Sunday, September 28, 2008

small fires and other stories

Small fires: A hint to cooks. When The Joy of Cooking suggests that you put your spaghetti squash into the microwave after poking holes in it with a skewer or knife to avoid explosion? They don't mention the stem. The kind authors assume that any normal cook would remember to cut the woody stem off before turning on the microwave.

I did not. I went to the bathroom (across the hall) and lucky that I needed to do a #1 and not a #2 (snort! A little grade school humor?!) because a minute later, I had to stop the microwave and put out the stem, which was on fire. Completely charred, in fact. The squash, of course, was not even remotely cooked, so I did the intelligent thing. I got out a pan, put some water in it, cut off the fire damage, and baked the squash in the oven until it was done. (350F, 30 minutes, it was a small squash.) By then, I'd eaten something else for lunch. The dogs like squash and may get this one; it tastes fine but I've lost enthusiasm. The stinky smoke smell has almost dissipated and the microwave is undamaged.

I did manage to avoid fires for the three days while we had a houseguest. I even made beef brisket, eggplant salad, a Middle Eastern cucumber, tomato, olive salad, a few challahs, and an apple chocolate chip cake for Friday night dinner. At least I had good timing and all the guests ate without burning incidents. I also managed to replicate my rye and nine grain breads again, and well, that nut is cracked. I know how to make rye bread now. Enough of cooking! On to story #2.

Knitting: Some things can only be done by trial and error. You may wonder how knitwear designers grade multiple sizes of garments. Sometimes, it can all be done by magic, mirrors and (ahem) Excel spreadsheets. Only one sweater needs to be knitted, and all the sizes work. However, not everything is always that neat. A year ago, I designed a mitten. I saved the design and recently decided to rework it for my next book. I settled down to write the pattern for kids and women. Alas, the spreadsheet approach, while very elegant looking--a perfect example of an "A" math paper, did not look like my model, which I liked. I rewrote things and tried again with one size mitten. I knit just the tops, since I knew that was where this design element was important. And? EHHHHH! Buzzer noise! Foiled Again! On the third go-round, I sat with the model, knitted directly from the model, using my knitting fingers to read and copy things instead of my brain. I took notes. Finally, it looked right. After a while, I stopped ripping out the swatch knitting and just made funny little mitten tops. My office was littered with them. By Friday afternoon, I was overjoyed to rush to the post office with my new, re-written too many times to count draft and the yarn for the samples. My kind test knitter (Hi MOM!) will actually make the mitten samples this time.

Adventure in Kentucky: Story #3. We live in a refugee resettlement area. That means that this area of Kentucky is slowly being diversified by wonderful people from all over the world. Once a year, they are welcomed to show off their cultures, identities and customs. We have an international festival. I caught this performance on Saturday. I believe the performers were Bosnian. Check out the (originally Middle Eastern) Oud and the Fez. We all enjoyed some ethnic food. The house guest had a cevapi (Bosnian sausage on a stick) and a pina colada. The professor ate a gyro and I partook of coconut bubble tea and a Vietnamese spring roll.

The good part? All the fun and open celebration of everyone's culture... The bad part? This is really the only time all year when people feel free to share this here...diversity is not all that accepted or mainstream in Kentucky, although of course, many other parts of the US are more diverse. Even so, I was surprised when a vaguely familiar older lady approached the professor and me, said WE (meaning Jews) must really feel at home at and enjoy the international festival. I explained that we did enjoy it,just as she did, but that of course, we were as American as she was. Her intent was clear. We were "other"-- that, as Jews, we were of course, "internationals." I had to say that I was as American as she is; I hate that bait. I walked away, and the professor was more kind when she asked what we were doing to celebrate "our special time of year." (more on that in a bit.)

So, although I love this attempt at broadening folks' horizons and diversity education, I'm often left with a bitter taste in my mouth about this event. I'm not heartened by this group who is very active in town. They have taken over the "Israel" booth, perhaps because actual Jews might prefer not to run a booth at an all day event on Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath.) Their leader goes around mispronouncing Hebrew, trying to proselytize the few Jews in town and trying to explain their sect as Judaism. It causes a lot of confusion to people who've never met a Jew or even a non-Christian before. It makes me feel even less at home in my skin here to have so many people trying to convert me.

Whoa, I didn't mean to end the stories in quite this way. Let's turn this around. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins on Monday night. We're celebrating the beginning of 5769. Each year we focus on what we've done wrong, what we could do better, and what resolutions we can make for the future. We pray in synagogue...and for us, that means driving more than 70 miles each way to Nashville to be part of a Jewish community. My hope for 5769? That a year from now, if all goes well, I will be living in Winnipeg, a city where I can easily walk or drive just a few minutes to be at services. Oh, to be part of a religious community with multiple congregations and rabbis...not to mention the diversity that makes it ok to be different in many ways, including being "from somewhere else" all year round instead of just during the one day international festival.

After Rosh Hashanah, we are off to spend a few days with family at the farm in upstate New York. I cannot wait to pick some apples, take some long walks, and have a few long conversations at the dinner table. I think I need a little vacation! To all who celebrate, L'Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year!) And, to my Muslim friends, Ramadan Mubarak!

Any fires at your house? (I hope not.) Tinking your knitting? Celebrating diversity? Or...maybe just eating some good apples...? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Corn Bread and Butter Beans

"Bread baking is one of the great wonders of life. I learned the basics of it in an afternoon, and I can tell that I will spend the rest of my life learning the art." --Geek Knitter said this in the comments, and you know? You're right! Wise woman!....but swap in "making music" or "spinning" or "knitting" for "bread baking" might be just as true, you think?

Every year, the university sponsors a Cultural Enhancement Series. It's usually right on campus, so we climb up up up the hill and check it out. It's an attempt to bring the world to a corner of Kentucky and help expose students to what's out there. It's also a lifesaver for those of us who come from bigger cities and need the stimulation. A friend of mine organizes the series and it's free. Yes, no matter what the topic, we make every effort to attend. There are things we might not have heard or seen otherwise, but if it's happening, we go.

This year, the big campus auditorium is being refurbished, so instead of campus, we strolled down to our historic square and our old fashioned theater, Capitol Arts. The marquee is in Art Deco neon and you can read who's performing a block away. (click on the link to see what I mean there...)

This time, it was like we bumped into a friend of a friend from home. The performers were the Carolina Chocolate Drops, from Durham, North Carolina. We lived in Durham for several years and it's still close to our heart. This African-American old-time string band reminded us of the North Carolina Piedmont...but it was also a riproaring good show. Why?
The students have to be convinced into attending this cultural enhancement series. If the topic is something they can relate to; the room rocks. Gloria Steinem and Barbara Ehrenreich were both, of course, a success. If not? An empty auditorium faces a group of famous musicians, or a scholar who travelled hundreds of miles here, and it's an embarrassment! This time, the old-time dance tunes carried right across the Appalachians. Students were two stepping, clogging (the official state dance of Kentucky) and square dancing. Whooping and hollering and singing along were part of the show.

This morning I was still singing as I made my breakfast tea. Need a smile? I dare you not to when you listen to this! Check out my first ever video clip..(I hunted until I found one that was decent...but it's not like the clogging crowd last night!) on the blog...and sing along:
Corn bread and butter beans
And you across the table
Eating them beans and making love
As long as I am able


Sunday, September 21, 2008


This has been a long week...and I'm just talking personally, not referring to the financial markets! I can only compare it to a feeling I used to have as an undergraduate. I was a double major and many of my courses concluded not with a final exam, but a final paper. My exam week would always consist of writing several papers in a row. Wake up, have breakfast, write paper. Eat again at some point. Finish paper. Sleep on it. Wake up, turn it in, start the next one...and so on. When I turned the papers in, that meant a long trudge across campus. I'd leave the paper in a professor's mailbox, turn around, and go back to my dorm room or apartment. That was it. Other people had study groups, but I was a hermit. I used to love the chance to take an exam--not because I liked them (I liked writing papers, of course!) but because we'd all end a class together. There'd be closure, and it wasn't just an individual, somewhat lonely, experience.

Alas, life (for me) is often more like the paper writing routine. This week I sent off my proofs (early) to my publisher. A day later, I drove the 70 miles to Nashville for an appointment, parked, and just about collapsed in tears and exhaustion. Only later did my editor mention that, yeah, everyone feels exhausted after proofing the galleys for their books! Whew, I'm not crazy. Big relief! Also, it appears there are still changes to be made, we are still emailing madly about photos and things.

Several other things happened this week that struck me as, well, anti-climatic. I've had a quiet weekend to recuperate. This morning, I finally baked my first 100% successful loaves of rye and nine grain bread. The professor is just about fanatic about rye bread and it is impossible to buy a good loaf of it here. Good=hard crust, dark rye taste, nice crumb, and a few very healthy ingredients...and finally, I did it...the loaf on the left. He's very happy, and since the loaf has organic whole wheat, white, and rye flours, yeast, salt, cider vinegar and water in it, I know he's not eating anything bad in there! The secret? A long rising time, a very hot oven, this point,a lot of failures (ahem) experience with baking rye bread. For the first time, the professor actually suggested we have bread school during winter break so he could bake his own. Hallelujah! What could be better than that? A local artisanal bakery, maybe?

Another success? The Rambouillet spinning I mentioned here has turned into one luscious skein that I hope to replicate. I spun right from the slightly greasy lock. The singles were something like 3,024 yards per lb...very fine. The Navajo 3 ply is about 126 yards, total, at around 1,000 yards per lb. I think it's roughly sportweight to DK, although I haven't knit with it yet. I'm just too darn busy fondling it. I've had this Rambouillet since last October. It's about time it became something.

While I pondered the notion of all this anticlimax, I stood in the hall with my camera. The dogs wagged and dithered around me. Then when I asked them to sit, (repeatedly) Sally finally just plopped "down" and stayed still, tail wagging constantly. When we took Sally to obedience class in fall/winter 2005, she would not lay down in public. Not near other dogs, anyway, and that even included Harry, at home. It suddenly occurred to me today that I have been able to consistently say "down" to Sally and get results (with Harry right next to her) for months now. Not near other dogs and not outdoors...she's too nervous for that...but here it is, a perfect "down." No treats necessary. Wonder when that happened?

I know there's a point here somewhere...just like the papers I wrote, (look, I guess it worked--I became a writer.)or all the effort I spent on "Sally, Down!" I didn't see the pattern at the time. I can't help but think that this last week's economic news might end up being a paragraph in history books someday. We might be able to look back and say, "that's the week when deregulation died" Not with a bang but a whimper? (I'm not sorry to see the "self-regulation theory" go, I think...after all, if we were really all capable of self-regulation, would we need cops?)

What do you think about the news this week? About the notion of anticlimax? dog obedience? Deregulation?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Casual, Elegant Knits Blog tour

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet Faina Goberstein. Faina is a knitwear designer (and a college math instructor) in California. It just happened that I had an appointment in Nashville while Faina was there on vacation. We met for a cup of coffee and she gave me a copy of her new book, Casual, Elegant Knits, co-authored with Dawn Leeseman. We had a super time together--we have lots in common! I promised then that I would do a book review as part of her blog tour.

What makes this knitting book special? It's not trendy, and the colors chosen are basic and approachable. The 24 patterns each offer something useful and clever. This is a book filled with good design and classic ideas. There, that's it. I said the word. Classic. The one thing that struck me, again and again, were how many useful, sophisticated patterns there were for those of us who are looking for dependable items for our wardrobes.

Many times, I've been swept up by a pattern that looks exciting to knit--lots of color or texture...but maybe isn't something I'd actually wear. These patterns are all well-designed, with clever details and innovations, AND they'd fit admirably into most anyone's closet. Faina asked me which photos I'd like to feature in my review, and I chose only a few of the designs I'd like to make. (I happen to own a beloved felted beret that I've had for the last 15 years. I might need a new one...and a basic skirt or tank? Always a good addition!) There are hats and bags for men and women, two saucy and sexy skirts, a variety of scarves, gloves and purses...and several great looking sweaters and tanks.

The patterns are laid out very clearly, with schematics and charts as well as clearly written out descriptions and finishing techniques. The photos show off the sleek shapes and patterns of each design well, and the models look like real people. When I look at these, I can imagine myself easily in these pictures, because the colors, styles, and even poses are not too "arty"or trendy. That goes a long way towards making this book a useful reference for more than one pattern and more than one season of knitting.

Dawn and Faina co-wrote this book, and they did a great job of creating a single "look" throughout. That style has a fashionable European sophistication that is sometimes missing from American knitwear design. My mother always encourages me to pick classic, tailored, well-made clothing because it will last a long time and always look right, whatever the occasion. If you're looking to create knitwear that fits these high standards, Casual, Elegant Knits is well worth the purchase.

Tomorrow, the blog tour for this book ends with Simona Merchant-Dest. Wander over and check it out!

Psst! You may notice my review here on the blog is a lot less formal, than, say, the book reviews I do for Spin-Off magazine. Do you like to read book reviews on my blog? Should I save those for magazines instead? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I do believe it's true

Alison figured out I was riffing on a song in that last post. It's really called At the Zoo and it's a Simon and Garfunkel tune. Humming that song and thinking about -well-things, I realized I'm happy about some thoughts I've been having about creation and fruition.

I get excited about something that's well done. Beautiful. The funny thing is that could be a piece of music--like this funky honest song "At the Zoo" or a good piece of pie. A round sung in harmony. A ball of yarn that feels oh so good in your hand. A perfectly round tomato. A kiss. A juicy peach. Or, maybe a sheep and the fleece it grows. Yes, a fleece.

Many people (non-spinners) have said to me that since handspun yarn isn't an end product, it isn't as valuable as, say, something "finished" that can be used. I've heard this said as an excuse for a skein's lack of desirability when I'm teaching spinning, when I'm selling handspun yarn in a gallery, when I'm demonstrating. Nothing could be further from the truth for me.

Any knitter, weaver, felter or crocheter knows that yarn can definitely be used, but is complete in itself. It has infinite potential and value. Hence, when I see raw wool at the state fair...ohhh... I practically swoon with all the much more potential than a finished skein of yarn! The value of each fiber moves me. I imagine the sheep. I imagine the shepherd and the shearer, the guard dogs or llama or donkey and the border collie. A raw fleece is a perfect thing on its own. It's reached fruition. That sheep and its people have created something special.

Here are the fleeces I got this time. Small fleeces, because I've got plenty of fiber as is...but I like variety. I was aiming for interesting stuff. This is a very soft Shetland fleece, and each lock has enormous color variation, from gray to copper. The result is stunning. It will also be stunning if I dye it, because the colors created with each lock will still be magnificent. However, the shepherd nearly keeled over when she heard I might dye it. She thinks it's perfect as is. I may have to honor that.

I got two fleeeces from a crossbred Finn/Shetland/Dorset flock. Apparently they have only a smidgen of Dorset in them, 1/16th or so. The Finn and Shetland make for an amazing combo. The brown fleece is variable, with full Shetland locks (but no guard hair) and little crimpy Finn dreads. It looks mostly like Finn sheep.

The white fleece is from that same flock, and it has the Shetland long locks, a bit of guard hair, and it washed up a beautiful rich white. (this photo is shot in the grease)

Delicious works of art, these fleeces. Those sheep and shepherds should be proud. Since understanding art is ongoing for me, here is a shot of one of my three green peppers. To me, this is good art--it can look perfect now and maybe taste good later too. The professor jokes that our garden produce is very expensive, maybe $50 a tomato. This pepper? Probably $32.50. We don't get a lot out of our garden patch, but we sure do enjoy it!

Our weird squash volunteers continue to mystify. Apparently our squash seeds were just a crossbred wonder. We've got two shapes of butternut squash and a few acorn-y things...and not one of these is bigger than my hand. I left them out in the dining room and guests exclaim over our exotic mini-squash display. "Ohhh. Where did you get those?!" (our mutant garden out back?!)

Finally, I think we're in a partnership here on earth and that creation is an ongoing process. I like to contribute. I was thrilled today when I sent off my proofs to the publisher. That my book is almost ready to be printed made me so excited. Knowing how long it's taken to bring this project to fruition made it feel like such a huge step. When I got home again, I rushed to answer the editor's email. She asked about a photo issue. I looked at the proofs again? And saw a typo I'd missed. Ugh. Thank goodness for the proofreader at the publisher's. We aren't perfect. Creation is a process. Still? It's nice to know our work (the sheep's, the garden's, mine...) bears fruit.

To quote Simon & Garfunkel? I do believe it's true.

Next blog post? Join me as I hop on to the blogtour for Faina Goberstein and Dawn Leeseman's book, Casual, Elegant Knits.

So, is yarn a finished product? Is creation a process? Are mutant squash desirable? Jump in and say what you think!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

it's all happening at the fair

I get very excited about going to the Tennessee State Fair fiber arts events...a fleece judging and auction and a spinning contest. It all happens on a Thursday evening (very inconvenient...) and because it happens in September, it sometimes even conflicts with Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. (Jewish High Holidays which happen in the fall.)
However, we've managed to make it to these events several years now without too many conflicts, and I'm always grateful to Kim Caulfield, of Far Out Farm, for doing all the organizing. It is so much fun!

First, we leave home before dinner time, arriving in Nashville to eat supper before the fair. We've found a great pan-Asian cafeteria sort of place that is relatively near Belmont University (of 2008 presidential debate fame) and we stop there first. Twenty dollars later, we've rolled out of there, very full, after eating salad rolls, seaweed salad, ginger chicken, chicken curry, brown rice, noodles, curry egg roll and veggie dumplings. On to the fair!
The signage is better every year. My favorites were these two I've posted, especially including the subtitle: "Educating Youth about Our Food and Fiber System." What a good mission!

The professor spent some time this year checking out other exhibits while I got up close and personal with some sheep. (he's a bit allergic to the sheep bedding they use, so he limits his time in the sheep barns, poor sneezy guy.) Most of the sheep were highly groomed meat sheep, but I saw a couple of very personable sheep with nice fleeces. Here's a long wool with personality and a colored fleece with character....
The spinning contests and auction more than doubled in size this year. I was thrilled to see such good participation from the spinning community. I thought maybe, just maybe, it was because I promoted the event in Spin-Off Magazine in my Armchair Traveler article...I tried to ask folks if they'd read about it, and I got responses like..."Oh, did you read that?" (Snort. No, I wrote it! ) Or, from the people who did read the article, questions like "Why didn't you include these other farms?!" etc. You can't please all the people all the time, I guess... Apparently Ravelry (the new online knitting database community) is the reason for the increase in attendance, so no need for me to get a big ego about my article or anything. :)

The spinning contests are informal and fun. The goal is to spin the longest yarn in 10 minutes...and the categories are spindle and wheel, novice and open class. So, I enter both the spindle and wheel open class every year, just to enjoy some of Far Out Farm's lovely carded Romney and a spinning good time. This year, I placed 1st in the spindle competition and 2nd in the wheel competition. I also had a great time socializing and spinning!

I have lots more photos, including some fleece photos. (of course I bought some fleeces!) However, I'll continue on talking about this in my next blog post. It is only one evening event but for me, the enjoyment lasts for a week or so. I've already washed all three fleeces that I've bought and I'm going to start some sample spindling at my spinning group this afternoon.

To the right, you can see an irrelevant shot of my enormous Jerusalem artichokes. I'm showing them off because they just about reach the sky and I'm excited about digging them up soon. In the meanwhile, though, we've been having great gusts of wind as part of the leftovers of Hurricane Ike. I wanted to preserve an image of these fun flowers on a sunny day, just in case they don't make it through the deep breezes. Let the sun shine in!

Thanks for all your pie encouragement. Friday, I finished the peach pie and made an apple pie. Some people just can't be I've tried to up my exercise a little to compensate. What do you do to compensate for your pie habits?!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

jackhammering onward

Your suggestions and comments were fabulous! The sad truth is that I've called the city and the jackhammer hell (ahem, construction) will continue through October if not longer. I run fans all day long to make white noise to cover up the jackhammer noises. I do own an I-pod, but find that more noise on top of the noise of not one, but two jackhammer construction projects within a few blocks puts me over the edge. Although I love music, I listen to it intently when I have it on, so I do not work with music on because I can't concentrate on the work part.

With the fans on, the jackhammering is a low deep rumble that vibrates my house a bit. I'd escape to a coffee shop or the library but these venues are all (alas) within a few blocks of the noise. They also lack a full dining room table for 3 sets of proofs AND a laptop! I did rush out to do errands the other day as a "reward" for getting through proofreading. Never has buying dog food seemed so luxurious, so quiet and meaningful. I found this ribbon, too, and I bought it. I liked the colors and it said "hipster" and "bistro" on the labels (two positive words). You'll be amazed when you see this stuff turn up again someday in a knitting project. :)

There's no consensus on which button I should choose for that other project. I dug deep into the button stash and found a few more options for the professor to consider. As soon as I can flag him down, I'm sure he'll offer his two cents. In the meanwhile, I am slogging onward. Donna mentioned on her blog that writers go through these periods of ups and down. Sometimes I'm really "in the groove." The writing goes quickly, it's a joy, the other business details are all tolerable, and I feel I was destined for this life. Then, there are the slog times. Maybe it's the proofreading (almost done, thank goodness) or the jackhammer? but this is a period of slog.

The professor has a Swiss friend and colleague named Chris. Once, when Chris was at our house for least 8 years ago...he mentioned that in Switzerland, fruit pies are often consumed at breakfast. This week, I lay in bed at 6:15 AM, listening to the jackhammers start early, and the only thing motivating me to get up? Is this peach pie. I've almost finished it. I made it on Sunday night. I know it's bad to equate food with a reward, I know. I can't help it. At least it's a homemade reward! With tea and a glass of milk, it's the breakfast of proofreading champions.

I've been hoping for a way to actually run away for a few days from the jackhammer but my schedule is pretty booked with actual local commitments. Instead, I'm running away for the afternoon and evening. Tonight, the professor and I are going to the Fair! The Tennessee State Fair has a fleece auction and spinning contest every year. It's at 7:30 tonight in Nashville if you're in the vicinity. We love us some sheep and wool and if you link that to a meal in a big city restaurant, it's well worth the gas. Plus, I don't have to take notes this year, shoot photos, or write a book on it. I can just buy a little fleece or two. (cause sometimes retail therapy is necessary and comes with a nice sheepy smell!)

Considering the date (9/11) and the world we live in, there are lots worse things that could happen (heaven forbid) to us than a little noise and proofreading. Take a moment to wish for a little peace today...and a lot less violence for all of us. All options on the table, it makes jackhammering look--well-- good.

So, do you eat pie for breakfast? Does double-sided ribbon make you weak in the knees? How about fleece therapy? Do tell!

Monday, September 08, 2008


I'm ready to run away and hide. We've had trees come down in our neighborhood as a result of the recent hurricane leftover rains. Here's a shot of the tree we had taken down. Its removal took two days and three kinds of tree trucks. The tree guys were the closest thing to adults playing cowboys and robbers that I've ever seen with a chipper and a chain saw. Unexpected roaring, machinery right by the house, crash, bang, and they disappear. (with the tree in pieces on the driveway.) Eventually, after the third truck? They disappear with the tree itself. A guy shows up later to get paid. No advance warning for any of the crashing, either. It could make anyone suffer from "nerves."

Of course, we are also undergoing a massive construction project on the next block, where the city has decided to straighten out a curve in the downtown area. (This will allow people to speed in an entirely unsafe way, but they didn't consult me on this and they did ignore the historic preservation planner too, so I'm not alone on this opinion...) I hear a lot of jackhammering.

This can agitate my dogs into barking wildly, who are also agitated by thunder and lightning from fall hurricanes and other excitement. The professor left home and spent the weekend doing field work (read: chasing butterflies and moths) in the wild western part of the state. Hmph. My dogs decided this was the time to overturn the compost bin in order to chase varmints, dig to China nearby in order to catch those varmints, and then? Sally the dog got itchy.

On Friday morning, it was raining too hard for any normal dog or human to attempt a walk. So, late Friday afternoon, Sally found a chink in the fence and took a leap. I'd put her in the yard and in just a moment, she'd gone two blocks and taken a left on Park St. Then I looked in the yard and started calling for her to "Come" and said the magic words..."Dog Cookie." I found her panting wildly on the wrong side of the fence...apparently she'll run three blocks for a dog biscuit. I told her to stay, went for the leash and out the front door to catch her. Gary the mail man said he watched her take off, and "she had some speed on her." He also reported her route. She was taking herself on the usual walk. Thanks, Gary. Always good to know the mail man; he has vital information.

So, you know, I'm supposed to be getting work done over here, too, right? Last week, I had a note on Ravelry from someone who begged me to get the Alpaca Ruffle Boa up on the web again. I rushed to do it--I believe in customer service! Several hours later, I had it formatted. My web designer rushed to help. And then? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No sales. I contacted the person desperately seeking a boa. Oh, she says, she worked something else out. Of course she did. So, if you wonder why I don't update or post new patterns for a while? Yeah, it's not exactly paying any bills. Grumble. It's hard sometimes to stay upbeat when relying on the sale of a $5 pattern (after paypal and other web expenses, it amounts to even less) and then no one buys it.

As a counterpoint to this madness AND proofreading, I'm spinning a lot. It calms me down. Here, you can see some brown Romney tinged with some blue I dyed in, and piled with Ashland Bay Merino and Silk in blue shades. On the Little Gem? Some greasy Rambouillet that is a sight to behold. After a year of sharing bits of it with others, I finally washed it. Our water here is very hard, so even though I used Power Scour and added boiling water? It came out greasy. I'm ok with that; it doesn't have any dust, and I just pull out a lock, tease it briefly, and spin from there. It's luscious stuff.

For book #2, I'm working on new designs. I can't show you anything specific, but here's some Navajo-Churro rug yarn, knitted up into something and awaiting the right button. Any opinions on that button choice?

Also, this is a pile of Shetland yarn and roving. It is being transformed. I take notes on the pattern while I design on the dpns. I'm heartened to find that when I'm sufficiently submerged in the creative parts of my job, I can't really hear the jackhammering as much.

Button advice? words of encouragement for loud noises and proofreading? any place I could run away to and work? Leave me some comments, please!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ruffle me, Baby!

In my all time best ever time for formatting, a true world record, I redid the Alpaca Ruffle Boa yesterday and passed it along to my web designer. (I hate formatting things, it takes me forever, and this was a gold medal moment, believe me!) Late, late last night, when everyone here at our house was snoring away in our dog crates, my web designer put it up online. Now you too can enjoy this former Magknits pattern. Knit an incredibly large amount of stitches. Make some serious waves and ruffles. Join us here in diva world. Sally the dog and I will parade around the house tossing our boas about to show you how!

I happen to know that all the most fashionable people are wearing them this season. (or at least two of my female relatives who got them as gifts, a couple of friends, and some people who knit them in Britain.)

Click here to download a pattern. Click here to see the rest of the patterns that I have up on my website these days.

Comment below to discuss boas, ruffles, what champagne to drink while wearing boas...or just downloadable patterns. Moet & Chandon demi-sec? Veuve Cliquot?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Remember this photo from my July post about Winnipeg? Well, just about the time I posted last, I was feeling a bit down. This being a good person thing, saving dogs, etc.? It can be stressful and tiring, even without proofreading a book to boot. (by the way, to answer comments and questions about loose dogs? The professor thinks I have brought roughly 27 dogs without tags or I.D. to the local humane society in the last 5 years. I've lost count. That number doesn't count the dogs I recognized or who had identification, so I could just bring them home again myself) Of course I plan on doing this good person thing, but a little cosmic reinforcement from people every now and again is nice. Not all the dogs appreciate being found!

Well, I got some wonderful comments from you and emails, too! First, from Winnipeg...see that spinner on the right side of the photo? That spinner's name is Erica. She emailed me this weekend. No kidding. She was surfing the internet and found that photo and her husband said, "Hey! That's us!" Pretty neat, huh? I was so excited to hear from her. The world is not a very big place. Looks like I might already know a Winnipeg spinner who is ready to get together with me sometime after I move.
Next coincidence? A few days ago, I had a dream with some elementary school/junior high school classmates in it. I found one of the people in the dream online, he appears to be a nice person, all grown up, we exchanged a brief email or two, and that was it. Two days later, I got another email that relates back to that school dream. In elementary school, I had a couple of friends named Doug and Kenny. They let me play basketball with them outside during recess. (I had about 8 left feet. It was an act of supreme kindness. They were gentle souls.) Doug's mom bumped into my mom recently, and she dropped me such a wonderful email. She's a knitter, and so's Doug's sister. They even knew of my forthcoming book and patterns. Wow.

Your comments in the last post buoyed me for several days. (Thanks for saying such nice things!) The professor's been running around like, well, a mad scientist, so I've mostly been on my own. The highlights of my long weekend involved serving big dinners Friday night, Saturday night, and Monday night to single friends and a young couple. We've spent too many holiday weekends completely on our own here, with no invitations. At this point we are proactive. If we offer to feed people, at least we have some company!

I also spun some, knitted, and finished a sweater design that I can't blog about. None of it was interesting; in fact, it's all literally blue. (Joanne's blue period?!)
The third coincidence happened this morning...and all good things come in threes? I got an email saying...Hey, what about that Alpaca Ruffle Boa pattern? This Alpaca Ruffle Boa pattern was published online at Magknits, and, as a result, disappeared when the magazine went offline. Not one person contacted me about missing it, so I concluded that reformatting it wasn't worth the bother. I'm fond of the boa; I've knitted it three or four times myself! Today's email motivated me to reformat the pattern in record time. My webdesigner (aka, the brother-in-law) is working on it. We hope to have it available again soon. Thanks for asking about it!
My conclusion? Via the web, I am reminded that there are a lot of other wonderful people out there. Kind people. People who save dogs (and other animals), who remember old friends and klutzy children....and who reassure me when, say, I feel like I'm the only one out there on the street when someone screams. Thank you for your comments to remind me of that!
(Oh, and one last thing. I saw the little dog's owner on the street. She said thank you. The dog is healing up just fine.)