Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One Kiss Goodnight

It's that time again, where I actually go on hiatus with malice aforethought, as opposed to the rest of the year where I just dawdle off into the ether until someone reminds me that I have a blog.

I didn't useta poke at others' knitting, I really didn't. I actually subscribed to Vogue until they forgot why they were the 1,000 pound gorilla. I subscribed to Knitters' until they committed several cardinal sins--the first one being "not publishing anything that could reasonably be worn."

I subscribe to InKnitters for the articles--great techniques that actually make for interesting knitting and soemtimes (with a little tweaking) produce a flattering, wearable garment. Or, more likely, techniques that can be filched and re-worked into a more classic line.

And I subscribe to Interweave Knits for much the same reason, with the added bonus that sometimes I'll even want to make something up as written. But I am forcibly reminded that it's a mixed bag.

I mean, look at this. It's on the cover for good reason. A nice color, not too trendy, not too harsh, nicely fitted lines instead of the Garment That Ate New York, and yet I can see this being made in the largest size and still looking good on the wearer. It's what a sweater should be.

And this. I may knit me one of these and put sleeves in. Sleeves with just a skitch of bell shaping--or maybe dead straight. Not ribbed to fit the wrist, straight off the part of the forearm just where it starts to narrow.

And finally this. I have some yarn from Hunters of Brora that needs a life. You've hears of Harris tweed? Hunters of Brora is the mill that spins for Harris. Raspberry, black, or bottle green? Decisions, decisions.

But there are some really lousy design choices being made here. I'm going to skip the ones where it looks like the designer thought, "Hey! I could knit that!" without going to the next step, which is "Should I knit that?" Intarsia willy warmers on size 0000 needles are still just willy warmers--except with a lot more work.

No, I want to focus on the ones where I wonder just what they were thinking before the item went tragically wrong.

Like this one.

This is just a cloud of "feh" from beginning to end. It's a girly silhouette, with the neckline almost around his shoulders, and the round yoke cutting off the breadth of his body. The sweater is too long, so it's a half-assed tunic. And it's a big box. On a skinny little waif, it'd look cute--her pencil collarbones all sticking out, the excess fabric collapsing against her shrunken belly and flapping around her non-hips. You could even try to call it a boyfriend sweater on a chick, and you might get away with it. On a guy? No, not so much. Not unless his boyfriend is the ultra jealous type who wants to be certain no one but NO ONE is gonna look at Steve more than once.

I just want to grab it and yank the neckline up around his neck and ravel off the last four inches and put in some shaping to narrow the body around his hips. Oh, and remove his faux nose ring and teach him the pleasures of tea. He's trying waaaaay to hard to be trendy in his metrosexual sweater--and he's only made it to 2002. Sad. Really sad.

On the other hand, obviously the sample was sized for petites and they only had a tall model:

You can have a sweater with bracelet length sleeves or a sweater that hits at the high hipbone. Anything else looks like it shrunk in the dryer (eeeeeeek!!)or it belongs to your younger sister. Who's like, eleven, with really good taste.

Yes, I KNOW it's silly to knit inches of sleeve that you'll only push up out of the way. I habitually do the same thing. Could we at least compromise a little, and knit the forearm so it blouses out a bit above a rib or close-knit hem that holds the sleeve up so it looks like your sleeves are long enough? Like you just pushed them up for a minute, and any second now you're going to roll them back down because of course they hit right between your wristbone and ultimate thumb joint? Thank you.

And finally, this sweater, speaking of things that shrunk in the wash:

Well, we finally have a sweater to go with That Skirt. Now you have a whole outfit you can't go anywhere in. What the hell they didn't have a model thin enough? Look at the strain on the buttons! Waitaminnit--this comes in two sizes, a 30" chest and a 40" chest. So the model is probably 34" around, and looks shoehorned into the garment. The schematic shows a straight, boxy silhouette--it's being pulled out of shape to fit the body underneath, rather than oh, I dunno--building in shaping with short rows? Taking advantage of the fact that you're creating the cloth and the garment all at once so you can take a nip here and tuck there rather than taking the lazy man's way out and just writing in inches worth of negative ease?

Fie on you. Fie fie fie.

And that will do us till the new year. Perhaps in 2007 I will resolve to go ahead and poke at others' knitting to my cold black leathery heart's content. If nothing else, it looks like I'd get at least 4 good posts out of it. Maybe six--I'll have to review their publishing schedule.

See you once we've swept up the confetti and worked off the excesses of the holidays.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Penultimate Post

Today tastes like chocolate, dried mangoes, and the paste that comes in the jar with the stick--the sweetish kind that you'd get in kindergarten. It's been a day of ups and downs.

First the downs--the waterbed sprung a leak ON THE BOTTOM OF THE MATTRESS. Earlier this week, my clean dried laundry that our cleaning lady (The Crazed Monkey of Cleaning to the cats) had laid out on my bed was . . . dampish. I was a little puzzled, but figured my socks had been in a heavy load and hadn't dried all the way.

I changed my mind when I climbed into bed that night and rolled into a wet spot. Up we sprung, dried off what we could and laid down towels so I could sleep--except for the dripping. Up we sprung again, to see just how bad it was.

Not too bad, except we couldn't find the hole on the top, so therefore . . . Hence, this morning was spent in renting a pump (n.b.--make RESERVATIONS next time), draining the mattress, hauling the mattress cover and liner out to dry, filling the mattress upside down to see where the leaks were and patch them, then draining the mattress, moving it back into the bed, then filling the mattress and making the bed. Shooooo! I have set the heater on 'Nuclear Blast' and piled every blanket in tho house atop it so maybe I'll only need to wear ONE set of thermals and a sweatsuit to bed tonight. Or sleep in the guest bedroom.

Meanwhile, even though I am facing the usual rush of Christmas shopping and creating, I, uh, signed up for a charm swap. Hoo. I have no willpower. I need to join a Creatives Anonymous group--"Hi, I'm Spike." "Hi, Spike." "I have no control over my brain . . . is that a handknit sweater you're wearing, Group Leader?" "Stick to the subject, Spike." "Right. So, in fifty-five words . . . oh, wait, I can't do that here, can I? Lessee-- 'I am Spike. I am/ A pawn of the creative/ And I need some help.' Better?" "Spike, that's a haiku. Go sit in the corner with your sponser." "Can I knit??" "SPIKE!!!!"

Yeah. Like that. So anyway, I like charm bracelets and treasure necklaces, but the thought of making twenty-thirty different charms makes me woozy. I could--I like making beaded stitch markers, and that's essentially all these are--but the thougt of setting out like that is like thinking of hopping up from the couch and running a marathon.

However, in a swap, where they can all be the same, or all different, or all very similar but not identical--I like this. I can play with this and that and try it three ways until I like it--then make one for me to keep and swap the rest! And get back a bunch of different goodies very clearly made by different hands, and then lay hands on chain and clasps and make me bracelets to dance about my wristies. It looks like this may become an ongoing swappy, which would please me no end. Or, there's a Yahoo group dedicated to handmade charm swapping, and I may join in there after getting my tooties wet here. It's all good.

We have not yet acquired the 13 book in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. This is a bad thing. Hint hint hint. Part of walking lightly for me is to purchased used when I can--we go through so much stuff as a nation, swapping out when we're told to--not when we've got the good of it, not when it's worn out, but simply when the marketers tell the sheep that it's time for skinny jeans--no,no, I meant wide-leg pants, no I meant high-waisted boot cut, no I meant skirts. This is why eBay is huge. I buy classic jewelry at pawn shops--diamonds have no provenance--or I buy the gems and have a jeweler make it for me. If I'm going to have new, I don't want to have what all the other sheep have.

But that's another rant.

I finished the Last Lunchbox, though--

Or, at least, the last one of 2006. My knitting focus now goes to socks and Cubs for Kids sweaters. Tiny little potato chippy things that can be dragged around to the holiday parties and worked without concentration.

It's funny--when I look at the projects, I see the projects and the things thet happened around them. When I look at the blanket above, I see Deadwood, Desperate Housewives, Kingdom Hospital, and Babylon 5. I see weeks on the couch terrified that I wouldn't be able to find the job I wanted, that I was going to have to take a position doing SOMETHING at a law office--or maybe a job like I had when I was in college--they always need telemarketers .

But I also see these--

And that's a good thing.

I fell into a chance at free yarn. The only caveats are that it had to be used for Project Linus, and that it was fine gauge. How fine? Well, laceweight--think about four times as thick as sewing thread. On cones. Big honking cones. I'm about halfway through this one--

I wish I'd taken a "before" picture of this--it was unreal. The Last Lunchbox was knitted with multiple strands of yarn to make the total sum about worsted weight, and as you see, it ate up about four cones' worth of yarn that is now out of the closet and living its life. Woooo-hooooo!

And this concludes the Penultimate Post, as M. Snicket would declare. The next one will come next week, and then it's time for the Hallowthankmas vacation. Since this is the second time, it must be the way we've always done it. Looking forward to next year, when it will be tradition!!

And no one would dare mess with the Hallowthankmas tradition, would they? The Great Pumpkin would surely leave turkey drumstick bones and oyster stuffing in their sock drawer . . .

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tied Up In Knots

This rant has been a while in coming, so if it bursts out of your screen and crawls down your throat screetching, please try to be understanding. Fend it off with a mug of cocoa and a warm cinnamon roll. Thanks.

I practice yoga. Well, I practice practicing yoga, I'm not a deadly serious practitioner of the eightfold path. I do some hatha, but I don't take classes wiht the Big Names of Yoga, nor do I make pilgramages to India to study at backwater shalas because anything else is "inauthentic."

And because I can learn from the written word, and know enough to keep my ego off the mat, I subscribe to a couple of magazines. Or rather, used to subscribe, because frankly, I'm never going to be limber enough to be happy with people who can talk out of both sides of their mouth at once.

You see, there's a tremendous emphasis in the text of the articles (and the essays, and the related conversations) about our duty as the Enlightened to walk softly on the face of the earth--don't eat meat, for in order to produce one pound of steak it takes ten pounds of grain, which could feed ten people for ten days, instead of one fat hog (that's you, o USDA taxpayer, do you feel GUILTY YET??) for one meal. Don't wear leather, that's cruel. Don't wear "unnatural" textiles, for they are poisonous and wasteful. And so on, so on, so forth. 1

And that's fine, as far as it goes. I can turn that off and get the good out of the pieces that I come here for. I am one of the Untouchables--I eat meat, I wear leather, and no, I don't feel bad about my choices. I own them, and I own whatever results comes from those choices. I own the possibility that I may choose (or be required to choose) differently in the future.

But what gets my goat (and I thought I'd finally rid myself of the Noxious Flock) is the sheer number of advertisements for stuff. Actually, for STUFF. (Where's the HTML code to make that burst out of the screen, laughing maniacally, spouting fireworks like a Catherine Wheel?)

STUFF like $50 tank tops. STUFF like $180 yoga pants. STUFF like mats, mat bags, and music, all endorsed by the Big Names of Yoga. Will buying this CD make achieving full Padma Shirhasana 3 easier? By golly, looking at this ad it will--but only if I also purchase the tank top, pants, and mat.

And here's the part that finally made my carefully suspended disbelief fall right out of Mool Bandha and into my lap. The Winter issue took up the flag for an anti-mindless consumption holiday season. (Editorial: Deep cleansing releasing breath; we KNOW you're going to celebrate Christmas/Hannukkah, regardless of what we say, so you might as well keep in mind that this is a season of giving, not of receiving, AND CERTAINLY NOT OF BUYING STUFF STUFF AND MORE STUFF for the sake of giving and receiving. Namaste, you unenlightened slugs.) And whaddaya know, instead of the ad on every third page, it was a half ad every OTHER PAGE, with a big section on how this one company was giving away ten percent of its profits on every sale to this one charity!! Woo-hoo!!! You can buy all your goodies through them and know that you are doing good in this world, doncha feel all warm and fuzzy NOW! Look, look!!! One of the REALLY BIG NAMES is a spokesmodel for this company!! Why, just reading this ad should kick your kharma up a notch or two!

And, okay, they had one thing that struck my fancy. A niceish necklace, wrapped around and around the spokesmodel's wrist, just as I enjoy doing with antique paste necklaces. No prices listed in the ad, so I went to the website.

Holy craparoonie. $350 for wood, turquoise, and coral?? For WOOD, with ACCENTS of turquoise and coral????

I do a lot of DIY, and I'm a careful shopper. I am the first to admit I know what materials cost, but not what THINGS cost. If I can get it secondhand (like classic jewelry--diamonds have no provenance) (or silk shirts--once to the drycleaner, and they're just as clean as they'll ever be again) then I do it. I'm not consuming any new resources by doing so--these have already been made. If it's leather or fur in good condition (you'd be amazed at what a pawn shop can have) then I'm not killing another being just to wear it on my back three-five times a year. I know all the secondhand places that specialize in designer jeans, and as long as somewhat worn is chic, I'm good. (When they HAVE to be hard new blue, well, I guess I'll just be out of touch for a while.)

But Spike, the company donates ten percent of their profits to charity? Why would you deprive the charity of their cut? How can you be so unfeeling?

Well, let's do a little math. The jeweler donates ten percent of their profits. Since their asking price includes their profits, the raw materials, the labor, the shipping (of material to the factory, of the finished items to the warehouse), storage space, advertising costs--spokemodel time (you don't think that the Big Name donated her time to go pose for the ads, do you?), photographer's time,printing and binding and mailing cataloges, and probably designers' fees and coffee, you know that the final donation will be substantially less than ten percent of their asking price. But let's go with that for argument's sake. $35 to charity.

The fact that I can make the same sort of lariat in pearls with accents of coral and turquoise plus give $35 to charity for less than a third of what they're asking for really honks me off. How stupid do they presume their customer to be??

If you want the article, buy the article. If you want to donate to charity, donate. But don't let yourself get fooled into thinking that ten percent of profits to whatever charitable organization represents serious goodwill on the part of the manufacturer. Suppliers will offer ten percent off their ASKING PRICE just to entice you to purchase.

Needless to say, I'm practicing letting go this season. One of the things to go will be my subscription to yoga magazines. If I feel the need to find new poses/receipies/information--I'll go to the used bookstore where I can pick them up for a buck apiece, already printed, already used once and being tossed aside.

Walking a little lighter now. Om shanti, ya'll.

1. I'm not going to get into the fuel it takes for the machinery to grow the grain, or the fuel and other chemicals needed for the fertilizer, or for the amazing costs of watering a cotton field or any of that. Someone else may take up the agricultural screed and relate the doleful facts of just how much it costs to farm in a green and sustainabler way--and how much MORE the consumer has to put out to acquire. That's not the point of this particular rant; that's why all my facts are not in order, cross-indexed and footnoted.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Know It's Bad When . . .

. . . you walk by your boss's office and all his clothes are stacked on a chair--and your boss is nowhere to be seen.

How did you miss the fact that he ran naked out of the office and down the street?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oh, They Often Call Me Speedo, But My Real Name Is . . .

. . . Spike. (Surely you saw that one coming?)

But you probably didn't see this:

At the Blanket Bee for Project Linus, the coordinator had come up with a nifty way for the crocheters and knitters to maximize their output. You see, quilting is a pretty quick fiber art--you start with whole cloth, you cut it up into pieces, sew the pieces together to make a new pattern, then tie the quilt or machine quilt it just enough to hold up to some wear, and you're done! Takes an afternoon to a couple of days, depending on how crazy you get with the scissors and electric needle.

But when you crochet, or even knit, you start with fiber and create the cloth as you shape the cloth. And knitting is slower than crochet because the stitches are so much smaller. So a blanket takes at least a week, and more like a month of steady work.

So the quilters are donating tons of blankies, and the knit and crochet folks are still plodding along . . .

But wait! What if we took fleece, used a special rotary cutter blade to make hemstitching holes in the fleece, and then had the String Pushers knit or crochet an edging onto the blanket? And voila! a new way to participate.

I think this looks pretty good for one day of work. I'm not changing my modus operandi any time soon, because I know where I fall on the line of "quantity v. quality"--to me this looks like the equivalent of a craft fair altered T-shirt compared to a tailored blouse--but for those who ached to "do more" somehow, this is a reasonable compromise.