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Archive for January, 2012

I love Knitpicks, and more specifically, I love my Knitpicks Zephyr acrylic interchangeable knitting needles. At least I love them most of the time.

Christmas of 2010 my mom gave me a Visa gift card, with which I bought a set of these needles. My dear friend Joanne had recommended them, saying she had a pair and LOVED them! I have to agree that they’re fabulous. Fast forward 6 months to the end of that school year and I received another set as a “thank-you-for-teaching-my-daughter-for-3-years” gift from, of course, Joanne. She knew I already had some, but told me it’s important to have spares.

Boy was she right…

Yes, that's the broken needle tip sticking out of that sock.

Two Wednesdays ago I went to my regular knitting group, pulled out the red worsted-weight house-socks I was knitting on the size 4 Zephyrs when “SNAP!” one of the needle tips broke. I didn’t even finish the first stitch. “It’s okay,” I told my friends, “I have a spare set at home.” Only slightly disheartened, I pulled out my crazy-ass hexagon socks and worked on them for a while. After I got home I switched out the tips and was good to go.

This past Wednesday, having finished the red house-socks, I pulled out a pair of mittens I was knitting, also on the size 4 Zephyrs when, you guessed it, “SNAP!” Another needle tip bit the dust a quarter of the way through a row. A bit more disheartened this time, I proceeded to pull out the crazy-ass hexagon socks again, knowing that I had another needle tip left at home. But it was only one more. The last one.

One of my knitting group friends suggested that I call Knitpicks, stating that their customer service is fabulous. She’d had really positive experiences with them before and felt certain that they’d help me out. I am glad I heeded her advice. The customer service person I spoke to was extremely helpful. After checking my account and confirming that yes, I had indeed ordered a set of these needles in the past, she told me they’d ship out another set of size 4 tips. Though she didn’t explicitly say it, I guessed from her tone of voice that this is a known problem. As much as I love these needles, I just don’t think the acrylic tips are quite strong enough in a size 4…they’re too thin.

Thank you, Knitpicks, for helping out this very loyal customer. I appreciate your attentiveness and courtesy. I do believe, however, that it’s time to get a set of size 4 nickel-plated tips.

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**Special Note: Please play the video to use as background music while you read this post. It will make it so much better, I promise! At very least it will distract from the bad writing.

I am a teacher. An educator. A person whose life’s aim is to observe and assist children as they expand their knowledge base as well as their attitudes toward life, the universe, and everything.

I am also a man who knits in front of them.

Every day from 11:55 until 12:20 I am in the midst of a school cafeteria full of vibrant 3rd graders as I take part in the ancient educational ritual of Lunch Duty. Being new to the job this year the kids have spent a great deal of the year up to this point getting to know me. I’ll never forget the day when, during 3rd grade lunch, one student found out that I was a knitter. “Ha ha HAAA.” she said. “Men don’t knit. Knitting is for old ladies!”

I would love to say that she is the only student to say that, but she is the first of a few. Not a lot; a few. So how do you address such sadly misguided comments aimed at a man who knits? Why, I did the only thing I knew to do: I started knitting socks during 3rd grade lunch duty. Every day.

This same student, along with MANY others, now regularly checks on my progress on the socks I’m working on. You see, these kids no longer think it’s weird to see their music teacher knitting, because they see it every day. In fact, they think it’s kind of cool. They even make requests for knitted items, which I promptly turn down (“I knit for myself, family, and very close friends. As cool as you are, you don’t fit any of those categories.”).

I also have the good fortune of spending each Thursday with a kindergarten class in my school, a different one each week, as a helper. This morning when I arrived they were finishing breakfast, and those who were done were reading books on the rug. I simply sat on the rug and began to knit on a sock. Instantly 3 boys (boys!!!) were in my face asking questions and making comments (“can those needles cut you?” “how do you do that?” “Wow…you have really big feet!”). Before I knew it I had about 10 kindergartners around me. They wanted to watch, to touch the tips of the needles, to feel the yarn and the 2×2 ribbing on my sock.

The kindergartners were fascinated by my knitting. The third-graders began with some preconceived notions, but are now interested in my projects. I like to think that I’m doing my part to change perceptions of knitting in these delightful young people. Yeah, some of them have grandmothers who knit…believe me, they’ve told me! But now they’re going to go through life remembering this weird guy who taught music when they were young who used to knit all the time. I am comforted by that.

Later in the day, one delightful little girl told me “You’re really good at knitting…almost like a GRANDMA!” I couldn’t ask for a better compliment.

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Feeling Random

I know it’s not the normal Sunday Night, but I just have a lot of disjointed random thoughts that I have to get out.

  1. It’s Tuesday, but not for much longer.
  2. Cheddar cheese is one of the greatest foods ever invented.
  3. I’ve been considering making a quick-and-dirty pair of worsted weight socks to use as “house socks.” They’d be quick to knit, right?
  4. For Christmas I got a set of super-sharp kitchen knives that have zebra-striped blades. I love these wondrous knives…they cut everything so beautifully…including fingers. Ouch.
  5. I really need to learn how to cut things with sharp knives in a safe way.
  6. I think if I could be any other creature on the planet I’d want to be a hobbit. 5 meals a day, jolly, fun-loving folks with hairy feet. Sounds good to me.
  7. I’m in love with my Hexagon socks. This is why I am hesitant to start the aforementioned worsted weight “house socks”. I’d feel so dirty leaving these fabulous socks behind for something so plain.
  8. A Kindergarten classroom is full of unconditional love. The smile of a kindergartner can fuel you for the entire day.
  9. A Kindergarten classroom is also full of snot, slobber, and other germs. This is the trade-off.
  10. I still love cheddar cheese. It really is the perfect food. That and chocolate.

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I am often told by friends, colleagues, acquaintances who have seen my skill level as a knitter, “You should sell this stuff…it’s really good!” After thanking the Muggle (non-knitter), for such statements almost always come from non-knitters, I have a pretty standard explanation.

“If I sold what I knit, I’d either get paid pennies per hour, or have to charge way more than people will pay, even if using crappy yarn,” I’d answer. “Besides, if I did it as a job, I don’t think I’d enjoy it so much.” According to Daniel Pink’s book Drive, and I agree, the greatest way to stop motivation in its tracks is to attach a dollar value to the task. I know that seems counter-intuitive in our culture, but his research looks sound and I think he’s right.

So how can I justify the craft of knitting in my life? After all, as a button a friend gave me states, “Yes, I know I can BUY socks for TWO BUCKS at Wal-Mart.” How does it make sense to drop 20 bucks on a hank of sock yarn, no matter how hip the colors are?

Joy.

I love to knit, and as entertainment goes it’s pretty cheap. For that $20 I have a guarantee of around 30 hours of doing something that brings me joy, considerably more than that if I’m knitting anything by Cookie A. That’s a cost of about $.67 per hour. These days, what entertainment can you buy for that price? Not much.

It costs:

*$11.00 to go to a 2-hour movie by myself with no snacks.

*$16.00 to attend a 2 1/2-hour community theater performance.

*Between $15 and $25 (plus parking or train fare) to go to a concert at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

*$4.50 for a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and though I could hang out there for a while, I’d have to hang out at the coffee shop for 6.71 hours to get that kind of hourly price and my coffee would be very cold after that.

*Dinner at a nice restaurant with a special someone: about $50-70.

*Retail therapy (aka shopping) could vary in cost, but I think I’m safe in saying it’d be more than $.67 per hour.

That’s just a short list. Granted, there are other things you can do for comparable price, such as watch TV, read a book from the library, or play the guitar. My point is that as entertainment goes, knitting is a real bargain. And as an added bonus, unlike any of the above items, it produces something that is generally pretty fabulous and will continue to bring many hours of enjoyment as it is worn.

So when was the last time your $2 socks from Wal-Mart gave you as much joy as my $20 skein of sock yarn?

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At this particular point every year, it is customary to look back at the year, at the failures, the successes, the highs, the lows, and the just plain idiotic things that we witnessed and were a part of. I’ve done plenty of that, so now I’m ready for my list of reasons 2012 will kick some serious ass…and yes, I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it will.

  • I’m starting the year with the largest stash of sock yarn I’ve ever begun a year with. That’s gotta be a good omen, right?
  • And continuing with that theme, this year has also begun with the start of the CRAZIEST pair of socks I’ve ever knit, the Hexagons from Think Outside the Socks. The pattern is, as the name implies, constructed almost solely of hexagons. To make it even sweeter, I’m using the brightly-colored yarn I got from my friend Rebecca, which she has dubbed “clown barf.” Fabulous!
  • Being back in my comfort zone of teaching elementary school music is fabulous, and I walk into my job each day with a big, goofy smile on my face.
  • And yet, while I’m enjoying elementary school in my professional life, my family will be done with elementary school this year. In a few short months my little one will be in middle school and the big one will be in high school.
  • After a 2011 of my family establishing routines and “finding ourselves” in the wake of major transitions, 2012 will be (I hope) a year of maintaining what we’ve established.
  • The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider Man, The Avengers,¬†and The Hobbit (part 1) ¬†will all hit theaters. This means an enormous amount of GEEKING OUT!!!
  • Lots of idiots vying for the Oval Office (and as much air time as possible) makes for some good entertainment. And…the biggest reason 2012 will kick ass…
  • Every day I am thankful for the wonderful, ever-growing gaggle of AMAZING friends, family, readers, and colleagues that make life grand! The best thing about life is the people, and I am happy to share bits of my life with the greatest folks on the planet! You guys, like this new year, kick ass!

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