Monday, April 21, 2008

Knit PH at Freddy's: April 20, '08

Dave from the German Language Studies group brought a baked cheese cake for everyone to share. It was baked fresh by German comrad, Stephanie. They eventually assembled in the front room at the bar, possibly plotting against the French. The German/knit nights have been a little confusing for some. Tracey wanted to do both but settled with the knitting. She tried to convince her brother Peter that it's very cool for a guy to KIP. But he and his friend moved to the bar for conversational Deutsche, beer, and ESPN.

Bitsy finished her cable-hoodie. There's an Elvish quality to her sweater — it's very Cate Blanchett circa LOTR. She brought a few large cones of black cotton-something-or-other that she purchased from School Products. I suspect it's their house cotton-silk. You can't beat that yardage for the price, but it's not very practical to bring on the train. She wound them into smaller balls. I too was seduced by School Products' massive cones. I bought the last two charcoal grey silk/wool cones — store proprietor, Victor, said "Iz good qvality, yes? And good yardage, you make good purchase." He has a mild Russian accent. The original plan was to re-create a saddle shoulder cardigan that my father bought me when I was 19. My fahter had this funny idea that when I moved from Guam to Los Angeles for college that I would be cold in winter.

It's a very simple grey cardigan with knife ribs. It now has a few cigarette holes, a worn area on the back, and it's literally come apart at the seams. I've been playing around with a pattern inspired by Andy Goldsworthy's earthworks. A knit-on-knit cable is referred to as "shifting sand". Doesn't that sound like a Kung Fu move? I want to incorporate this into my cardigan design. Meanwhile, I've just finished a pair of arm warmers for my friend Caroline using this shifting sand pattern. I was also told that arm warmers are referred to as "gauntlets", not arm dickies.

Hanna and boyfriend Dave arrived — she finished her first sock and started the next one while Dave made himself another watchman's cap. There were a few new faces. Megan brought some friends, Alexandra, Stacey, and Emeline. They are also members of Archie's Park Slope Knitting Circle. Tomo asked me if I've gone to the Atlantic Avenue circle run by Daniel. I didn't know that Atlantic had one. Isn't it funny that most of the Brooklyn knitting circles are run by men?

I settled at a table with Liz (from Detroit) and Tomo. Liz has been to Freddy's before, she's actually a big fan of the Kings County Oprey, an evening of contemporary and origianl Blue Grass music. Liz works at a veterinary clinic on the Upper East Side. She reported that the cost of fuel has directly affected veterinary care. She had to inform clients of the new prices changes, some supplies have gone up by 200%. Even cats have fallen victim to the unsettling socio-economics and weird weather patterns we are all experiencing.

By 10:00 pm the cheese cake was mostly finished. I brought the last slice to bar owner Frank Yost. Emmeline pointed out that the clock on the wall had the wrong time. It's actually broken, I remember when it was knocked clear off the wall on Opera Night. The sopranos were getting routy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Knit PH at Perk: April 10, 2008

We've had some warm days and night lately. It's not officially spring yet but my freind Ellen's Star Magnolia tells anther story. I pruned the tree in her front yard two years ago to to revive it's bloom. Another sign of spring is the Freddy's v. O'Connors softball game. It's almost time to dust off the mascots (below) and get in shape. Over a beer I told teammate Jim that I bought a cup. He laughed at me and said "Geek! No one wears a cup on our team!" I stopped myself before I told him it was a two-for-one special.

Most people are shocked into quitting smoking for health reasons or fear of cancer, I was inpired by something else, my March Amex bill. I bought 47 packs of Marlboro Lights at $7.30 each — the total: $343.10! I was horrified. When do I spend $300 on myself? It's now been four days and five cigarettes since I bought a box set of NicoDerm CQ, Step 2. Cost: $47 for a two-week set. My cheapness factor just might be the hero in this health segment. In a shocked but celebratory mood, I decided I'd occupy my time by learning how to really use my camera, the Canon Rebel XT 350D. I've re-read the entire manual and bought me a how-to book — this one has pictures. I've primarily relied on knowledgeable strangers, daylight settings, and pure luck.

At this month's Knit PH at Perk we had some visitors. Lisa's husband stopped by with Lola (inset: coonhound) and Rudy (above: bassett hound). Lisa's husband is a photographer, he gave me some quick tips on shooting: "Use the green button. THE GREEEEEEN BUTTON!" It was an evening of pressed sandwiches and late winter goods at Prospect Perk. Mike was working on a popular sock pattern from Knitty called "Hedera". He's already made socks for his wife, she showed them off at a family event. Tomo had her green Shi Bui socks as well as her tamarind-colored Jello socks. Her "Knitted Room" project went well, I told her to send me picutres. Archie showed up with new member Diana, an admited craft-addict-latina-hippie-mom from Bensonhurst. Marina hasn't been by in a while so she biked over, arm warmers in tow. We had a shawl corner: Tracey was halfway through her shawl, as was Marci, meanwhile Patty was proofing a shawl pattern for the shop.

Patty mentioned that the zoo will be having a spring sheep shearing demonstration. Lisa reported an article from the New York Times about spring sheep shearing in Montana and New Zealand. It pays about $80 per hour. Patty admitted she hated sheep, I'm not into the idea myself. They do smell mighty bhahahahaad. Archie asked why I've never charged for the knitting circles. registry costs $140 a year. I don't want cost to be an issue with a small seasonal group. But it has grown quite a bit to over 132 members, over four seasons. Maybe I should shear some sheep for a few hours. I'll consider a collection for this fall.

A wooly critical mass gathered, so it was time to make a group decision about expanding Knit PH into summer. I got an enthusiastic "YES". Starting in 2008, Knit PH will be taking a summer break from Maha's and the Perk until the fall. We still have to keep the Freddy's slot otherwise we'd lose the calendar date. I received confirmation that we can use the Brooklyn Museum sculpture garden and the picnic house in Prospect Park. These are both FREE and have decent bathroom facilities. Archie had a great idea about organizing a big Park Slope/Prospect Heights BBQ/knit. He suggested knitting a balloon to mark our territory — I'm sure this will scare off bees, errant spinners and stray weavers. Tomo and Marci suggested a yarn trade, I suggested book loans. A few people have already responded to help organize.

The great urban outdoors, good friends, late summer sunsets, the enticing smell of grilled food, dogs, children, music — all we'll need now is cooperative weather. I'm reminded of the family that was killed by lightning in Propsect Park when they ran under a large tree during a freak storm.

9:00 PM came quickly, we packed up and moved outside as Prospect Perk owner, Murat, started cleaning up and bringing in the benches. Archie, Tracey and I waited with Diana until her husband arrived with her daughter. By a total coincidence, he works at the museum. He said he overheard the events coordinator (Beverly), speaking with some guy (me) about a knitting circle at the museum. I told him to put in a good word for us. I'd like to one day knit indoors at the Auguste Rodin room. "The Thinker" could use a cardigan. No?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Givin' Me the Finger

Look what I made, knit bling! This is a knitting thimble, it's an aid for Fairilse knitters who use the continental style of holding the needle. One or more strands of color sit between the posts. The tensions is made by holding the body of yarn over the pinky finger.

Dan and I took Caroline's silver workshop this past Saturday and Sunday. Caroline Gleman is a jewelry designer (and Dan's wife) who specializes in wedding sets. She and her creative partner Michael Fitzgerald own and operate Studio174 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. What a rockin' class! We learned the basics of working with silver, then used those techniques to make jewelry. I never realized how maliable silver is — it can be pulled into wire, twisted, hammered, and bent. It's almost like working with hard clay. BTW, on Saturday Dan roasted two chickens and made risotto for the group. We sat up on the roof for lunch, it felt like a summer picnic in April. I own a few commercially made thimbles, but they're for people with tiny hands. Although they are about $3 a piece, they tend to break easily. I admit I was seduced by the umlaut. The difference? Mine's better. Booooya Grandma!

(l-r) Inox™ "Norwegian Thimble", Clover™ "Yarn Guide", Inox™ "Strickfingerhut für Jacquard Muster"

In this workshop we learned about materials and techniques. Silver (Ag) is usually alloyed with other metals such as copper and zinc for strength. "Sterling" describes a grade of high quality (92.5% silver by weight). Working with silver is a very physical process that requires patience, a good grip, and your undivided attention.

Silver can become brittle by simply overworking it. To recondition the metal, silver must be "annealed" with heat. It's first coated flux (borax and ammonium chloride) then heated with an acetylene torch until it acquires a dull rosey glow. It's cooled in water, and cured in a warm boric acid bath, then neutralized with a baking soda solution. This heating/cooling process is repeated as often as needed.

The day started with drawing a short slug of silver through gauge plates. I made medium and large wire by pulling the slug through progressively smaller slots until I got the gauge I wanted. Constant annealing is important when the metal becomes too difficult to pull through the plate. Afterwards the wire can be flattened using a mallet between steel blocks or pulled through a press for a more accurate thickness.

Sunday morning, Dan and I roamed Williamsburg looking for coffee, bagels, and whitefish. For lunch, Paul and Gabby made some nice sandwiches with provolone, roasted peppers, and hard salami. They also brought watermelon. It was a bit chilly that day but we took our lunch break on the roof again. Meanwhile back in class... the bridge of my knitting thimble is made from a wide square wire and bent into shape with rounded and square jewelry pliers. Caroline helped me with much of the shaping. The continual loop shape is known as "the dragon". It reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy's earthworks.

The knitting thimble was made in three peices which required silver welding — that is a whole other skill set to acquire. My first weld didn't take becase my metal wasn't hot enough. In my second attempt I used the wrong grade of silver soder so the weld snapped off. The third weld finally took but that was pure luck — the soder liquified and drew into the join. As you can see (above) the heating and cooling process creates a patina that must be cleaned with a file and sandpaper. I did a lot of sanding and filing to refine the shapes. Fine sanding is used before the final polish.

Buff polishing is one way to finish silver after fine sanding. Soft clay is used as a polishing agent. You can control the level of sheen you want to give your silver. That's Dan at the wheel finishing his Thunder Cats medalion. The metal took on a deep luster. For an extremely high polish we used the sonic drum, a machine uses vibration filled with stainless steel beads called "shot" and tap water. The silver is layered with shot and left in the sonic drum overnight. This is best used for fine wire work, chains, and delicate casting.

When we took the silver out to dry it seemed to glow. I couldn't imagine trying to buff these fine pieces at the wheel. We had a lot of talented people that day in the studio, some people returned to rent work space, for some this was their third workshop with Caroline. Jodie mentioned that she wanted to take the gold workshop. While waiting for a welding station to free up, I ate the last poppy seed bagel. I got a chance to look at Caroline and Michael's work in the glass show cases. I now had a greater appreciation of their craftsmanship. I'm defintiely coming back for more... and possibly bialies with lox spread.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Knit PH at Maha's: April 03, '08

I showed up a bit early to re-arrange the half-round table at Maha's. I had the lentil soup and zatar bread — Middle Eastern soul food. I also had a walnut chocoalte chip cookie, yum. With the table sitting at 90°s from the wall we can now comfortably fit ninr people and a bird in our group. New member Nancy pointed out it was a bit "cozy" at Maha's. I didn't set out to find the smallest places to knit, our group has just grown and sprouted legs. As Knit PH assembled at Maha's, I mentioned that I was thinking of expanding our seasonal Knit PH into spring and summer in an abandoned phone booth on Underhill. I did leave a few messages at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday, one of them bound to call me back with an answer. I like the smaller groups though, it makes for quality conversation.

I'm not the only monkey in town — so I found out. Esther brought in “Ricky Marc Bones from LA, dude!”, a yarn monkey in progress from the west coast. He's green and blue and stands (or hangs) about 7" tall. Esther is Bensonhurstanite by way of France and Germany. She's a member of the Krafthaus MeetUp group along with Christina, Tomo, and Nancy. There's a lot of cross-pollination through the MeetUp and Ravelry. It's funny meeting people online then meeting them in person. Chris introduced herself and said "You don't look like a monkey" to which I replied "Well, not today". Chris is another person from the publishing world, she works at Scholastic Textbooks (Ancillary Computer Learning). I introduced her to Marci who works in children's books at Random House. Marci was working on her tiny shirts, they are roughly keychain size. Marci was thinking of starting a Windsor Terrace/Kennsington group at Vox Coffee Shop or Connecticut Muffin. I think it's a great idea, WT couuld use a knitting circle.

Erin is new the group. She owns a cool bead shop in Cobble Hill called Brooklyn Bead Box. Her shop has bead kits, chain, clasps, findings, gold, and jewelry making supplies. They also host jewelry-making parties for kids and adults. Sounds like fun. The KraftHaus people were glad to meet her, they make everything from soap to quilts to jewelry. It's good to know there's a local shop, I hate hiking to the city's bead district just to buy large buttons. Erin previously worked in fabric design, as did Christina. They talked shop. So did Scholastic Chris and I — I was the AD at Time for Kids TE, their arch enemy. Both Scholastic and TFK steal employees away from each other on a constant basis. I beleive the euphamism is called "courting".

I finished Caroline's black Hugo, I should have brought my tap light. I kept dropping stitches, then going back to pick them up with a hook. Black is hard to work in low light. I also brought in my titanic spool of wool-silk that I bought from School Products. It was cheaper than buying skeins, but it's not very protable. I was thinking of rolling down the hill. I'm finally getting back to Caroline's gauntlets — I made one. I learned this week that these arm-length fingerless gloves are not called "arm dickies".