Archive for September, 2010

Hello World!!

I love the ClustrMap. ClustrMap is that cool little widget on the right side of this page that tells us where in the world this blog is getting hits from. If you click on the ClustrMap, it’ll take you to a breakdown of just how many hits have come from each country.
Bear in mind that this doesn’t cover the entire history of the Needles and Balls blog, because it resets itself every year. This ClustrMap reflects hits since June of 2010.

Now I know some hits have been accidents, as well as people with bizarre fetishes of putting pointy things in tender areas, but this blog has apparently gotten a lot of hits from some countries. Take, for example, my second place country. Obviously first is my country, the good ol’ U. S. of A., but second place isn’t even a native English-speaking country, but Germany. 42 hits thus far from Germany since June. There are also quite a few from Canada, Great Britain, and the Scandinavian countries Denmark and the Netherlands. France is up there too. There have been hits from every continent that is generally considered habitable (I don’t count Antarctica. Sorry, snowbirds!
I love to learn new things, and would love to glean some insight into knitting traditions of other countries. If you read this from another country I would love it if you  would post something in the comments about the knitting traditions of your country. Tell me a bit about how far back knitting goes, what types of projects are traditionally done, and maybe send me a link to a website or a book that you think says a lot about your country’s yarn history.
Thanks, and I can’t wait to hear from the rest of the world!!

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As I was coming to the thumb gusset on Bex Gauntlet #1, I got very good advice: write it down. This came from a knitting goddess named Amanda. I know she’s a goddess because she’s going through the Knitting Guild Association’s Master Knitter program. Anyone who can go through that process is beyond amazing. Yes, Alanna, this means you too are a knitting goddess.

So anyway, Amanda told me to write it all down so I don’t forget it for the second one. Great idea. I am modifying a sock pattern to become gauntlets, so of course I should write it down. And I did. Mostly . Kinda’ Sorta’.

Here’s the problem. As I look at what I wrote and compare it to what I see in my hands, I think I may have slightly modified what I was doing after I wrote it down, but I’m not sure. And I didn’t write all of the details, such as how many stitches I am to pick up when I get back to the thumb gusset in order to complete the circle. Was it 3 or 5? I think it was 3. Maybe. Coulda’ been 5. URRRGGGHHH!!

So now I’m at the point of guessing. Worst case scenario: it ends up a little wrong but nobody will notice because it will only be off by 3 rows on frickin’ size 1 needles (I will not be ripping back if it’s wrong. Ripping and cables don’t work well for me). So off I go to plunge into the depths of uncertainty: a thrilling yet terrifying place to be. The good news is that I am indeed almost done with Bex.

So if you ever decide to modify a pattern or write your own, please don’t forget this advice: Write it down. Everything. No matter how unimportant something seems to be, write it down anyway. You may need it.

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In about a week I will be participating in the North Shore Walk to Defeat ALS in Peabody, MA.

Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive, fatal neuromuscular disease that slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages 2 to 5 years from the time of diagnosis (from the ALS Association website).

The ALS Association does research into this disease, hoping to find a cure, but that’s not all. They also provide much-needed help to those who live with ALS every day.

I walk for two very special people. First off, Maddy Kelly, a former co-worker of mine from when I lived in Maine who lost her husband to ALS several years ago. Maddy is a wonderful person who cares deeply about the earth and all of its creatures.

Cheryl Peach, an ALS patient and my reason to walk

I also walk for Cheryl Peach, a co-worker from my current school who was diagnosed with ALS less than a year ago. Cheryl is an amazing woman. As kitchen manager at my school she never missed work when she was still well, because she would wake up every morning looking forward to seeing “her kids”. Cheryl has always called them her kids and deeply loves the students. She has an infectious smile that lights up a room even now, when she has so many reasons not to smile.

Next Sunday, Oct. 3rd I will proudly walk as part of the “Walk for Cheryl” team in honor of this amazing woman. I would be very grateful for anyone who may wish to sponsor me by clicking on this link. Donations may be made online, and in any amount. Every little bit helps tremendously.

And now I must talk to my friend Eileen to get advice on suitable knitting projects for a walk. She’s done the 3-day cancer walk before and has been known to knit while walking. I intend to do the same.

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My first socks right after completion

I am sad. The first pair of socks I ever made all by myself has holes. Not yarn-overs or other intentional ventilation, but real, worn-through holes. Actually, it’s only one hole on the ball of the foot of one sock, but the other sock is clearly weakening significantly at the same place, so it’s only a matter of time. I almost cried when I noticed it.

This is the problem with sock knitting. You invest your lifeblood into this garment that is so warm and squishy on the feet, that feels so great on a New England fall morning, spreading a deeper warmth than coffee, and then you wear it. Weekly. While teaching, which means constant movement if you’re an ADHD teacher like myself. They wear out, and eventually have to go. Well these ain’t gone yet; I’m wearin’ ’em until they’e practically disintegraded, dammit!

But wait…a voice from heaven is whispering something in my ear…“Make more socks!” An epiphany! It’s okay to keep wearing (and wearing out) my socks, because this necessitates the perpetuation of my favorite type of knitting project! As long as I keep knitting them, I’ll never really say goodbye to yummy warm socks! I do have that mindless (or mind-full, Kelley) rehearsal sock going. And there’s always the lovely Malabrigo sock yarn I found in South Carolina (seriously, who needs wool socks in SC?). Hooray for an excuse to knit more socks!!!

And besides, isn’t it better to have a well-worn pair of socks than socks that never get worn at all?

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Oh, Well

The school I teach at has an after-school enrichment program which provides alternate learning experiences for the kids beyond what they would get in the classroom. Teachers offer different special interest sessions and students can sign up and pay a specified amount to take one of these classes. This time around I offered two 5-week courses: Beginning Guitar and Knitting for Beginners.

The guitar class is off to a great start, with 9 kids enrolled and a lot of enthusiasm. Some of the guitars aren’t in the best shape (like the one that came in with only 3 strings still intact), but the kids are motivated and I think will do fine. I mean, what middle schooler doesn’t want to learn real rock star skills?

The knitting, however, is a no-go. In order to break even, a course must have at least 6 kids signed up. Knitting got one. Uno. Eins. First off, I am a bit disappointed, because I always love sharing my knowledge of soft, squishy fuzziness. I feel even worse for the one kid who signed up, because she was really excited about it.

I know that the other middle school in our town (and at least one of the elementary schools) has had a knitting club that’s been at least moderately successful, so I’m wondering what’s stopping mine. I tried to get this off the ground a couple of years ago too, and it didn’t happen then either. So that makes me wonder…is it the idea of paying for a knitting class during tough economic times? Or maybe middle school kids are just totally creeped out by a male teacher who knits. It could, of course, just be a simple issue of busy schedules preventing it from happening.

Whatever it is, I guess I will not be spreading the joy of yarn in the way I originally intended. Maybe a less-structured knitting club (just sitting around a table and knitting) would be more successful. Back to the drawing board….

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“a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery — all the things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

Last night I had one of my favorite experiences ever as a community theater audience member, being up-close and personal with the Quannapowitt Players’ production of “Chicago”. I’ve been a fan of this biting satire by John Kander and Fred Ebb ever since the movie came out, but had never seen it on stage, so I was very excited. I knew the director to be passionate about this show, as well as the original choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse. Though with all of that, there was an even bigger reason that I was looking forward to this show:

Let’s face it, “Chicago” is known for being steamy and Quannapowitt’s performance delivered! I may love knitting needles and yarn, but I’m still a guy. The director said his goal was to make sure each of the girls’ costumes could fit in a small ziploc baggie, and I think that was easily achieved. I think a couple of them had plenty of room to spare in the baggie.

A little back story now: last night’s performance was a sell-out and I hadn’t bought tickets in time. I was advised to arrive at 7:30 when the box office was due to open and put my name on the waiting list in case there’s an unclaimed ticket. I live just over a mile away, so I slung my knitting bag over my shoulder and hit the sidewalk…at very least I’d get a good brisk walk and at least 20 minutes of knitting time while waiting for a ticket. The show would be a bonus, right?

Additionally, I got several lovely compliments on Bex. I am still amazed at the number of senior citizens came out for such a sexy show, and a couple of older ladies were commenting to me that they hadn’t gotten started on their knitting yet this fall. Waiting until fall? Seriously? My projects may change by the season, but I never totally put it down. Hell, I’ve been working on Bex all summer. Maybe they’re just not quite the yarn junkies that my friends and I are.

After about 25 minutes of very joyous and comfortable knitting in the lobby, I was told I could buy a ticket, and in I went. Quannapowitt playhouse is a black box theatre that seats somewhere in the neighborhood of 150. I was able to find a seat in the front row, so I really felt the “steamy nightclub” vibe they were giving off. All that was missing was a table with a gin and tonic in front of me. Lighting was such that if I really wanted to I could’ve knit all through the show, but somehow I felt that the performers would find it distracting and a bit insulting. They were, after all, often within arm’s reach (one dancer bumped my shoe with her hand while lying on the floor during a dance sequence). So I was a good boy and kept the needles in the bag. Besides, with all the visual stimulation I know I would’ve frogged something.

The acting was superb, the singing exquisite, and the dancing phenomenal. It was a high-caliber production in the perfect setting…I don’t think I’d want to see it in a large theater after this. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the feather fans, beautifully utilized in Billy Flynn’s big number “All I Care About is Love”, or choreographer Johnnie Pirroni’s hilarious performance as Mary Sunshine.

If you have the time, I highly recommend going to see Quannapowitt Players’ production of “Chicago”, playing September 24th, 25th, October 1st and 2nd at 8:00 and a matinee on September 26th at 2:00. Get your tickets early, because they will sell out! I can’t guarantee you’ll be as fortunate as I was in your procrastination.

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I have given up. Bex is almost done, but will not be given to my kid today. I hate doing the whole late birthday present thing, but Megan understands and is cool with it. Honestly, it wasn’t originally even conceived as a birthday present, but just as my fulfilling the knitted wishes of my kid. The birthday thing was my self-imposed deadline just to get the damn thing finished. But as I’m only a few rows into the thumb gusset it will be a few more days.

Tonight she will be having a sleepover birthday party and I do plan to knit while they’re spazzing out together in the living room. I will be somewhere else. Not sure where, but far far away from the living room. Maybe Egypt. Egypt may be a safe enough distance from four adolescent girls jacked up on pizza and soda. If I can’t get a flight out to Egypt at the last minute, maybe I’ll just sit quietly upstairs with a glass of the Long Trail Double-Bag (7.2% alcohol in this beer!) and pretend it’s not going on.

Wait a minute…my passport’s out of date. Damn. I guess it’s option B for me.

Anyway, I do plan to spend a lovely (if not peaceful) night with squooshy, yummy yarn that one of my friends recently told me she’d like to swim naked in a pool of. I know, TMI. Hope your evening is as full of joy as mine…and a lot quieter.

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