Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Don't Normally Take Requests . . .

. . . but sometimes I do. Especially on a day that tastes like peppermint mocha, whipped cream, and tunafish.

But first, some background.

Ya'll know November is NaNoWriMo, yes? Well, at the office I'm in, there are two creative types who participate each year. Where most folks in this arena have all their academic credentials on the wall (down to notary public certificates and grade school spelling awards, it seems)these two have NaNoWriMo completion wallpaper (a tich blurry from where the .jpg was enlarged and printed, but there all the same).

There's no way I'm committing to a long writing project. Been there, done that, lost three of 'em when the computer died and all that was left was frag salad. After being widowed three times over, I'm just out to play the field.

However, I can't leave well enough alone. Any time there's a challenge, it seems I'm in it up to my ears.

So . . . I just had to do something. I'd been writing fifty-five word stories for postcards off and on as the mood struck me.

Sometimes it would just be a humourous thought:

He walked in as I was clipping the pollen-bearing bits off a floral arrangement. “What are you doing?”

“Castrating flowers,” I leered. “It makes the blooms last longer. After they’re pollinated, they wilt.”

“You know everything, don’t you?”

“Well, no.” I showed him the fuzzy bits in my palm. “I just have all the anthers.”

It was a great way to memorialize something funny that happened, because something funny happens most every day.

It was hot in the office, an itchy heat. He loosened his tie, undid the collar button. That helped, but when he took off his jacket, inspiration struck.

Shoes, socks, shirt, pants -- all joined the pile. Hearing footsteps, he hid in the closet.

“Look,” she said. “I’ve never seen a lawyer shed his skin before.”

But with NaNoWriMo going on, I felt like I had to step up to the plate somehow. While I wasn't willing to commit to a novel, surely I could do something else.

I could write a fifty-five word story evey day for a month! That would be thirty of them . . . and if I kept it up for three months, I'd have near-as-dammit 100 stories. I could bind them into little quartos. One on each page would be the kind of wild slim novel propounded by St. Baty. Fun!

“Some people write a novel in thirty days, but I don’t have their powers of concentration.”

“Or the time. Think of the time involved.”

“Besides, I don’t think I have that much to say. A whole novel? So I thought I’d start small.”

“So what are you working on during NaNoWriMo?”

“A fifty-five word story.”

So far, so good. I've stuck with it, and at the end of this month the first quarter in its quarto will be complete. I made a winsome little bookie out of painted magazine pages, and have tipped-in November and December so far. I need to rebind said litle bookie, as the tip-ins have fattened the text block so much that it poofs out and will not lie still. I have a tendency to use string that's a bit small and sew a bit tight when I work Coptic anyway--two threads in tandem work much better--and I'm not entirely happy with the cover. It doesn't go with the text or reflect what's inside, so I'll put the covers to use with another block and do an artist's journal with them.

I let one of the Tonstant Weaders who knows me IRL read the first quarter bookie, and she loved one of the stories so well that she asked me to put it on my blog so she could print it out/return to it/memorize it/whatever she's going to do with it (except steal it and pass it off as her own). So, thank you Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

I used to believe words were magic; if I said the right things I could have anything and be anything I wanted. My thank you notes were works of art, my holiday cards always included a line specifically tailored for the recipient. It was my own form of white spellcasting.

Then I met my father-in-law.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let's Talk Stash . . .

Today tastes like dark roast coffee, with peppermint, chocolate, and whipped cream. With a sidecar of frustration.

Excessmas is over for another year (well, almost. Tha familial units have yet to gather, due to the weather gods frowning upon us and dumping snow every weekend. While it snoweth not upon the Salt Valley, and yeah, neither upon the Duke City, it snoweth like a muthafucker upon the Continental Divide and the plains between us. Yeah, verily, it snoweth as it hath not done in fifty years. While this moveth mine heart to gladness for the break in the drought cycle, it causeth me to rend my garments and gnash mine teeth at not being able to celebrate Adverb. Especially since Adverb actually FELL on Ephiphany this year. Grrrrrr . . .)

Bus as I was saying before that digression, Excessmas is over at last, and we are doing the simultaneous clearing and adding that takes place each year. The things we love, adore, and will use, are being found homes for . . . usually by discarding something worn and no longer useful or pretty. Other things go in the regifting closet with a note regarding where we got it from, or directly to eBay. Because none of our friends or family shop eBay religiously (or know our username).

And once again I am forced to really look at my stash, and realize that unless I am buried in the Egyptian style, I will never be able to truly use and enjoy all of this.

So once again I vow a strict yarn diet--new yarn can only be acquired after three projects using only stash are completed. No, no exemption for sock yarn--have you seen how much sock yarn you have, Spike??? No acquisition for acquisition's sake, this is not a matter of spending money, it is a matter of space. You refuse to stash on top of the master bedroom closet, you refuse to stash in the attic, you will therefore have to make space in order to get more stuff. And it makes no sense to pick up stuff with no clear purpose in mind--that's how the stash got this big!!

Otherwise, the story may go like this--

No kidding, there we were in the castle. We were surrounded by the Aubergine Dandy (yes, most of the villians have really threatening big bad names like "The Black Scrouge," "Eater of Hearts," "Dragon's Kin." Imagine just how badass a fella would have to be to live with a moniker like "The Aubergine Dandy." Yeah, like that. Now triple it.)

Our best and boldest had fallen to this monster. Only we women, the children, and the oldsters remained. We had thrown everything we had at the foe, and had no arrows nor stones left. It looked hopeless.

We, the knitting guild (or as we call ourselves, the Stitchin' BItches) didn't know this at the time. We were holed up in the uppermost tower for Sockapalooza '07. I opened the door to summon the page and have him bring up more cappachino stout, as we were running out. Oh, and some more finger sandwiches.

But instead of the page, our most puissant wizard was standing there on the stoop, hand raised as if to knock. "Were we being too loud?" I asked, waving to Miranda to turn the stereo down.

"Not at all. I have come to inform you that the castle is beseiged, and about to fall."

"That's a bummer," I said. "What should we do?"

"Fall upon your needles. All is lost," and at that, he began to weep and chewed on his beard in frustration. I looked out the window.

Torches ringed the castle round, the gates were cracking before the battering ram, and the hills writhed with bodies beyond count. Over it all flew the Dread Baroque Eggplant of the Aubergine Dandy.

"Oh, is THAT all??" Minerva cranked the stereo down as I explained to the ladies what needed doing. Bless their stout hearts and large tote bags, we made it to the walls in a twinkling, whereupon we launched . . .


"YO, knit two!" The Stashpult threw cones and skeins to crash among the enemy!

"Slip, slip, knit!" Merino, cotton, and the ubiquitous acrylic flew thick and fast!

Ah, but it was the Lion Brand Homespun in its bulky glory that won the day for us, crushing the enemy and sending the Dandy fleeing like a cat with its tail tangled in a half-finished Starmore sweater. And nevermore has this peaceable kingdom been threatened.

Except by Goblin Knitting. But that's another story entirely.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

This Is Just To Say . . .

I have posted a picture
of the gift that I made you
(that you have not received yet
because of the storm)

to my blog, here.
And thus, spoiled your surprise.
Could you please pretend
to have failed to read this?

Or at least,
to pretend to enjoy it
when the wrapping is torn?

Ok, I guess we've established that when I have nothing to say, I'll filch from William Carlos Williams (i.e., December 3, 2004 "So Much Depends Upon a Writing Exercise"). Shamelessly.

But at least I'm cribbing from a master. Oh, and without further adieu, here's the photo that's gonna get me in Dutch with the Dowager Empress:

It's a book for holding ATC's. We both participate in swapping them, and sometimes interchange between ourselves. I have made her sign a contract in blood that when she uhm, "no longer has need of her collection" I GET IT. Heh. So really, doing cool stuff for her that's ATC related is really doing cool stuff for me . . . oh, that was the "out loud and gloating voice," wasn't it. My bad.

Anyhoo, it's a single needle, single sheet coptic stitched book. The interior boards are covered with art paper, the exterior boards were a board game of some sort that a fellow artist snagged at a garage sale. No pieces, no notes on the board itself, just black and white spaces, and holes in the outside. I noticed that the bigger holes were very nearly almost ATC size, and well . . . that was that.

I'm glad to finally have it done--I put aside just about all my "art for me and mine" this last year doing art for others via swaps and such. The next project is to re-make a deco for me. I assume the original was either lost in the mail between artists--or languishes on someone's worktable--or got thrown away. Dammit! It was one that was important to me, so much so that I bought duplicate materials just so I could make a copy for me to fill and hold on to.

I'm glad I did--I have not seen the materials I'd need for a couple of years now. had I not snarfed them and stashed them, I'd be completely out of luck. Now i just need to pull them out and have at them. I may make color copies of some of the ephemera to help me fill the pages . . . or not.

P.S.--Blogger notes that this is my 200th post! Happy bicentennial to me!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I'm Baaaaaack . . .

Not quite from the dead, but ready to party.

I've spent much of my downtime knitting, and have the pictures to prove it. Here's a FO to start the new year off with:

Field of Flowers by Evelyn Clark in Knitpicks Shimmer, "Happy Dance." Yes, I actually used someone else's pattern without modification. I may be struck by lightning for doing so.

It was an okay knit--luxury yarn for cheap, I loves me silk and alpaca, and I loves it even more at $5.00 per ball. 3 balls made this shawl with most of a ball left over. I may have to dunk some cashmere in a hot pink dyebath and go to town with the combo.

But, but, but. I don't like the colorways Knitpicks uses for their variegated yarns. Nothing's wrong withe the hues so much, but the values just don't fly. It's like someone read a quickie design blurb--Graphic Design for Dummies, perhaps--and found a rule: "Use three values of complementary colors." So here, they used yellow for the light, pink for the medium, and maroon for the dark. Perfect, right?

No . . . the three colors stick out completely separately from each other--and I don't mean the pooling. If they were all medium shades (gold, pepto pink, fuschia) or even light shades (yellow, baby pink, bubblegum) then the colors would work wonderfully. Here you have dark, medium, light and yellow, pink, maroon. Blap, blap, blap. It's a very balkanized shawl.

Fortunately, I have a dyepot and I'm not afraid to use it--just busy. Sigh. That WILL change this year.

I actually cleared all the projects off my needles, and got down to working only on the aforementioned Field of Flowers. I've since added projects back on, and might actually send some updates to the blog for your perusal, Tonstant Weader.

Though you prolly won't see many progress pics of this one.
It's a binkie for DH Gareth; the one I made him ten years ago is rather shabby. It's Feather and Fan in Lion Brand Homespun--he didn't want wool, he finds it itchy. And he wants it big, like a coverlet. There was no way I was working in anything finer than 4 stitches to an inch. This is gonna be a lot of inches.

I'm working it in thirds--I started by casting on what I thought would be enough stitches, and was miserable within an inch. So I ripped it all out and started over. I'm much happier now, even though I'll have to seam the thing when it's through.

Why no progress pics? Look at it--it's a big black/charcoal lump. In a few inches it'll be a bigger big black/charcoal lump. And when it's done, it will be a big black/charcoal lump that covers roughly an acre of land . . . okay, maybe just a city block.

Remember the castle blan project? I've actually dipped into my stash o' squares. One of my resolutions this year is to actually get rid of some of the stash. NO MORE YARN. Anything in the stash as of January 1, 2007 or that gets given to me as a gift is fair game. But no more yarn will enter this house in my hands. No, not even free acrylic for charity--ESPECIALLY not free acrylic for charity. I choose not to give space to any more of that.

Further resolved is to knit FOR ME, dammit. I was going to knit JUST FOR ME this year, but then I found myself wistfully looking at the plans for Gareth's binkie, and remembering how much fun garter stitch is when you have good movies to viddy, so that one fell apart, but I am going to stand firm and keep me in the mix from now on.

So having finished one shawl for me, here's the next:

I'm loving this one, Leda's Dream from Pink Lemon Knits . The pattern is just complicated enough to keep me interested, but simple enough to keep me happy. I don't care much for rectangles, the stoles I've had didn't stay where I wanted them without constant rearrangement and outright clutching--but the pattern is pretty enough that I'm willing to give it another shot. It's in Shetland laceweight wool--I think this was a purchase from Blue Heron Yarns before they dropped the retail end of their business. It's harsh with spinning oils off the cone, and still smells of lanolin, but once washed it relaxes and fluffs a bit so it's not as strung out as it looks here.

And that's it on the knitting front. Next time, let's talk books, mebbe. Or possibly a writing exercise. It's so good to see all your shiny little faces again. < grin>