Friday, December 26, 2008

Word of the Year

Today tastes like blueberry muffin tops fresh from the bakery, with the decadent crumbled topping; piping hot dark roast coffee with just a little cream; maple sugar bacon; and wet silk.

I've written before about Christine Kane and how she doesn't form New Year's resolutions, but instead, sets an intention by selecting a word to live by for the next year. Not something to beat yourself up with ("Excel!" "Perform!" "Flagellate!") but something to quietly guide you ("courage", "desire", "dream").

I've decided on "Complete."

See, Mormons have been known to envy my stash. Food, yarn, paper, fabric, cosmetics . . . honey, I could be snowed in here for a year and come out with my sanity, leftovers, and projects still in the works, with my face freshly scrubbed and hair washed. I have cut all the easy stuff, I'm doing better about not bringing in more stuff, now it's time to dig a little deeper.

I need to finish the dribs and drabs of this and that. I need to use it up and toss it, rather than cutting it in half all the way to Zeno's Paradox. 1 I get about three-quarters of the way done, and then I get fear of completion. I will never have another project/bottle of conditioner/bar of soap again, so I have to get another whatcher available in the stash. Then I start using less and less of the nearly done item, so as to make it last.

And then I finally get down to the last use and instead of taking inventory (what do I have already that will serve this purpose) I put it on the list and get a second . . . only to discover the original first waiting in the stash for me.

Enough. Use it up and toss the empty. Check the stash and replace from stock. Complete what you started.

And what about the stuff that you buy, try once, and don't care for? The projects that seemed like such a good idea when you began, but now you find you can't stand tole painting/needlepoint/crocheted toilet paper rolls?

Simple. If you cannot complete a project started, then be complete with the process. Have the pleasure from having enjoyed whatever it was and wherever you got to (the quilt from cherished t-shirts that you drew up a sketch for and never cut out, the pants you were going to make into shorts that no longer fit, the layette set of one bootie and half a sweater for the child now in middle school) and then repurpose or get rid of the materials. Send the pants to Goodwill if they aren't shreddy junk, rip the layette and make a Linus binkie, throw out the t-shirts.

Make some peace, and make some space for the things that matter to you now. Soon enough, they, too, will fall by the wayside--and that's okay.

1. You can never get from one point to another, because first you must travel half the distance from here to there, but to get to the halfway point, you must get half of that distance, but to get there you have to get halfway from the start to the quarter-point, and so on so on so forth. So yes, the three year old is right--Christmas is never going to come!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Read the Small Print Between the Lines

Today tastes like cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, and avocados. Like champagne and creek water, like belgian chocolates and crostini. Like proscuitto and melon and gunpowder.

It's been one of those days, and it's not even half-over yet. A co-worker heard me muttering about taking the whole world on a picnic.

"Oh, that's so sweet and generous of you!" she cooed. "You're so giving and nurturing! You want to sit down and make peace with the whole world."

I almost--ALMOST--didn't have the heart to explain that when you "take someone on a picnic" you take them to a pristine and deserted place full of wildflowers and trees, near a babbling brook. You feed them lovely morsels of finger food, and chill wine in the icy stream. You laugh and talk in the sun, gentle breezes ruffle your hair, and you share a deep and intimate connection.

Then you kill them, and bury the body where no one will ever find it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Batteries Not Included

Today tastes like london broil, chives, and ink, with a side of tinsel.

I can really feel the turn in the economy and the presidency, as well as the mood of the nation. It's not so much the news stories (if I hear ONE MORE fluff piece on how bleak everything is, I'll scream) but in the way the holiday is proceeding.

First, a confession. This year, Gareth and I are doing Christmas the way you're supposed to do it. Make a list of everyone you gift to and a tentative list of what you're doing for them. Decide on your budget, scale back, and as you spend, track what you laid out. (Before, Gareth would say, "Try to keep it under a grand.")

We have three overlapping circles of folks we gift to. One set is the Grimm's Christmas people (with whom we sit down and swap horror stories every mid-December, as a palate cleansing skeleton at the saccharine feast), one is a group that meets at another couple's house (amusingly, it's the same people year after year. We've joined Gwydion and Callidasia for Xmas Eve for something like FIFTEEN YEARS RUNNING; it's practically a family reunion at this point), and then there's blood kin.

With the second group, it's easy to figure out what the gift is--Christmas ornaments. We've been doing that for several years.

Ornaments are easy to come by, sentimental, and require very little space. Bonus: They're fragile and seasonal. If you can't stand what I bought you, a simple nudge while dismantling the tree will take care of THAT issue. And I won't expect to see you wear it, or see it prominently displayed in your home when I visit.

So out we went this weekend to shop ornaments for group 2. (Group 1 is getting embroidered T-shirts like souveniers . . . from a place that only exists in a handful of my stories.) We'd learned our lesson last year--while you can get deep discounts on ornaments the weekend before Xmas, the crowds and noise are all but unbearable.

This year . . . you could hear the crickets chirping in the aisles. And we were able to scoop up armloads at 15-50 percent off the ticketed price. The malls were about as busy as they are in mid-July, maybe even a little slower.

And tellingly, there've been no catalogues in the mailbox for hyper-priced, super luxy goods and nonsense. Hence, no holiday rant.

I suppose that's a tradition I wouldn't mind discarding . . .

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Mills Grind Fine . . .

Today tastes like cinnamon and bosc pears, turkey and tourmaline, cardamom and snail caviar.

Gareth and I were talking about getting what you need, and going about getting what you need, and who to ask, and what to ask for. He had spent the afternoon holding his boss's hand in small claims court (boss plaintiff, victorious) and had been impressed that the officer of the court was a volunteer with some legal background--but not a lawyer. In Arizona, that's how it works--the only position where you don't have to be an attorney to preside over a courtroom.

Gareth spent a few minutes after the hearing talking with the judge. He's torn about serving his own self as a small claims judge a couple of time a month. On the one hand, it's a great service to the community. Very few intrapersonal disputes ever need to see the inside of the Justice Courts, never mind Superior Court.

On the other, he's not sure he could restrain himself when people stand up and yatter on about it not being the money, but the principal of the thing. The only recourse we have in this society for civil losses is monetary. If you wrong me by killing my pet, I can't have your dog taken out and shot in front of you. The judge will order you to pay me some money.

So the only thing you have any hope of receiving from the court is a money judgment, which it is then up to you to collect. Rule number one: Be clear about what you want. If kneecapping that jackass is the only thing that will make you whole, you need to talk to Guido on the corner, not file suit.

Now, last week, Gareth and I were in a supermarket parking lot, picking up some groceries on the way home, and a fella stopped us, clutching a gas can. Could we spare a buck or two for gas?

Uhm. On the one hand, I've been in a tight spot myself a time or three. On the other, I don't like to hand out money, because money buys all kinds of things and supports all sorts of habits. Carrying a gas can does not mean you'll use the gas can.

So we turned him down, saying we had no cash on hand. Which was indeed true. We find it easier to manage the budget on plastic, and pay in full at the end of the month.

Funny thing though--I was hit up last month by a guy asking for a hand filling a gas can, and I chose to help him out. This other fella approached me at a gas station, can in hand, and explained he just needed a couple bucks' worth to get where he was going. Could I help?

Absolutely. I filled my tank, and then ran a couple of gallons into his can for him. Rule number two: Ask in a place that makes it easy to get what you want. Ask for gas at the gas station. Ask for an item off the dollar menu in front of the McDonald's.

So then we come to tonight. Walking home from the gym, Gareth was in a surly mood. Tonight's workout of the day was a beast--45 pullups and 45 thrusters for time. Good time is under five minutes, ideal time is under three. It only sounds easy.

My best time for this workout was 4:45--hey, that's under 5:00! Tonight I hit 3:31. Gareth took . . . longer than 5:00. So I got the lecture on "Can you see why it pisses me off when you say you're not making progress?"

Let's get this straight--I an athletically DECLINED. (Go for a run? No thanks.) I do the workouts because I have to. However, there is no force in this world that will ever make me like sit-ups, and I hate pull-ups only slightly less. And frankly, instantaneous gratification takes too long.

However, I have to work out, and this program has given me better and faster results than anything else I have tried, so I keep at it, even though a lot of the time I feel like I'm flailing weakly about; a fish in the last hypoxic ecstacies.

And in the course of our discussion, I realized that what I really mean when I say I'm not getting anywhere with this is that I feel like I should be able to do this much better than I am, and the body just isn't co-operating and falling into line.

Rule number three: say what you mean.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Today tastes like paper, sand, and plastic bags from the cleaners.

Blame it on the turkey. I seem to have slept through a week. No knitting, no writing, not even a cribbed poem.

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.

Whether you're a night owl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.

Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.

You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

I should have something to talk about soonish . . . or maybe laterish.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bye Bye Blackbird

Today tastes like ribeye rubbed with chile, garlic, and . . . sand. It was all working so well until the finish, which left a lot to be desired.

I have finished the Irtfa'a, and only just barely avoided adding a "FINALLY!" to that sentence. This project was not the best match for where my head is at right now.

It's a moderately complex knit, a Faroese shape with multiple lace patterns. The designer has you working two long lace patterns simultaneously, and the repeat lengths match up only on the very first iteration (row 1 of pattern A and pattern B). When you come to the end of that section, you are on row 16 of pattern A (out of 24 total rows) and row 28 of pattern B (out of 30 total rows) and ready to start pattern C's transition row over pattern B and if your head is swimming, well, so was mine.

I love how the pattern transitions between B and C. It's a lovely detail. I like how she starts the shawl. There's a lot of thought in this pattern, and it's very well written and explained. It was just not a great match for me right now.

I hated working the edging. Words cannot describe just how much I hated working that edging. Part of it was that I misread how many repeats of that blasted edging there were. I read 38 when the instructions said 58. Those "extra" (they felt like "extra") 20 repeats just about made my head explode. I figured I could work 3-4 repeats at lunch and be finished by October 1. Yeah, not so very much, thanks. Grrr . . .

The edging is perfect for the shawl. I really can't see anything else that reads so much like feathers on the edge. It's also d--d fiddly. I had to start four times to get the first edge going. Grrr . . .

Finally, the designer prefers to keep her lace small and modern. I prefer to swaddle myself in yards of the stuff. Call me old-fashioned. My shawls tend to be bigger than I am to allow for draping and folding, and my other Faroese comes almost to my knees. With something swoopy like this, I'd like it to be below my hips, mebbe halfway down my thighs.

This feels more like a shoulderette/shrug. It isn't, not really, but feelings is feelings. If I make it again, I need to remember to put in a repeat or three of the first border. (Yes, yes, and find an edging I can live with.)

But at least Thorax is finally happy that she gets to model a garment.

She insisted that a fine lace shawl deserved a fine setting. Who am I to argue? So off we went to Scottsdale, where DH Gareth oblingingly posed as her escort in front of one of our favorite restaurants, Tapino. If one holds with the "three times is tradition" rule, then this is where we traditionally have New Years' Eve dinner (a wine paired tasting menu, different every year) before heading out to celebrate the turning of the calendar year with our friends.

Thorax suggested we shoot out in the Red and White Lounge--the restaurant was fairly crowded. She sat down on the couch to ponder the menu while we arranged everything, so I snapped this candid shot.

Then she thought she saw Dave Mustaine (Thorax is a huge Megadeth fan) and dropped the shawl on the couch as she ran screaming after him.

Embarassingly enough, she had mistaken ex-Governor Rose Mofford for the heavy metal star. I guess one big head of hair looks much like the next. Fortunately, Rose was very gracious about the mistake, although she declined to have her picture taken with Thorax.

Currently on the needles? Two sweaters, two lace shawls, and two lace scarves for two dear friends for Christmas 2009. And one lonely Linus binkie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shooting Star Binkie

Today tastes like flax oil balsamic vinagrette, heirloom tomatoes still warm from the sun, basil, mozzerella, and Thorax.

She's been moping because I don't do progress pics, so there hasn't been any work for her lately. "Have you finished Irtfa'a yet?"

"No, not yet."

"What about those sweaters you added to the Plans for World Domination?"

"Nope, haven't even started those yet."

"Bertha at Knitting Daily sure gets a lot of exposure." [heavy meaningful sigh]

"Bertha has dozens of knitters submitting garments and features every quarter. You have . . . me, babe. And right now, I'm trying to finish off all the ends on the Star Binkie for Project Linus."

"Can I be in the shoot?"

[ blink, blink ] "It's a blanket, Thorax. Not much to see here . . ."

"But I could do something to give it that thing you can only say in French. A little fun, a touch of ironic naughtiness, some sex appeal. A Jane Fonda on the bearskin, Miley Cyrus in the white sheets kind of moment."

So that's how we got this . . .

Yes, it is indeed a moment. And possibly something you can only say in French.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Has it Really Been a Month???

(blows dust off the blog)

This thing on? (tap tap tap)

Today tastes like cardboard and sawdust, like bitter almonds, like dandilions and pine needles.

It's not likely to get better any time soon.

First I was delayed because I was thisclose to a finished object, then needed the perfect picture to display said object and then . . .

Well. Then. I'm not ready to talk to those who ought to know, so I won't let them find out on the blog, and I may never be ready to share with the web as a whole.

I talked about needing a picture of a platespinner to pop up when I was just too busy keeping everything in the air to post. So when there's too much to say, and nothing to share, I'll do the emo thing and post poetry instead.


Even rocks crack, I tell you,
and not because of age.
For years they lie on their backs
in the heat and the cold,
so many years,
it almost seems peaceful.
They don't move, so cracks stay hidden.
A kind of pride.
Years pass over them, waiting.
Whoever is going to shatter them
hasn't come yet.
And so the moss flourishes, the seaweed swirls,
the seaweed pushes through and rolls back,
and it seems they are motionless.
Till a tiny seal comes to rub against the rocks,
comes and goes away.
And suddenly the stone is split.
I told you, when people break, it happens by surprise.

--Dahlia Ravikovitch

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Today tastes like lemons. A whole raft of lemons on the open sea at midnight. Lemons, salt, and wood.

See, I have this reputation as a writer in our little group. If you want something written that defies logic and sense, you ask Spike to handle it. And you give her a deadline because, in that, the Duke1 and I see eye to eye.

So, one pal is a professional (makes her living at it) costumer with a handful of pals who simply like to make stuff. They go an an annual hajib to a conference that focuses on making costumes--how to do stuff, how much to charge for your labor, and this conference culminates in a contest. Needless to say, they're all entered in Very Big Dog level as a group.

And they need a script . . . Spike?

Of course I'm flattered, and happy to draw up a three-five minute short short for them. At dinner I wrote up a handful of notes, and on the way home I got to pondering. I sat down and started typing in my notes . . . an hour later I shut down to GO TO BED ALREADY . . . and fifteen minutes after laying my whirling head on the pillow I was back up at it with the final touches.

So here's the first draft:

Cast: Narrator
Evil Genius
Earth Elemental
Fire Elemental
Air Elemental
Water Elemental

Narrator: And so, with the Elementals subdued in her subterranean lair at the top of the world, the time had come for the evil genius to give her mandatory exposition disguised as a monologue.

Evil Genius: Aha! The voice in my head tells me to begin the expository monologue! And so . . .

Narrator: It's the usual. Explains how she’s going to use the power source in her plans for Total World Domination. Details the long, drawn out, horrible, messy, elaborate death she plans for our heroes. And then she’ll leave for a cup of green tea, with milk and lemon.

Air: Don’t bother with the details. It’ll just be an explanation how you’re going to use Widget to power your rocket chair . . .

Water: . . . kill us all slowly and messily . . .

Earth: . . . in a highly elaborate fashion, mind . . .

Fire: . . . and then you’ll go off for a cup of green tea. How can you drink that stuff?

Air. With milk.

Water: And lemon. Both of them? TOGETHER?? (shudders bonelessly)

EG: How . . . how did you know?

Heroes (as one): The voice in my head told me so.

Narrator: Our heroes looked at each other . . .

Fire: You hear him, too?

Water. I thought I was the only one.

Air: Well, no wonder we keep showing up at the same time and place together.

Earth: What did you think it was? That we were following you?

(Air rolls eyes, shoots Earth a “well, duh!” look)

EG: Hello! Evil genius, world domination, master plan? Widget?

Narrator: Our heroes quickly recalled their task. To make the world safe once more by rescuing Widget from the Evil Genius’s clutches.

Fire: That’s not important right now. Right now . . .

Air: . . . we need to make the world safe once more . . .

Water: . . . by rescuing Widget . . .

Earth: . . . . from the Evil Genius’s clutches. Guys, this is kind of creepy.

Narrator: Like mind control.

Earth: Like mind control . . . HEY! STOP THAT!

Air: If we all take a deep cleansing breath . . .

Water: . . . swallow hard . . .

Earth: . . . ground ourselves . . .

Fire: . . . and feel the fire in our hearts . . .

Air: . . . we can save Widget!

(Heroes focus, hands in mudras, bodies and faces clenched. Somewhere between enlightened bliss and terminal constipation.)

(Narrator walks across stage, takes Widget from the Evil Genius.)

Narrator: I’ll take that now, if you please.

All (as one): You’re . . . you’re the voice in my head!

Narrator: I’m more than that. I’m the Narrator. The most powerful being there is. I control all of you through the Cranial Capacitator. The Cranial Capacitator electrostatically amplifies the alpha waves, transmitting them through the phlogiston etherosphere . . .

Widget: HAT!!!



1. I don't need time, what I need is a deadline. -- Duke Ellington

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Won't, I Won't, I Won't

Because sometimes, the plates all come tumbling down.

I've hit this meme before but somehow it hasn't become stale. (For me at least, what think you, o Tonstant Weader? Dull as the bright shiny toy on December 26? Rather play with the box it came in and the ribbons?)

And interestingly, the album title is what's moving and grooving for me today. What am I evading? What am I accomplishing by evading it? And what will happen because I'm not doing something I should? Will the walls all crumble? Will the world end in a whimper of micro-black holes?

Or will I find space I hadn't anticipated, like when the parking lot is full up, and you turn around to leave, then just as you pass by the first row, someone backs out right in front of you. Like when you forget your lunch and your wallet, so you rummage in your desk for that half a granola bar you swear should be there, and the boss tips you a twenty for your hard work this week. A moment of unexpected grace as the parachute blossoms above you and you are caught in the arms of the wind.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust . . .

Today tastes like capers, yellowfin tuna sashimi,and plum wine. Salty bitter sour, buttery, and sweet. The flavors of a minor victory.

So . . . If you read the last post, you've found out that I am giving up consumption for a while. (Consumption be done about dis?) I feel up to my earlobes in things that never get an honest chance to be used because there's too danged many of them. Like having too many projects on the needles--you knit and knit and knit, but never get anywhere.

A good chunk of the charity stash is in fine weight acrylic on cones. Apparantly I'm not the only knitter with eyes bigger than her needles, because one day, while I was working at a Project Linus Blanket Bee, a donation came in. It seems that they'd finally had to put Aunt Suzie the crazy machine knitter away, so they'd cleaned out Aunt Suzie's attic and found she'd been insulating with yarn; could we use it?

No kidding, there was a pile of yarn about the size of a VW Bug sitting there on the floor. You could swim in the stuff like Scrooge McDuck.

The hoards rushed in and scooped up the worsted, but there was a bunch of acylic laceweight cones left that no one wanted. I was trying to be good, but when our Project Coordinator asked me to take a look and see if any of it could be used . . . well, I only have so much self-control. Prolly take a particle physicist to find it--it's very very small, and has an enormously brief half-life.

So I ended up with cones and cones and cones of laceweight acrylic. To go with the skeins and skeins and skeins of babyweight acrylic I already had . . . but my secret plan was to twine several skeins/cones together to make worsted weight. And I have a pattern I like for this, and you don't have to twine it all before you knit, and . . .

And you can see the same little devil on Crazy Aunt Suzy's shoulder whispering that, hey, after all, she knit with MACHINES, so it was so much FASTER, she'd blow through her stash in NO TIME, so she ought to buy some MORE . . .

So . . . I've been nibbling away at the cones, just like I nibble away at the big skeins, and just as I nibble away at the tiny leftovers until it's all gone into a blanket, buh-bye. But dang, there's a lot of yards on a cone.

Hence, it a little celebration when I finally eat that last bite and leave only a tail to finish in. One of the purtiest sights there is, a nekkid cone.

I wrapped it in part of the binkie it gave its yarn for. One down . . . eleventeen to go. I'm looking forward to the day when I finally finish off the cone of white the SIZE OF MY HIPS. Seriously, that cone has gone into at least two three by five foot blankets, and is still rolling along.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Obsessions, Posessions, and An Epiphany

Today tastes like that apocraphal morning after. Where you've been subsisitng on Ryecrisps, cucumbers, and green tea for a month because there's a big blowout coming up and you want to splurge, and then you do--cream puffs and champagne and red meat and Really Exquisite ChocolateTM and lots and lots and lots of each of these, and then some more. Wheeee!!!!

And then you wake up the next morning, and the Party Bus has left the station. Without you. You're standing in the terminal huffing diesel fumes with your luggage piled around your feet, and confetti drifting in the breeze like colored dandruff.

It finally hit me this afternoon. I hire someone to clean my house, but I told her (counts on fingers) three years ago that we'd handle the decluttering and putting stuff where it belonged.

The house sparkles. What you can see of it under the piles and mountains and heaps of stuff. Most of it stuff that entertains me--stuff to make stuff with, stuff to watch while I'm making stuff, stuff that honors a relationship. We don't really buy much new except for clothes (and even then, I'll buy socks and undies at the discount store, and outerwear at Goodwill if they have something just right).

And this afternoon, it hit me. I am a slave to my stuff.

When things go missing, it sends me into a tizzy. But there's no place to put it, or the place is so cram-jammed with other stuff that I can't find it even though it's right in front of me--there's just too many things!

So not only do I have a bunch of physical stuff, I have emotional stuff about my physical stuff. Stuff about my stuff, and stuff about being stuffed with stuff.

I have clothes I don't wear because they don't fit my body. (Too small in the waist, too big in the hips and thighs. In the same garment!!! What am I going to do--regain the inches I've peeled off in exactly those spots?) Clothes I don't wear because they don't fit the image I want to project. (Punk and goth are just not the same after twenty-five . . .) Shoes that hurt my feet after a few minutes, but that aren't anything special to look at. (If you wear nine-inch heels, you're expected to be sculpture. But if you have a pair of two-inch heeled pumps that are just as uncomfortable, there's no payoff. They're just pumps, for heaven's sake!)

A lot of my stuff is stuff to make stuff with, and a lot of that is stuff that gets sent out into the world. I knit for charity most of the time. I knit for myself and those close to me sometimes. I get that. I get that the hard part of getting rid of stuff I don't need will be getting rid of the stuff to do stuff with.

So I'm starting where it's easy. I spent an hour last night working on the casual side of my closet. I need seven T shirts (five to work out in, two to slack around in). Done. I got rid of the extra jeans (only need two pair -- Casual Friday and a spare). Cleared out old and cherished sweaters that I could fit THREE of me in--they were "oversized" when I bought them, and there was a LOT more of me then.

Tonight I'm going to hit the work side of the closet. Then maybe I can see what I really have to wear. I don't need more than three pairs of black pants, ten overall printed T's, and ten silk shirts. My black jacket needs replacing--but I have it's sucessor on hand. I just need to take it to the tailor to have a couple of buttons moved and the sleeves taken up to 3/4 length.

That gives me two week's worth of outfits (or two wardrobes--one fall/winter/spring in the T's, one for hot and muggy summer in the silk). Maybe I'll watch for 3/4 sleeve plain color T's to go with my broomstick skirts for summer, with flats. I love the look of those skirts, and how cool and floaty they are when the humidity's high. Maybe I'll put that on my want list and see if the urge cools down. (For a while, I really wanted a laptop. REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted a laptop. Would have sold my soul for one. Last week, DH Gareth found a great deal on a used one on eBay, and asked if I wanted one. A laptop? For what? I spend too much time online as it is . . .)

And then? Maybe the living room and kitchen, possibly the library. Yeah, the library makes more sense. Get rid of the books that are taking up space, that I've read enough times that I don't reach for them, that I can get at the public library if I have to have to have them. Then maybe I'll have room for the DVD's that I watch as I knit.

I don't expect I'll ever get really Zen and spartan, like those hypermodern rooms featured in magazines where everything is streamlined and stark--the colors are white, eggshell, and sand, with one lily in a black glass vase. I just don't want to wind up with banker's boxes of stuff piled in closets (Jeans, Stuffed Animals, LP's, 8 Tracks [flinch]) or stacked in rooms and screened with gaily-printed curtains. I don't want to live in a pile of decorative clutter any more.

I won't be a slave to my stuff.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

If I Had a Nickle . . .

Today tastes like the remains of a good idea, and frustration with what I hath wrought. Yup, carmalized brown butter Rice Krispie Treats just about sums it up.

See, I had almost the perfect pattern for a Linus binkie. One pattern row, one simple return row. But I wanted it in strips for portability and because it is so hot and humid that my brain cell has wilted and I can't remember the winter when I shivered in my thin, thin blood and moaned about freezing in the sub-100's and wore fingerless gloves to the office amid remarks about not getting but a half-day at Christmas and my diminutive (stature-challenged, differently large) son (male offspring) Tim.

So do I listen to good sense and sit down with the pattern? Well, to a point. Perhaps the one on my head.

I count out the repeat (15 stitches) and then, rather than spending 20 whole minutes swatching, I go off chasing undomesticated waterfowl across the 'Net, looking for the PERFECT perfect pattern--a ripple afghan, knitted, in strips.

I spend 40 minutes on this wild goose chase. Fruitless? Absolutely. Like a plum tree in Phoenix in the height of summer. Crispy fruitles; branches on the ground fruitless; crawling off to dip roots in the pool before expiring, gasping, on the lawn fruitless.

Then I sat down, counted carefully, cast on . . . and in ten minutes had my pattern proofed. Grrrrrr . . .

It's gotta be the heat.

Here goes: the PERFECT Ripple Pattern

Leftmost strip: CO odd multiple of 15 plus 4: 1 SS, 2 garter edge, pattern, 1 SS

Center strips: CO same odd multiple of 15 plus 2: 1 SS, pattern, 1 SS

Rightmost strip: CO same odd multiple of 15 plus 4: 1 SS, pattern, 2 garter edge, 1 SS.

Work first 4 rows and last 4 rows in garter.

Pattern: Sl 1, k 2, *k2tog, k 5, yo, k1, yo, k5, ssk* end as per strip. Purl back starting on row 6.

Gotta be the heat.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Unholy Hybrid

Pictures as promised–but this may take some ‘splaining.

See, in the beginning was a writer named Howard Phillips Lovecraft (genuflects). And he wrote short stories that quickly became a shared universe among a number of pulp writers. In a nutshell, these stories were about a universe that was not just indifferent, it was inimical. The BEST one could hope for was that the gods took absolutely no notice of you whatsoever and just squished you like the insignificant insect you were.

Because, see, the gods running the universe were both awesome and terrible. Utterly inhuman and unknowable. Evil can be bargained with, because evil wants something you have. Evil covets, and by offering it a way to acquire what it covets, you have some handle on the situation. These gods . . . don’t really want anything you have. They have their own motivations and desires. You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Go here for more (if you

And as so many projects do, it took on its own form of life. Fans of the fiction began writing their own. The internet spawned (you should forgive the term) an unholy hybrid of lolcats and the Mythos, resulting in LOLthulhu–recaptioned pictures from the Mythos. Ur sanity–it has a flavr.

So–wayyy wayyy back when (can it really have been about a decade ago?? I think it was . . .) A bunch of us were having dinner when we got into a discussion of Codpieces of Cthlhu. I think it was when I said something about St. Cyr sounded like a Lovecraftian high priestess and sufficient persons at the table were into Rocky Horror that the theme, well, caught fire.

We rattled off a ton of names for them, mostly alliterative–the Cuddly Codpiece of Cthulhu, the Carniverous Codpiece of Cthulhu, the Concupicent Codpiece of Cthulhu. And the Elvis Codpiece of Cthulhu. There may be pictures floating around fandom somewhere of the Codpieces and the party to which they were worn, but this was long before I had a digital camera. Or a blog, for that matter.

This year, the theme for the August Party is “Atlantis Goes to Hell.” DH Gareth asked me to make him a Codpiece of Cthulhu to wear because that would be appropriate and comfortable to wear while manning the grill in August in Arizona. Because it is both hot and humid. (Yes, yes, Floridians laugh at the notion of “humid” in Arizona, and say they can handle it. Earlier this summer, a dozen Floridian touristas had to be rescued off Camelback Mountain while hiking, due to dehydration. They only had 30 bottle of water with them, but honey, it’s 110 and 25 percent out there. Three bottles of water ain’t gonna get you up and down Camelback Mountain in the late morning.)

I said sure, figuring it couldn’t be any harder than a doll. I had a codpiece pattern from all those years ago, and the trimming bit should be pretty simple. Of course, my patterning methods leave a lot to be desired–I sort of get some paper, mentally project the three-dimensional piece into the flat, and cut away everything that doesn’t match my vision. Uhm, yeah.

Now that you’ve read this far, a reward! Pictures of the Cetaceous Codpiece of Cthulhu!

Even better than jazz sitar . . .

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not Medal-Worthy . . .

. . . but some personal records, nonetheless.

See, last September (September 11, as a matter of fact) I started a new workout routine courtesy of Coach Glassman at Crossfit. I liked the idea of a Hobbsian workout (nasty, brutish, and short) and a Nietzscesque philosophy (uberhuman will and what does not kill you just hurts a bit makes you stronger).

And while I have a project that should make some good photos in the works (codpiece of Cthulhu, anyone?) it's not ready yet. Other than some pattern pieces, most of it's in my head. Which is probably the best place for it, come to think it.

But I didn't want to let this week go by without a note. So, while this is not so impressive next to Cao Lei's 282 pound snatch (get your mind out of that gutter!)I wanted to drop a note regarding my personal record for sit-ups.

Three sets of 15 on an incline board, unbroken.

But heay, I've been working on that since January. That's longer than it takes me to knit a six-foot square lace shawl!

What now? Well, I plan to get where I can do the three sets of fifteen unbroken for a couple of weeks all together, and then . . . crank up the incline another notch and start the process over again. First set at the higher notch until you get a couple weeks of all three unbroken, then two sets at the higher setting, and so on so on so forth.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Citius, Altius, Decubis

Today tastes like endive, licorice basil, fresh tomatoes still warm from the sun, and balsamic vinaigrette with enough garlic. All the very best parts of late summer.

It’s Friday and once again the weekend is rolling up like a 48 hour juggernaut. Tonight, apres gym , I plan to sit in my favorite armchair with something cold and tasty and knit on the current obsession until my fingers fall asleep. Which may not take very long. Yesterday’s workout included 135 pull-ups, so by the time we finished, I had trouble getting my fingers to wrap around the combination lock. My hands still feel a little off.

Saturday means a Project Linus gathering and an opportunity to work on the blanket nearest completion. I have learned that I like the strip blankies a lot better–they’re so much more portable and less ghastly during the dog days. It’s worth the finishing work to sew the seams and add a border post-knit. I have two strips and a bit done in an estonian star stitch, and one strip and a bit in a favorite knit and purl pattern.

Sunday will get poured into the current obsession again. Why no pictures? It’s a black lace shawl, which will be lovely when it’s off the needles and blocked, but right now . . . it’s a forlorn black blob. It started as a little black strip, then became a little black blob, and now it’s a bigger black blob. Not very exciting to look at. (Although Thorax thinks it’s stunning cool in the sun where you can see the blues and greens underlying the black, and is scouting locations for the shoot. I have been telling her that there is no way in hell I am subsidizing a trip to the Manhattan garment district for a blog post.)

After this, I have a couple more shawls that need to be worked up, but my heart is lusting after garments. Real garments. Made to fit a body, not just shapes. Garments with sleeves and closures.

Bizarre, huh?

Maybe not so much. I have cones of rayon chenille I bought back when I was flirting with the idea of knitted suits (before I understood just how much stockinette that would entail). I’ve meant to knit up some twinsets, because that might actually happen. The rayon doesn’t hold heat well, so these would be cozy and nice in the air-conditioning of summer, and just enough in winter. I’m thinking top-down u-neck shells in the round with bust darts and waist shaping and shirt-tail hems paired with cabled v-neck cardis that button up. I have a jacket whose fit I like a lot (length and everything) to mimic for the cardis.

I’m woozy with lust for this one pattern in the fall 2005 Knitty (an online knitting magazine). I love the trees on the front, so of course I want to make copious changes.

I want the trees on the back; I want something more like the Gondor motif in LOTR; and while I want the leaves on the sleeves, I want saddle sleeves that are bracelet/three-quarter length. I’m thinking I’ll have to knit the back from the bottom up, but then I can construct the saddles, sleeves, and fronts from the top down. And rather than do the fronts in a pattern per se, I want to do stochastic cables like Lucy Neatby’s Cables After Whiskey. That’ll be enough texture to make the sweater cohesive without being fussy and over-the-top.

See, the back will be fussy and elaborate, with fancy sleeves, and the front will be interestingly crunchy with nifty buttons and fancy sleeves, so the sweater will look like it all belongs together. It’s all crunchy and textured from any viewpoint. But at the same time, it’s not all complex and ethnic funkified museum-piece work.

But first I’ll need to swatch. I think I’ll swatch random cables, as that should give me a good idea how many stitches I’ll have to play with over the back. I may design trees on the fly up to where the branches go, or steal a tree from another designer.

And I have more ideas for Linus binkies. I want to use some multi-strand knitting and do random cables in a strippie so the colors shift softly while the stitches wander around. I want to take odd balls and do the three-ball trick where you knit one row of color a, purl one row of color b, then knit one row of color c and just keep moving them along. This creates a kind of blend between variegated and its homemade pooling tendencies and “I’m trying to use up every bit of my yarn” stripes. Doing slip-stitch work at the same time makes cheerful peerie type patterns.

So I’ve got startitis again. (Which is a good thing, actually. Earlier this week I didn’t want to knit on the current obsession, I didn’t want to think about knitting, I didn’t want anything to do with sticks and string.1) I just need to get some of these off the needles before I wind myself up into too many things at once.

1. This is how my obsessions usually end–I took down the quilting frame, and haven’t made a top in years. I put down the crochet hook, and aside from knitting-related work, I haven’t made a crocheted item in forever–although the aragumi movement is calling me, a little2. I deco’d for about a year before the fire died.

2. I want to knit or crochet tiny penguin mascots3 for me and Gareth.

3. We were working out one day, and I was frustrated at my utter lack of pullups. I growled, “I’m tired of being weak,” and Gareth misheard me as saying “I’m a tiny penguin.” The Tiny Penguin has become our gym mascot, embodying perseverance and fierceness. Penguin up!

Friday, August 01, 2008


Today tastes amazingly like the coffee at the office. It's thin and burnt and weak. And even the cream that is Friday and the beginning of a weekend doesn't help it.

Where to begin.


Part of being an adherent to the surreal is that synchronicity becomes a mantra. That's one part the protomystical claptrap pushed in The Secret gets right. When things begin coming at you in multiples, pay attention. No, PAY ATTENTION (end flaming flashing rotating 100 point font).

A couple of weeks ago, a mail buddy dropped me a postcard with her best wishes. You know, everything was fine in her world, and hoped that all was well with me. And I thought I should dig up her address and send her a note or a card . . . and that's about where it stopped. She's on my list of Random Mail Stuff To Do Real Soon Now. Because, well, everything lasts forever, right? (hint)

So yesterday, I'm reading a book that is not by a fave author (and no, I don't recommend it, so I'm not putting up the title here, let's just say I was reading it for gleanings on design theory and got an earful of scripture blatted at me, sheeplike. {No issues with scripture or those who read or practice--if you can discuss intelligently, and not just parrot back [squark] 1 Corinthians 17:1 [squark]. Uhm-hmm.} Post rebuttal of this verse to the comments, please.)

So, reading along, I thought about Ms. Chifann Mayhem. We'd been at a party last Friday to say farewell to some mutual buds who were packing up and blowing town, and I shut down shortly after the sun set. (I'm solar powered, which sucks when the sun comes up at 4:30 a.m. and my eyelids pop open with an audible * plink *.) So I boogied without saying goodbye, and felt bad about that, cause Mayhem is big on "hello goodbye I got home safe." (We were both raised in big open states where the cities are surrounded by honkin' great empty spaces. Even in the metro Salt River Valley where you have to work to find dead spaces, we call to say "got home safe" after a party.)

After thinking about her for several minutes, I realized this would do no good at all unless I told her I was thinking of her and wishing her well. And OMG, I actually whipped out my cell phone and texted her a note. Because, well, nothing lasts forever, right? (Hint)

That's a perpetual theme of one of my favorite writers, Parrie Digh. Her blog, 37 Days, was started after her father was diagnosed with cancer, and died 37 days later. Sooner or later, we all come to the last 37 days of our life. What would you want remembered? What would you do if you knew that this was it?

Ms. Digh's been celebrating the countdown to having her first book of essays (Life is a Verb) published. We're on day 34 now, and she's been asking her readers to tell the world what they would do with their last 37 days on this earth. (HINT)

So Mayhem texted me back, and we put together plans to spend some time together tomorrow, having brunch and a matinee. And I'm glad we did, because this morning Mayhem sent me a note that Boromir, Hub's dad, had passed on last night. (HINT!!!)

This wasn't unexpected. Boromir was diagnosed with a wildfire cancer late last year/early this year, and this spring he was moved to hospice care. Hub had flown out to see Boromir last week, and the question was, would Boromir be around by the time the plane landed?

Still and all, dammit. Boromir was one of the few people I chose to have in my life, and made a point of seeing when he was in town. He joined us for Grimm's when he could, and was a welcome guest.

Got it. No more taps on the head needed, thanks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Meet Thorax

Today tastes like lavendar, candied violets, and nasturtiums. With balsamic vinagrette and prosecco. It is indeed the height of summer.

The problem with knitting shawls is displaying your finished objects for the eye candy. Wearing them is no problem at all--the stores and movie theaters and malls--pretty much any public gathering place--keep the air conditioner turned down to 72 F. Which is basically late fall/early winter here. It feels good for a few minutes after stpping in from a high over 100 (109 today, down from 113 yesterday). A shawl functions like a horse blanket, easing the artificial transition between seasons.

But blog display, that's another matter entirely. Blocking shots are good if you use a white/neutral light sheet to block on. My blocking shots tend to show all the various colored towels I use, even the stripes on some. A bit jarring--and that's coming from me!

If I ask DH Gareth to shoot me from behind, he tends to focus on his favorite bits, which are . . . not my favorites. Even if they were, it's the SHAWL I want emphasised. And while Gareth worships the needles I knit with, and is willing to do anything to help, he doesn't wear shawls well. He always looks so stiff and uncomfortable. Maybe it's the shoes.

So I put an ad in the paper, looking to hire a model. I wasn't going to be able to pay a lot, mind, I'm doing this for fun. But perhaps someone who was looking to build a little portfolio might work for pictures, right? Or someone who wasn't built for the runway, but entertained some Snoopyesque fantasies ("Here's the world-famous model getting ready to slink down the runway in Milan, when suddenly, diving out of the sun--O, CURSE YOU RED BARON!!!")(ahem)--entertained some fantasies about modeling might be willing to play along.

I was delighted to get a response directly, and we set up a time and date to meet and do a dry run with Veil of Isis, the shawl I'd just finished knitting.

The doorbell rang, and I opened the door to find . . .

Thorax. No, just Thorax, thank you. Like Madonna, or Cher.

Uhm. Won't you come in, Thorax?

So we sat down in my studio (Thorax said she'd prefer to stand, it had been a long drive) and discussed what we each wanted out of this project. Thorax was happy to work for photos for her portfolio, so off we went to the site, fresh batteries in the camera.

I wanted something sylvan . . .

But Thorax was thinking something edgy. "Urban decay," she said, twirling on the swing. "Very deconstructed, post-apocalypse, chaos creeping in contrast to the grandmotherly order and sweetness associated with lace and knitting. Rust to play off the beads."

"It's all about the existential loneliness of the millenium," she called down from the treehouse. "We buy and consume to fill the void that gnaws us from within. These pictures should reflect that essential emptiness at the core of it all."

I'm not sure how that's going to play for Vogue, but it's nice to meet a model with a good head on her shoulders.

We compromised.

Once she loosened up, we had a good time with it. "Pout for me, Thorax!"

"Give me haughty! Enigmatic!"

"Now the money shot . . ."

"Can you look over your shoulder for me? That's IT!!!"

That Thorax. So expressive, with hands like a Thai temple dancer's. She's going to go far.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Own Little Sally Fields Moment

Today tastes like champagne and popcorn, like cotton candied grapefruit, like sugar pickled garlic.

You like me! You really like me!

I'm not a big dog in the blogosphere, and I never set out to be. When I started, I was looking for a project diary, where I could track finished projects and look back at what I had wrought, because sometimes the rows seem endless. However, a lot of me gets tangled in with whatever I do, so this became a mindwipe place, where I could pre-emptively mourn my cat one week, babble about lace esoterica the next, and dabble in surrealism whenever the mood struck me. My posts are often pictureless and convoluted, with a side of word salad in this 'yere Lunchbox. An acquired taste, if you will.

It can be work to get through my prose, and sometimes the joke is subtle.1

Uhm . . . this is not how it's s'posed to be done. Quick frequent posts, often with a purty picture, with broad general appeal.

Which makes it all the sweeter when I hear from a fan. Nici sent me the above award, and in order to accept it, I need to do the following:

1) Put the logo on your blog -- Done!!
2) Add a link to the person who awarded you -- Thanks Nici!!
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs -- Done!
4) Add links to those blogs on yours -- Done!
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.--Done!

Before my head gets too big to fit through the door to my office, I'm listing and linking seven bloggers who make a difference to me.

Belinda first--she's partly to blame for my mixed media love. I followed her through a gazillion Yahoo groups when she ran 'em. Bless her altered heart and belly. Find her here.

I want to grow up to be Anne Hanson. Gracious, witty, with an amazing sense of design. I've linked a ton to her with the "Flippin' Spades" post, and I'm doing it again. Check out the Little Nothing Scarves. Makes me think about moving where there's winter just so I could wear them more than one day per year.

Maybe I could warm up by being Andrea of Bad Cat Designs. I knit the Veil of Isis (more on that next week) and found it delightful. This was my first beaded project, and now I see little sparklies everywhere.

Ellis Cooke is nothing short of astounding. Just go and look at this. Uhmagah.

I have the world's biggest girlcrush on Patti Digh. Her essays rock my world. Yeah, she has more webawards than I can shake a stick at; yeah, she has a book out, yeah, she doesn't need me bragging on her from this dark little corner of the web, but for the three or four of you who read this and haven't found her yet, go and read and read some more.

And Fleegle. OMG, Fleegle. She can out lacegeek the lacegeekiest folks, and she has the bestest toys.

I would have nominated Braen, my number one fan. She's kept my light shining and reminded me that I'm not just screaming into the void here many times. I can't find her blog though, I get a feeling that Braenstorm washed away. So a candle and a link in memoriam. Go here to see her cards.

I'm still giggling, Nici. You made my week.

1. This is one of those times--a footnote to the blog (complex) and subtle indicators of mischief afoot. Notice how the comma IS NOT a hypertext link. This means there are TWO links, one for each clause. Click 'em both, you don't wanna miss out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What Does It Mean When . . .

Today tastes like durian fruit, sweatsocks, and day old reheated coffee.

Just realized I hadn't touched this for two weeks. I'm behind on the stories project; working on finishing up June. I wanted to be done with Veil of Isis by July 5, to work on Irtfa'a for the Tour de France. I'm not. I haven't made a single ATC this year except for a private swap group among four artpals.

Things that make you say Hmmmmmm.

It's a chicken and egg thing. Has my production (and joy in production) slowed down because I'm monitoring it? Because I shifted to a goal-oriented list rather than a list of inspiration? Is this a Heisenberg I see, handle toward my hand? Maybe.

Or have I just now become aware of slacking because I started monitoring? Because I set goals up, and now know when I fall short?

Or on the third hand, is it part and parcel of the listmaker's bent, that putting things down on a list makes it seem like EVERYTHING on that list is attainable? "Goals for the year: Win the lottery; lose seventy-five pounds; become a supermodel/actress/ballerina/veteranarian/astronaut; write a world-changing novel; found my own religion." Hey, that's only five things. If I take two whole months to accomplish each one, I'll still have eight weeks to spare.

Well, that way lies the path to the Self-Flagellation MachineTM. Hear it warming up in the background? (should should should should Ought Ought Ought Ought MUST MUST MUST MUST) [ hits off switch ]

So. Groundhog Review Day has been an interesting experiment, but I think it's going in the shed with the other tools that didn't work. I think it might be useful for another application, something with finite boundaries that lends itself better to being broken into chunks and then periodically reviewed.

Oh, you mean like GOALS, rather than PATTERNS. My GOAL is to attend Fashion Institute of Technology and get a degree in Fashion Design. My PATTERN is to design and fabricate knitted articles, both clothing and blankets. My GOAL is to lose twenty-five pounds this year, my PATTERN is to find a fitness routine I can enjoy and put it into practice.

I've been trying to use a hammer as a screwdriver. It works eventually. The key word being "eventually."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Few Days Late . . .

Today tastes like sand, paper, and wind. I meant to post this1 last week, in celebration of the glory of the Oak King (and the birth of the Holly King) but never got around to it because of this miserable summer cold.

Being sick in summer is worse than winter. Hot tea feels good and tastes good in the winter. It's dark late and early, the wind blows, it's dry and brown. There's nothing going on outside of the manufactured festivities. There's no reason to leave your bed.

In the summer--especially now and here--it's light early and late. The sun rises at 4:15 at this time of year. The sun sets around 8:00. It's hot outside, but for those of us who like it hot, that's dandy. However, you can't play Nekkid Hose Monster when you have a cold--the flux of heat and chill isn't good for you. Nor do you really have the energy to run. But of course, you can't sleep--it's hot and light.

Summer colds stink.

(1) Midsummer’s Eve

June 20 rolled around again, and my loony roomie was making plans. “The full moon falls on that night,” she chirped brightly. “We should hold a drum circle, scry our futures in a glass of wine, dance naked with the fairies!”

“Oh, I can tell you our futures,” I said. “Arrested for disturbing the peace.”

Monday, June 09, 2008


Today tastes like green chile pork stew where the onions were left on the heat too long and carmelized/burned. With a side of coconut cotton candy. Not quite what I had expected, but workable.

It's been one of those weekends where you'd think I'd be delighted with everything that got done. I think I had eight arms, and every hand full of something.

See, I finished the Neverending Binkie of Modular Doom:

Then this:

became this:

became this:

and this:

became these:

More about the beading and the dyeing in later posts. Promise. Right now, I'm just so glad to be back at work where I can rest and recuperate from the weekend.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fourth Review

In February, I made the following Groundhog's Day Resolutions:

1. I will not beat myself up for falling short of perfection with respect to this list.

2. I will complete 9 knitted projects this year.

3. I will complete three spreads per month in the art journal.

And as before, I'm hanging on to 1 and 3 by the skin of my teeth.

I finished a pair of complex socks for Gareth, then a blanket for Project Linus, and a shawl for me.

Now another binkie:

On top of that, I'm keeping up with the exchanges that are near and dear to my heart--the Hideous Fairy, and soon a Beaded Bag. Somehow I forgot to take into account my love of exchanges with strangers when I set up my goals.

I know I've re-thought this ad nauseam, but really, it's the process that matters. If it ain't fun it don't get done, and all that. Now I'm wondering if I can quantify the process of what I do to make it possible to set goals.

I've planned out how I want to play the remainder of the knitting year--I plan to work on this month's binkie as a travel project, and work on Veil of Isis as the home project till July 5, when I hop onto the Tour de France KAL1 (virtually). Then the all-consuming nature of a closed ended KAL will have me carrying the Irtfa'a everywhere with me, knitting away every moment of my waking hours to strive for completion.

Then in August is the Knitting Olympics, and another shawl--PinkLemonKnits' Swan Lake with a similar level of commitment.

Once that fun is over, then I'm planning a Low-Sew version of the Psychedelic Squares and to complete just one more binkie for Linus (which is, yes, on the needles).

The good part is that this will clear my needles of everything that was started at the beginning of the year. Incomplete projects give me hives, so I try not to start too many things.

On the other hand, I'm a polyandrous knitter. I love cables, I love lace, I love simple texture stitches that let me play with color. I love stranded knitting, I love modular knitting, I love bizarre shaping. I love complex projects that tie me to charts, I love easy projects that can be memorized in a moment.

Nine in a year seems to be a reasonably good match for appetite and time. Now if I can only find my happy place with respect to the visual journal.

Four in a year? Perhaps.

1. See, every sporting event on TV is fodder for a knitalong. You start when the
event begins, and shoot for completing the project by the time the event ends. And it gives you something to watch while you knit. The Tour de France begins July 5 and ends July 27.

This ensures that you get to start lots of projects, promise yourself a deadline date for completion, and then start more stuff even if you haven't finished the first. Great for we obsessive types.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Which Chinaman Did I Just P*ss Off?

Todays tastes like chop suey with pencil shavings, sweet and sour lamb, and pine needle dumplings. Interesting, but not something I would have chosen intentionally.

Work is . . . interesting. SideKick, the associate, just gave notice; Boo's health is questionable; and Hopalong is debating striking out on his own. I am tap-dancing.

Hopalong just came to feel me out about my future plans. If he leaves to form "Hopalong, P.C." would I come with? More work, more money. If he stays with "Boo and Hopalong, P.C." am I interested in staying and moving up a rung in what I do for the firm while they hire Jennifer to come in and do what I do? And on the third hand, what if we do something totally different?

The only real answer to that is, "I'm always interested in discussing options."

Jeez, I feel like a politician. This language is not natural to me.

So I'll just sit down and knit. Knitting is soothing. Hey, I just started something on MmarionKknits about Clark's Southwestern shawl--someone asked if there were cows, and I suggested an O'Keefian motif of clouds, orchids and cow skulls--and eight people said they'd add something like THAT to the queue. And I see in my head a ruana-like garment with a semi-circular back, and neck shaping, and rectangular panels down the fronts. A big cow skull (right) and a big saguaro cactus (left) and then clouds at the top of the back, orchids in the middle, and smaller cow skulls at the base, edged with three-four vertical repeats of horseshoe lace blocked to points.

Oh, and I wanna knit Irtfa'a for the Tour de France KAL, and maybe get to my Spade shawl for the Olympics, and I have one Linus all but finished--what's this? Mmario has a Pi R Square variant up? I have GOT to knit that! Oh, and I have Veil of Isis OTN, my first beaded shawl, and I need to knit up the Mystery Stole with the swan's wing for Lyhr 2009, and I have these great cool knitting project bags that I NEED to start using and . . .

Uhm, knitting? Not so soothing. Interesting, but not soothing.

Sewing! Sewing is fun and Zen. Dollmaking is sculpting with a needle, where you take the fabric and then cut away everything that does not look like a Hideous Fairy cum Dweller of the Deep.

And then if you're really lucky, you know a group of dollmakers to trade with, and there's all kinds of cool projects like a beaded bag. Which I have cut, and am ready to quilt as soon as I get the batting and get started and it's only due in a month . . . oh.

Sewing. Interesting. Not calming.

So who set this curse on my head? And how do I get it off?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flippin' Spades

Today tastes like bitter coffee and wafer cookies--the good ones with the creamy frosting, not the crappy buck-a-pack ones. The vanilla ones were okay, but the chocolate were bad, and the strawberry were only good for feeding to the seagulls.

I have finally managed to flip the spade lace! Here comes the knitting wonk post I warned you about. The rest of you can look at the pretty pictures and come back when we have more fiction, or other pretty pictures, or some cheese to go with the whine.

So--you have a pretty lace pattern and a great idea for its use. The only thing is . . you want the pattern to orient from a different direction.

Example: Meet Mr. Spade Lace.

He's very handsome. I like the lines of texture that form along the edges where the decreases make the spade point. Another designer, Anne Hanson, has created a very pretty shawl (click here to see) using Spade Lace.

I like her choices of stitches . . . except that the spades are upside down in the final garment.

See, Spade Lace orients such that the points point away from the cast-on edge. Anne knit Casino from the top, i.e., the cast-on edge is at the neck of the garment, and it flows down the back from there. So the points of Spade Lace trail down the back of the wearer.

Anne did a nice job turning this into a feature of the pattern (go see here). She knit a triangle shaped shawl, so the bottom point is the final repeat of Spade Lace.

Personally, I don't like simple triangle shawls. They require clutching and pinning and fiddling to keep on your shoulders, for the most part. I really like faroese shawls. They give you wings! Really, when they're on, they have these neat little pockets that your shoulders slip into, and then they hang on your body like they're part of you. You have to take them off to get out of them, they don't slip and slide and crawl all over.

And I'll bet you saw this coming: I like to knit them from the top down.

Bottom up directions read like this: Cast on a gazillion stitches, or knit three miles of edging and pick up one stitch for every other row. Knit forever, decreasing at the edges and center back panel. When you're almost done, decrease frantically at the shoulders in order to get to the neckline before you run out of yarn.

Bleh. And bleh again. I like the control that comes with top-down. I can decide when to quit and have a finished garment, even if it's more a capelet than a shawl. The rows get longer as I go, but psychologically, that's easier for me than facing long long rows to start. And I can control the fullness of the thing from the top, making fake increases when it's "big enough, but not long enough."

So, inspired by Anne's Casino I decided to make a faroese using an inverted variant of Spade Lace.

Ready for some acrobatics? Ready, set, flip!

And here's the boiz side by side:

How's it done?

Knitted lace is a tricksy thing. Sometimes, you can get away with just knitting the pattern in reverse, changing left-leaning decreases to right-leaning decreases and vice versa. Othertimes, you're going to have to re-engineer the pattern to make it flow the way you want.

First, get a good grip on the pattern you want to flip. I knit several repeats of Spade Lace to see how the increases and decreases made the pattern what it is. When I turned my swatch around, I noted that I was going to have to reverse the order of the YO's and decreases. As you can see, this made the individual motifs a little smaller. I also needed more rows to get all the features in.

Second, consider what you want from the final product. You may--or may not-- get a perfect horizontal mirror of your original pattern. What about the design is making you want to turn it over?

What appealed to me about the lace was the line of the decreases as they outlined the spade, and the little turnunder that changed the shape from an arrow (pointy tip growing at an angle, then going perfectly level to a stem) to a spade (pointy tip growing at an angle, then rounding at the corners and dimpling at the stem). But increases and decreases often do not exactly mirror each other--a three to one decrease doesn't look quite the same as a one to three increase. You'll note that in the Inverted variation, the yo's and the dec's are reversed from the original. The stem is smaller. Those were choices I made as I went through making it come out right.

Preserve what you love.

Third, have a good understanding of lace engineering. For every increase, you need a decrease SOMEWHERE IN THE PATTERN or you will wind up with a bunch of stitches you didn't account for. Oops. This especially bites when your pattern insists that it's ready to repeat . . . if only you knew what to do with those extra three stitches.

The original Spade Lace ("OSL") is 12 rows, multiple of 18 plus 1. Motifs are alternated on the half-drop principal so they tile. As one spade grows thicker, the two neighboring spades taper off, until maximal bulge meets stems. And just for fun, there's patterning on both sides. The knit rows have four increases and two decreases. The extra stitches are decreased away on the purl side. One repeat of the lace, therefore, is a half-motif, a full motif, then a half-motif.

So okay--we'll have a half-motif, full motif, half-motif in the inverted lace ("ISL") as well. That's part of how a half-drop works, after all. We know we'll want lace to define the stems and outline the motif. We know we have the option to work decreases on the purl side to compensate for increases on the knit side.

I knit a swatch of OSL, placed a lifeline, then started my ISL right on top. This let me see what I was trying to reverse right there on the needles.

I started with flipping the pointy tip. In OSL, the tip is formed with a double decrease on the purl side halfway through. I made this a double increase on the knit side at the beginning. Gotta start somewhere.

I counted increases and decreases on the knit row, then incorporated additional decreases on the purl row to make the stitch count come back even. That set up the lines of the lace, and after that, it was mostly following the logic of the pattern as far as increases/decreases. And ripping! Lots and lots of ripping! The blessing of the lifeline was that I could rip back, knowing I couldn't lose anything serious.

The most challenging rows were where the old motif falls off and curls under and the new motif begins. This happens twice--once for the center and once for each side. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for skull sweat and elbow grease sometimes.

Keep copious notes of what you do. It took about three weeks of real time to get this flipped, so about 12 hours actually interacting with the needles. You won't remember it all. I reached row 14 of my initial run, and realized I was going to have to make some major changes at row 7. My notes gave me a starting place to determine where this point should be.

Some laces may not flip attractively. But this method gave me a place to get my fingernails under it and get the piece pried up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Third Review

Today tastes like jerky-flavored cotton candy. Promising, but falling short and more than a little odd.

In case you're looking for the lace reversal post, and bewildered by the obvious lack of relevance, I hit the "publish" key a little too fast. Ooops. I'm in the process of re-knitting samples for photos, so I expect to have that post up sometime next week. Drop a comment, and I'll add you to the list of folks to notify when I get the lace reversal up.

Meanwhile, it's the 5th of May, and thus it's time for the Groundhog Resolutions Day review. A reminder of my goals for the year:

1. I will not beat myself up for falling short of perfection with respect to this list.

2. I will complete 9 knitted projects this year.

3. I will complete three spreads per month in the art journal.

I'm managing number 1 surprisingly well. Normally, when I make a list I go waaaaayyy overboard with things I want/expect to accomplish. I forget to add in things like naps and necessary break and general slack time for working on other things that come up and strike my fancy. (An Altered Spanking Paddle Swap? A Hideous Fairy Exchange? SIGN ME UP! Oooops . . .)

This time, though, I'm starting to see that overscheduling is a habit of mine. Perhaps that will be a goal for next year--"I will give up overscheduling myself. I am not an airplane."

Number 2 is moving along. I finished a shawl in April, so that's 2 of 9. There's still time to make it all happen by the end of the year without resorting to knitting socks and hats and baby things (5 hour sweaters, anyone?)

And even if I don't make 9 by New Year's, I will have cleared out several projects. I've had the yarn for this shawl for literally years.1 It's good to have it hanging out in another form, rather than wrapping the skein around my neck. Much more attractive this way.

And then we get to my bete noir, number 3. The infamous number 3.


That about sums it up. I haven't touched this since February. Part of it is that it's beastly hot in the paper studio (no air conditioning, south central Arizona, summer). Need I say more?

Yeah, okay, the other part of it is that I bit off more than is realistically chewable. If I really hadda gotta do it, I'd be out there at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, I'd be out there early in the morning on weekdays, I'd find some way around it, but I'm not doing so.

Mostly, I'm choosing to knit or read. I haven't even bound this first quarter's output yet. I need to finish the art papers I use to make the pages, then glue the stories and pictures to them and arrange the signatures and yadda yadda yadda. I want to clean the studio so it's easier to work in, I have other projects hanging out, and I have every excuse in the book for not doing so, it seems.

All right. This will probably change again come fall and winter, when it cools down some and I'm more interested in papery things once more. Interesting. Perhaps I need to keep this in mind next year, that I like to knit more beginning in early spring and go through late fall, then work the hours of small daylight in the paper studio under the glow of the lightbulb, in the chilly winter temps.

I also need to keep in mind that I need slack time, that I have enough daily activities to keep me running on the wheel, and if I add more to that daily/weekly/monthly goal, things will fall off, and I hate that.2

Perhaps in 2009 I'll be writing about "I will schedule at least one weekend per month where I don't have anything particular to work on."

1. I bought it for a class that was being held at a big knitters' convention. I'd wanted to go to this for years, so we're talking 2002 or so. The teacher then decided that rather than teach shawl design, she was going to do a little knit-along project where she blathered on a bit about lace knitting (yeah, holes and decreases, uh-huh) for about an hour, then handed out project sheets (is this IT?) and that was that. On top of that, it was a goofy little lace scarf project.

I could have done this myself without the "class." (Without the registration fee, without the travel costs, without the hotel costs, without the food costs . . . that would have bought a LOT of yarn and pattern dictionaries. If you put your ear to the monitor you can probably hear my blood boiling.)

2. I hate things falling off. I hate having many projects in half-completed states and feeling like I have no way to devote enough time to them to finish. I have having desires and realizing that I have so many things begun that I'm only shooting myself in the feet to start another.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Today Tastes Like Burning . . . A Quick Fiction Fix

Blog entry April 26, 2008

My younger brother called to let me know a package was on its way. When I asked him what sort of package, he chuckled, and told me I'd know it when I saw it. Odd.

Not that he'd send a package; my birthday was earlier this month, and he's thoughtful that way. Not always timely, but then, none of us are much for punctuality. Late births are the norm in our family, and as you begin . . .

No, I remember Christmas was hard for him. He'd go out and buy gifts for everyone, but the waiting until the big day was tough. He'd want to share the fun right then, not wrap it and stash it under the tree. There were times he'd go out and buy doubles because he couldn't wait and would blurt out "I got you a . . ." at the dinner table.

For that matter, he didn't sound quite like himself. He sounded . . . flat. For a minute, I was reminded of those hostage tapes from al Jazeera. Like he was reading from a script. Like someone was putting words in his mouth.


Blog entry May 2, 2008

A package was waiting by the door when I came home. Great postage stamps! See what I mean about thoughtful--my brother knows I do collages, so he found one of the few companies that uses old-fashioned stamps instead of those bar print thingies. They look Asian; a man with deep epicanthal folds and black eyes peers out from under a . . . well, it's kind of a hood and kind of a mitre and kind of . . . well, it's a headdress for sure. He's wearing a veil over his nose and mouth. The hat and veil are yellow. When I turn the stamp, it's holographic! The folds of the veil shift and flow a little. What a cool effect! Usually they just snap back and forth, but this--it's like the wind rippling the cloth. Or maybe it's just the light.

I'm going to have to hit the intarwebs and google "Carcosa." My geography's not the best (okay, nonexistant. I memorized what I needed for tests and promptly forgot everything. Never thought I'd need it.) but I don't recognize the country.

Blog entry May 7, 2008

I LOVE THIS CD!!!! It's taken pride of place in my collection. I have it on permanent rotation in the car. I take it with me into the office, plug it into the computer, and listen with my headphones on. (It looks like I'm taking dictation.) I carry it into the house and put it on the stereo while I'm hanging out at home.

It's funny. I've played this disc so often, the music is a soundtrack to my dreams. I better make a copy or two before it gets scratched.

Maybe I'll make a copy for the car, a copy for work, a copy for home, a copy to put in my gym bag . . . better fire up Nero and get cracking, huh?

Blog entry May 20, 2008

Man! I didn't realize I'd been away for so long--where does the time go?

Last night, I dreamed I was riding on the back of a camel. I was crossing the desert at night, following a black man dressed in yellow robes. The stars were especially bright and clear, like they were closer to the earth, and brighter. Much brighter.

We were going to a city in the desert. I could see the towers on the horizon, topped with fantastic spires that went on and on forever. I could see the moon impaled on one like a glowing minaret. The things you dream! For that to happen, the moon would have to be in front of the tower. Isn't that silly?

They told us we'd have to announce summer vacation plans at work--dates and stuff. I'm finally eligible for three weeks at a whack. I usually break it up through the year--a long weekend made even longer, the whole week off between Christmas and New Year's. But this time, I think I'll take it all at once.

I'd like to go to Egypt.

Blog entry June 15, 2008

Well my bags are packed and I'm ready to go . . . lah lah lah lah, I'll miss you so . . . lah lah lah lah something something . . . I'm leaving on a jet plane!

I used to love that song. I can barely remember the lyrics now, buried as they are under my current favorite CD with the drums and flutes and the chanting in Egyptian.

I think it's Egyptian. I've learned enough to be polite--I'm hungry, where's a restaurant? I'm thirsty, where's a bar? Excuse me, please, thank you, where's the bathroom? But the chant on the CD bears the same resemblance to what I've learned as Chaucer does to modern English. All hard consonants bodyslammed to the mat, every bit of juice wrung out of the gutterals, the vowels snorted through the nose.

I'm so looking forward to this trip. Somehow it feels like coming home.

Message from: System_Administrator@LengLemming
Date: December 15, 2008

Hi! You haven't posted to your blog in over six months.

While we value your participation, under your terms of service, we may cancel your account for lack of activity. Please be advised that your blog will be deleted if you do not post within fourteen (14) calendar days of this reminder.

Thank you for using LengLemming!

January 1, 2009

404 (Page not Found)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Insert Evocative Title Here

Today tastes like chinese long beans, like rapini, like underripe cucumbers. Bitter. But I like it. Because it is bitter and because it is my heart. 1

It's one of those weeks where everywhere I turn, everyone does it better than me. Whatever it is. Whoever they are. I'm hip-deep in exchanges where others are posting swag and swag to be, and I look at what I have planned, and it looks like a dog's breakfast.

I'm busting my hump to chart a lace pattern. It's one of those times where you read the written pattern--multiple of 18 plus 1--then you check the actual directions and count stitches for the first row . . . and notice that you have to have 25 to work across once. My math may not be the best, but when I take off my shoes and count, 18 plus one DOES NOT EQUAL 25.

But it has been charted by someone else, and used to good effect. I have a plan to use it to great effect, if I can only get reality to cooperate with my dream. I may be smoking something. Won't be the first time.

Oh, I got it charted, with a great deal of skull sweat and test knitting. My hair caught fire two-three times, but it's charted. Now all I have to do (she said modestly) is reverse the pattern while keeping the character of the stitch.

You can stop laughing now.

You Big Dawg Knitters are nodding along--you know it's not just a matter of working the directions backwards. You know it's not even as simple as working from the last line to the first and reversing decreases.

Did I mention that this pattern has unbalanced increases on the knit side that get decreased away on the purl side? If it actually works, there will be a knitting wonk post to beat all knitting wonk posts detailing my thought processes as I flipped the lace. This is one of the Holy Grails of knitting--figuring out how to take a pattern you love from the bottom up and make it work top down.

I know this. I know that I may be Galahad here, cursed to see it once and never to grasp it.

And yeah, I'm doing this to myself. I'm looking over the shoulders of a couple of knitalongs where some knitters are discovering that there are patters where you have to --gasp-- pattern on both rows without resting, OMGBBQ! Yup, I have it in me so much nearer home to scare myself with my own desert places. 2

So I go to write on the Neverending Story Project. I have a lot of catching up to do. Amazing how they pile up when you don't get that story a day done each day. I'm banging along with my perpetual duo, and each story, due to the brevity of the format, feels like a scene in a chapter rather than a chapter in its entirety.

And I have the sinking feeling that I'm telling the same parts over and over and even fifty-five words is too long to forestall tedium. And on the other hand, if I collected them all into some sort of order, I might well have something worth exploring one of these days real soon now.

So I go to read my email. And Li'l Brah has posted a poem on his blog which not only piques my curiosity (really? Give up the chance to fanbabble at Shakespeare and Lincoln???) but containes that amazingly evocative line "I would give up all the fallen leaves in Gesthemane" and now I can barely see out of the bright green lenses that are my eyes. (I got even. I sent him a poem by Rumi. Hah!)3

So, in order to close with something gone right, there will be knitting:

(Eventually. I haven't made time to block the completed item yet, but will stick a picture here soon soon.)

Summer in Kansas, done Helen's Lace, Bucks Bar colorway. I started this shortly before I broke my hand last winter, and it was one of the first things I picked back up, solely to prove to myself that I could still knit lace.

Probably not the best choice. The silk kept catching on the Velcro of the brace, and I couldn't use my right hand the same way, and yeah, the pain pills interfered with the counting somewhat. ("Five, six, seven, thirteen, yellow . . .")

About halfway through, I realized it was literally riddled with errors and I wasn't going to be able to change patterns. So I ripped the whole thing out back to the cast-on row, made charts and charts of what I was doing and where I was going, and started. All. Over. Again. After the New Year.

Once I had all my tools in place, this was a fun little knit. Even the gazillion rows of the border where I had to have the charts handy for every stitch, and cheered when I finally turned the middle corner.

Not entirely unlike turning the middle finger.

1. Google Stephen Crane and "In the Desert."

2. See Robert Frost's "Desert Places."

3. Li'l Brah, hope I didn't out you to the 'rents here. Butcha know, you shouldn't post it to the intarwebs if you aren't willing for your mom to find out . . .

P.S.--And in yet another example of serendipity, the quote of the day for a group I read was this:

"The artist's personality, built upon strong desires and compassionate vision, is by its nature prone to depression. Therefore an artist will be visited by depression as a matter of course; his job is to recognize how his own thoughts and feelings contribute to his sadness. He can discourage these visits by affirming his freedom and worth, by remembering to love, and by gently encouraging himself to believe in a world of renewed possibilities. Depression may be natural, but still the artist can dispute and overcome it."

--Affirmations for Artists by Eric Maisel

Talk about your basic Godsmacks . . .