Thursday, July 19, 2007

Knitting on the Back Burner

Well, folks it's been almost two weeks. The long absence is not because I've lost my knitting jones. It's just that it's been so hot and I've had so much real life intruding on my play life. I know, I know, knitting relieves stress and is a good thing to do when the trials and tribulations come in torrents. I have been working on the requisite pair of summer socks. I'm at the heel flap and decided on Eye of Partridge which takes a little concentration and paying attention to row count. When the going got really tough I couldn't work on it for fear the partridge's eyes would be crossed.

However, since real life was requiring that I do a lot of driving to and fro, hither and yon, knitting did not always work. I found knitting podcasts to be soothing, comforting and informative . . . for the most part. Let's hear it for knitting podcasts!

Although I am a high tech wannabe and covet every innovation marketed, I am relatively new to the MP3 player/iPod arena. I'm an audio book fanatic and until recently a tape in the car cassette player or a Walkman (remember those) at the beach served me well enough. It wasn't until I discovered the selection of audio books downloadable from my city's free library system that I had to have an MP3 player. I bought a Sansa because the free systems use Overdrive and run only MicroSoft and not Apple. Why can't they all just get along? I was introduced to podcasts, more specifically knitting podcasts, by one of my knitting gurus. They are what is saving my sanity these days, along with a stitch or two knit on a sock.

Now about those knitting podcasts, I haven't listened to each and every one, but I've tried quite a few, so many that I bought an iPod Nano just for the podcasts so I can keep the Sansa strictly for free books. I am not writing to point out the negative because I think the podcast thing takes a lot of skill, planning, organization and more. However, I must say that the cream rises to the top. I will drop some names here, but will not name the ones I feel are lacking. Let's just say I have listened to some I labeled SSGG--Silly, Silly, Giggling Girls. I gave each podcaster ample time to overcome the beginning uncertainty and hit her (or his) stride. I did not pass final judgement until I had listened to at least six episodes, if they lasted that long . . . and if I lasted that long. Okay so maybe I gave up on some after three episodes.

The SSGG spend an hour giggling and saying silly things about silly things. They throw in a giggly tale of what's on their needles or just came off, give helpful hints, rave about yarns and give some book reviews. They sometimes do interviews. It's difficult wading through the murk in hopes of hearing a gem or two. It is usually two women, one of whom is at the mic, the other across the table? . . . room? . . . continent? The second woman sounds far away most of the time. Within the SSGG realm of podcasting there might be one or two worth wading through if you can get past the giggles and double entendres, sort of separate the wheat from the chaff.

Most of you are probably way ahead of me and have been listening since the inception, but I will give you my top picks so far. I expect to add more to the list as I catch up on what's already available and check out the new ones added daily.

1. The first podcast I was turned on to was Brenda Dayne's Cast On. Try it. You'll like it. She is absolutely heaven to listen to, speaks the language without what I call air fillers (umm, aaah, mmm) is informative, organized and articulate and I even like her choice of music. She had me at "pick up your pointy sticks and cast on" or something like that.

2. It was with great excitement that I downloaded the first Knit Picks podcast and Kellie Petkin did not disappoint. She is another who speaks well and gives an organized podcast full of information, funny asides (knitting related), book reviews and interviews.

3. Webs podcast, Ready, Set, Knit!, was a radio show first. I'm so glad to be able to listen to it now far, far away from the store, but with the website only a mouse click away. I've been to Webs a couple of times for meet ups with my Circular Sock Machine friends. When I am in MA vacationing it is many hours closer, but still three hours away. Six hours round trip to shop for yarn is not a thing to do every weekend. However, I sure wish I could! It's a great store and they present a great podcast. It's easy to listen to and informative on many levels. Being in the fiber business gives these podcasters plenty of inside information to impart and they attract all the knit stars to their store and I'm hoping to catch up with interviews that have been done and the new ones to come.

4. I must include the one guy I've really liked so far even though I haven't listened to the requisite six podcasts. So far I like It's a Purl Man. I like his style and his content. I like hearing the other half's take on this whole knitting thing, what they're knitting and what they like.

5. I'm adding this one even though it is now defunct: Unwound with Kelli Robinson. Her podcasts really drew me in. From the abundance of information to the invitations to participate, Unwound is a gem of organization and content. Maybe once Kelli is into the groove of her professional job she will find she can come back to podcast land. Months have past since her final podcast, Episode 12, "Farewell." Maybe she withdraws even that little thread of hope. Even so her 12 episodes are worth listening to whether she comes back to continue or not.

It has taken me days to write this little blog entry and during that time I have listened to many more podcasts. There is an epidemic of umms out there! I know we all say it sometimes, but people, PLEASE! Stop saying it after every other word! Even the people who are virtually umm-free themselves are being ummed to death by people they interview. Please, please, please check yourselves. It's okay to be silent for that nano second it takes to say umm while you collect your thoughts or notes or whatever it is that gives you that brain blip!!!

Umm, and that's all I have to say about that.

Bona Fide Knitter

Friday, July 6, 2007

Those Old Knitting Magazines

"We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave," an old song starts. Well, it's actually happening here in my city as I stay indoors as much as possible and peruse the old Vogue knitting magazine from 1965. I've told you about it, how my copy was a mess and I got a better one from eBay. Now that I have one which I can page through without fallout, I've been reading it and marveling over how such mags have improved in 40+ years.

On the left, "dog chewed" and on the right, "mouse nibbled."

I knitted this sweater back in 1965. Even though it was before I became a "bona fide knitter" I did a good job on the knitting, even if I do say so myself. I knitted in a white yarn. I don't remember the fiber, but I do remember it came from a yarn shop, not Woolworth's so I probably bought what was called for, Spinnerin Homespun and US 13 needles. It was called a "Husky Knit." I knitted and knitted. I finished quickly . . . for me. Remember, I was a backward purler causing my stytches to be twisted and hard to knit into. As you can see the pattern was reverse stockinette. I don't think I knitted the pockets. When the main pieces were done, I sewed the sweater together and never needed the pockets. The sweater was gi-normous!!! (A made-up word combining gigantic and enormous to give you a better idea of just how much too big it was.) I knew I was a tight knitter and was making size 42 instead of size 40. I wonder if I did a gauge swatch. Probably not.

The sweater was big enough for my husband to wear and for me to get inside and wear it with him! The pattern sizes went up to 44. Mine was at least a 50. It was off the charts!!! I put it away and contemplated ripping and knitting it again. It stayed "put away" for many, many years, until I heard of a senior citizen group who wanted old yarn, previously knit yarn or old sweaters that could be used for the yarn. I did the ripping and donated the balls. Furthermore, neither my husband nor I liked the look of wearing a sweater on the wrong side. I still don't like reverse stockinette.

The photography in this magazine is surprisingly bad. These fuzzy pictures are not a result of my poor photography. They are actually fuzzy in the magazine. Maybe it was "artful"? However, I would think in a pattern book you would want the texture, the stitches, to show.

There are some great patterns in the book, colorful designs but pictured in black and white, a far cry from what we get today. In fact most of the photos are black and white and some are line drawings.

There were only five colors used throughout the magazine, including the cover. The few sweaters pictured in color were of the same hues: red, mustard, beige, green and blue.

There was even a hazy, foggy or sun glare patch in the picture on the right. No, it isn't from my flash. The magazine picture is exactly like that. Artful? We've come a long way, baby!

However, with all its early lack of technology, the sweaters were great. They are still great today. And now that I'm a bona fide knitter, I intend to tackle another one . . . when I start jonesing again.

Bona Fide Knitter

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Am I Losing My Knitting Jones?

I don't know what's the matter with me. I can't seem to get enthused about any knitting projects. If I have a flicker of enthusiasm it burns out as soon as I have the yarn. I'm not jonesing anymore!

I began to feel my addiction slipping away right after Sally's Favorite Summer Sweater (SFSS) kicked my butt again this year and I decided to frog it and put the yarn away once more. I was all pumped up again after Maryland Sheep and Wool when I bought the Stars sweater kit from Philosopher's Wool. I immediately wound the yarn into center pull cakes, studied the instructions, had misgivings,--this was more like Intarsia than Fair Isle wasn't it?--bought the book, had second thoughts, started a practice piece of two-handed Fair Isle that was going well, then stopped.

The Spring 2007 Knitter's Magazine gave me hope. There were many patterns in there that got my juices flowing. Since nothing in my stash, no UFOs were moving me, I ordered the yarn pack for the cover sweater, Sectional Citrus. I watched for the mail in happy anticipation. I was going away on vacation. I needed that yarn pack to take with. Weeks went by. It didn't come. Vacation departure date loomed. I decided to check the site. Lo and behold the yarn was on "backorder." Ooooooh no! Say it isn't so!

Since I didn't have a basic sock on the needles, I grabbed a ball of sock yarn with cotton content from my stash and took it on vacation. That was nothing new since I always take a sock project. I felt empty not having the new sweater to start on, especially since it's a summer sweater of a cotton blend yarn and I'd convinced myself that the weight of the Philosopher's wool in the hot and humid summer was what made me back off that project.

I had also found a battered copy of an old Vogue Knitting for Men from 1965 that gave me a few laughs and had me champing at the bit to make socks, an argyle vest, something, anything! Unfortunately my copy was dog chewed (which is quite different from dog eared). Some crucial words at the edges of the pages were missing. I found a replacement on eBay, mouse nibbled (which is quite a lot smaller than dog chewed), but perfectly legible on every page. I bid. I won. I picked yarn from my stash for men's knee socks. The magazine came and I took it on vacation as well. Then my knitting jones left again. I had no desire to devote all that knitting to a pair of men's knee highs that would not last very long on my man's feet and legs.

I pulled out Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks thinking I'd rather use my Opal Uni in a subtle darkish purple (more subtle than the purple the flash produces) on long socks for myself, "Ladies Useful Stockings" to be more specific. Not happening. The feeling left me almost before I got the book off the shelf. What . . . is . . . the . . . matter . . . with . . . me?!!! The Summer 2007 issue of Knitter's left me cold, figuratively speaking. (The weather is too hot to be cold physically.) Patternworks, Valley Yarns and Kint Picks have all sent temptation in the form of catalogs to no avail.

The yarn pack for the Sectional Citrus sweater was waiting for me when I returned from vacation, eight balls of Berroco Love It. I cast on and knit a row. I let it sit for a day or two, then frogged. I cast on and knit enough to measure my gauge, but not a true swatch, and let it sit for even longer, then frogged. Late last night I cast on again and knit to the first increase row. I'm liking it. I feel a frisson of my jones returning. Can I hold on to it? Let's hope so.

Bona Fide Knitter

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

I alluded to a doll festival in my last post. These girls are Sasha dolls and since they are dressed in appropriate colors for the 4th of July I thought I'd begin this blog entry with their picture and wish you all a happy and fun-filled day of parades and picnics, topped off with music and fireworks this evening.

So back to my update: I spent a glorious three weeks in New England. I love our little place at Cape Cod except I never have enough time there to really enjoy it these days. It's an eight-hour drive from here, which would be great knitting time, if I wasn't the Self-Appointed Designated Driver for the Duration. That being the case, no knitting on the way up or back unless I get a few rows done on a sock when we stop for lunch. But I digress.

Once on the Cape for the first time in the season there is some dusting and cobweb removal to be done, some head shaking and hand wringing over what the winter has wrought in leaks and squirrel damage and then the real vacation begins. This year it began for me when I drove off from there to Portland, Maine, with my basket full of Sasha dolls for the Sasha Festival. Unless you are a play doll collector and have attended one of the functions, you can't imagine what it's like. Think Stitches on a much smaller scale, including Opening, Day, the Fashion Show and Banquet, Student Banquet and the Market.

Picture a bunch of adults carrying dolls and waxing poetic about face molds, brown or white stringing, Studio, Frido, Trendon and Gotz, and you get a vague picture of what it's all about. I mentioned before these are "play" dolls. They are dolls originally made and manufactured as toys for children to play with. There are adult collectors who "play" with these dolls. They have doll clothing stashes to rival any yarn stash you might have. The playing consists of dressing and posing the dolls for display--alone, in groups, in scenes and in doll houses. Many people design and sew wardrobes for them. There are many knitwear items and even books of patterns. There's a whole culture out there! Sasha dolls are just one brand. My collection started with American Girl dolls. I have many Robert Tonner, Helen Kish and Sylvia Natterer dolls as well.

So I spent a looong weekend in Portland, Maine hanging out with like-minded friends. Of course there was a yarn shop hop. Only the hop turned out to be just a small bounce. The three shops listed as being close to the hotel were not doable in the short amount of free time we had. Two of us did meander to the closest one, less than a block away. I won't mention the name of it because I do not have a rave review of the place. In fact it was quite disappointing, rather dull in appearance and low on inventory.

The Festival ended and it was back to the Cape for a final week. I stopped for a quick visit at my favorite yarn shop there, Adventures in Knitting, where it's bright and cheerful, has lots of inventory, and had expanded into another store! There are other yarn shops on the Cape that I really like, but had to save visits to those for the next trip: Ladybug and Blue Heron.

No beach time, no knitting time that trip. Maybe that's why I'm feeling out of sorts. In fact I'm wondering if I'm losing my knitting jones. Hmmmm, we must delve into this. Next time.

Bona Fide Knitter