Archive for July, 2007

Tuesday Mewsday: Beatrice Grasshopper Schwartz-Noir

Who knew that Bea would warm up so to the paparazzi? As a matter of policy, Bea trusts no-one—not even me. (Just because I haven’t yet brandished a chainsaw at her, doesn’t mean it’s not on today’s to-do list.) She demonstrates her affection from a distance. If I’m on the bed knitting, she sits across the room from me, stretched out comfortably and purring. If I’m reading in the backyard, she curls up beneath some bushes, once again purring. But when Melissa and I started taking photos this weekend, she just went all lovey-dovey on us.

She allowed us to look at her.
Bea 4

She rolled about coquettishly in front of us.
Bea 1

She started giving nuzzles to random inanimate objects.
Bea 2

She may be paranoid, but apparently she’s also aware of the value of good P.R.

Although her undercoat is grey, to look at Bea is black, black, black. Outdoors on a sunny day, she seems like a little tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum, resembling nothing so much as nothing itself.

She’s just six years old at present. I have great hopes that she’ll become more of a lap cat as she ages. I would love to feel the weight of her all calm and solid on my legs and to run my hand over her back again and again. For now, I mostly content myself with looking.

July 31 2007 | Cats and Tuesday Mewsday | 2 Comments »

Miscellany

• Best line I overheard during our road trip [female hiker to male hiker], “It’s not actually the baby that smells; it’s the diaper.”

• Melissa’s comment as we hiked Cascade Gorge, “Oregon is just like Galicia, but with less cow poo and fewer flies.”

• My nomination to be included in the great list of life’s little pleasures: the day you change the bathroom air-freshener because your nose hasn’t yet learned to tune the new scent out. Snifferific!

• I am officially halfway through Clue 3 on MS3. (Am I the only one who thinks of MST3K whenever I type MS3?)

• Mighty Bezoar is preparing for a Tuesday Mewsday appearance.
Bea 3
You may not be able to tell, but the boxes behind her contain my ball winder and swift.

July 30 2007 | Cats | No Comments »

In which the Narrator Announces a Winner, Names Honorable Mentions, Discovers that She Herself Is a Winner, Shares Some Recent Knitting—Both On-Road and Off—and Generally Attempts to Match the Titulary Excesses of Second-Rate Victorian Novelists

We had 41 entries in the Guess-Our-Mileage Contest, with guesses ranging from 759 to 2,200 miles. Melissa and I had an actual mileage of 1,732.2 miles, which makes Steffaroni our winner with a stunningly accurate guess of 1,735. She was off by less than three miles!

Other guesses coming within 20 miles of our actual mileage included
Sherri H. at 1,736
Karen (of Unknitted) at 1,725
Andrea at 1,734
Clarabelle (of clarastitchandtotalbitch) at 1,750

Steffaroni will be receiving her choice of two skeins of the hand-crafted Oregon yarn from the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center (you’ll need to tell me which ones you want!). And, as honorable mention prizes, I’ll be sending hand-knit dishcloths to Sherri H., Karen, Andrea, and Clarabelle. Look for an email from me asking for your mailing addresses!

I was delighted upon my return home to discover that I’d won some gorgeous HipKnits lace-weight cashmere in a draw over on Lin’s blog, Queen of the Froggers. Check this out:
cashmere
Not only did Lin send me this absolutely beautiful yarn, she also enclosed a hand-stitched sachet and a lovely enameled stitch marker. I feel thoroughly spoiled. I’m planning to order a pattern from Pink Lemon Twist for the yarn, either Scheherazade or Moon Dance. Opinions, anyone?

I got a bit of knitting done during our 1,732.2 mile sojourn, and now have photos to prove it. First, I worked up a “Don’t Mess with Texas” washcloth for one our hosts, LeeAnn (mother of the ever-dapper Dinsdale), who is a Texas native. We had to take this shot in a rather poorly lit motel room, so you may need to squint to see the design.
don't mess with Texas cloth
A much clearer picture—with the pattern—can be found here at Knitting Memories. (I knit a kitty cloth as well, pattern also from Knitting Memories, and several cloths from Leisure Arts’ Garden Dishcloths to Knit.)

I got to work on a scarf using a skein of Tallgrass Yarn (colorway “Phoenix”) from the Procrastiknitter.
red scarf
I’ll post another pic and pattern once I’ve finished it.

Finally, I made it a bit past Clue 1 on Mystery Shawl 3.
mystery shawl clue 1
I’m absolutely delighted with the way my not-as-directed fiber choice is working out. Hooray for knitting without a net!

I finished Clue 2 two nights ago. (Note that the color is the first photo is more accurate than the color in this photo.)
mystery shawl clue 2
Now I’m logging off so I can dig into Clue 3 while listening to the ballgame.

Congratulations to all the winners!

July 29 2007 | Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

“Improving” Poems and Songs for Children

When Melissa attended PS 5 on Staten Island, she learned this song:

Let the ball roll,
Let the ball roll,
No matter where it may go.
For, though you may get many a ball,
You never can get a new leg.

When my sibs and I were growing up, a favorite book was Struwwelpeter. In my mother’s defense, let me say that she gave the book to us accidentally: it came as part of a boxed set of “children’s classics,” along with a collection of fairy tales and I-don’t-remember-what-else. Who’d've thunk that would merit advance screening?

For those of you unfamiliar with Heinrich Hoffman’s poems, let me ease the bitter, empty existence that has been yours up until now by introducing you to this collection. These poems were written by Hoffman in 1844 as a holiday gift for his three-year-old son. Hoffman wanted something “adapted to the little fellow’s powers of comprehension.” And what would be comprehensible to a three-year-old? Apparently cheery vignettes of death, violence, and suffering of all sorts.

My personal favorite was “The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches.” (Go ahead, click on the link; I’ll be here when you get back.) No doubt the cats appealed to me, as did the charming pair of red shoes in the final illustration. My brother preferred “The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.” My sister couldn’t get enough of “The Story of Augustus who Would Not Have Any Soup.” In these cases as well, it’s the illustrations as much as the words that make for such gripping reading.

Like the bloodthirsty beasts that most children are, we loved these poems. Unlike the consequences of our accidental viewing of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, we suffered no nightmares, no moments of empathy for the protagonists. In college, I was delighted to find a reproduction of the German original, which I purchased as a Christmas present for my brother. My sister brought a more recent edition home from a high school trip to Germany.

You can imagine my pleasure when I strolled past the Geary Theater off Union Square years ago and saw the words “Shockheaded Peter” (the English translation of Struwwelpeter) on the marquee. The moment the lights changed, I was tearing across the street and over to the box office, plunking down money for the best available seats. With music provided by the Tiger Lillies, this production brought my morbid childhood amusement to glorious life. (Check out the video clips!) Copies of the CD from that production made it into almost every family member’s stocking that Christmas. When Melissa and I began dating, I introduced her to this classic, and she gifted the CD to her niece the following Christmas.

On our road trip, Melissa and I composed an “Improving” song of our own. It started out simply (and ridiculously) enough with a passing joke about ferret legging. Before we knew it, we were belting out a lusty chorus of

Ferret in your pants? It’s a bad idea.
Ferret in your pants? It’s a bad idea.
Ferret in your pants? It’s a bad idea.
C’mon, let’s face it. It’s a bad idea.

The real moment of glory came a bit further along in our trip, when we realized how usefully this tune could be applied to other admonitions.

Finger up the nose? It’s a bad idea.

Syrup on the cat? It’s a bad idea.

Fork in the outlet? It’s a bad idea.

So now we invite you to get in touch with your inner bloodthirsty little monsters and develop your own versions. We’d love to hear what you come up with.

P.S. If you’re not sick of Struwwelpeter yet, check out this video and these illustrations.

P.P.S. Don’t forget about the Guess-Our-Mileage Contest.

July 27 2007 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

San Francisco Giants’ Stitch ‘n Pitch

Tuesday night I headed to the SF GiantsStitch ‘n Pitch with friends. Our team lost (sadly, that is hardly breaking news this season), but they gave us some moments of real excitement in the 9th and 13th innings—and any tedium between times was more than relieved by all the KIPing going on around us.

I brought a special ball of yarn I’d been saving just for the game: “Pete” from the Procrastiknitter‘s new venture, Tall Grass Yarns. (The photo doesn’t do this yarn justice—the colorway just sparkles.)
A scarf in progress at the ball park
I used double moss stitch so I’d get lots of color mixing with minimum effort (I was trying to follow a live ball game while keeping my needles in motion, so I didn’t want to get too ambitious). Over the full run of the game, including the four extra innings, I got a good twenty-four inches knit up.

Tha gift bags held some pretty nifty goodies.
A bag full of goodies from Stitch n Pitch
Sort of L to R: size US 3 needles, ginormous double-ended crochet hook, knitting in the round info, tape measure/level (I’m not quite sure why a knitter needs a level—to check that stripes are straight?), knitted tee pattern, hat pattern, complete needlepoint xmas ornament kit, size US 19 needles. I confess to an undignified moment of knitter’s envy when I saw that the folks in the row in front of me got a ruffled shawl pattern that was much prettier than my tee pattern, but I think I’ve figured out how to knit one on my own if I’d like.

We had knitting, knitting everywhere.
Heavy knitting action in the bleachers
Check out that Slytherin scarf!

We even had knitters on the JumboTron!
Knitting contest on the Jumbotron

The Giants’ mascot, Lou Seal, dropped by for a visit.
Lou Seal visits the Stitch n Pitch section

If only every losing ballgame were as fun as this one!

P.S. If you haven’t entered the Guess-Our-Mileage-and-Win-Hand-Crafted-Oregon-Yarn competition, click here for info.

July 26 2007 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Oregon Shop-Hop

Oregon is a needleworker’s paradise. Yarn everywhere, quilting shops in every town with a population over 800 (I’m not kidding; it’s like they have a law about it or something), and more bead shops than I’ve ever seen in my life. Given this—and given that Melissa and I were foolishly engaging in non-knitting pursuits like visiting friends and trekking through nature’s majesty—I had no hope of completing anything but a haphazard survey of a handful of shops. So I humbly submit my report on Oregon’s LYSs, incomplete and quirky as it is.

Powell’s Books
1005 West Burnside, Portland
Okay, so Powell’s isn’t a LYS. Nonetheless, Powell’s does have the biggest collection of knitting books I’ve ever seen in one place. While Melissa wandered the art section and our friend Ellen browsed poetry and recent releases, I camped myself out on the floor in front of the knitting shelves and got to work. My first go-through I picked about a dozen must-have books, which I toted off to a quieter corner (the knitting section was hopping) to sort through. After much sighing and sifting, here’s what I chose.
Knitting books from Powells
No-Pattern Knits (Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer) struck me as one of those books that goes beyond offering a group of patterns to opening up a new world of possibilities. Each chapter focuses on a different modular shape and strategies for using it in multiples or combining it with other shapes. On the one hand, I’m dubious about modular knits because of all the joining, but the possibilities this technique offers are so endless that I know I’ll go there eventually, yarn needle in hand.

Like No-Pattern Knits, Debbie Bliss’s Knitting Workbook focuses more on opening up possibilities than on producing a specific set of garments. If you look at the table of contents you’ll see that the beginning chapters contain material that can be found any number of places, but the last few chapters struck me as unique in their approach to particular topics. I can’t wait to play with the information about “Embroidery on Knitting” and “Edgings on Knitting.”

The IK special issue on felting needs no explanation, I’m sure. And the remaining two books went to gratify another one of my passions: embroidery. The sampler book was on sale for six dollars and offers a concise, well-illustrated history of sampler-making. I’ve repeatedly checked out my local library’s copy of Elizabeth Bradley’s Needlework Animals, so when Powell’s had it at a significant discount (regular price thirty-five dollars), I figured some higher power was giving me a sign and that I’d better buy it. If you like needlepoint or counted thread embroidery, look for a copy of this—the colors are rich and the designs are detailed and striking.

Damian inspects the knitting books from Powells
I am pleased to report that Damian gave my purchases his paw of approval.

The Yarn Garden
1413 SE Hawthorn Blvd., Portland
The Yarn Garden
Count the awnings in the picture. They’re all Yarn Garden. This store takes up the better part of the front half of a city block and offers a dizzying array of books, tools, and yarn, yarn, yarn. And, oh yes, a cafe (perfect for Melissa to sip tea and sketch in, while I drooled over yarn). The yarn is organized room-by-room by weight and within rooms by manufacturer.

The selection is so overwhelming that I wound up buying very little—I was afraid of what might happen if I really let my acquisitiveness get going. I left with materials for two small intarsia projects (I seem to have had colorwork on the brain during much of this trip, perhaps because the cool weather got me thinking about winter and caps and gloves and the like): two skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun Worsted and two of Ella Rae (a new brand for me) Classic.

If you’re coming in from out of town and are starved for variety in your knitting, this shop would make an excellent stop.

Mabel’s Café and Knittery
3041 SE Division, Portland
Mabel's
If I lived in Portland and had to choose a “home” yarn shop, Mabel’s would be it. The inventory isn’t huge, but it’s much more than adequate, with a wonderful selection of affordable, natural-fiber yarns. The staff here is welcoming, and the shop supports an active community, not only of knitters, but of readers, as well. Mabel’s even has a Book Club that allows knitters to gather, needles in hand, to discuss non-knitting reading. Mabel’s also offers several free weekly classes. With lots of open space, you can spread out to knit, read, and eat.

I dug a bit more deeply into my pocketbook at Mabel’s. They have the full line of Cascade Yarns, and I picked two skeins of 220 Heathers (more colorwork). Also finding their way into my basket: some Bartlett Yarns‘ wool (again with the colorwork and another new brand for me), DropsAlpaca in a great yellow-green heather, and Crystal Palace‘s Kid Merino in Kiwis-Mangos and Escorial. (If I hadn’t already started Mystery Stole 3 in Brilliant, the Escorial would be a great choice.) My final purchase at Mabel’s: twenty-five cedar balls for only five dollars. Santa Cruz moths, beware!

Knittn’ Kitten
7530 NE Glisan, Portland
The Knittn’ Kitten is really a thrift shop, not a yarn store, though it does carry yarn.
The Knittin' Kitten
If you’re looking for new, top-quality yarns, you’ll probably want to skip this store, but if you like digging through bins of acrylic to find that rare vintage wool or enjoy sifting through piles of old embroidery transfers and boxes of jumbled buttons and beads, this shop will delight you. If you’re the patient type, you can leaf through rack after rack of 1950-1980 needlework magazines. A back room features vintage linens.

Coastal Yarns
131 West 2nd, Cannon Beach
Coastal Yarns
Melissa and I just took a quick stroll through Coastal Yarns, and I managed to leave without any new purchases, but if you’re driving down the coast and need a yarn fix, a stop here could do the trick. Our favorite feature was the armchair in the back room with a rack full of guy-type magazines to distract vacationing husbands while their wives shop for yarn.

Latimer Quilt Museum and Textile Center
2105 Wilson River Loop Road, Tillamook
Quilt Museum
Quilt Mural at the Quilt Museum
The Latimer Quilt Museum and Textile Center focuses on quilts, but features other needle arts as well, including knitting, weaving, and spinning, and is well worth a stop—so when you see the signs for it on Highway 101, prepare for a small detour. One room holds a collection of looms (there are weekly demonstrations on these), another displays vintage quilts, while a third offers contemporary quilt exhibits. The exhibit we saw featured the work of Kathy McNeil, whose mix of piecing and appliqué results in striking nature quilts.

This is where I picked up the hand-crafted yarn that’s up for grabs in the Guess-Our-Mileage Contest.
Yarn from Oregon!

Happy Kamper Yarn Barn
8854 Highway 101, Florence
What was the name of this place?

I should have known by the sign on the door that this shop would be my Knitting Shangri-La.
Children will be given kittens

Sadly, they do not have a web site, but trust me. If you pass through Florence, You Must Stop Here. I would seriously consider retiring to Florence, just so this could be my LYS.

The Happy Kamper Yarn barn offered a wonderful (and thorough) mix of both familiar and new yarns. Look to your left as you enter and you’ll see shelf after shelf of sock yarns. I fell for Universal Yarn‘s (yet another new brand for me) Ditto in a self-striping, black-red-grey colorway. Wander through the several rooms this shop fills, and you’ll be unable to keep your fingers to yourself. This shop has every color of both PatonsClassic Wool and Plymouth‘s worsted-weight Encore—so much nicer than looking at the one-inch square swatches in a mail-order catalogue. Patterns are displayed alongside the yarns they feature, rather than being shelved separately, a very helpful arrangement.

Happy Kamper Yarn Barn featured all sorts of brands I’d never encountered before: Wisdom Yarns (I bought Poems); Dark Horse Yarns (I picked some Magic Life, which has a cozy-spongy-bouncy texture); NuMei Yarns (I was smitten with Jubilee); and Lane Cervinia (my pick—Softer). Wisdom is owned by Universal; Lane Cervinia by Plymouth.

Brutus sits in an armchair just inside the front door and greets all arrivals.
Brutus is ready for his closeup

The Wool Company
990 2nd St, SE, Bandon
The Wool Company
Llama in front of The Wool Company
We made our final Oregon knitting stop at the Wool Company. While this store carries a wide range of yarns, it specializes in—what else?—wool. I saw skein after skein of alpaca I wanted, but limited myself to a bit of Berrocco‘s Ultra Alpaca. I also fell for some Shetland Spindrift by Jamieson’s (back to thinking about colorwork) and Queensland Collection‘s Kathmandu Aran. The Kathmandu is a wool-silk-cashmere blend that is wonderfully soft and equally wonderfully affordable.

If you stop here, be absolutely sure to check out the hand-crafted, enameled buttons next to the register. They’re pricey, but the detail and craftsmanship will take your breath away. I limited myself to choosing three (no picture of these; we’ll have to remedy that), but could easily have racked up several years’ worth of debt, if Melissa hadn’t pulled me away just in time.

Having had all this fun in Oregon, I decided it would be a sound fiscal policy to grit my teeth and drive past any California yarn shops I spotted. Now that I’m home, I’m wishing I had all the arms of a Hindu deity, so I could begin half a dozen new projects at once.

Tomorrow: a break from road trip news to fill you in on the San Francisco Stitch ‘N Pitch.

July 25 2007 | Cats | 4 Comments »

Tuesday Mewsday

Rose-Kim Knits has Thursdays Are for What the Hell Is This? And Grumperina has Eye Candy Friday. Not to be left out, I’m launching a weekly feature of my own: Tuesday Mewsday, my day to celebrate the marvel that is Cat.

And for my first feature cat, Dinsdale, whom I had the pleasure of visiting in Oregon. He derives his name from Monty Python‘s “Prianha Brothers” sketch. Dinsdale has reached the Methuselan age of twenty and rules his home as is his right. (Don’t let the name of “the sharing chair” fool you: when he gives you the skunk eye, you will surrender it to him.) Some claim that ennui was invented by the French, but I’m pretty sure Dinsdale would give credit to the manufacturers of dissastisfyingly-tasteless-health-food-for-older-cats.

Here are two shots of Dinsdale doing what he does best (besides suggesting that treats are in order): napping.
Dinsdale
Dinsdale

And, no, he’s not disapparating in this picture. It’s just that it’s hard to get an old guy like him to stand still.
Dinsdale

Dinsdale has some of the most wonderful markings I’ve seen on a tuxedo cat: bold, asymetrical, and distinguished. Every time I see him, I have to fight off the urge to fawn over him shamelessly, as he finds such behavior undignified at best.

His staff, my friends LeeAnn and Ellen, are absolutely devoted to him.

P.S. If you haven’t entered the Guess-Our-Mileage-and-Win-Hand-Crafted-Oregon-Yarn competition, click here for info.

P.P.S. It’s Stitch ‘N Pitch tonight at the SF Giants game—whee!

July 24 2007 | Tuesday Mewsday | 3 Comments »

The First-Ever What If Knits Contest

Just for fun, I’m launching What If Knit’s first contest. Here’s what you have to do: guess the mileage for our road trip. The prize: your choice of two of these five skeins of Oregon yarn, which I purchased at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon.
Yarn from Oregon!
Just leave a comment on my blog between now and next Sunday at noon, Pacific Daylight Time, with your mileage estimate and yarn choices. The yarns are 100% wool in skeins of 50-75 yards each, so two should be enough to work up a hat or a pair of wrist warmers. (To identify your choices, just assume the skeins are numbered 1-5 from left to right.) The prize will go to the person who comes closet to guessing our actual mileage.
By the way, your submissions may not show up in the Comments section immediately. Do not worry! We do get them all; it just sometimes takes a little while.

Here’s a hint: We began our trip in Napa, California; from there our route went through Ashland, and east to Crater Lake, on to Portland via Roseburg; we next crossed northern Oregon to Cannon Beach, and finished by taking Highway 101 South back to Oakland. (We did a bit of tourist-y driving, as well, exploring the Columbia Gorge, driving around Portland, and making a quick jog up to Seaside.)

To inspire you as you work on your estimates, here are some of the sights we enjoyed during the first half of our trip (all photos courtesy of Melissa).

Castle Crags State Park, California
Castle Crags State Park, CA
We’d like to make this park our destination for a camping trip sometime soon.

Outdoor Quilt Exhibit, near Ashland
Quilts hanging out on the balcony

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake

Ground squirrel at Crater Lake
Crater Lake’s chipmunks are completely unintimidated by the paparazzi.

Snow at Crater Lake!
Accustomed as we are to California’s summer weather, we marveled at the snowy patches that linger year-round at Crater Lake.

Umpqua River
Waterfall along the Umqua

Waterfall along the Umqua
Clearwater Falls was one of our first stops along the Umpqua. The falls aren’t high, but the dense green colors and wild spill of water charmed us.

Waterfall along the Umqua
At Toketee Falls we hiked a short, steep trail, leading to the falls. We could hear the falls during the entirety of our walk, but only caught sight of them as we rounded a final curve.

Mysterious glowing ghost fern
We spotted this ghostly plant on our walk back to the car at Toketee Falls.

Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge's View House
My knitting instincts led me straight to some locally spun yarn in the gift shop at the Columbia Gorge Vista House.

Mossy trail along the Columbia Gorge
We took a short hike past a waterfall along the Columbia Gorge and continued on under this bridge into misty, silent, green woods.

Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge's Multnomah Falls
We took another short hike up to the bridge at Multnomah Falls.

For the moment, I’m off to bury my face in the new Harry Potter—my first stop at home was Bookshop Santa Cruz—but I have lots more to share: scenery from the second half of our trip, roadside oddities and attractions, and yarn shop reports. Stay tuned.

July 22 2007 | Uncategorized | 49 Comments »

Home!

It’s almost 11p.m., and Melissa and I have just pulled up in Oakland. We left Fort Orford, Oregon, this morning at 10 after getting a flat repaired. Originally, we’d planned to break the drive into two days, but after Oregon, California just didn’t hold our interest, so we put in a twleve-hour day in the car—and now we’re home.

I have pictures and pictures and info and info to share. Also coming up—the first What If Knits contest. Your big chance to win some of the gorgeous yarn I picked up during our travels. Stay tuned!

July 21 2007 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Portland, Orgeon

Rain. Beautiful, beautiful rain. Not heavy, for the most part, but gentle and regular. Melissa and I are off to Cascade Gorge today, ready to muddly our feet tromping about looking at watery loveliness.

Yesterday we did a quick tour of a few yarn shops in eastern Portland: The Yarn Garden, Mabel’s Knittery, and Knittn’ Kitten. I’ll write more about these on my return when I can add pics, but for now let me say that each was a pleasure in its own way. Yarn Garden was the largest, with an immense inventory of both books and yarn. Mabel’s Knittery gets the prize for friendliest service. The yarn selection is smaller, but good. If I lived in Portland, this would be my hanging-out and knitting place (it helps that they also have a little cafe and plenty of sitting room). Knittn’ Kitten is more thrift shop than yarn store, but I had fun sifting through its offerings, which besides yarn (a smallish, uneven collection) included fabric, buttons, beads, vintage linens, and needlework magazines from the 50s and forward.

Tomorrow, we head over to the coast and down Highway 1. We are in search of a carousel that has cats with fish in their mouths. If we find it, I’ll be sure to get photos.

July 18 2007 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Next »