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Archive for April, 2010

Eileen is an amazing woman–a rabid knitter and selfless giver who is not afraid to wear a fuzzy blue hand-knit sweater that looks like it’s made of muppet-skin. She almost always has knitting needles in her hands and if not, then they’re very close. She has even been known to knit whilst walking the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk for Breast Cancer. And legend tells of her legendary yarn stash, which is the stuff of legend (thank you, Kung Fu Panda). As of this moment she has 116 yarns stashed on her Ravelry, but my understanding is that she’s still not even close to having it all catalogued.

So this wonderful woman has been telling me for a while about Flat Feet yarn by Conjoined Creations. This is a really cool sock yarn concept in which the yarn comes to you as a pre-knitted flat panel. The yarn is dyed after it’s in the panel, so that really cool, creative dye patterns result. To knit the socks, the flat panel is then unraveled so you’re basically ripping one item as you knit the other. One extra bonus with Flat Feet is that every panel is unique. This small company takes pride in their unique hand-dyed patterns to the point that they’re very explicit on their website in telling you that when you order something you are getting the EXACT item pictured.

I’ve been intrigued since Eileen first showed me her Flat Feet, being a sock addict myself. Then last week at church she told me that she had some to give me in a colorway that she thought suited me. I was ecstatic. Not only had I been dying to try this stuff, but I had no sock project going since the recent completion of the Dragon Socks. Last Thursday she sent it through a friend and I had a panel of sock yarn in time for a day of sitting in conference sessions on Friday.

What Eileen gave me wasn’t exactly Flat Feet, but a corporate version of it: Happy Choices from Plymouth Yarn. With Happy Choices the yarn starts life as a scarf. The scarf is then dyed in one of a number of particular patterns, such as stripes, big polka-dots, or in my case, a bull’s-eye of various colors. Plymouth also sells blanks so that dyers can come up with their own pattern designs. It’s advertised as something you can hang around your neck to knit from rather than having to carry it around, but I can’t see doing that…especially once I’ve finished the first sock, as it wouldn’t be long enough to stay on my neck. I do love the yarn, and am enjoying knitting with it. It’s not as much of a pain as I had feared, knitting with crinkly yarn that’s been ripped out of a project. This yarn also makes a fun talking-point, as most people haven’t ever seen someone ripping out a project to knit another.

So what am I doing with it? We’ll, I’ve decided to design a very simple kind of spirally pattern. Enough variation to keep it interesting without being so complex as to detract from the groovy colors. If all goes well I’ll post the pattern here when I’ve finished.

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At this time Africa is the only continent that has no dots on my clustrmap. Anyone got any knitting friends in Africa that speak English and might like to read my blog? Refer them! I’d love to have all habitable continents covered (sorry, Antarctica…you don’t count).

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I have done a lot of knitting lately in the karaoke bar.

That's me singing the George Michael classic "Kissing a Fool"

Yes, the karaoke bar. Pearl Street Station in Malden, to be precise. I am fascinated by several aspects of this particular pastime. I am a middle school choral director by profession, so it’s sometimes painful and sometimes quite glorious to hear “Joe Average” arm himself with a microphone and go balls out in front of a room full of strangers singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the top of his lungs. A guy (or gal) can be a rock star for a few brief moments and the crowd is always appreciative. If you’re good they clap. If you’re bad they clap only slightly less enthusiastically. If you’re drunk off your ass and horrid they laugh like hell and give you uproarious applause. It’s a great community support endeavor.

Danny dons the big purple hat on a recent evening at Pearl Street Station

It’s always fun to hear a first-timer hit the stage, but there is also quite a crew of regulars. There’s Danny and his slightly off-beat but fervent rendition of “U Can’t Touch This”. Or Ralph, who always ends up with at least four dancing girls from the audience when he sings the Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Johnny gets the ladies screaming when he thrusts his pelvis and swings the arm lasso-style while singing “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”. And Johnny Soo works the crowd as he croons a jazz standard or two Tom Jones-style. These are the superstars of Pearl Street and they are not afraid to let the freak flag fly.

The first several times I went to Pearl Street I didn’t take my knitting with me. It is a bar, after all. I’ve never been ashamed of knitting in public, but this is a different scenario than I’m used to knitting in. Being surrounded by people who are a little bit different I finally decided to put up my own hand-knit merino freak flag and started taking the knitting bag with me. I could be waiting a couple of hours for them to call me up to the mic, and I need something to do. Besides, I drink less when my hands are busy knitting. Normally I only drink one beer a night because I am now otherwise occupied.

A little sock knitting while I wait for my turn

Of course, the knitting does draw a little bit of attention. People aren’t quite sure what to do with a guy knitting in a karaoke bar. I do get the occasional “What are ya makin’?” or “Hey, my grandma used to knit.” but it gets more interesting. There was the one night when a chick with an interesting assortment of peircings (and the requisite jet black hair dye) kept trying to cozy up to me and told me that I was the hottest guy in the bar because I was knitting. She later got really pissed at me because I paid far more attention to my sweater than to her.

And just last week I was approached by a waitress who proceeded to tell me that somebody had offered her $20 if she’d take my picture with their cell phone. The party apparently thought it was either a)really bizarre or b) really cool to see a guy sitting in a bar knitting. Whatever the intentions behind it I just said “What the hell?” and let her take the picture. The waitress later offered to buy me my next beer as a thank-you. Score one for the knitters.

The world is full of people wearing masks. Don’t let fear of what others may think dictate your life. Let your freak flag be unfurled…hoist it up the tallest pole you can find! Life’s too short not to have some fun and live it on your own terms. Now…what to sing this weekend…?

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Twitter is not a happy place for me these days. Not at all. Oh, I love keeping up with all of the great knitting people are doing, as well as the mundane details I didn’t know I wanted to know about people’s lives. The inspirational quotes and informative links are great, too. But what I don’t like is that several of the people I follow are now at Camp Cattywumpus, aka Sock Camp.

I am unhappy about this purely out of mean, spiteful jealousy. I don’t live on the West Coast, and can’t afford to travel there. Honestly, I don’t know that I could afford Sock Camp even if I did live there, but that doesn’t help curb the longing. I’ve wanted to go since listening to a Y-Knit podcast two years ago and heard about such wonderful things as underwater knitting contests (are you for real??!!) and all the fun, learning, and INSANITY that goes on there. Because we all know that knitters aren’t just a bunch of boring little old ladies, but rather some of the wildest, craziest people out there.

I don’t think it’s fair that the West Coast should get Sock Camp AND the Sock Summit. Not fair at all.

An elementary school principal I once worked for was fond of telling her faculty not to come to her with just a problem, but with a proposed solution as well.

So here goes.

As one who loves socks, and has some experience in fun, camp-like settings (though I understand Sock Camp is at a resort) I would like to help develop an East Coast Sock Camp. Now I’ve never done anything like this and have no clue how to go about it, but if some of you would be willing to help by lending your ideas, experience, and vision then drop a comment in the comment-box and let’s make this thing happen.

By the way, my wife has no idea that I’ve just put myself out there like this, so I’m dreading the reaction of “Oh, shit! You’re putting ANOTHER iron in the fire??!!” She reads my blog faithfully, so wish me luck when she reads this post.

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@#$%^&*

I’ve been cruising along nicely on sleeve #1 of the sweater I’m designing for myself. It’s been great, especially since last week’s knitting group when my dear friend Susan helped me flesh out the final ideas for the design. Over the weekend I knit about 9 inches on the sleeve and was doing great.

As I often do with such things, I took my knitting to class tonight. It was almost 4 hours of classmates presenting their final projects. GREAT!! Lots of knitting time! Then disaster struck.

45 minutes from the end of the class, I noticed a hole 2 1/2 inches back. “@#$%^&*!!” I said to myself! I sadly had just negated all of the work I’d done in that class, with not nearly enough time to make it up.

Time to drown my sorrows in homebrew and leftover ham.

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Taming the Dragon

I have meddled in the affairs of dragons and, much like Hiccup, the main character of “How to Train Your Dragon”, have persevered and am better for it. For those who haven’t seen “How to Train Your Dragon”, SEE IT!!!!! This was, without a doubt, one of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time. At its core is a very intelligent story about compassion, ingenuity, and finding the root of a problem rather than reacting to the symptoms. And on top of that, there was a really cute yet tough Viking chick. I love a girl who can kick some ass.

And speaking of ass-kicking girls, Cookie A is definitely one of them. Her Pomatomus design kicks it figuratively and literally. Easily the coolest and toughest sock design I’ve ever tried, I have come out of it all (after much cursing and gnashing of teeth) with the coolest pair of socks EVER!! I followed the pattern pretty much to the letter, with only a couple of deviations. First, as discussed in a previous post, I used magic loop rather than dpns. I found it considerably easier with the loop. Also, though I used Sunshine Yarns “Hungarian Horntail” for the body (so appropriate for a scaly pattern) I chose to give the toes a bit of fire using leftover Shaefer Yarns “Anne” for the toes, in an orange/red hot colorway.

I’ve gotten rave reviews from all over the place on these socks; a middle-school student (middle-schoolers are possibly the toughest critics in the world) even described them as “epic”. So life is good, and I’ve now moved on to finishing the sweater I’m designing that has been on the back-burner far too long. Cookie, I want to thank you for your inspirational design. You are a goddess among sock designers.

Now I need to go buy some Birkenstocks.

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