera is mightier than the sword.

Morocco is the only African country not currently a member of the African Union. To Persians it is Marakesh, the Turks call it Fas (Fez). Moracco is strongly influence by Arabic, European and Middle Eastern cultures. Being Texan, Dan haggled by jesturing a heart attack if the prices were too high. He did well, they referred to his haggling as a "Berber" style. Caroline reminded him about my souveniers: Three hanks of yarn and an actual fez from the market. Hand spun, rough, and very loose — the red and green are a few twists short of being roving. I can almost feel the rough hands that rolled this wool. The bright red and green are typical street colors and white is the natural color of their sheep. They are reminiscent of the poppies and spring leaves that dot the hot desert sand.

Today I balled up the yarn, the hanks are made of many smaller hanks — nothing is wasted there. These are not rug quality, they are meant for boiling into felted bags. The green yarn is exceptionally intense. As I wound, small twigs and sand fell from the yarn. Talk about rustic. It smells like an old market, a bit musky and spicey. I imagine the hanks hanging next to the apothecary and the second-hand market stalls from Dan and Caroline's slide show. What would be in a second-hand store in a country known for anitquities, a used flyng carpet?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Conjugally Involved

Tilli Tomas "Rock Star" is not a speed-date, it’s a yarn that is worthy of courting and matrimony. A fine worsted-weight silk yarn with glass beads, it is nothing less than luxurious. Once you say “I do” there’s no going back. Are you ready for a commitment?


Silk has a deep luster with a “sly” quality that requires an experienced hand and some sober planning. It’s as easy to drop a stitch as it is to lose your drummer in a bar. It's actually easier to replace a drummer. Working with multiple colors of silk can be as difficult as being a roadie on the Guns N' Roses reunion tour. Rock Star is run with a second string of glass beads that give the garment a soft but substantial drape. It's a work-once yarn that knits up easily but the beads make undoing your work difficult. I swatched on #6 and #7 SPNs but when I pulled the yarn out for correction beads exploded all over the place like Courtney Love busting out of rehab. I found that repeatedly ripping and redoing my swatches made the yarn lose it's luster, just like the bionic re-engineering of Bat Out of Hell III.

As with Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins, a breech in the middle of your project may have bitter consequences. It’s best to ball this yarn by hand instead of running through a winder. I made swatches and tried a few knit patterns that mimic crochet. Working loosely lends to the crocheted appearance. To prevent tangling my work, I put the ball of yarn in a plastic net from my two-dollar Mutsu/Cripsin Apple. Was that tangy Asian crunch really worth my 2 bucks? Food is not love.

This pattern above worked best on #8 SPNs (36 sts. wide).

Knotted Openwork
R1; (WS) Purl to end
R2: K2, *yo, k3 then Pass first loop of 3 over the 2 loops; repeat*, k1
R3: Purl to end
R4: K1, *k3 then Pass first loop of 3 over the 2 loops, yo; repeat*, K2

Repeat all four rows like The Shins' lastest CD. Return bank call about over-draft. Wonder about Identity fraud "Who would want to be me?", look for old Amex to make sure it’s destroyed. Return to knitting.

The cuff of this wedding shrug is taken from a modified antimacassar with a leaf motif. I found it in a thrift shop in Jim Thorpe, PA. An antimacassar once protected the backs and arms of chairs from Macassar Oil, a popular brand of hairdressing. This day and age might call for an anti-SelfTanner, which prevents upholstered furniture from staining orange; or possibly an anti-Rogaine, which prevents spontaneous hair growth on yoga mats. Anyhow, combined with the knotted openwork, I thought it looked quite charming and hauntingly anachronistic — like Stevie Nicks circa Lindsey Buckingham. You can see the sleeve pictured above, my friend Maxcine lent me a hand with this photo. The selvage on the upper arm is finished with a crochet crab stitch and the cuff is finished with a simplified Irish crochet. As with most rock stars, this shrug needs a little sober reinforcement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Knit PH at Freddy’s, Oct. 21

6:25! Am I late?
Eric was already in the back room casting on. He came all the way from Queens via the L to the A. I said “hey” and planted the large umbrella swift and winder on the center table as an explorer would plant his flag. I meant to bring my camera but when I looked into the bag I only found my reading glasses covered in Snickers Bar dust. Edna came from Queens too, but pointed out she’s originally from Brooklyn and is finding her way back soon. She took out her baby sweater, put away her subway reading (organic chemistry) and asked what I was making — the wedding shrug. “Who’s getting married?”

A small crafty army assembled in Freddy’s backroom. Soon Jessica with guest Leslie arrived, then shortly after, Emily, Archie, Suzanne, Tomo, and Amy. The conversation was light and friendly, everyone was helpful with the other. Archie showed us his new project, a cool cap designed by BrooklynTweed (a knit blogger) for Interwweave mag. Emily had her baby hats. From her iPod, Tomo showed us her finished knit Arm Chairs on exhibit. Very very cool! She forgot her stuff so I gave her the Noro Silk Garden and #8s. I traded with her for translating a Japanese YouTube-clip that I found on Brooklynian.com. I also gave her the pattern I'm using for the shrug arms. Confused people wandered through the back room gawking at us. Jessica laughed about knitting in a dive bar "This is so cool, who’d ever think!” “It’s actually faux dive." I explained that the patina on the backroom walls was rag-rolled because the manager said it looked too clean.

Note: Timboo's is danerous. Smith's Tavern and Jackie's 5th Amendment are now sports bars, Hank's is an mid-scale SRO bar with country music. But Montero's is a true dive. Legend has it that a patron was stabbed at the bar.

Knit Night at Freddy’s is back on the winter events calendar. The first Knitting circle I started was at Prospect Perk Café in 2003. I was going to call it the “Brooklyn Needle Exchange” but cafe owner Mary said “Let’s call it ‘Got Balls’”, and thus it was so. The knitting circles at Maha’s and Freddy’s followed the next year. That first year at Freddy's I begged for a Sunday night, so we ended up sharing the room with a jazz band that featured Alphorn players. Freddy’s Bar was a prohibition era bar (hence the mysterious backroom) that eventually became a cop bar, then an artsy bar. I just think it’s a good neighborhood bar. Unfortunately it stands in the way of a Titan developer who has declared the neighborhood “blighted” so he can build an arena and a luxury mall for a ton of $$$$$$$.

Shame on his greed. Shame on our state for selling us snake oil. Shame on the people that bought the snake oil.

As the band showed up with their equipment, Suzanne put down her sock and the smokers stepped out for a break. “I love this place. My son had to show me where it was, he drinks here.” Suzanne asked about other events in the backroom. I told her about Opera on Tap. Annie, Jessica, and Carla — all working divas, bring in their opera troupe and a small orchestra; Sarah Brown’s Cringe Night, the guiltiest of pleasures when people read from their 6th grade diaries; Blue Grass Jam Night; Diorama Lodge Night; Sunday Chick Jazz; and of course my favorite, the Sing and Win a Ham contest. I try to attend these events when I can. Note: For some reason people have confused me as an employee. They'll have to fetch their own drinks. Suzanne took an events calendar. I told her to say “It’s my bar now” to her son. That should keep him in line. By 9:00 we packed up our gear and left the band to set up.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Moss Monster Scarf and Fish Bag

Matt and Adrianne. He lovingly calls her his "hag" and she usually smacks him in the nuts with sharp-shooter accuracy. Good shot lady!

About five years ago Matt’s mother passed away. I remember it was a taxing time as Winney left this world in a harried state. Among her possessions were bags of yarn, she was an avid knitter and an incredible cook. The following week Matt buzzed my door. "I didn’t really look through this, throw it out if you can't use it". His voice was as heavy as the large crumpled paper bag that he handed to me. When I finally pulled everything out, I found bags stuffed within bags. The contents were dusty and moth-eaten — the tangled front of an acrylic sweater, three sleeves and a back from a heatherred walnut raglan, a few pieces still on their needles, and four unbroken balls of deep navy mohair in a zip-lock bag. Everything was slightly felted together and riddled with holes. As I pulled sections apart a few notes fell from the pile: “Matthew”, “Adrianne” and some scribbling that I couldn't read.

I didn’t have the heart to trash any of this. I also didn’t have the heart to keep it. It took me weeks but I ripped out, joined, and washed every moth eaten end that I could rescue. I even microwaved the wool to remedy the moth eggs. The yarn was still a bit sparse in sections so I treated it in a gelatin bath for two days. That made it soft and more durable (lab 101: ionic bonding and protein exchange). From all that wool I made Matt a monsterous moss stitch scarf. By the time I was out of wool, it was 8' long and 16” wide. From the acrylic I made Adrianne a bag shaped liked a fish, scales and all. A draw string closed the mouth. I also made her a small hairpin lace shawl from the navy colored mohair.

I dropped everything off at Freddy’s for Matt to pick up on his bar shift. Later, Matt left me a long heart-felt phone message that wasn't worthy of the unceremonious way I left them — in the same crumpled paper bag. He thanks me for the scarf every winter. Adrianne says Fish Bag gets a full work out. I’ve seen her walk from the Green Market sporting a knit fish with produce sticking out from its mouth. She wears the navy shawl often. She told me her sister threatens to steal it, so she hides it when Claudia visits from Maine. Scarves, shawls, bags — all these are very simple small things. Winney would have made them, but her time suddenly unraveled like a run down a sock. From that dusty forgotten paper bag emerged new memories.

Making the Monster

Cable Cast on 51 sts., (right side) then garter for 6 rows. Row 7: K3, *p1, k1, repeat from * until the last 4 sts.. P1, k3. Repeat row 7 for the length of 8 feet, put on some epic music (Phillip Glass, any Floyd, VU, etc.). To end in garter, pull out the last 8 rows, place back onto needle and garter for 6 rows then bind-off.

Using a drill, insert an 8” wooden dowel as a bit, attach yarn and "superwind" until it starts to fold in on itself (density of wind: 6" will equal 3"). Remove dowel with yarn from the drill. Using a strip of cardboard that's 4" wide by 6" long, pull a 4" loop of chord yarn through the first loop of the cast-on edge and place onto the cardboard strip. Pull a new loop through the next edge stitch and place on strip as before (work 10 loops at a time for quality). Remove cardboard and allow yarn to twist into chords. Repeat to end. Treat the bind-off edge in the same manner.

Sew in all ends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Beeton Path

What in the Victorian hell is this?

Long before Martha, there was Isabella Beeton, the Victorian era domestic diva. Her books and publications such as "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management" and "The English Woman’s Domestic Magazine" made every British woman the Queen of her household. She advised women that "as with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with the mistress of a house." She kicked Victorian ass and rocked the anitmacassar!

But as with Ms. Stewart, that silver lining had a tarnished edge. Beeton had a brilliantly celebrated life, but after a series of miscarriages her life ended abruptly. In the Kathryn Hughes PBS production of "The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton" she speculated that the reason for Beeton's disastrous obstetric history might have been due to syphilis, contracted from her wandering husband, Sam. Sadly she died at the age of 28 in childbirth. Now that’s Vitctorian! Meanwhile, after her release from prison, Stewart's company Omni Media and the prison poncho reached new popularity giving arcylic glitter yarn and her new "Every Day Living" publications and place in every home.

UrbanDictionary.com describes getting Munsoned (from the movie King Pin) as "Being on a gravy train with biscuit wheels, and then falling off". Will there not be a verb, gerrund, or past participle worthy of the woa that beset Isabella Beeton?

Getting "Beetoned": One skein short of a sweater.
• In a knitting circle: My cabled gansey is for not, it was Beeton.
• A snarky remark: Is that Beetoned half-sweater popular this fall?
• Trash talk on the ball field: Less cheatin', more Beet'nin'! Booya!
• International: Hilfe! Meine Strickjacke war Gebeeton.

Project Gutenberg has made her life’s work available online. For antimacassers, face veils, tobacco bags, knee braces and other unearthed knitting arcana check out “BEETON'S BOOK OF NEEDLEWORK” on Gutenberg.org.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Which Craft?

During the winter I teach knitting at Stitch Therapy, a Brooklyn yarn shop owned by my friend Maxcine. Before this, I taught at Brooklyn Technical College for two years. I was their first knitting instructor. We held classes in the room between the DWI Program and the Surveillance Camera Installation Workshop, below Anger Management for the newly paroled. I also completed 10 years of teaching at the BBG Children's Gardening Program. By trade I’m a graphic designer, I create Corp ID, packaging systems and collateral web sites. Knitting is graphic design's congruent opposite. I guess I just like teaching.

I find that teaching knitting is a cross between shop class and coaching swimmers. Some nights I lay out the basics, and then other times I try to get someone to move into the deeper end of the pool — holding the needles correctly, correcting technique, English and Continental style, multi strand, single points, double points, circular needles, moving on from a scarf to sweater, etc. This past Sunday I had six students, some new faces and some from last year. Typically, I move around the table and follow each person’s progress over the course of two hours. It’s a small challenge really. Knitting won’t change the world, but I feel that making someone a better knitter might make a better person.

I think it's funny that I teach knitting and hold seasonal circles. I was actually kicked out of my first knitting circle, or as I'd like to put it "I was de-invited from the coven." One woman took a particular disliking to me. One night she proudly announced she was working with a new natural polyfiber. Polyfibers are acrylic or nylon — I demonstrated this by melting a scrap piece of her yarn with my lighter. I didn't realize that act not only insulted her, it destroyed her belief system. From thereafter I was "girl-bullied" by a savage pack of shawl-clad women. It was like getting my ass kicked by a mob of Natalie Merchants. The rest is another yarn to spin, yadda, yadda, yada.

December 2001, that year most people lived under the horrible shadow of "911". Fall into winter was dark, and most knitting circles weren't very friendly, particularly if you were the only guy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Knit PH at Perk, Oct. 07

There go the sirens and news copters, is Brooklyn on fire again?

Despite the sudden storm-like rain and train problems the first Knit PH at Perk went well last night. Emily arrived first sorry, Kate showed up or someone who I called Kate all evening then ran from the camera, then Suzanne, shortly after Kathi, Key, Bloomie, and Yasmin followed. Talk about a dedication to a craft, these crafty folks braved torrential downpour to knit. Everyone brought their projects out from their zip-lock bags and jumped right in.

Suzanne, is working on her first sock, a classic 2 X2 rib, strap heel and sewn toe. I promised to help her at the heel. I’ve tuned many heels and closed many a toe, but I’ve never made an actual pair of socks. Just not my thing, the socks. Emily is making a shawl with coffee-colored swag from her boss, who started a project but never got to it. Kate I hope that’s your name is making a linen tunic from Louet Sales linen, I told her about the “blocking” incident. I think Kathi is knitting a tres “haute couture” dress. Everyone lent a helping hand and exchanged advice about each other’s projects. I like seeing the café buzz with the after-work crowd. My friend Peg walked in from work saying “Thank God they’re open I need desert!” A stunned grad student asked if she could join when she was done with her paper. I handed her a Knit PH register tag. The conversation was light, I heard someone say “so the only reason why I still work at Macy’s is that I went down one dress size!”

I swifted and hand-wound 15 skeins of Tilli Tomas “Rockstar” all evening. It’s too delicate to use the ball winder, the glass beads are run on a cotton thread that’s twisted into the silk. It smells sweet like freshly hulled rice. Staceyjoy Elkin popped in for a quick pressed sandwich and a hi-n-hello. We chatted while I wound. I told her about what I’m making (wedding shrug) and she said I could borrow a size small manikin form her shop (Redlipstick). That would help tons! When I made Caroline’s shrug I McMacgyver-ed a pillow wrapped in duck-tape with rolled towels for the arms. Stacey showed us all her new treasure, a huge cone of lace-weight merino cashmere that she got from P and S for $15 per cone. She bought 8 of them. Very nice and baby soft! Now I have to go out and get some. Stacey created this beautiful knit kit: Miterred Ear Warmer and Bangle Bracelet set. She’s getting many orders from the UK and Autralia. Isn’t that ironic, they’re buying back their own sheep from us. Ballsy!

I like my neighborhood, I hope it never changes. Bloomie reminded us that the DDDB Walk-a-Thon is this Sunday. Prospect Heights lives under the foot of an ugly giant. Only recently Park Slopers lit a fire when they noticed that the smoke wouldn't stay in the smoking section. The developer Forest City Ratner wants to build a huge city within our tiny town with the help from Upstate NY enacting Eminent Domain. They never refer to us as a neighborhood — who would want to be responsible for destroying a neighborhood? Instead they call us “the new downtown” where people will “Live, Work, Play”. We are Prospect Heights, we already live, work and play here. Matter of fact we even knit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rock Star

An editor from a knitting magazine asked if I had any contributions for their mens’ wear, Summer Issue. I’ve been working on a few things, more sweaters, more shirts, a backpack that looks like an accordion, a large paper-mache dragon head... not so much. So I sent her some photos of Caroline’s wedding shrug.

First Reply: It's freaking gorgeous!!!!! I am actually doing a wedding story for XXXXX XXXXXXXX Summer [issue]. Might you be willing to do a white version for XX [magazine]? In was hoping you'd have more cool men's stuff for [us]... lemme know.

I don’t really design a lot women’s stuff — scarves don’t count. Caroline’s wedding is the exception to the rule. Another project? October is also keenly busy for me to design something new, I got work coming out of my…

Second Reply: So... we want a wedding shrug, it can be knit but in the style of the red shrug... can I beg you to make it?

ears. But how could I say no? Granted, popular men’s wear is limited but easier in terms of design. Women’s wear is always a much bigger challenge to me. I can never figure out why anyone would want a nice sweater that isn’t warm enough. And ponchos? Ponchos?! I got a call this past spring from Alice Fixx (a.k.a. the “Godmother of Knitting”, Big Apple Knitters). She got me a spot on the "Jane Pauley Show" (knit segment, Knit Night at Freddy’s). This time she wanted to know if I would appear on a new "top secret" morning show wearing a poncho: “No”. Then the producer of the show called.

First call: “Would you wear a manly poncho if someone made it?”
“Mmmm, No.”
Second call: “Would you appear on the show making a poncho?”
Third call: “How about if you wore a rugid poncho, a Man-cho?”
Clever, but I said "No."
Fourth call: “It's Martha Stewart's new morning show?” pause, breath deep "No." I'm just not that much a media whore. Unless you're a guy from Chile with a donkey, a poncho is a tough one to pull off.

Anyhow a box of yarn arrived yesterday from the magazine. My jaw dropped, I’ve never seen anything this exquisite: Tilli Tomas “Rockstar”, 100% natural spun silk with glass beads, buff white, 150yds/100 gms, retail $38.00. I’m almost afraid to touch it. This is as soft as a kitten, Reminder, feed Dan and Carry’s Cat. Note: Cat is afraid of piano and Leonard Cohen.

My reply: Affirmative captain, we will rock this shrug and make it so!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Das Wetter Ist Grau

Heute, Ich trage meine Strickjacke. It was wet and grey morning. The weather is finally cooling off, but it still doesn't feel like fall. A woman in the coffee shop line described it as a dreary London day.

On a similar day last fall I found some treasure among the stoop sale trophies and garbage. On a table I spotted three skeins of a discontinued yarn: Classic Elite, "Waterspun". As yarns come and go, this was one that I liked a lot — felted, single-ply, and as cool and grey the day. A woman with a blue fanny pack said "I have more stuff." "How much do you want for the yarn?" "You knit?" "Yep" I replied. She put out her cigarette and said "Wait here, I have more." She returned with a small kitchen garbage bag full of yarn. "15 skeens for $15 bucks. I just want this out of my apartment." She went on to tell me that four years ago she was going to make a sweater for a man with whom she was involved. But before she could get started it all ended. I asked if she would throw in the small table $20. "Get outta here!" she cracked.

What to make? Something Elizabeth Zimmerman would've made. This is my friend Tyler wearing my grey turtleneck. Doug Todd took these photos at Freddy's Bar here in Brooklyn. This sweater is knit down on #4 SPN in Shaker Stitch rib. This is a great sculptural stitch for single color knitting.

The Shaker Stitch uses 30% more yarn than a normal rib. It's deep, spongy, and very warm. One thing I also found about this yarn is that it shrank down to about 90 to 95% after washing and blocking. I assumed incorrectly that felted yarn was shrink-proof, so I didn't make a full swatch test. It looks about right on Tyler, but it makes me look like a grey bald-headed sausage.

I started this sweater by knitting the left sleeve, casting on from the center of the back knitting the cuff. For the right sleeve I picked up from the left sleeves cast-on knitting in mirrored manner. The cleave on the back makes a nice whale tail in the middle. For the lower back I picked up stitches from the selvage and knit down.

Now the Front, I picked up stitches from the selvages for the left and right shoulder straps. First I knit the left shoulder down and stopped at the throat of the neck holding the stitches open. Then I picked up stitches from the right shoulder knitting to the same length as the left. I cast-on more stitches across the throat, picked up the open stitches from the left side and continued to knit down. All open seams were sewn. Now the collar: I picked up stitches from the neck area and knit upwards. The collar is 9" long, it makes a generous turn when folded down. Instead of binding-off loosely I knit an I-cord with #9 needles. I trimmed the cuffs and the bottom of the sweater with an I-cord as well.

This sweater has substance. I like the way the lines in this sweater travel in opposing directions, but marry on the back. It's pretty solid but it has a very clean drape, especially around the arms and elbows. The down side is that the yarn pills quite a bit, it must be made from shorter fibers, that were fused with heat. But I just pick off the stuff.

Tyler is a jazz bassist. His wife Trina plays carnatic classical violin. I play(ed) an accordion in an indy-rock band that was popular in New Zealand. Or were we a pre-emo boy band that got college radio play in Australia?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Show Me the Monkey!

I knit (knitted? knat?) two plush monkeys this past summer: one blue, the other brown. The blue one I made for my friend Lex as a get-well gift after he broke his finger at our softball game. The brown one I gave to my friends Bill and his wife Margey. People ask if it was hard to part with them, in truth I had to give them away. Clowns, mimes, dolls and stuffed toys — all these creep me out. Both monkeys are 2 ½ feet from head to tail, all hands and feet have five digits and button-eyes from old shirts. The brown monkey was made mostly with Brown Sheep Cashmere-Wool and some left over Cascade 220. I tried to felt him in a large pot, but either my water wasn’t hot enough or I didn’t boil long enough. When I came back from grocery shopping my apartment reeked of boiled sheep. Like a scene from “Fatal Attraction” I checked the pot and found an eye had come loose and bobbed around the top. Note: never do that again.

The blue monkey was complete with a broken bandaged finger and an arm cast. The deep azure merino yarn came from Madrid, a gift from freind and artist Margot Spindelman from her travels. This Spanish domestic yarn was unusually soft with long fine fibers. Why are their export yarns so course and itchy? I imagine their the sheep go into two pens before sheering: Nosotros (domestic) and Los Americanos Estupidos (export).

Back to the game. Freddy’s Bar and O’Connor’s Bar settle a grudge match every summer over a softball game. Trash talk and all, it's civilized game. This past summer Freddy’s lost it’s MVP, Lex M., when he tried to catch a hit made by OCs MVP, Troy. I bandaged Lex’s hand. It looked bad, his nail was shattered. But he felt pressured to play despite his injury and returned to the field. Freddy’s rallied well in the seventh inning, but in the end OCs won 14 to 9. Afterwards, Lex ran off to band practice, but soon discovered he fractured his right middle finger in three places. That had to hurt! Lex was out the entire season, which totally sucked for everyone. But Freddy’s had the last say. As the sun quickly set on that last September game, Freddy's won the season for Lex: three out of five games. Cheers buddy.

Lex removed his monkey’s cast as his hand got better. Margie’s monkey was adopted by her cat. Pearl curls up with the monkey when she cat-naps. I saved the pattern.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Knit PH at Maha's, Oct. 07

It's autumn and it's 85 degrees outside — what the hell is going on with the weather? Fall in Prospect Heights is typically marked when the leaves turn brown and the hipsters wear more than two layers of ironic T-shirts.

The first Knit PH at Maha's was this past Wednesday. We had a small but fun group. Penelope was there first, Petra showed up on her Vespa armed with yarn and Ukulele. It's her cutlural night, band practice and knitting. Then Tomoko (the other smoker) and Emily arrived. A guy eating at the next table asked about the knitting circle. I told him to sign up (free) online. He said he was thinking of getting back into it.

Petra is working on swatches for a line of organic clothing, she's a knitwear designer (and chanteuse). Emily is making baby hats for everyone at the office. Penelope is working on five things at the same time show off! But whoa! Check out Tomo. She's working on a really cool art project: Arm Chairs. She's making 30 of these! She made four sleeves in two hours. That's some quick knittin'. Tomo works in architecture. Note the Eva Zeisel vase in her photo, very nice. I started a scarf. I lose one every year. Some lucky homeless person is wearing an 8-foot long alpaca/camel blend. I hope they feel fabulously warm. I'm still getting my stash together — I've got bags of yarn in bags in boxes. I have many mis-matched balls of yarn left over from sweater projects. I don't know if I should be telling people I have loose balls.

I'm glad people could make it to Knit PH. With this Atlantic Yards mess pending, who knows how long we'll be a Prospect Heights heighborhood. This thing is Titanic: 17 towers of luxury living and and arena? Where do we live? It's already scared people away and destroyed business by threatening to enact Eminent Domain on our asses. Come on Brooklyn, fight the good fight! One of the organizers for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn passed by Maha's. Shabnam said she still has to finish her husband's hat that she started last year. It's only two ear flaps away.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

K.I.P.: Broken Ribs and Old Friends

I met with an old friend for lunch today, Sandy and I used to work in publishing together. It felt good to catch up: freinds, family, work, people we love, people we hate, et al. It's funny how in New York you can be just a train ride away but rarely meet up with old friends. Why is that? It seemed like old times, I was 25 minutes late and she was worried. Sorry Sandy. We promised to not loose touch as we parted ways. Again.

On the train home, two boys were messing around hitting each other, one threw something at the other. It clacked off the window, hit a lady on the arm and landed on the seat. I sat down, picked it up and inspected: one enamel pin with the image of the Infant of Prague. I said "Which one of you is throwin' Jesus around?" They pointed at each other. One said "Sorry mister." "You should say sorry to this lady, you nearly got her in the eye." She jumped in with a sharp Jamaican accent. "You should say sorry to Jeeezus!" The boys got off at the next stop. I pulled the scarf that I started from my bag. But somewhere between the bag of pork rinds, cell phone, cigarettes, and umbrella it came undone. It was beyond saving so I ripped it out and started over. The woman asked what I was making. I said "a mess". She laughed, "You know my father used to knit when we was livin' in England. Good for the mind, good for the soul." She watched for a bit and got up for her stop. "Don't leave Jesus behind" she said as the doors closed.

Brooklyn bound, I continued to knit in Broken Rib (2x2 rib on mult. 4 + 3) the train filled up with the post-lunch time crowd. No one sat where the Infant of Prague lay. Was it Jesus or me? Oddly enough I've never been hassled when I've Knit In Public (K.I.P. for those in the know). Among the obese guy with asthma, the over-tattooed/pierced hipsters, and the chick texting while crying as we passed over the bridge, I pale in comparison. There was only one time I can think of, I was in court waiting (oi vey, very very long story) on a bench. The kid with the doo rag and missing teeth got up and mumbled "faggot" at me. I replied "That's Mr. Faggot, jack-ass." The woman with a black eye sitting to my left smiled, said she used to knit but she's more into crochet now. "What you makin' baby?"

The same scarf.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Criminally En-Gauged

Sarah C. wrote in with some Guayabera related questions. She wanted to make it for her husband by Christmas but...

“I found out that I just can not get the recommended gauge. I went up to a size 9 needle and I am still coming up too short and the gauge is way too loose. Can you tell me what could I be doing wrong... I was hoping to make this shirt for X-mas."

Sarah found that her swatch was too goo-ey and with large spaces bewteen stitches and rows and she was still getting more stitches per inch. She started to doubt her skill as a knitter, oh, it's always me, sigh. The importance of a correct gauge is paramount but getting it correctly may sometimes seem like recreating a crime scene. I wrote the gauge as such: 16 st by 21 rows over a 4” X 4” on #7 SPN using worsted weight linen yarn (Louet-Sales Geneva). Sarah was getting 21 st over 4" on #9, a good five sts too many. Being a multi-tasking mother of two, it sounded like she was just knitting tightly at first, but that might not have been the only factor. Did the yarn play a role? Was Sarah C. in fact guilty as charged? Louet-Sales Geneva, don't we all hate the Swiss?

breakin' the law, breakin' the law... dun dun

A False Report! I made six swatches on a few needle sizes. To get the 4" gauge made I swatches that were roughly 7" square. Before wahing and blocking I averaged 17 to 19 sts over a 4" X 4" area. After blocking, the linen yarn "bloomed". From three of the swatches I averaged 16 to 17 over 4" on #7 SPN. Long story short, my swatch expanded after a proper wash-n-block.

Resisting Arrest? Hardness factor and resistance play a role in how we hold our needles and yarn. On the Mohs Scale of Hardness wood, bamboo and plastic are closer to 3, refined steel is 7+. When I use metal I tend to grip harder to keep everything on the needle, it makes me knit tighter. Wood and plastic on the other hand tend to resist yarn slippage. I recommend using wooden needles for the linen yarn. The yarn itself is also a bit slick. This sly fiber slipped easily from my hands. For this project I used the Enlgish style of holding for more control.

The Discovery. People often wax poetically about their favorite brands of yarn, but it's all about substance and character. Fibers reveal their true characteristic after blocking or fulling. I found that the linen yarn bloomed handsomely, taking on a soft sheen and heavy drape. The fibers opened up and became much softer especially after being ironed and steamed. The true character of a yarn becomes more obvious over time, so be careful of poly-blends that feel soft at first. Your gloves might end up as scouring pads next year.

Released on Recognizance. Use your experienced judgement, but never jump blindly into a project wether it's a hat or sweater. I tend to buy the same brands but also have noticed that the quality may vary from year to year. Comparable yarns vary by tightness of spin and density, so I swatch everything before hand. I also put projects in progress into zip-bags with dated notes. I might want to return to the scene of the crime later.