29 September 2008

My New Baby

Is coming later this week. After years of waiting, I finally bought a spinning wheel!

all photos by kathkol

She's coming all the way from Michigan... a Rick Reeves 24" Saxony. I'm so excited I can barely stand it.

It's Banned Books Week!

We interrupt your regularly schedule knit blogging to bring you an important announcement: the American Library Association is celebrating Banned Books Week, 26 September - 4 October 2008. Hie thee to the library and check out some scandalous, inciting, dangerous books!

Celebrate the freedom to read!

Also, read Fahrenheit 451 if you have not already done so -- immediately, if not sooner. You can thank me later.

Top 100 Most Challenged Novels of the 20th Century

  • Ulysses, James Joyce
    Burned in the U.S. (1918), Ireland (1922), Canada (1922), England (1923) and banned in England (1929). Source: 3, p. 66; 5, pp. 328-30; 10, Vol. III, pp. 411-12; 557-58, 645

    (Just because you can't understand it is not reason to burn it. Lack of punctuation is not a reason, either, no matter how many commas are missing. There are, I have been assured by Mr Jasper Fforde, a number of literary detectives currently trying to locate the whereabouts of the missing punctuation.)

  • The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
    Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic. Source: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, Mar. 2002, p. 61.

Apparently book-burning remains a popular activity, despite evidence that burning books does not make them go away. Please help stop this wanton destruction of work. READ A BANNED BOOK!

26 September 2008

Fall reflection

There is something comforting about bringing out the electric kettle, diving into the stash of teas, and reinstating the favorite mug after its sabbatical in the cupboard by the kitchen sink. The temperatures have dropped into the low 60s and I've pulled out my favorite brown tweed woolen sweater. It's not really cold yet; autumn is in full swing, although the leaves have not begun to change. The wind tonight tells me that winter is on his way, and will come regardless.

I wanted to say something about the stone floor in the kitchen, but a stone floor is a stone floor -- much like my feet, it seems to enjoy being perpetually cold, regardless of the season. Maybe all a stone floor really wants for is a woolen floor cozy. But then, the floor wouldn't gather any character. The stones in the floor have a slight sheen in the high-traffic areas of the kitchen; I suppose each trip to the fridge or quick peek in the pantry buffs and polishes and infinitesimally wears them down.

It is time for apples and cider and fires outside, for picnics and golden orange burnt amber rust fiery warm and turning the knife-edge of cold, for sharp inhalations and the scent of fall everywhere. Knitting feels more at home now -- although it is a constant throughout the year -- as though it were easier to understand making something warm when one wants, at that moment, a little more warmth -- easier than it was in the slow, hot days before, when warmth was too abundant. Of course, winter brings us slow and hot in different forms; in the wintertime, we slowly sip our hot drinks, relishing its warmth from within -- warmth that dispels the coolness outside.

In this way, humans are rarely at home in their environment: when it's hot outside, they crave cool inside; when it's cold outside, they crave warmth within. The few exceptions are those perfect days of fall (and sometimes spring). For me, fall is the season of perfect balance.

Balance is a recurring theme in my life -- primarily in my artwork. Visual balance -- whether of color, size, weight, value -- is paramount to my work. Balance is important in my spiritual views and in my philosophy. Perhaps that's why I love fall so much. Fall is the fulcrum point of the seasons.

21 September 2008

Adventures in Lace Blocking

So you want to learn how to block a circular piece of knitted lace, hmmm?

Then you may or may not have come to the right place.

Actually, this is not really a lace-blocking tutorial. It's not exactly the anti-tutorial, either. It's sort of a mid-tutorial. It has little instructional value and also contains little or no destructional value. It's not Lace Purgatory (that's where you are while you're knitting something like this), but it's... it's a Tutorial for Wafflers (holding inside all political commentary, starting... NOW).

I was so excited when I finished knitting the Firmaments Shawl.

Voila, the finished piece of lace:

it doesn't look like much, does it?

If you find your finished piece of lace looks rather like a disappointing amorphous blob (see photo above), rest assured, you have done nothing wrong. Yet. You'll find out shortly if you have messed up in your knitting. Rest assured that you will, in the coming segment, have plenty more opportunity to mess it up completely.

(Still holding inside all political commentary)

Technical notes: the grey foam block thingies are pre-cut exercise matting bought at Lowe's (a home improvement chain store, for my out-of-country readers). They are found in the flooring section and come in a package of four. I figured four of these large blocks would be sufficient space for blocking my shawl...

The first thing to do when blocking a piece of lace, if you want it to look good, is to chuck it in the sink.

Please note that it's a good idea to be extremely gentle with your piece, depending on fiber content. This requires a degree of common sense and research into your fiber. If you're using non-superwash wool, don't chuck it in there with hot water and soap, mash it around, agitate it thoroughly and rinse in cold water. To find out what this does, please reference Nicky Epstein's Knitting Never Felt Better.

I was less than super-careful when washing this piece because it's silk and alpaca. Silk is incredibly strong and near-indestructible (except by its enemy, MONSIEUR SOLEIL! Keep your silks out of the sun unless you want them to disintegrate) and alpaca does not felt readily. I used a teensy amount of Seventh Generation brand liquid dish soap, filled the sink with warm water, added shawl, let soak for a few minutes, drained; squished, rinsed, washed with a little human shampoo, rinsed with a little human conditioner.

So I have a wet blob of alpaca and silk.

Next, I started to stretch it out on the blocks and realized the blocks were not large enough. I went back to Lowe's and bought another package of foam blocks. To get the appropriate size, I cut the new blocks in half, and half of those halves into quarters:

I pinned the center, then started working in the cardinal directions, pinning opposite sides (e.g. pin north, then south; pin east, then west; NE, SW; and so forth).

Fully pinned out:

The Firmaments Shawl

  • Yarn: Valley Yarns 2/14nm Alpaca/Silk
  • Pattern: Emily's Firmaments Shawl by Bonnie Sennott
  • Yardage: unknown until I bother to weight the remaining cone
  • Diameter after blocking: YES.
  • Awesomeness factor: +++1
  • Ends darned in neatly: no comment! this interview is now OVER.

I let it dry overnight and unpinned it the next day. I don't have after-blocking photos yet, but, as with most things, I'll have them eventually.

10 September 2008

Ravelry - Completely Pointless and Arbitrary Group - Swhap Dooks!

just had to share the awesome amigurumi that [knittinglibrarian](person) made for me. The swhap's [sic] theme was "Pirates and/or Ninjas."

This is my pirate-themed Ravatar:


Frenchie, the pirate frog, blissfully unaware
that a cupcake-throwing ninja is about to attack...

09 September 2008

slightly off-topic

I bought a set of INANIMATE stickers from modcloth, a fun indie and retro-style clothing store.

It's one way to have a grownup version of Richard Scarry.

08 September 2008

Firmaments Lace Shawl

This is the shawl that never ends --
Yes, it goes on and on, my friends.
Some people started knitting it,
Not knowing what it was
And they'll continue knitting it forever just because
This is the shawl that never ends--

At least, that's what I tell people when they ask what I'm knitting.

Firmaments Shawl, Day 532
I cut the Fountain Lace section a few repeats short today. I fear the shawl is now growing beyond my control. I'm hoping today's action will help to at least curb its growth once it is in the blocking stage.

Firmaments Shawl, Day 540
Partway through the edging. I am beginning to have doubts about curtailing the Fountain Lace section. Perhaps it would have been better to do five more repeats of the chart. But, dear God, I could not have done five more repeats of Chart C! I fear that I will never have a restful night's sleep -- one without the page full of the same chart, over and over again, always trying to highlight a finished row -- and the highlighter ink never sticking! Would I have been haunted, night after night, by the Fountain Lace chart's taunting rows?

No, I had to stop at six repeats. It was for the shawl's own good. Too many more and I would have put it down altogether. I needed to start the edging, to know that there was -- there truly was -- an end in sight.

The double-pointed needle recommendation for the edging is a dangerous choice. I put a point protector on one end. That cut the risk of losing all the stitches when the shawl was in transit by half. It does nothing, however, for ensuring that the shawl does not escape while in transit. I'm currently using my "Don't You Wish Your Girlfriend Could KNIT Like Me?" knitting tote, and that seems to provide enough protection. I still keep an eye on it, though. I can't risk it springing out and engulfing an innocent bystander. Something about the alpaca part of the yarn that I don't trust...

Firmaments Shawl, Day 542
The shawl has been surprisingly quiet lately, as I slowly work my way through the edging. It makes me nervous, that this has been going a little too smoothly. I know that there is a graft up ahead, to join the beginning and end of the edging into one continuous piece.

And then -- I almost don't want to mention it -- the blocking. I know it will resist that. I suspect that the shawl may be in secret negotiations with my camera, which turned up recently after having been put in a drawer and forgotten for several weeks. Perhaps the camera was out doing reconnaissance, and used its advanced mind-wiping technology to make me forget about it, and think that I had simply forgotten where I put it. I will have to keep a closer watch on that camera. I'm not too worried, though, as long as I can keep it in sight; I know where its batteries are.