April 2007


Some friends of ours had a gig in Windsor Saturday night, and we drove in to see them (NOT_digital). We took the Ed’s Valiant, which meant that for the first time since Christmas, I did not have to drive. It’s not that I mind driving, but Raven is a terrible passenger and a better driver than me – and anyway I haven’t figured out how to do handwork while controlling a vehicle. So Raven drove and I, thinking to give it a treat after it’s been so patient with me, brought the neglected sock.

Now, I have to confess, I have not really been taking this sock seriously. Even before spinning, the new baby, took all the attention away from the poor sock, I wasn’t really appreciating it. I was looking at the surface, which is leftover acrylic yarn that I’m trying to use up. I wasn’t seeing the deeper personality of the sock, which is apparently a force to be reckoned with!

I am pretty much a wallflower type. I’m not good at meeting new people, or ‘networking’ – by preference I will stay in my lonely studio and play with fabric and occasionally wish that the blue fairy would come and turn me into someone with the guts to put myself “out there”. Mostly though, I’m content to spend time alone or with my friends in my nice safe ‘closed’ reality. I didn’t even really feel like going out on Saturday, but I haven’t heard these guys play in ages, also there was another friend there who is moving to London this week, and it was the last time I would see her for quite a while. So, I dragged myself and the sock out into the world.

Well! As usual, I spent the evening sitting at the bar, listening to the music and talking mostly to Ron, a photographer friend who goes way back. But the sock? The sock was the life of the party. The sock was all over the place. I lost track of it for a while, because it was talking to people I didn’t know, but at one point I’m certain it was trying to organize a fall fashion show. I overheard it discussing grant applications with someone too, but I think it was only being polite. The sock definitely got me involved in the Artcite gallery anniversary show in May, however, where I will be knitting and forcing encouraging others to knit. It wasn’t the sock that talked to Jonathan about more Ten Dollar Tales work this summer, that was me – but it might have been the sock that negotiated website credit with that group. I also found out later that the sock, through Raven, hooked up with a guy who knows a guy who raises sheep, and it initiated some kind of three-way barter arrangement for wool. I am seriously considering hiring the sock as a publicity manager.

The sock is looking slightly lumpy right now, because I wasn’t the only person knitting on it (OK, maybe the sock is a bit of a slut, but it gets results!) but I’m not going to fix it. There don’t seem to be (surprisingly) any dropped stitches, and I don’t think I have the right to suppress the sock any more. I think I will just let its personality shine. And, I think I will make sure that the sock gets out more often. It’s obviously a good thing for both of us!

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my hands. Maybe because of that fight we had last week. They aren’t pretty – I’ve got the hands of an Irish bog peasant. (Don’t know much about my ancestors except that they were Protestants with a Catholic name who emmigrated in the 1800s sometime and wound up in Simcoe, so I’m thinking they weren’t land barons, y’know?)

I always used to wish I had graceful musician’s fingers. I wanted long pretty nails and smooth skin.
My hands are stubby-fingered and red and scarred. They are cold a lot, and in hot weather they get puffy and rings don’t fit. There’s always a burn on at least one of them, and usually they’re dye-stained and/or have paint ground into the cuticles. They have callouses. They’ve been stabbed, cut, crushed, scalded, and they’ve got arthritis now. I have no idea how they can do some of the things they do. I watch them sometimes when I’m holding a tiny needle or a little brush and wonder how they don’t just crush it or how something so clumsy can not make a giant mess of what it’s doing.
My mom has the same hands as I do. I think they came from her father, but my grandmother’s hands were a mess too, gnarled with arthritis and knuckle-swollen, and one crimpy finger that she squished in a vacuum hose and didn’t have the courage to pull straight, so it set that way. I wouldn’t have had the courage either, I don’t think.
I take my hands for granted most of the time. Sometimes I paint my nails, but then I let the polish get all chipped and horrible-looking, and usually it winds up being covered in acrylic or wood stain or something anyway. They’re changing as I get older though, which is one of the reasons I’ve been watching them lately. My knuckles are starting to get a little bigger too, and my veins show more. The skin is getting kind of wrinkly and weird.
I don’t wish I had long graceful fingers any more. My hands are ugly, but they’ve got character, and they manage to do some pretty amazing things for me, when they’re not jabbing themselves with needles, or chisels, or dipping themselves in chemicals they really shouldn’t. Sometimes they manage to produce neat stuff even when they are doing one or all of those things.
I hope they know I love them.

Ok, that’s enough sappy stuff! I just had to get that out of my system. Besides, I figure the hands deserved some airtime, since I just gave ‘em a real good burn making pies the other day, and they were still nice to me today.

I got a package (finallyfinallyfinally!) in the mail today:

I can weigh tiny things! It goes up to 500g, because I need to weigh packages for mailing too, and they’re usually a couple of hundred grams, but it weighs tiny fluffs of wool, and spools of thread, and a cigarette.

Even more excitingly, I made A Thing. Possibly it even has a name, I don’t know. It isn’t my own idea, I saw one on line the other night whilst surfing, and I would post a link if I had any idea where. If I find it again, I’ll let you know, but if anybody else has seen one, throw it in the comments and I’ll post. It is a funny-shaped piece of wood:

about 7” tall and 4” wide at the base. It is 3/4 of an inch thick, because you need to drill a big hole in the top part for the little piece of dowel, which you also need. I used a 5” long piece of 5/8” dowel, mostly because (let’s all say it together) I had that, and I also had a drill bit that happened to be exactly that size. And the final things you need are a teeny tiny hinge, and a flat piece of wood of some kind.

Can you guess?

It is A Thing For Andean Plying! You can wrap the yarn around it just as if it were your hand, only without all the loss of circulation and horrible crampy badness, and then you can pull the dowel out (PS: don’t glue the dowel in) and the plies will come off easily.

Structurally, this one is finished. Aesthetically, I’m waiting for the stain to dry so I can add some gold paint. Then I’m going to varnish it, having already sanded the heck out of it, so it will be smooth and not-yarn-catchy. I’m going to glue a strip of felt over the back flap too, so that the yarn can’t wander down and get stuck in the hinge . But (I forgot to take a picture of the back) it’s just a strip of wood that flips out like on the back of a picture frame, so you can prop it up and have your hands free.

How cool is that?

EDIT – I found a link this morning – it is a  “Handy Andy” (why do spinning tools have such very silly names?) and there is a picture and explanation, as well as the opportunity to buy one instead of having any fun at all making it, here.

Because my browser has decided that today it will not recognize anyone’s comment boxes…  it gets moody like this sometimes, I blame the weather.

The important thing is:  Kat! I know, you told me you got it!  I remember!  I’m sorry, I’m a mailbox-obsessed airhead.  With a memory like a sieve.

I did get mail today though.  More on that later!

Sunday was The Perfect Day. Got some housecleaning done, got some orders done, got some stuff I wanted to work on done. It was great. And, it started out with this really impressive sky, which I managed to take a not-nearly-so-impressive picture of:

Then on monday the sky was so incredibly gorgeous it literally stopped me in my tracks on the way to the coop. I actually grabbed my chest; it was like appallingly  bad acting. That day instead of trying to take a picture, I thought “sorry guys, I’m just going to sit here and enjoy this one myself”.  So I did.

I am totally ashamed that I still have not finished the sock pattern. This is incredibly lame of me. If I could just sit down and bloody well do it… but I swear, it’s making me blind. It’s my own fault, I did so well starting out the knitting journal, I wrote out the whole cable pattern so that it could be charted, and… well, that was about as far as it got. Which, you would think, would be a lot. But no, because I got all fancy and threw in needle downsizing and calf shaping and all that, it has to actually be written out, and of course I didn’t make notes at the time, because it all seemed so straightforward. Well, it is. I have no problem remembering what I did and where. It’s the writing it out that is giving me flashbacks to a symbolic logic course I once suffered through. So, I’m doing just about anything I can think of to avoid working on it.

That isn’t hard, because what I can think of is spinning. Holy sheep dip, Batman, is that ever cool! And I can’t say you didn’t warn me, because you did, but addictive? It’s like what I imagine crack would be like, if – um – crack was anything like twisting fibre into string. I now believe that my husband is wrong, knitting is not a virus, it’s a gateway drug. Some people, they have a knitting habit, and they never take up anything more dangerous, unless maybe they do a little crochet now and then – you know, at parties. But if you’re a habitual knitter, you’re going to be keeping company with other fibre users, and some of them are into the hard stuff. And you know, between peer pressure and simple curiosity… you think ‘oh, I’ll just try it once. I’ve got that clump of wool my in-laws found on a hedge, but I’m not going to do it regularly or anything, that would be crazy!’

Yeah, and in less than a month you’re hanging around pastures trying to trade food and your own strong back for fleece. It’s sick. I’m eyeballing the crops across the street wondering if they’d miss a few plants, and how long do you have to ferment the soy exactly before you can extract the fibres?

Just now – just now – my husband said he was going out for a cigarette, and did I want to join him? So I saved this and stepped out for a minute – next thing I know, I’m sitting on the porch and – you guessed it – spinning! What the heck?

I’m really feeling good right now though, because last night I finished this: My First Yarn.

It is actually the second attempt at spinning, (everyone remembers the funny first attempt, four metres of something thick enough to hold up a bridge?) but it’s the first that I’ve actually plyed (spelling?) into yarn. And while it’s still thick, it is at least a feasible thickness. This could reasonably be made into something, and the weight of it would not crush a man. (Well, it could be made into something if we pretended there were more than 19 yards of it, which there aren’t. But it happened once, it can happen again!) Meantime what is on the spindle now is thinner again, so progress is still being made. (Yes, it would be more logical to make enough of one yarn to actually be usable.  I address this below.)

For the record: cat brushes work just fine for carding. Tedious, yes, but perfectly effective if you have a big box of wool and nothing else to hand.
Technically, two coat hangers do also work in place of a niddy-noddy, but not without lot of clanging and cursing, and I’ll be looking into what other dowel I’ve got hanging around before I try that again!

The problem now is the effect this is going to have on the Incredible Yarn Stash. In the first place, while I am spinning I am not knitting. I have a sock-in-progress that is rapidly drifting downstream into the land of UFO, because all the times when I would ordinarily be picking it up and knitting a round or two, I’m picking up the wool instead. Also, I have mentioned before how the reason I do the things I do is that I find the transformations so incredibly cool? Well apparently to my brain, “clump of wool into yarn” is much cooler than the more complete transformation of “clump of wool into sweater”. I realize that this is irrational. Presumably it is based on the fact that I like yarn better than I like knitted objects generally. Also, I don’t wear much colour, so I’m much better at appreciating colors in yarn while it is still yarn. Once it is a garment, I just think “mm. Bright.” While it’s still yarn, I think “OOOOhhh, pretty!”
Poor abandoned sock

In other news, a graphics designer for a marketing company is trading me some logo and branding work for a stupid-expensive outfit they want. This is very exciting, and I’m very happy with what they’ve come up with so far – now my part is I have to generate this outfit. Some of it is a kind of a padded bodysuit-thing, so I spent large chunks of yesterday figuring out shapes for that. Also, one of the actresses from Dorian Gray is buying her corset, but for some reason she would prefer a rebuild to the dockyard-prostitute original. Go figure! So I’m putting that together as well.

Oh, and I figured out what to do with the seahorse! Now it is a wallet.

Unfortunately, it claims to be kind of sad and lonely without a matching bag. Also unfortunately, it turns out that a) yes, seahorses DO have skeletons, and b) seahorse skeletons are predictably nifty-looking. This can’t go anywhere good.


Ok, it’s the 23! That means it’s “Post some professional quality work and link it to this site day! I am even as we speak working on the sock pattern, (well ok, no, I’m writing this right now, obviously, but you know what I mean) with the intention that I will post it today. I just have to write down the heel part, which is easy, right? And draw out the chart. Which should be easy, but is maybe not. This whole “writing out your knitting pattern so that someone else can read it” thing is hard! And unless one of you actually feels like knitting the darn thing, I still won’t know if I’ve done it correctly. I suppose someone who knows what they’re doing might be able to tell just by reading it… Jodi? Anyone?
In either case, posting the sock pattern for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant day only half counts, because I had always intended to post it, so while it is indeed a free pattern (which, assuming legibility will unquestionably generate a pair of large socks, since I have a pair to prove it) it isn’t an extra thing I’m sharing.
I haven’t any other brilliant sock ideas lying around, and haven’t thought of anything else of a reasonable size to throw up a tutorial about (but you know you can always ask, right? I mean, I just do stuff, it doesn’t always occur to me that someone else might want to. I’m used to people thinking I’m nuts!) and posting a picture of a piece of fibre art is not really useful to this particular cause. So instead, I shall follow in Gecko Girl’s footsteps: I shall take my own advice and throw some poetry out there. These were written a few years ago now, when I was living in London (ON).

Jasmine and Ivy

You observed the difference
Between inference and implication
But Peter said
Carpe per diem et fugit!
And the Lost Boys pulled out the skeletons
That were hiding in your china cupboard
They came out and danced
They were your friends
And you took them, then
And dressed yourself in skulls
But underneath the skulls it’s you
It’s really you
Wendy
The Betrayer
Who grew up.

I don’t really imagine this next one qualifies as “professional quality”, I’m afraid. It’s actually a eulogy I wrote for my grandmother – but while I’m posting poetry here, I think that this one ought to be included:

Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley

Maybe it’s not fair
But what I mourn is what I’ll never know.
Lost behind piles of fabric
Long beyond your control,
Lost inside a role of meals badly coped with,
Beautiful clothes that I put on my dolls
Costumes
The secret of how to make clothes-peg people
My own happy childhood.
Where is the woman I’ll never meet?
Beautiful, talented
Selfless, creative, young.
Your finger, bent for forty years
Your accidents were silly, after.
We remember you as funny, eccentric
Your talking birds and tatted lace
And miles of tiny stitches.
Did you really want those dresses for yourself?
And would you have grown bored, not finished
If they hadn’t been so small?
Were you patient, and were you very lonely?
And did you know how loved and beautiful
You always, always were?

I remember plastic salt cellars
And endless mismatched glasses
When the table was set it always seemed as if
Someone hadn’t known when to stop.
I remember
“My name is Jan Jansen, I come from Wisconsin…”
Life with you wasn’t full of books, but
Things to look at and play with.
Your world was texture and opulence:
The indescribable smell of your kitchen
The feel of silk.
And were you relieved that I could play alone?
Or did you understand my brother better
Because he needed to be amused
Wanted to play “store” and “school”,
Because he was a Boy?

One night, your brother came.
That night, you weren’t Nana
You were just another grown-up, talking in the living room
Boring stuff I didn’t want to understand.
If I had paid more attention then
Would I know more?
Could I fill in some of the gaps
Now that I wish I understood?
Would it have helped these last few years?
Or was it enough
That I could talk about fabric and texture
And the beautiful clothes that I saw at the theatre one night,
Enough to know that you and I could make these things?
Did you survive and live for ninety years
Because you could still tell me what rucking meant?

So yesterday started out well enough… I got an order shipped off, wrote and posted a reply to my knitting pen pal (if you’re reading this, Jennifer, it’s on the way!), did the dishes, got some laundry done, and managed to make a visible dent in the chaos that is the studio. Not bad! I did accidentally make a bonnet while putting away some muslin, but it could have been worse.

The picture is black and white because it was the only way I could show you at all. My poor little camera and I have been getting along pretty well lately, but it flat out refused to take a picture of a white muslin bonnet in a sun-filled room.
The trouble didn’t start until quite late, when I sat down to try and do some paperwork.
HANDS: I wanna spin!
BRAIN: Sorry, you can’t. We didn’t card wool today. Just pipe down a minute, ok? This is important.
HANDS: I wanna… ooh, what’s that? Look!
BRAIN: Yes?
HANDS: Sharon B posted a pretty embroidery stitch! Shiny!
BRAIN: Yep, she does that, you know.
HANDS: I wanna embroider something!
BRAIN: Look, I’m really busy, I just… what?
HANDS: I wanna embroider something!
BRAIN: You don’t even like embroidering, do you?
HANDS: Yes I do, shut up. Look, it’s all spiky. I wanna make a seahorse.
BRAIN: Of course you do. You know, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that… all you ever want to make are seahorses and skeletons. If I ever find a picture of a seahorse’s skeleton, we’re in real trouble.
HANDS: That’s not true. Do seahorses have skeletons?
BRAIN: I don’t know. That isn’t the point.
HANDS: I do so think of other things. I think of… socks!
BRAIN: Three out of our last five pair of socks had skulls on them.
HANDS: (…)
BRAIN: Now look, I just need to get this finished, ok? I’ve been putting it off too long.
HANDS: I WANNA MAKE A SEAHORSE! You made a bonnet, and you used the machine and hardly let me help at all!
BRAIN: I’m sorry; I wasn’t trying to leave you out. I just wanted to do it quickly, you know?
HANDS: I’m gonna go pick some colors.
BRAIN: I am not drafting a seahorse for you right now!
HANDS: That’s ok, I’ll figure it out myself. I only want a little one.


BRAIN: I thought you said a little one?! That’s three times the size of a real seahorse!
HANDS: There are bigger kinds. Leave me alone, it’s pretty.
BRAIN: It’s huge! What are you going to do with that?
HANDS: Sshhhh, I’m working. Be still a minute.
BRAIN: (•••••)
BRAIN: Hey! Where are you going with those tiny beads?
HANDS: I need them!
BRAIN: That’s it; I’m outta here!

…And that is why I now have a seahorse sampler, and still need to get a lot of work done. What am I going to do with this thing?

Post your Art on the net April 23
Give something away. Draw a picture, write a poem, post a pattern, write a song.

This started as a protest among writers thanks to some… provoking comments from Howard V. Hendrix (outgoing vice pres. of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association).

But it applies to all art mediums, to bloggers (who the gentleman specifically criticizes, among others, apparently blogging makes us weak) to teachers and designers of crafts, and as far as I’m concerned, really a lot to the knitblog community, because sharing is such a big part of it all.

Post the button, share some work, and/or share your thoughts on what this guy had to say – and he does have some thought-provoking things to say, despite their being couched in fairly offensive terms. And spread the word, please!

P.S. The pretty button, which amuses me greatly, was designed by Leigh Dragoon, a friend of my husband’s, who is a talented artist with an online comic and an obvious interest in this issue!

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