May 25, 2009

The Manolo, He Would Approve

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It is never too early to learn the love of the fabulous shoe.

Posted by Julia at 08:20 AM | Comments (6)

April 17, 2009

The Unintentional Spinner

That would be me. I've been reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's The Intentional Spinner with a fervor - reading and re-reading it in fact, which is impressive attention to give to a single book given my current lack of reading time. I would love to say that I'm going to give you a review of The Intentional Spinner, but as soon as I say that I won't get to it, so I won't say it and we can all just be pleasantly surprised if I do. Fair enough?

The Singles, feigning innocence.

Anyhoo, this book has given me some real "Ah-ha!" moments, so if you are in need of one as an intermediate-ish (beginning intermediate?) spinner, I'd highly recommend it. As far as ah-ha moments go, this book shares a space with the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and Sew U for me. A real connect-the-dotter.

It would be great to be able to say that I have been practicing all that I have learned from this wonderful book, but so far all my fervor has produced the same type of spinning that I always do, on pretty much the same fiber, with the same preparation. I do want to work on my techniques at some point, but for now the book has simply been inspiration to spin.

So now for the unintentional part. The only way in which I deviated from my normal spinning practices was in the twist I gave my singles. Somehow I managed to spin one S and one Z. I'll give you a moment to contemplate that. One S. One Z. You can't make those play nice together. For all of you non-spinners who are glazing over right now (why are you still reading?) think oil and water, square peg, round hole. I didn't even notice until I attempted to ply them and one became very tight and wiry while the other practically disintegrated before my eyes.

I could have cried. I had been so intent on spinning that I had two bobbins with two ounces of fiber on each. I considered Navajo plying them, but I didn't want long color runs. I was really aiming for barber-pole 2-ply, and the only way one gets that is to ply the singles together. Luckily, I have a great resource in the Spunky Club on Ravelry, and soon after I posted about my spinning woes there were many suggestions about what I should do.

The one that really struck me was Andean plying. Why had I not thought of that? That was a D'oh! moment. I think it didn't occur to me because I've only Andean plied on a spindle, and with each bobbin holding two ounces, that's quite a bracelet. Again, there were several suggestions as to how to tackle that problem, including this nifty idea of "book plying." I am taking the path of least resistance and Andean plying from a center-pull ball.

So far, I have only managed to wind the singles off the bobbins into skeins, and look at them skeptically. There is no reason that Andean plying would not work -- all my spindled yarn is plied this way and I have made some lovely yarn and knit it with success (more on that later - my first FO of the year was a spindle-spun hat for Griffin that I have yet to blog). Still, I feel some trepidation, having managed to forget which way to ply a singles in the space of three months. I'm not sure I can blame it all on sleep deprivation. Cross your fingers for me and hopefully I'll be back soon with tales of pretty yarn.

Posted by Julia at 06:00 AM | Comments (9)

January 09, 2009

"He's Not Really An Elf, You know."

Daddy's famous last words. I was working on yet another hat for Griffin, who seems to outgrow them at a breakneck pace, and asked for M's input on whether the top should just be a normal rounded-off shape or pointy, and I got that response. Normally, I would rather dress Griffin as a little bad ass than a cherub, but sometimes you just can't resist.


The hat in question is made of some of my first and favorite handspun yarn - I really was inspired to knit more handspun items for Griffin after that last post. And in deference to Moxie it has a rounded top. The color is feminine enough, according to M, so we'll let that be as it is. But the elf comment stuck with me and all of a sudden I was reminded of the Meathead Hat that I made long ago. I made it at a smaller gauge than called for, and although it was cute it languished in the closet because there was no way it could be worn by an adult. Happily, it can be worn by a Griffin. How cool is it that this wonderful forgotten knit can be reborn as an elf helmet? Between this and Griffin's Alsace le Monstre Hat (the only other one that still really fits him), he draws quite a few smiles when we go for our walks.


Posted by Julia at 05:17 PM | Comments (19)

November 20, 2008

He's a Knitter!

Leave me alone lady - I'm biddy! (busy)

Just one more row?

Posted by Julia at 09:41 AM | Comments (29)

April 30, 2008

The Amazing Disappearing Belly

Okay, you guys are probably going to be sick to death of my pregnancy soon, but this is just too funny. I really am at a stage where the tum is nearly invisible from the front but very visible in profile. M took some photos of me this weekend, including several in front of the mirror in the girls' room. He literally made me stop on my way out on Saturday and said, "Wait til you see these, they'll blow you away." He was right - too funny!

One of me has a belly, the other does not!

I am no longer a victim of belly envy, either. This "disappearing belly" is unlikely to last long, and just between last weekend and the weekend before I have totally pooched out. The growth spurts definitely happen in waves. I can already tell that full bellyville will mean discomfort and trouble sleeping (gasp! this is my favorite activity right now!), so I'm fine as is. Next time back to our regularly scheduled knitting/crocheting/spinning - promise!

Posted by Julia at 12:00 PM | Comments (22)

March 24, 2008

Take Me To Your Leader

All inferior non-alpaca life forms should surrender now....

This is really the beginning of Norah Gaughan's lovely Bubble Pullover, which I have no doubt will be awesome, but at the moment it looks for all the world like a big green alien to me. Well, at least when it doesn't look like an extremely ample (yet green) bosom. You'll have to forgive me on that one, but once you finally have boobies, they get in your head. (One of the great joys of pregnancy - breasts! - who knew these things were so great?)

Seriously, though, back to the knitting. One of my favorite things about ravelry, and flickr, too, is that you can scope out a project ahead of time to see which colorways appeal the most to you. When I made the endpaper mitts I scrolled through tons of ravelry FO's to decide how I wanted to handle the colorway I had chosen. It may not sound complex, but with two colors, there are at least four different variations, and the way that you choose a dominant color really affects the final look of your fingerless gloves. Similarly, with the Bubble Pullover, there were certain FO's that really stood out for me, and invariably those were the ones which employed either heathered or mono-variegated yarn. I ended up not having anything in the stash that really did it for me for this project, so I put the design aside for a while, but then I stumbled on some lovely hand-painted Misty Alpaca (sadly, I believe it is discontinued) and voila! started anew.

A pretty, less extraterrestrial photo of the bubble.

I was a little afraid that the pentagons might bore me to tears, but so far, so good. I'm now on my fourth and still interested. My other fear about this pattern is that it would be difficult to re-gauge (and if you know me, you know that I end up re-gauging everything I knit - this is no exception). In fact, this is probably one of the easier re-gauging jobs I've done. As everyone says, the construction of this sweater is unique. It is not, however, complicated. I don't have any trouble envisioning how it will fit or if it will work. In fact, there is a little part of me that wonders if this will not become the third major route to constructing a sweater - top-down, bottom-up, and pentagonal! No wonder Ms. Norah is so entranced by these shapes - they really can go the distance.

I'm going to stop here, lest I write the pattern notes before completing the pattern. But I do highly recommend this sweater (or one of Norah's other many pentagonal creations) as a good time. I'm making my way slowly through this one (there are baby things to be made as well), but I know I will be so happy to wear it when it is done (well, in LA, several months after it is done). It should serve my not-quite-back-to itself belly quite well next winter. A bubble for a bubble.

Posted by Julia at 07:50 AM | Comments (11)

February 18, 2008

Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater: Pattern Notes

So here it is the end of February and I am just trotting out the first FO of 2008. If you had asked me in December what my first FO's of the year would be, I would not have guessed this! I have three to four designs in the works (depending on whether I decide to back-burner one of them or not) and one is very near completion. But I just have not had it in me to do math lately, so I thought I'd make one of the many baby things that I have planned for the spring and get a jump start on things. Voila!

A little sugar, a little sarcasm. Perfect.

Before I dive into the baby sweater pattern notes, however, I just have to put in another plug for Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch Book. Very few things could have driven me into the arms of cross stitch. It was just never a craft that I had as much interest in before. Howsomever, between this wonderfully saccharine book and the incredible single-color (almost Swedish) designs in the Japanese craft books I have, well, I just had to go there. And I'm so glad I did. Cross stitch can be a really fun diversion, and used sparingly on a beautiful linen backdrop I find it charming. I would definitely recommend Julie's book. Even if you never stitch a thing, the laughs alone are worth it. I will definitely be making another. (To Moxie's great chagrin - he still doesn't get it. Boys.)

Judy's Grandma's Baby Sweater
Greetings From Knit Cafe
designed by Judy Spector's Grandma
Knit with three and a half skeins (123 yards/skein) each of Rowan's Wool Cotton (50% Merino Wool/50% Cotton) in (955) "Ship Shape," on size US4 Addi Turbo Circulars and Clover Bamboo DPNs.
Gauge: 5.75 sts and 10 rows per inch over garter stitch.
Size: 6 months

The designated front.
The Pattern:
Extremely well thought-out. If there is an edge on this puppy that can be self-finishing, it is. The construction is interesting, too. You work the sweater from side-to-side, starting and ending with the ties, and leaving live stitches and a bound of edge to pick up for each sleeve later. The sleeves are picked up and knit down to the cuffs, and then seamed along the top edge to finish.

If you've read my previous entries on this (the one on the Observatory), you'll know that there was a point where the sweater became a little tedious for me. The honeycomb stitch can be a little aggravating, because the action happens on the right side while you are knitting the wrong side. The wrong side, for its part, is not easy to read. If you get off by a stitch (which I did four times), you screw up the row. Normally, I am a stickler for fixing errors, but I was in the dead zone when I got off track and simply did not care enough. I kind of wish that I had cared a bit more now, but only a knitter is likely to notice. A six month old baby definitely won't! the honeycomb stitch is worth some effort, though, because it is very, very pretty.

My journey with this knit was not unlike my journey with every single scarf I've made. Somewhere in the second skein I was bored out of my mind, but by the time I got to the third I was into it again. The sleeves zipped by. Highly recommended, especially for those of you who enjoy repeating patterns. I've been in a knitting slump, so I spent three weeks with this sweater, but someone on a roll could pop it out in a concentrated weekend, and definitely over a week of bad TV and re-runs.


"Front" and "back" side by side. Really, it's fully reversible.

Intermediate techniques - cable cast-on, elastic bind-off, slipping and stranding stitches, knitting through the back loop, and picking up along edges.

Detail of the flap.
The only mods I made were to use a different yarn, and a different seaming technique for the sleeves. The original yarn is Classic Elite Premiere, which I used for Mishka (same color, too). It has more of a drape to it, which is also very nice. I subbed because I was knitting from stash, but either is lovely. As for the sleeves, I just didn't feel like reading directions. I did a single crochet up one sleeve, across the front neck, and down the other sleeve. I'm sure that whatever the pattern does is fine, too.

Very little. For the most part this is self-finishing. I used the single crochet method to seam and neaten the front neck, as noted above. I didn't block this one and didn't even think to. I don't always block textured knits and the wool cotton is soft without washing. Blocking will add a little drape if you are looking for that effect.

The parting shot.
Impressions of Rowan's Wool Cotton:
This is my go-to yarn. I use it more than any other, and especially for baby things. It is soft, classy, classic, has great stitch definition, and is machine washable. Plus it comes in a lovely array of adult colors. I'm not really a pastel girl, so this is a good choice for me.

Possible substitute yarns:
For this particular project, there are a lot of good substitute yarns. The original Premiere is a great choice, but you could use something like Tahki Cotton Classic or Brown Sheep's Cotton Fleece. Almost any fiber will do, because the shape is simple and the pattern lends itself to being sproingy or draping a bit. I could see it in a nice bamboo or linen.

[Read all entries on Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater.]
Posted by Julia at 08:04 AM | Comments (17)

November 19, 2007

The Shepherd Sheep Herds

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It was **unbelieveably** fun.

If you have any kind of herding dog, you must try this. It is so cool to see them in their element, doing what they were born to do. All three of us are addicted.

And, yes, I realize this puts us about one step away from Best in Show. Don't Judge. I know exactly how many hours a week you spend playing with string.

Posted by Julia at 07:20 AM | Comments (16)

March 08, 2007

Have You Seen...

This? Link via Faith. I nearly wet myself. It's long but worth it. I promise.

Posted by Julia at 09:28 AM | Comments (8)

March 01, 2007

The Goofy Shit I Do With My Free Time

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A morning in the life of the Hoolia.

So I've been seeing all these beautifully photographed posts of other people's "studios" and days in their lives and feeling kind of envious. I love doing those kinds of posts, because I like letting you guys in a little on what my life looks like - mostly because I love it when other people do that. But after checking out several of these, I realized that in my current phase of life the only way I could give you a high-falootin' look at chez Hoolia would be to clean up the joint, style the furniture - or maybe just throw it all out and buy some new furniture - and create a big fat lie. Instead, here is my morning exactly as it really is: hair and teeth unbrushed, glasses smudged, trying on pieces of knits and taking photos of myself using the self-timer and the mirror. Ah, the glamor.

The Marseilles Pullover is coming along quite nicely. In the photos above I had the two body pieces on circulars and was using a little trial and error to figure out how many stitches to three-needle bind-off for the shoulders - I settled on twenty-four. One of the genius things about knitting this behind my best friend is that I know its "issues." There's only one and it's simply that the pattern makes the neckline too wide to stay on the shoulders well or hide bra straps. Binding off twenty-four stitches hits the spot.

My excitement for this evening was pinning the front, back and single sleeve that I have finished together and trying it on for fit. It's looking good. Life is so wild I can barely stand it. *smile*

Posted by Julia at 11:27 PM | Comments (18)

September 01, 2006

When you run out of bird on an Andean Ply...

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Sometimes you have to utilize the odd ends that evolution leaves you. I always knew that finger had a purpose.

This little bit of yarn is the product of some time in front of a lovely Schacht Matchless for a few hours last night with Satchi and Andrea at Stick & Stone. Satchi took a few pictures.

Posted by Julia at 12:15 PM | Comments (6)

August 30, 2006

No one's angels

Dignity? What's that? In our defense, these photos were staged after we realized that we had lost about 5 hours of driving time and would be arriving in the Redwoods at midnight. We had already thrown sanity and dignity to the wind.

This started as an homage to Franklin, since I enjoyed his little foray into the heavens so much:

HomageCIMG5342.jpg Marnie may be sexing up Charlie, but I am clearly the killer here.

But it rapidly devolved into an homage to Dolores:

HomageCIMG5343.jpg We tried to make the roving look like weapons. No, really.

I can't decide if we're missing three gay men or a sheep. Franklin, perhaps you could ask Dolores if we could pencil her in? Seriously! It would be the best road trip souvenir ever.

Posted by Julia at 05:18 AM | Comments (13)

July 22, 2006

Maternity socks?

Townes right after discovering the socks.
"They're mine. All mine."
Yesterday I had a really long work day, which started at about 6:00 a.m. I didn't get a chance to eat until around 3:00 p.m., and at that point I decided to treat myself to my favorite little Italian cafe for some spaghetti with meat sauce (my comfort food of choice) and a few minutes of knitting time.

So, there I am. I have a nice exchange with the waiter, who brings me "the usual," get out my knitting, and start to relax.

Out of the blue, a guy sitting at a nearby table starts talking to me.

Him: "Are you pregnant?"

Me, a bit mischieviously: "Do I look pregnant?"

Him: "You're knitting."

Me, knowingly, and with a wry smile: "Ah, yes, that is right. Only pregnant women knit."

Me again, after a pause: "I've been knitting all my life. My grandmother taught me when I was six. I wasn't pregnant then, either."

He sleeps, confident in his conquest.
After that we segued into a very nice conversation, with the mutual tacit agreement that we would pretend as if this strange and possibly rude preliminary conversation had never occurred.

Later, however, I did find myself puzzling over it. Did this man think that the hormones women produced when pregnant caused them to compulsively pick up the needles and obsessively make things? If so, did he believe that once the hormones had flushed from my system I would miraculously stop? (Moxie often prays for this.) It was confounding, and I wished that instead of politely moving on I had questioned him about it. It made me feel as if I were a zebra that he had seen on Nova, and he had asked me why I wasn't being chased by lions. ('Cause, you know, that's what zebras do on TV.) I suspected that he had never married.

If I had been making booties or a little gansey set (both of which I did work on in that very cafe) it might have made sense. But I was knitting a sock. And it wasn't at the teeny, tiny stage where its acceptable to ask what the heck it is. I was practically ready to kitchener the toe.

Everyone should bathe with their socks.
And then I realized. He must be related to are you poor? It all made sense.

I finished the socks last night and blocked them, and was planning to take FO photos of them in an attempt to distract you from the fact that I still haven't done an FO photoshoot for the River Stole.

Townes had other plans, however. As soon as he spied them he hopped up on the bed and claimed them for his own. He has been lying on them all day. Sometimes grooming himself, occasionally stretching, and often just sacking out in a contented heap of cat and koigu. He cracks me up. Oh, yeah - and he's not pregnant, either.

Posted by Julia at 03:14 PM | Comments (18)

December 03, 2005

Lace Leaf Pullover: Pattern Notes

Lest you think the days of imitating haute couture knitwear are past, I present you with my version of Teva Durham's Lace Leaf Pullover, complete with styling:

LaceLeafDurham3769.JPG I am a pouty wood nymph in a fabulous sweater. Envy me my indulgently sour expression.

Lace Leaf Pullover
Loop-D-Loop or Interweave Knits, Summer 05, designed by Teva Durham
Knit with 10 skeins - and not a pinch left! - (53 yards/50 meters/skein) of Twilley's Freedom Wool (100% Wool - not merino!) in Moorland (408) on Inox 29" circulars and Addi Turbo 24" circulars in size US13! (9.0mm), in a guage of 10 sts and 14 rows per inch in Stst.

Size: smallest.

The Pattern:
This is a wonderful and well-written pattern!!! It justifies several exclamation points!!! I don't usually knit on big needles - this is the first time I've ever gone past a size US11 - but when I saw this yarn on my trip to Cleveland, I just had to have some, and I knew that this was the one chunky sweater I had seen that I really wanted to make. I wasn't disappointed.

The construction of the Lace Leaf Pullover is pretty unique. It's knit from the bottom up to the center, and then from the top down to the center, so that the leaves can point in opposing directions - very clever. You will notice that my version does not have leaves on the body, though Teva's does. (That's because Teva knows that to really show off the design you should knit it in a solid color. Julia knows this, too, but she never buys chunky yarn, so she made some modifications to make it work.) I actually knit this as designed the first time, despite some reservations, but during one of my myriad "fitting" sessions Moxie noted that keeping the leaves in that position made it "look like I fucked up". He was right. We can't have that!

RooseveltFar3777.JPG This is Roosevelt Island where we took the shot above. You can read about it below.

In addition to "having that shit at the bottom where it looked like I fucked up," the sweater body was a little short when I kitchenered it the first time, so I set out to knit the sleeves with the goal of having a little yarn left over so that I could not only rip out the lace leaves at the bottom, but also lengthen as much as possible when I got back to that section. All this was necessitated by the fact that I had less yardage than called for in the pattern, since all the Cleveland yarn store had was 10 skeins. In case anyone else is this cavalier or cheap, the sweater can be done in the smallest size with a total of 530 yards or 500 meters of yarn in the correct guage, if you shorten the sleeves by an inch, and the body by a smidge. Just be sure to make guage and knit the sleeves first, so that you can use every bit of the yarn. This is not a feat for the faint of heart.

Originally I planned to rip back the section of the body that flashes really obviously. That was before I realized that the lightening bolts of color would be swathed across my not so voluptuous bossom. As soon as I realized what this particular anamoly did for my figure, it was transformed into a "feature". Victoria's Secret has nothing on variegated yarn.

Back to my praise of the pattern, however. This is a very fun knit. You get to use a lot of techniques, including grafting (kitchener stitch), lace knitting, circular knitting, knitting through the back loop, top-down and bottom up construction, etc. I particularly like the ribbing at the bottom, neck and cuffs. At first it is a little irksome to purl through the back loop, but the effect is a lacy ribbing which nicely mirrors the rest of the design. It's a very thoughtful detail. The work moves quickly, and the result is stunning. You're left with a lovely, unique piece that is extremely wearable. That's a lot to ask from a single knit.

I think I covered these in the last section - I tend to digress.

Impressions of Twilley's Freedom Wool:
Freedom wool is gooooood stuff. It's very old school in feel - like Lamb's Pride - and it knits in a very even, satisfying manner. The colors are just lovely, and the wool itself is very soft, despite not being merino. I will have to investigate its provenance. It's a fine fiber. I recommend it to anyone who wants to knit chunky. I may even get more! Also, it's dirt cheap. I bought mine for $4.50 a skein. It's hard to get anything for that price, let alone a yarn this nice. I'd be willing to pay twice that price for it.

Possible substitute yarns:
I don't really do chunky yarns, so I'm not much help here. Something Rowan might be nice. Perhaps Lamb's Pride Bulky? (though that might be finer.)

Tips for Making the Lace Leaf Pullover:
If you have the requisite skillz, you'll be okay. If not, it could be a fun way to learn them!

About Our Photoshoot:
The photo above was not obtained by any small outpouring of energy, but it was taken in a beautiful setting which somewhat eased the pain. Moxie got up this morning, having clearly not checked the weather (26 degrees - has DC become part of the Tundra?), with an itching to go to Roosevelt Island. I immediately thought "Great! Lace Leaf Pullover shoot! I'm on it!" So we bundled up, got Caia into the car, and set out for the Island.

Roosevelt Island, for those who are too lazy to click the link, is a monument to Teddy Roosevelt, great conservationist and President of the United States (I know, I bet you thought that was an oxymoron). It's a beautiful wooded island on the Virginia side of the Potomac, that can be reached by a footbridge. RI is a wonderful oasis for runners, dog lovers and others in the know. It's scenic, quiet, and has many serpentine paths that all lead to a spectactular monument in the center. It's our favorite monument in DC to date - and this city has some good ones. If you want to see more pictures of it, click here for a little tour. If you're a history buff, there are even more interesting sites on Roosevelt Island here and here.

Once there, Moxie assisted me in getting all braided up and set for the shot. This consisted of many fine hair adjustments, and several minute adjustments of position and expression on my part. Moxie did bobby-pin detail and was patient enough to take 30 shots in order to produce the one that you see. Despite the fact that we were both friggin' freezin' to death. Afterwards we shot our hands into our gloves and ran down the closest shortcut path to the monument to snap a few pics before returning home to hot chocolate. All in all, a fun, if brief, outing.

Posted by Julia at 12:13 PM | Comments (29)

November 17, 2005

Poem in the Style of Bukowski: Everyone's Sleeping But Me

They're lucky they're so darned cute


I'm harboring the kind of jealousy


That could make even the best mommy


Go a little crazy with the spray bottle.

Posted by Julia at 05:01 AM | Comments (16)

September 21, 2005

And a good time was had by all

When I was contemplating the photoshoot for Clementine, I had the wacky idea that I should try something a little Rebecca-esque and fun. So I recruited Marnie and we set out for the beach:

UsLaugh.jpg Wir sind deutsche M�dchen! Wir sind so gl�cklich!* We are German girls! We are so happy!
Imgonnagetyou.jpg Passen Sie auf! Ich werde Sie erhalten! Watch out! I'm going to get you!
NoreallyIam.jpg Nein wirklich! Ich bin!! No really! I am!!!
DasMonsterMash.jpg Das Monstermash!!!
FatBottomedGirls.jpg M�dchen mit gro�en Kolben machen die schaukelnde Weltdrehung! Fat bottomed girls they make the rocking world go round!

The wonderful thing about LA is that not only are there a gazillion wonderful places to do such a photoshoot, and superb weather to do it in, but in addition, no one pays any attention when you don a wool sweater in 80 degree weather, roll your hair up in donuts and dance maniacally in front of a camera on self-timer. Everyone assumes that you are just another indie film-maker. Fabulous!

We took full advantage of this bizarre anonymity.

BackDance.jpg We swapped clothes. And boogied down. (Auf Deutsch: Boogied hinunter)
HairToss.jpg Took action shots. Das hair toss!
MarniePretty.jpg Some of us even managed to look pretty.
HairUpBannerVer2.jpg I got the shot I wanted for my Clementine release.
UsSkipping.jpg And then we skipped off into the sunset.

*Translations by Brilliant idea to mock Rebecca by using kitschy German subtitles by Mary Heather.

Posted by Julia at 08:14 AM | Comments (27)

September 19, 2005

So this is why they call it Crack-Silk

I am a woman of strange talents, and one of the talents that I have is the ability to see connections between things that other people might not notice. (Or aguably, connections that may not really be there.)

Today I've been knitting cracksilk haze and pondering the similarlities between knitting lace in a fine-gauge mohair after a long hiatus and, say, mountain biking up a steep trail after a similar lapse.

RiverRep1Close2.jpg Kidsilk in the window on a fall morning. Looks benign.

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away in The Time Before Moxie*, I had a boyfriend who was a kick-ass cyclist. We met while I was training for my very first sprint distance triathlon, and to this day I credit my ability to complete that race to this boyfriend, who was surprisingly sweet and patient in the face of myriad newbie triathlon problems, such as how to get one's full-length wetsuit off fast enough to race into the port-a-potty without losing considerable amounts of time and how to pretend to be a competitor while dog-paddling in the swim portion of the race, etc.

This boyfriend ("The Cyclist") raced mountain bikes and road bikes, and it was inevitable, especially given that I was presumably training for a triathlon, that we should start riding together. Soon, one of our favorite places was Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin, where there are some wonderful single-track trails on rolling hills through the woods, with lots of fun trees, rocks and other woodland obstacles to hop over as you race along. During the year that I dated The Cyclist we went out riding almost every weekend, and after a while I became a respectable mountain biker (for a girl), if not a good one.

The thing about mountain biking the very first time, or any time after you've had a bit of a break, is that it is SCARY AS HELL and REALLY SUCKS. For some reason I forget this, and am seduced back by its siren call every once in a while only to remember when I am in the midst of careening down a mountainside at top speed saying to myself:


If I can make it past the phase of total and complete fear of death and get back out on the trail a few more weekends in a row (which I also spend careening down a mountainside at top speed saying to myself "FeatherthebreaksFeatherthebreaksFeatherthebreaksForChissake!!!!"), I can actually do alright and get to the point where I am not thinking of my immanent death at every moment and maybe even manage to have some fun.

So, too, kidsilk.

RiverBed.jpg The River, she prefers not to be photographed in bed. It does not suit her.

Just as there is a beautiful Jamis mountian bike in my basement collecting dust, there is a pile of gorgeous mohair in my yarn closet that grows every day without hope of being knit. I am seduced by its gorgeous colors and lovely halo even though I know that if I am honest with myself I will admit that I hate working with it.

And yet. It's there, right? And it's beautiful. So I must. And after at least a year has passed and I have forgotten the last round of trauma, I do. And so the farce that is Julia Knitting Mohair (very similar to the farce that is Julia Mountain Biking) begins.

RiverRep1Black.jpg The black background, it is classic. It better shows what the first repeat of the River, it should look like.

Inevitably, I boff. Boff, for those of you who do not know, is a technical term that describes a very complicated manuever on a mountain bike, which entails falling uphill and is usually the result of a combination of large boulders and tight toe clips (those wonderful contraptions that secure you to your pedals so completely that it can be impossible to free yourself from them as you topple from the highest heights over the roughest terrain. Thou shalt not be seperated from thine bike, even in the falling). The knitting equivalent of the boff is the yarnover or yo! (as in "Yo! you forgot to put me in again!)**

It usually takes a couple weeks of boffing, yo!ing, tinking, frogging, ripping, cursing, knitting? (yes, occasionally there is knitting), boffing, yo!ing, tinking, frogging, ripping, cursing, and knitting (yes! knitting!) before the light appears at the end of the tunnel, and I can begin to think to myself (quietly, in a whisper): I might just be able to do this again.

Then slowly after more weeks of knitting, still tinking here and there with the occasional boff, but mostly knitting, I think to myself (louder this time): Well, damn, I think I am doing this.

And then finally, finally I shout (often in the middle of the night, just to give those crazy f*ckers who call themselves "neighbors" a dose of their own looney):
YeeFrickin'Haw! Wooooooo! Hooooooo! We're riding in the Big Ring boys! We have a Repeat!

And it becomes a little addictive. And I find myself thinking: I AM HAVING FUN. I LOVE THIS. I WILL DO THIS ALL THE TIME. MOHAIR IS GREAT.

RiverRep1Closest.jpg The fresh air of the window, it is best.

Until I look down and I notice that the downhill, it is very very steep. I have one repeat. It took me four weeks to make the one repeat. The pattern has twelve.

And that, folks, is why knitting lace is like mountain biking, with the notable exception that lace-knitting, unlike mountain biking, can be performed from the safety of one's bed while having a morning cup of tea, which is why I did not find myself on the single-track today.

*When I was a virgin.

*And, yes, I know you can pick up a yarnover on the purl row that follows it, so please don't give me any great advice on how to fix things on the next row. My problems always occur several rows down!

Posted by Julia at 08:32 AM | Comments (18)

September 06, 2005

I think I'll let Marnie Explain....

Toasty.jpg Give her some time - it's a long story.
Posted by Julia at 08:26 AM | Comments (6)

March 03, 2005

It's a Sock Mandate!

After running the poll for a little less than a week, things have finally started to slow down, so I'm recording today's numbers as the final tally. The results are:

Out of 197 voters:
13 hate the sock (7%)
66 like the sock okay, but aren't groovin' on the color (34%)
32 are tacky and know it (16%)
86 may be smoking Mary Jane but are yellow shell sock lovers (44%)

Since our President won by an even smaller margin...

MarleyMandate.jpg Looks to me like a sock mandate!

I know you're humming "Hail to the Sock" in your head right now. For the record, Moxie actually voted against my sock, on my computer! He was fair about it, and asked to see the sock again to properly appraise its virtues (or lack thereof) prior to casting his ballot.

Because I like to be familiar with my constituency whether they vote for my sock or not, I asked Moxie a few hard-hitting questions in order to fully understand his position. Since I needed a baseline for evaluating his sock tastes, I asked him what he thought of my Crusoe sock, which I think has greater mass appeal. (Not a better sock mind you - the masses don't always know what they're talking about.)

TwoSocks.jpg Here's Crusoe for comparison. I rather like them together.

Moxie: "You mean to wear?"

Me: "Well, not for you - for me."


Me: "Not with shorts or anything. (You wouldn't catch me outside of the gym in shorts anyway!) You, konw, with jeans. You'd just see them peeking out a little..."

Moxie: "Oh! You should have said that. For non-viewing socks they're great!" (Looks self-satisfied because he thinks he's said something nice about the sock.)

I am still laughing, and that was several days ago.

I have tested my sock pal however, and short of saying "I've finished one sock and it is yellow" and giving myself away, I have done everything in my power to make sure that she does not have any strong feelings against socks such as the ones she is receiving. She seems like a fun, colorful woman, if not a tacky one (which, honestly, folks, is what most of us really need in a knitted sock pal), and I think that she will appreciate these socks in the way that I and 60% of you (tacky and non-tacky alike) do. Plus, now she'll have socks that are famous. Who can beat that?

Posted by Julia at 06:19 PM | Comments (12)

February 25, 2005

"All Great Poetry Risks Schmaltz"*

Likewise, much fun knitting risks ugly:

CIMG2337.JPG Cute? Or does it look like Bob Marley's gramma got hold of a sock?

I have a good friend who says this about great ties: If ugly is a line, a great tie should be just this side of the line. Great knitting, the colorful kind that employs fun techniques, often falls mighty close to the line. Sometimes too close for comfort! Which is why we often see very talented knitters making butt ugly sweaters. (I know, I probably shouldn't have said it, but you all know it's true!)

In this case, I know I'm close to the line, but I think the sock is cute. The issue is, this is the Little Shells Sock that is going to my sockapalooza pal, and I want to be sure that she gets something to love, rather than a sock she has to bury in the backyard. Although she claims to be adventerous and colorful, I don't want to leave the state of Tasteful too far behind on the road to Fun.

Help a girl out! It's an anonymous vote so you can be as brutal as you want. I'm looking for your honesty here!

Would you want to be the recipient of the Bob Marley Caribbean Shell Sock?
No, I'm with Moxie - don't get creative in my environment!
No, but I'm not particularly fond of yellow. I'd go for it if the colorway was different.
Yes, but you shouldn't listen to me - I'm tacky.
Yes, and I have impeccable taste. You can trust me.


Free polls from

*This is quote from Richard Hugo's book on writing, called The Triggering Town. If, as I do, you've always planned to spend your later years following your true calling and writing the great American novel (and I'm sure that many of you blogistas out there intend to do just that) this is a great read. Also on my writers on writing list is John Gardener's On Becoming a Novelist, Annie Dillard's The Writing Life, and E.M. Forester's Aspects of the Novel. Never say I only gave you knitting tips!

Posted by Julia at 07:01 PM | Comments (10)