Monday, August 31, 2009

The knitting gods...

...they do exist and they have looked down upon me this day and deemed me unworthy of their love. They have wrought their particular and sneaky havoc throughout the night, in a plastic bag in which I had delicately place the carefully folded Hemlock Ring Throw. In an effort to court their approval (and make the blanket smell nice), I deftly added a couple hand-made lavender and cedar sachets.

Not more than 30 minutes ago, I learned how cruel these knitting gods can be. I have heard them spoken of, often in hushed tones. Sometimes, a particularly brazen (or drunk) knitter might scoff at such a belief, only to have even the simplest of project go inexplicably and horribly awry. I have always approached these stories with respect and more than a little reverence, even though I had not yet, until this day, had any first-hand encounters with their extreme and awesome power.

I brought the finished Hemlock Throw into work to show to my co-peeps, always appreciative and appropriate in their ooo-and-ahhh response. I pulled the throw from its lavender and cedar paradise, a smile upon my face and my heart full of pride and accomplishment. With two hands and great flourish, I tossed the blanket up, it unfurled and landed ever so gently upon my desk...and a shriek of horror resounded in my head.

It was a glorious testament to its former, FRUMPY self!

Yes, indeed...over the course of the night, as I slept semi-soundly in bed, lulled into a false sense of security brought on by the cool, pre-autumn night air and the soothing sounds of the city at night, the knitting gods sent down their post-modern Puck to wreak undue havoc upon my work. All of the soaking and pinching and prodding and pinning and stretching...all of the blocking wires in all the world could not, nay would not, tame this beast! No!

In the course of just a few sleepy hours, the blanket had transformed and reverted from its gorgeous and beauteous self back into the frumpy, clustered and scalloped heap it had been prior. Like Cinderella at the ball, the clock has struck midnight and the Pumpkin carriage was no more. This beautiful lotus flower had its leaves fold in upon themselves, as if it could sense the impending Fall. The fan & leaf pattern, each repeat receeded and pulled; the increases and decreases, their epic battle frozen in a moment of monumental frump!

I blame this whole mess on the acrylic content of the yarn. Yes, I many times have I read that you simply cannot under any circumstances block acrylic into anything. I thought, however, that the wool content might mitigate this tiny fact, this minuscule facet of the total project.

It doesn't mitigate shit, my friends.

I am crestfallen. In my 2 years of knitting, this ranks as my first major knitting disappointment. I'm sure there will be others. But there's nothing quite like your first time...and this is mine.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hemlock Ring Throw

Hemlock Ring Throw
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
Amazing, isn't it? It never ever fails to delight me the way lace knitting opens up like a spring flower once it's blocked. Every yarn-over and all the detail suddenly comes to light (and a white beach towel underneath always helps, too!

It took about an hour to thread the wires and stick the pins. I had to use all of my blocking mats and employ a rather large cork board from my closet in order to make a space large enough to pin this mutha out...and as you can tell, it still wasn't as well-pinned as I would have liked. C'est la vie...

I'm off to the gym to celebrate the near finish of a very long project. Odd...I never thought the gym would be a celebratory place for me. How things change...

Boneyard Shawl

Boneyard Shawl
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
Work Project III is complete! take on Stephen West's Boneyard Shawl. According to the notes I kept in my Ravelry notebook, this took me three months of work lunches to complete.

I opted to use Classic Elite Yarns Alpaca Sox, an alpaca/merino/nylon blend with a really great, fluid drape to it. Ever since I started work on my colossal Sock Yarn blanket, I've develop a real affinity for sock yarn and have to say that I love working with it. Stephen's pattern is super easy and I opted for the YO increases along the center spine and the edges because, well...that's how the pattern was written when I started. Stephen has since put out an alternate pattern using M1Rs and M1Ls to avoid the holes. I had to improvise a bit with the row counts and color changes but you can't even notice and I'm certainly not going to point out the asymmetry.
I brought it home with me on Friday evening and took full advantage of my cats enjoying themselves on the balcony to block it using my newly acquired blocking wires and mats from In case you had any doubt, blocking wires are the way to go when trying to straighten out the edges of a triangular shawl (or any shape really). Without them, I would have need a ska-billion more T-pins to secure a straight edge. As it was, I barely needed a dozen...although I could use several more blocking mats...I tried to take a cue from Yarndude and snap some model shots of me wearing the shawl but let's face it folks, it's just past 8am on a Sunday morning. Are you sure you really want to see when I look like when in full weekend mode? Shawl or no shawl...that's just not going to happen. (Editor's note: Actually, it did happen...but the results of said snaps were as expected. I look like a schoolboy who just woke up from the deepest sleep possible...and I do have a modicum of vanity. At least, I have enough not to post those photos.)

In other news and speaking of the necessity of blocking, the Hemlock Ring throw is off the needles and boy, is it a frumpy mess! What you see is the pre-blocked throw, lying as flat as it can at this stage...seriously. I swear to you, I did not frump it up on purpose just for the purpose of hammering home a point. Nope...the areas heavy in decreases are pulled together and the excessive YOs add so much space, the knitted fabric starts to ruffle on itself. What was that I said about needing more T-pins? My plan, at least in its preliminary stages, is to block out the center flower with pins, then insert wires radially through each feather & fan repeat to get a nice spread. The outer edges will need yet more pins...

...and I don't know how I'm going to keep the Warden away from my work space long enough to get this whole thing set up. Hmm... can see the mischief and mayhem brewing in his eyes. Don't look too deeply! That's how he gains control of your mind!

It's time to soak a blanket and watch Princess Mononoke.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Of Ribs and Wallets...

Simply put, both are broken.

Starting with the former, I cracked one last weekend playing sand volleyball. I would tell you that I was totally lit at the time but that would seriously detract from the appearance that I'm actually an uber-sportif dude. I'm not, in reality...but I do play one in the television show of my life. See, I was playing volleyball and not very well, I might add. I was going for the spike...and in my mind's eye, I could see myself diving for the ball, at just the right angle for my clenched fists to meet the ball and send it far into the air and over the net. It was in slow-motion (of course), like a championship match you might find on an odd sports channel at 4am. What actually happened, as told to me by my friends who had the pleasure of witnessing this once-in-a-lifetime event, was that the ball had already landed by the time I made the fateful decision to launch myself in its general direction. To my credit, I did land relatively close to where the ball lie...but not close enough to actually touch it, even with outstretched arms. Instead, I executed a perfect, spot-on chest landing on the sand, cracking one of my lower ribs (left side) in the process. Volleyball -1; Me - 0

This makes the second cracked rib I've had in less that 12 months. Yes...shocking, but true. The first happened in early January due to a thin slick of ice on my front steps. Solid granite came into contact with my right backside at a surprising rate of speed, culminating in a beauty of a bruise, eclipsed in size and deepness of color only by a medium-sized eggplant. In any case, do you know how often you use your abdominal muscles? Sitting, standing, lifting, leaning...I did my laundry yesterday. I positioned the collapsible hamper at the top of the steps and pushed it down the stairs. Why? Because picking up clothes at the bottom a million times over is ultimately less punishing than trying to carry the hamper down the stairs. And please...don't make me laugh right now. It's not at all pleasant...

Moving on to the latter, my wallet is cracked, too. I got unexpectedly slammed with a $300 student loan payment, right in the kisser! You see, this weekend I received a "Past Due" notice from my student loan company. At first, I was dare they! But, being rational and over the age of 5, I did some research, double checked my payment coupons, correlated them to my bank statements. All was in order, just as I knew it would be. Why? Because I'm that guy who always pays every bill on time...every time. In fact, with my student loan payments, due to where they fall in the month versus my pay schedule at Ye Ol' Employer, I usually pay them a good 2 weeks in advance!

So, first thing this morning, I call up Little Shoppe of Student Loans and explain calmly that surely there is a mistake with their records. The woman, Kristin, was very kind and understanding and worked with me as we filled back through my coupon book, verifying payments and confirmation numbers. We flipped back through August, paid in July; July, paid in June; June, paid in May; May, paid in...wait...what the...??

Where did this payment coupon from April come from? Hmm...I, my payments didn't start in May? Uh-huh,'re telling me that when I thought I was paying May early, I was actually paying April...late? Just a little late? Oh, well...that's better. forward...this most recent payment that I just made for September...was actually for August, I see.

So, you need an additional $300?

Yes, sir.

Even though I just paid you $300?

Yes, sir.

Hmm, that's a bit like paying 2 loans payments in a row.

Yes, sir.

That's going to be rough...financially, I mean...

Yes, sir.

Of ribs and wallets...both very broken and causing me great discomfort.

Men Who Knit
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Cast off...

Cast off...
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
It's Friday morning and, by the grace of my method of gainful employment, I have today off. I have every other Friday off...or should that be every every-other Friday? Focus...I started casting off the Hemlock Ring Throw...and it's going to take forever! Again, many thanks to Yarndude for alerting me to the fact that this step is going to require a metric ton of yarn. (We both drive Echos, ya know?) I made sure to start a fresh skein 10 stitches before diving in. As you can see to the right, the finished edge is nothing terribly special, just a series of bridged yarn-overs, giving the throw a slightly scalloped edge. The real insanity comes when you make the following realization:

Every 5th row of the throw, the number of stitches, per pattern repeat, is increased by 4, for a total increase of 32 stitches.

At the beginning of the chart, there are a meager 168 stitches on the needles. By the red line, there are an impressive 504...and by the end of the chart, 568. But I'm an over-achiever, so I just has to take it into uncharted waters and after figuring out the pattern of SSKs and K2togs, I took the throw 4 increases past the end of the chart, meaning I should have a whopping 696 little loops of yarn sitting there patiently waiting.Here's the insanity: each little scallop you see in that picture, when all is said and done, only kills 4 stitches! Each little scallop requires 3 passes...the setup, turn the work and increase, then turn again and cast-off...congratulations! You've killed 4 measly stitches...only 692 more to go.

Think of singing "99 Bottles of Beer...," only you've started with 696 and you have to maintain a comfortable, but not too fast or jovial, pace...and you and I might just finish together., what? I fell asleep...oh! The throw, that's right...FOREVER! Someone being me a copy of "Howl's Moving Castle"...oh, there's one. Thanks Trish...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I propose Car Licences...

8:07pm - I'm just home from the gym, have fed the kitties and have yet to feed myself. There are no pictures for this post, just an odd yet somehow compelling idea that first occurred to me this morning, maybe's hard to say as my sense of time is usually relative and days and events bleed together often.

So, I'm driving...yesterday, this morning to work, after work to the gym, then from the gym back home. And all over the place I'm seeing SUV and big, fuckoff know, the kind with four back wheels (because you couldn't possibly keep that thing on road with the normal two). And this is nothing new for me or anyone else...the massive vehicles have been around for some time now. It was just last summer that it bagan to dawn on anyone that a vehicle that averages 15 miles to the gallon might not be the best choice...from an economical standard...unless you're an asshole CEO who make skads of money and has something to prove. I'm driving my Toyota Echo (which is so cute AND averages 33 mpg!), looking around at all these big moving things and I'm noticing that they all have one person in them...the driver. Oh okay, there's one van with two people in it but the rear two-thirds of the damn thing has nothing in it (that I can see...maybe groceries). You're starting to see my point? Surely, you've thought about it, too. It's the reason some cities have carpool encourage you to drive with other people in your car that might not hardly know (which is, in and of itself, a mild form of torture to be endured in your own car), all in the names of...environmental protection,'s green! Okay...

But not everyone is doing this. I know I don't...but I have a car that is, by todays contemporary standards...hell, even by the standards set forth in the Federal CARS program...a fuel efficient model. What about the boob who just merged in front of me going 20 miles slower in the Hummer? And the dude talking on his cellphone and failing to signal his intention to cut across three lanes of interstate traffic in his Escalade or Esplanade or Super Grand Latte Promenade? It seats 10 people comfortably! So why is he the only one in it?

So here is what I propose: a car license.

You need a license to drive a car. This small, wallet-sized laminated piece of plastic, emblazoned usually with one of the worst photos you've ever taken, is meant to demonstrate your ability to competantly operate the motor vehicule behind the wheel of which you are sitting. As we have all witnessed, some more than others (Kort), being in possession of this little piece of plastic with your picture on it does not always mean that you can drive with a damn. However, be that as it may...without it, you cannot drive.

You're car needs a license plate which, simply put, indicates that this car, truck, motorcycle or van is able to stay together and not fall to bits on the open road. In many places, a plethora of other assundried stickers and colorful marking are also required, indicating that your exhaust isn't too stinky, that your brakes work, there are no cracks in your gas tank, that your seatbelts are the right shade of grey or that your stereo's sub-woofer is in proper ghetto operating order. Without the license, don't even start the engine.

I propose the additional requirement of a car license. This license would entitle you to purchase, own and operate a vehicule, new or used, of a certain size, up to and including, but not to exceed a ratio directly proportionate to your personalized need.

Are you a contractor, apple farmer, high-scale garden and landscaper? You need that honkin', bigger than the Ark, 4-back wheel monster of a diesel truck? If you can prove need, then here's your license.

Are you in a band, a roadie for a band or living out your dreams of touring with a band? Do you need and EconoLine van with two front seats and a huge storage bay for your gear while on tour? Here's you're mo'fo' license. Cha-ching!!

Are you a dumb, rich teenager shopping for your first car, an asshole Ad Exec with an expense account or just generally bored with life? And you want to buy an Escalade all for yourself? Think again, donut muncher. Let's person, not an industrial contractor, primary use includes work commute or driving to ya' go, skipper! License for a 2-door anything...maybe a hatchback, if you grease the wheels.

Are you a pro athlete, a cocaine dealer, or aspiring hip-hop artist with a gold grill trying to demonstrate to your peeps and posse that your newest single is the hottest shit to pop on the streetz since Kanye West's ego stole the muthin' fuckin' show? can have a 4-door sedan, or a Jeep...or maybe even a Blazer from back in the day, 'cuz thatd be retro. Oh, and you can put some mad azz graphics up on dat shit, too. Why not?

In short, I'm kidding...and totally not all at the same time. Not only is it excessively wasteful and simultaneously, shall I say it, American to buy to our fullest capacity simply because we can, but it's also socially irresponsible. We've reached a point where the only people not admitting that we've already passed our peak oil production years are oil executive who are scared to loose their balls and the uber-Republicans who have their hands so far up the oil industry's collective ass, they actually performing a thorough prostate exam...but even they don't like what they feel.

It's not always just about you. Okay, can definitely be just about you a lot of the time. But we all need to collectively realize that the choices we make in our own lives have a discernable effect on our society as a whole. The fact that you just bought a platinum-plated Hummer that gets 12 mpg means that you're using (way) more gas that you should even think you're entitled to. Owning a bigger than life vehicule does not justify the resources needed to run the damn thing. You might be able to afford to pay for the gas...but it just means less for everyone else and it brings us all, the whole world, closer and closer to the point at which everything just goes boom and falls down. me down ff this soapbox, think that bingo game still happening in the pavilion? Let's go...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sudden Rain at Atake

Ando Hiroshige
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
I discovered this print today by Ando Hiroshige, a Japanese printmaker from way back in the day. It was especially à propos for today as we've been pelted on and off throughout with cloudbursts and rainstorms. I've always been enamored and entranced by Japanese block prints...almost as if I could project my very soul into the scene depicted. Sometimes, I couldn't ask for any greater superpower...

Toby was in town this past weekend for the wedding of Bree and Nathan, a wonderful couple who have been together since as long as I can remember. Toby and I once dated a very long time ago and, as I have done with almost all of my former loves, we've been friends ever since. I was his date for the event and, although aspects of the wedding and reception were much like descending into the many rings of hell, none of them had to with him or me. Toby is one of my closest friends and still has the power to evoke powerful and emotional responses from me. I love him dearly...

He's also not yet been the recipient of any of my knitted love, which should be changing soon. I like to keep some light reading material in the bathroom and this weekend was all about "Knitting With Balls: A Hands-On Guide to Knitting for the Modern Man" by Michael Del Vecchio. Toby found a hat and scarf ensemble in there and specifically requested that I make them for him...when I had the chance. Never one to turn away from a new project, especially when said project is for someone so dear, I began immediately to rummage and dig through my stash, eventually coming upon about 7 skeins of Noro Kureyon in a dude-neutral cream colorway. The scarf needs to be fairly neutral to match up with both a brown suede jacket and a grey unknown-fiber jacket. Keep an eye out...updates will be coming soon, I assure you.

By the end of the weekend, I was really just drained. Intense and/or extended amounts of social interaction are not generally very high on my list of favorite things to do. So, after a full night of carousing on Friday, the wedding and reception on Saturday and finally lunch and a trip to the train station on Sunday, there was simply no way I could have possibly been expected to do the laundry I had originally planned to do before I was lassoed in being Toby's date. Instead, I settled in to watch the rain with the kitties and knit up a big fat Sock Yarn Blanket square. I'll probably have a repeat performance tonight.

It's late...and I'm still a little drained. No gym tonight...I'm going home.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We don't win many spelling bees in St. Louis...

As I was driving home from Stacy's house the other day, I was stopped at Jefferson and Gravois, in the heart of St. Louis city. I've seen this ghetto beauty supply store so many times, it's become just a part of the backdrop to the intersection. For some reason, though, on this day, I look over and notice this sign. I laugh to myself and reach for my camera...because in St. Louis, we don't spell much. We just make it up as we go along...

St Louis Knits!
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Hemlock Ring Blanket

Hemlock Ring Blanket
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
Many thanks go out to BrooklynTweed for finding/adapting a pattern that offers the maximum effect with minimal amount of technical prowess required. Behold, the first few photos of the aforementioned Hemlock Ring Blanket.

The pattern itself, like any project that begins with a delicate few stitches and then radiates outwards (think top-down hats and beenies), it's the first few set-up rows that cause the most grief. You cast on X number of stitches, divide them "evenly" between 3 or 4 needles (when the beginning number of stitches is divisible by neither 3 nor 4) and then become something akin to a modern day Uri Geller as you attempt to, with only the power of your mind, to balance multiple needles without much substance to hold them together.
Once you make past the first half-dozen rows, then you're mostly in the clear. The center is really the most difficult portion, with the subsequent radial patterns of the Leaf & Fan being a straight forward increase row every fifth round. Outside of the center, the Hemlock Ring itself, it's really just a series of K2togs, YOs and SSKs.
I usually have to pause my Netflix goodness on the increase rounds, but the 4 rows of straight knitting thereafter are nothing but a dream. Pay enough attention to not frakk it up...'cuz once you've gone 3 increases beyond the end of the chart and you discover you missed a SSK, you're really gonna kick yourself if you have to tink all the way back. And, personally, I'm not frogging even the simplest lace pattern.

Moving beyond the given chart isn't nearly as dangerous as it might sound. You only have to study the pattern of the increases and keep to the pattern. One incredibly important consideration to bear in mind is that this is a lace pattern and as such, you will need to block it once it's done. Without being blocked, it just looks like a very big, very frumpy pile of knitted matter. The blocking will really open the pattern to its fullest potential. However, to effectively block a whole blanket, you'll need some seriously open space (and no cats who either will want to lay on top of the blanket while it is being blocked or will want to eat the blocking pins, pulling them out of the cork after you have spent many agonizing hours bent over the blocking surface, perfecting the proportions before securing the blanket in place to dry).

You now have an idea of what I will have to contend with very soon. Miss Peachy won't be the issue. Benson, with his ever keen eye always turned three degrees to the dark side of life, will be more of the challenge. (I love both my kittehs but sometimes, that little dude is just too damn smart for his own good.) I still have at least 4 full skeins I can knit into the blanket before I have to think about the finishing edge. Yarndude, bless his heart, has already warned me that the edge will require a lot of yarn.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Panoply of cotton color...

It's a really amusing story really, where this palette of cotton lace weight came from. Pull up a chair and get comfy. I just rediscovered it in my stash, even though it hasn't been there that long...I'll tell you the story.

On a recent trip back to Michigan, I was making a very unscheduled jaunt into the northern reaches of the state, back to my hometown for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with this story. In order to make this skip through the woods a little more motivating, I decided to check for yarn stores in the area. Lo' and behold, I found one...but not at all where there should have been one.

In the middle of deer country, about 6 miles off the 2-lane highway, smack dab in the middle of nowhere, you'll find Suzee's Knitporium. I have most definitely changed the names to protect all parties involved. This LYS is local to no one...except perhaps the house across the road. It's twenty miles from the nearest town, 6 miles off the highway and even further from a main interstate. Yet somehow, like a flower growing in the cracks of a concrete sidewalk, here it is.

Well, I called ahead to make sure they were open. I was told they might be, it really depended on whether they headed up to lake or not. When I arrived, I found it was open and staffed by one lone woman who promptly told me upon my entrance that she probably couldn't help me as she was only the renter of the basement apartment and that the owner/landlord had indeed gone to the lake. Slightly bemused by this announcement, I assured her that I knew my way around a yarn shop...nothing to fear.

It had your usual fare with nothing jumping out as unusual or particularly outstanding. The one notable aspect to this shop was that it seemed that all cotton everywhere was priced to move. Okay, kind of cool, sure, but I don't knit a lot with cotton, so...not that big of a deal. I did find some Plymouth Encore Colorspun D.K. for a steal...which is what I'm using for the Hemlock Ring Blanket (pictures coming soon). And I also found this:
Among the chaos and disarray of a deeply discounted bin of crap, bundled all together on one large circular ring, I found a veritable rainbow of cotton lace weight. The tag reads: Wildflowers BY CARON. Okay...odd, but...what's this? $2.50 each...and a 50% discount on top of that? Well, now we might be in business! (Side note: This moment in time represents one of the rare moments in my life when I actively wished to have an I-Phone so that, lickity-split, I could have consulted with Ravelry or Yarndex to determine what exactly this stuff was...But I didn't have one, so fuck it.) Obviously, I bought the whole kit-n-kaboodle...I mean, how you could you not, right? But gets better.

By the way, I later found out that Wildflowers is actually a line of high quality embroidery thread that happens to work great for lace! And you see those five I set off to the right? Well, those are duplicates...and I think they're going to be shipped off with a certain lavender satchel to someone that I just happen to know who just happens to knit a lot of lace. It's a grand tradition of woo-ing I'm partaking in here...

So, I grab the Rainbow Ring of Cotton, 2 full bags of Encore Colorspun D.K. and some other stuff and go to check out. The renter lady, who was, to her credit, incredibly nice for not knowing a single solitary thing about yarn, began to ring me up...and had I been buying regular price anything, I'm sure it would have gone much smoother. But as I was buying loads of crap from the discount bin, a discount she must give. However, the register was not cooperating and renter lady ust couldn't enter the discount in a way the register seemed to agree with. Keep in mind, this is deep country, okay? This cash register is the bare bones basic model, not the height of technology. And at first, it was cute...and a little comical. But as a few minutes turned into five and then fifteen, it became less amusing and more annoying. Renter lady was becoming more and more exasperated, cursing the name of the owner-lady and landlord for having left her there, ill-equiped to handle even the most basic of transactions. Finally, I just had to kick it old school, yo...time was running short and I was going to be late. So, I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and began doing the math, subtracting the percentages, arguing with the woman that I would at least be able to write her a check for the correct amount and they could figure out their technological difficulties without me standing there.

As I'm writing up my own purchases, she's throwing the yarn into a bag...but she begins to throw yarn into the bag before I have a chance to jot it down. I try and stop her, mentioning that I haven't written that one down...or that one...hey, lady, wait! She looks up at me and says, "Fuck it, you know...she left me here...I just rent the basement apartment, okay? You got this, this and this," motioning to the 2 bags of Encore Colorspun and another skein on random sock yarn, "and the rest, well, fuck it." And with that, she scoops everything left on the counter, including my rainbow of cotton, into the bag! A Zauberball?! No problem, in the bag! WTF?! Are you serious, lady? Absolutely.

I write her a check for a grossly underestimated amount...maybe, just maybe $100...and I walk out of there with almost three times the amount in my bags. Zauberball, Plymouth Encore, Noro Silk Garden, Fortissimo Sock...holy polywogs, Scooby! What the frak just happened in there?!

So, the moral of the story: if you ever happen to be traveling in northern Michigan and you come across a yarn store tucked away from anything resembling civilization, you might have just found Suzee's Knitporium. And, if you've been a very good little knitter, you might just find that Suzee has gone to the lake, leaving crazy Renter-Lady in charge. 'Tis a blessing, my children...from the fiber gods! But heed my warning: they don't accept plastic!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lavender Bounty II

Lavender Bounty II
Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
Here it is, the second bounty of freshly harvested lavender. I had fully intended on harvesting 2 full bundles (what you see here is only 1) but it would seem the plants are in between their first and second blooms of the season. What you see here took close to two hours to collect, flitting like a lil' bee from bush to bush, looking for sprigs that were partially bloomed but without the brown of blooms gone by. Not an easy order to fill and not quite as lovely as the fields weren't nearly as fragrant. The second blooms happens near mid-September so there may yet be another trip this year...

It's from this bundle that I'll make Yarndude's satchel of fresh lavender. Give it about 2 weeks and it should be ready...

Although it was mildly disappointing, the trip to the farm was no less restorative to the soul than last time. I was the only person in the fields and even though it was a little on the hot and humid side of things, there was a mild breeze and the sun would occasionally come out. It must have come out more than I thought it had, when I woke up from my nap after my return, I discovered that my arms and neck had received more than their fair of sun and, when I turned on the light, my suspicions were confirmed: sunburn. *sigh* No, of course I didn't wear sunscreen, was a perfectly overcast day...except for when it wasn't.

In any case, I dutifully split the lavender bundle into 8 smaller bundles to facilitate the drying process and hung them upside down in the closet. If you've never worked with a harvest, you're missing out...and I'm not just referring to the lavender.
I also snipped some fresh lemon thyme from my gardens. This herb has been by far the easiest to grow this year. It requires only that I water it...and it grows and grows. I take scissors to it, snipping on long, beautiful twiglettes...only to have it close in the space I opened up with more growth. The best its name implies, it has the best lemon scent ever! Above is the mini-crop after a lil' wash in the sink, drying on my dish drainer before I lay it out for a proper drying in the closet. Snipping, collecting, washing, drying, bundling, hanging, drying, crushing, brushing...the whole process from start to finish, whether it's lavender, thyme, basil or rosemary, just puts me into such a quiet and content place and eventually provides me with stuff I can use and derive enjoyment and pleasure from.

And finally, these are the newest bloomers in the gardens! I planted the bulbs way back in the beginning of Spring, right after I built the gardens, and they've been growing ever since. The trouble was they weren't blooming and I couldn't remember what type of bulb I had planted. I'm okay with not's part of the magic of gardening. The first surprise is when anything green decides to grow out of the dirt. A fuckin' miracle, if you ask me. The second surprise, such as in this case, is when the mystery finally blooms...into an odd and beautiful, 6-petaled gladiolus variation. I wish I could tell you the name...but, as I've already mentioned, I haven't a clue. The bumblebees like 'em, though...they're slightly fragrant...and short lived. The blooms are at their fullest and most gorgeous only for a couple of days and then start to wilt and wither. But there seems to be no shortage of blooms to take the places of those for whom it is time to die. I expect they'll continue like this throughout August, maybe into September...when it'll be time to pick more lavender. It's a wonderful cycle...

After some exhaustive and extensive research (not really), I've discovered that the flower is actually an Abyssinian Gladiolus, tropical and native to Madagascar. That should tell you a little something about a St. Louis summer...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lavender for George!

Oh, what fiber goodness will soon be visited upon my humble home! I've just arranged the most amazing trade between myself and one of my fellow knitter dudes, Yarndude. If you have a moment, I recommend checking out his blog at Knitting With a "Y": The Accounts of a Male Knitter. He is the nicest guy, seriously...and also super cute! (I have a serious little crush on him) He sort of responsible for my dabbling in the spinning world, although he's been doing it for longer and to much better results than me...hands down.

So there we are, Yarndude and KnittaPrince, exchanging messages on Ravelry about some of our common projects when I mention that I'm going to be making another mini-trek to the lavender farm and I offer to send him a little sachet of fresh lavender for his stash. In return, he has generously offered to send me the cutest lil' hank of hand-spun that one his readers has dubbed "George," which seems like a perfectly wonderful name. I dated a George once, briefly, not too long was, was...*sigh*

But I digress! I'm thinking of starting a new public access cable television show called "I Dream of George," starring me and that oh-so-cute hank of fiber. I know, I'm a total dork...I'm okay with that. I'm just really excited! I've been wanting to incorporate some of Yarndude's handspun into the Sock Yarn Blanket for a little while now...and with this, if I change my needle size, I should be able to accomplish that very goal. I'm thinking seriously about going out to the farm tomorrow morning, before the Missouri summer heat becomes so unbearable that not even a field of lavender could make it tolerable. I was going to go on Saturday with a friend, but the forecast is predicting temperatures in the high 90s...which for me is just stupid. I couldn't possibly harvest lavender in those temperatures. I'm not a delicate flower...but everyone has their limit.

In unrelated news, I am soon to blog a wee bit about my time in France. This is actually a weak mechanism by which I can easily and subversively slip my photos from my year there into the public glare. It's been a very long time since I perused through my photo-journal (at least 2 years) and I think it would do my soul some good to go back and relive those memories. What better place to share them...

You know, for someone who was so ignorant as to the purpose of a blog just over a week ago, I seem to have taken to it pretty okay, if I do say so...jeez louise, what was the big freekin' deal, yo?

PS - Granny squares come from the devil, I'm convinced.

Mr. Benjamin Warden ponders...his next plan for chaos
and world domination!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Work Project Series

Originally uploaded by knittaPrince, I'm so suprised...I seriously thought I wouldn't have the time to blog today but lo' and behold! The final 30 minutes of work and everything has finally calmed down, so here we go...

Work Project IV is, as you might have guessed the from the clever and witty title, the fourth project in a series of project that I knit while I'm at work. Okay, that needs some clarification...because it's not as if I'm on the phone, doing the customer service thing (in French no less) and knitting a sock at the same time. The project is what I'm knitting while I'm on lunch, sitting at my desk or in the empty conference room...which is usually my location of choice simply because it is, hands down and by far, the quietest place in the whole building. Sometimes, my department will become so crazy and active with everyone on their respective phones...I swear a full hen house with a fox would be quieter.

Anyway, Work Project IV is a simple pair of socks, although I'm adding some random baby cables in the ribbing. It's not really anything write home about...I just love the colorway! It's part of the Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Sunset collection, colorway 8707. I also picked up a skein of 8708, both from City Knitting in Grand Rapids, MI.

Work Project III is nearing completion. It's Stephen West's Boneyard Shawl...a very simple pattern which I've come to refer to as a man-shawl. It's smaller than a shawl and you can't really wrap it around your shoulders. Instead, it ends up wrapped around your neck, looking very hip and cool in an H & M kind of European, metrosexual dude kind of way. Ya dig? Sure...

In any case, the pattern is simple enough and I opted to incorporate 2 colors for variety. I'm using Classic Elite Yarns Alpaca Sox, which is a seriously awesome sock yarn to use for non-sock projects. It drapes beautifully and, as alpaca, it's going to be giving some super duper fuzzy cuddle awesome warmth during the winter months. I think the one thing all of my Work Projects have/will have in common is that every one of them will be for me.

As knitters, we make a lot of shit for other people...seriously. Think about it...but we do it out of love, or something resembling it. Friends, family, friends of the family, family of our friends...hats, scarves, mittens, socks, sweaters...all of it! Anything is fair game and I know that I've given away the vast majority of my knitting output to others. One great thing about making stuff for other people is that I still get to have all the fun of working with the yarn...and it is for this reason that I tell my friends and family that if they see something they'd like me to knit for them, some pattern or some article they simply must have one of, then come with me to the land of the yarn store and we'll find the perfect fibre for the item in question. You buy the yarn and will eventually have the finished product but I get the extreme pleasure of working with said perfect fibre for days on end, maybe weeks, as I work it into the item of your dreams.

See? It really works out great for everyone involved! But...this brings me back to my original point: my Work Projects. I intend to use them to make things for myself. Now, keeping in mind that I only work on them at work, during my 60 minute lunch break, I probably still won't be tackling more difficult or complicated items (like sweaters) but the man-shawls, the man-socks...bring 'em on, bitches! It might take me 3 months to knit up a pair of socks, but I can guarantee they'll be the most perfect pair of socks ever. Take, for instance, Work Project II:Made from Zwerger Garn Opal Harry Potter sock yarn, colorway Draco, these socks, now long finished but without a finished photo, ended up being 99.9% perfect...seriously. I think the only problem was one too may stitches on one side or the other of the gusset...fuck it. So I did an extra k2tog...hah! I'd pay good money if you could even find where the mistake is. In any case, I love these socks...perfect for around the house lounging and they fit my feet like a good sock should. Plus, I love the colors...just like I have a little crush on Draco. Unfortunately, the entire line of yarns has been if you can find it anywhere, you're a lucky bugger!

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Bounty of Lavender...

Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
Oh, what a frakkin' bee-yoo-tee-ful thing lavender is! I simply can't get enough of the stuff and, although my own ability to grow it is severely limited, we happen to have a lavender farm about 30 minutes to the west of our fine city! Winding Brook Estates, Missouri's only commercial lavender farm.

Probably close to a month ago, I met up with my knittin' ladies from Edwardsville, IL (which is just to the east, across the mighty river) for a wee' picnic and some good ol' lavender harvesting. For $12 a bundle, you're given a supa-big bread tie...and anything you can bundle together and still be able to twist that tie together is all yours. Well, I harvested 2 full bundles and what you see in the picture are my bundles broken down into smaller bundles for easier drying, then hung upside down.

Well, Saturday night and Sunday I spent harvesting the lavender grains from the stalks. I thought about just hanging the bundles as they were around the apartment but they looked super girlie...and although I have absolutely nothing against girlie, it was just a bit much for my apartment. Plus, I found the grains (or blossoms...whatever you want to call the lovely little dears) fell off the stalks fairly easily...leading me to believe that hanging them around the apartment would really just lead to more sweeping and vacuuming in the future.

So, with "The Haunting in Connecticut" in the DVD player (which was excellent, by the way) and kitties fast sleep in their respective secret, hidden recesses of the apartment, I got myself all comfy with the lavender and a plate and started plucking...or brushing...or whatever action you can call it. All you really need to do is gently rub your fingers against your thumb with the lavender in between and the grains just fall off into a little pile of smelly wonderfulness.
By the time I reached this point, my entire living room was awash in the smells of lavender. Benjamin Warden had stolen away some of the bare lavender branches and munching contentedly on them behind the couch and Miss Peachy was smelling the air inquisitively. My hands were coated in the smell...
Finally, I finished off 7 of the 8 bundles I had hanging in the closet and the sheer amount of lavender they yielded was more than I expected. It's definitely the most expensive lavender I've ever had, considering that what you see below cost about $24...but included was also the experience of harvesting, drying and schucking the lavender all myself. The only way the experience could have been more complete was if I had also grown the plants that I took the cuttings from.
I made sure to pick up some cotton draw-string tea bags from the local metaphysical bookstore and I think tonight I'll while away the hours filling them with the fresh stuff, making probably 8 or 9 new sachets for my stash drawers. All in all, I highly recommend this lavender experience from start to finish to anyone who enjoys lavender. A true restorative remedy for the soul.

I'm going back to the farm this weekend to do it all over again!

4:16pm - To gym or not to gym? I went yesterday...30 minutes of weights plus 5.5 miles...but if I have the motivation to go, should I not do so? Hmm...or is it better, even if I have the motivation to go, to give myself a day off in between workouts? Some might even argue that it's better for the body to have a day off in between, to recupe and repair...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Obama Party...

I have no idea how long this will be available but I thought it was too damn funny not to share! I may actually write something of substance later...but I needed to get this up as quickly as I could. I'm still laughing...check out Michelle in the backseat...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aliens In the Garden

Originally uploaded by knittaPrince
It's the weekend...many great and sincere thanks be to the powers that be...seriously! After a ridiculous and unforgiving week at work, I've never been happier to be in the midst of my hard-earned weekend.

To start off, I discovered this little alien lurking about in my gardens, specifically among the leaves of my anise hyssop. Maybe she likes the smell of black licorice...

I went over to my good friend Stacy's last night for a free haircut and some Doctor Who. We shared a frozen 5 Cheese pizza sprinkled with some fresh herbs from my gardens (rosemary and oregano!!), she shaved my head and then we settled in to watch the Doctor Who special from back in March, Doctor Who: The Next Doctor. I'm a big dork when it comes to stuff like it!

As for the haircut, sometimes it's just not in the budget to go to my usual stylist. In these cases, I like to go to Stacy Jaiquon's Herr & Bootay Salon, where the haircuts are free and the attitude is just a bonus. Here we have the before shot...everything is just a little out of control and the faux-faux hawk just can not be tamed:

But thanks to Stacy Jaiquon and her ever-dependable clippers, we tamed the torrid beast!

One of these days, I'll dig out my camera's manual to determine how to take better non-flash photos without the slight blur that self-portraits seem to produce. Oh get the idea...

7:54pm Central - Tonight is the first night that the cicada's have sung this summer. Personally, I find them to be creepy and willy-worthy in the extreme...but their song (screeching though it is) is a solid sound of summer...and they started singing tonight.