Rhymes With Fuchsia

Sunday, November 30, 2008

T is for Twisted

In certain circles, twisted means evil, wrong, out of order. Luckily I don't travel in those circles, because going perfectly straight isn't my idea of a good time: within my knitting group I am known as the Cable Freak.

Cables, reversible or not, are the spice of knitting as far as I'm concerned. I love knitting lace, brioche stitch, even plain knitting once in a while, but I always come back to cables in all their twisted glory.

Since I enjoy putting twist into my knitting so much, it was inevitable that I would become a spinner.

I've always thought that in life, as in fiber arts, it's the twists and turns that keep things from becoming too predictable. Indeed sometimes twist is what holds things together.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lost and Found

For over ten years — probably closer to twenty, but I don't remember at this point — I had the same wallet, brown leather in the ordinary fold-over style with too few compartments for too many cards. It served me well for all that time, but, as leather tends to do when casually jammed into a pocket week in and month out, it was disintegrating before my very eyes. Being the sort of person who forms irrational attachments to common objects, I resisted as long as I could, but finally I yielded to the inevitable and bought a replacement. After I got home from the obligatory grocery-shopping frenzy on Wednesday night I transferred the contents of the old wallet to the new one, which I then stowed in the pouch of my sweatshirt.

I never thought of it again until we were on our way out to brunch yesterday morning, when I noticed that it was no longer in the pouch. I wasn't too concerned; I had probably taken it out at some point while removing the sweatshirt, or having found it too bulky in the midst of bending and stooping and reaching while cooking and cleaning, and a quick search would turn it up.

When we got home I looked in the logical places, and then in the places where I typically misplace my wallet or cell phone or keys after forgetting that I took them out of my pocket, and then in all the places I could think of where I'd been over the last two days, including all the drawers, cabinets, bags and boxes in our bedroom, the kitchen, the trash (ick), the garage, the back yard, Taz's and Miss B's rooms, the basement, and the guest room, where I carefully unpacked, opened and examined the contents of all the yarn boxes I had stowed in the closet so that my parents would have somewhere to sleep.

During this process I found considerable quantities of yarn I had forgotten about, a treasured pair of straight needles Roxie had given me and one of which I had given up for gone to the Great Repository of Mismatched Objects in the Sky, Grant's old card case (my heart leapt and then plummeted on that one), a chunk of amethyst I had been unable to resist at Rhinebeck two or maybe three years ago, and assorted other objects that I was quite happy to see again — but no wallet.

Finally I came into the bedroom, lay down on the bed, closed my eyes, and, turning the amethyst over and over in my hands, I began to recite to Grant everything that I had done since arriving home on Wednesday night and everywhere I had been, noting that I had already looked in each place. I got to "I changed the guest beds," and, remarking that I had looked on and around the beds but not actually in them, I got up and went back into the guest room. It's probably pointless, I thought, but for the sake of thoroughness... and I moved all the yarn off Marjorie's bed and took off all the bedclothes: no dice. Feeling very silly, I moved all the yarn off my dad's bed and undressed it in turn, and felt a slightly squishy rectangular object near the foot. Reaching in between the bottom sheet and the mattress pad, I pulled out...

I have instructed Grant to remind me of this the next time I say there's no point in looking somewhere for something I couldn't possibly have dropped there.

I have also informed my dad that if ever offered a job as a princess, he should turn it down, as he can sleep quite happily in a bed with a wallet under the sheets, never mind a pea under seven mattresses.

And speaking of sleeping, I'll find it a bit easier tonight. (If you thought yesterday's post read a bit pro forma and distracted, now you know why.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Slow But Steady

There hasn't been much new here to report chez Fuchsia, but I've been plugging away on a few things, including Miro. I wish I were knitting it in a lighter color so I could get a better picture, because I really like the way this is coming out. The 2x2 rib makes a sharper, better-defined cable than the 1x1 rib of Meander.

With the Thanksgiving extravaganza behind us, it's time to get busy on the holiday knitting. I for one have my work cut out for me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Family Time

The day's cooking frenzy began with pies and progressed to turkey and then veggies. We have all eaten more than is good for us. We've played Boggle and skip-bo; a bridge game is currently in progress. I just had a hand with eight clubs in it (out of 13 cards). I have my knitting available in case I should become dummy. No remarks from the cheap seats, please.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So Not Ready

My parents are due to arrive in about an hour. I am so not ready. As I may have mentioned, the house is full of stuff, and we cannot possibly destuff fully, or even by half, in the available time. But I've made some progress, and I have all the appropriate food, which counts for a lot. We'll be having turkey, creamed onions, cranberry sauce, squash, mashed potatoes, green beans — all the standard fare, in fact. And apple and pumpkin and pecan pie, of course. Standard fare it may be, but I absolutely love all of it.

I did my list last Tuesday, but it bears repeating: I am thankful for a lot today, and every day. Even, no, especially, the simple things: food, warmth, friends and family. Being married 27 years to the guy I'd most like to have dinner with. Having time, space and energy to play and create and enjoy the process. Being able to give something back.

Hmm... maybe I am ready after all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Today's list is ten things I want for the holidays, and I'm having a bit of trouble with it. If, as in the movies, you wrote me a blank check and told me I had to use it for ten things I wanted just for myself, I could probably do that: a drum carder, a trip to the Bahamas, twenty pounds of cashmere. But the truth is that I really have enough stuff. In fact I probably have too much: my SIL being a declutterer and a decorator, Grant and Miss B regarded our piles of random accumulation with a somewhat jaundiced eye on their return from Ohio. So my goal for the holidays and going forward will be somehow to have less stuff, to relocate what I don't need. (Honey? Don't even think about it. The stash stays, except of course for charity and gift knitting. And I really will try not to buy much for a while.)

So what do I want for the holidays, or wish for the coming year, that might be within the realm of possibility? Herewith five large-scale, collective-we things, and five small-scale, we-who-live-in-my-house things.
  1. Two words: leave Iraq. In as orderly and civilized a fashion as possible, but we don't belong there.
  2. Universal health care. Yes, Laurie, I know you get what you pay for, I know it's not as simple as all that, and I know that even in countries with "good" universal health care people can wait much longer than they should for the care they need. But there has to be some way at least to improve on what we've got. Maybe it won't happen next year, but my hope is that the new administration can at least get us a lot closer. (Of course this assumes that the financial crisis can be brought under reasonable control, which is another big if.)
  3. To go with #2, when the Democrats propose a program, I'd like the Republicans to list good reasons why it won't work — this is what an opposition party is for — rather than just screaming "Socialism!" at it. (The more reasons the better. If the program really won't work there's no point in implementing it.)
  4. Maybe it's too late to do anything about climate change, but we still have to change the energy we use and how we use it, because we'll still run out of oil at some point, and a lot of geologists think it might be kind of soon. Since most renewable energy sources are cleaner than fossil fuels, that will help if it turns out not to be too late.
  5. It looks like everybody's already on board with doing the economic stimulus we need in the form of infrastructure projects. Sounds like a plan to me.
  6. Every day... not realistic. Every week I want to go through a pile-o-stuff and get rid of what we don't need.
  7. I want to do more charity knitting. As already noted, this will have the salutary effect of shrinking the stash a bit.
  8. Maybe I could even get rid of the Laura Ashley wallpaper I swore would be the first thing to go when we moved in. It's not even that she's so last millenium: I'm just not a Laura Ashley grrl.
  9. I want to start cooking again, planning meals that accommodate my (now somewhat expanded) list of permitted foods and still work for everyone.
  10. I want to start exercising, just a little, a few times a week. I don't even care if I lose weight, although that would be nice, as long as I get the blood moving.
Those last five look rather like New Year's resolutions, don't they? I don't suppose there's any harm in getting an early start.

Monday, November 24, 2008

S is for Stepmother

Marjorie, my stepmother, appeared in my life when I was 14. I wasn't all that thrilled to meet her, as she represented change, and teenagers hate change even more than normal people do. Life was thrusting quite enough changes on me, thank you very much.

As time went on, however, I mellowed. For an agent of change Marjorie proved remarkably staid: sensible, practical, as willing as any mom to embarrass me in a good cause, and, eventually, equally willing to play the heavy when I needed one.
(Me: Can I go camping with Larry and his sister?
M: How old is his sister?
Me: Um... 24, I think.
M: Sure, I guess.
Me: Please rethink that answer.
M: Oh, in that case, absolutely not.
Me: Thank you.)

By the time I went off to college, we had long since become friends. When I called at the beginning of junior year to wish her and my dad a happy anniversary and to tell them that, speaking of weddings, I had some news for them, she said, "Oh, that's great, that's wonderful, I'm so happy for you, you're too young" — all in one breath, and meaning every word. I married him anyway, as you know, although we did graduate first. She wore chiffon to the wedding, and she and my dad gave us an Oster food processor. We still have it: solid and dependable, the damned thing refuses to quit so I can replace it with something sexier.

In the fullness of time she has reveled in becoming a grandmother (especially without going through that icky diaper phase, although she didn't get to escape it the second time around), even going so far as to Frolic with llamas.

At one point she and my dad signed up for a home-exchange program, and she asked me for a picture that they could send to prospective exchangers to prove that they were nice normal people.

For some reason she wasn't too happy with the results. (Yeah, I know, I could have done a better job on the antlers.)

A woman who could put up with me all these years obviously deserves a pair of handknit socks, don't you think? (That was the year I knitted something for everyone, finishing barely in time, and spent the rest of Christmas Day weaving in ends.)

As Snow White and Cinderella could tell you, a good stepmother is hard to find, and I'm immeasurably lucky to have found Marjorie.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

They're Ba-aack

And I am so happy to have them, even if they are slightly grumpy from lack of sleep (the cast party was last night at my SIL's house). Achilles is thrilled to see Miss B. Callie is not pleased to see either of them, but she'll have to lump it. Grant is watching House, and, being in the same room, I am watching too and wondering how this man could ever survive five minutes on the job, even with his alleged brilliance. To say nothing of the fact that there's no such specialty as diagnostic medicine. Not to mention that he routinely brings people to death's door by treating them for the wrong disease, or two or three. And on what planet does any doctor have only one patient at a time? One thing is for sure: if I ever have a mysterious set of undiagnosed symptoms I am not going to that hospital, where merely uttering the words "you're fine now, and you can go home as soon as we process your discharge papers" causes the patient to start bleeding from every orifice.

I'm still working on the circle thing. The canonical increase rate seems to be four stitches every row, but wool at least is forgiving enough to let you fudge that a bit. You can increase 24 stitches (which seems to be what I'm working with), for example, and then work five rows even. I think 60 stitches may be too many to increase on one row. Do not ask how I found this out.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Sky

Friday, November 21, 2008

Four on Friday

Above is a view from my Thoughtful Spot: definitely late-fallish, but I think it still qualifies as eye candy.

Miss B and Grant are spending the weekend in Ohio visiting Grant's sister and her family; the big event is the local high school musical, in which both of Ellen's daughters have parts, the elder in the lead. Taz and I are holding down the fort here.

It's far too quiet, but I'm trying to look on the bright side. To that end, four good things about fort-sitting:
  1. No one minds if I play my favorite song (the one Grant hates), with the volume way up, five times in a row. Not even if I sing.
  2. While singing, I can sprawl on the couch in a decadent attitude, knitting projects and rumors of projects recklessly strewn about.
  3. The stupid cat will come in instead of bolting into the underbrush, convinced that Grant and/or Miss B intend felicide. (She's lived here for four years, during which time I have been the one who collars her and drags her inside when she'd rather stay out all night, picks ticks off her, incarcerates her in cat carriers and takes her to the vet. I am also the only one she'll come near. Go figger.)
  4. There are a lot fewer dinner dishes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nothing More Than Hat

Today's post was supposed to be substantial: it was supposed to be my S post, in fact, substantial and significant. But it's involved searching through old pix for material, and it's getting late, so instead I present a knitting project I'd nearly forgotten about, but found during the abovementioned search.

I made this hat for my sister's then-boyfriend for Christmas 2005. I believe he still owns it, and that my giving it to him did not cause him to break up with my sister forthwith ("I cannot stay with a woman whose sister knits goofy hats!"). I'm told that it's extremely warm and excellent for skiing. The extremely warm part doesn't surprise me, as except for the ribbing it's two layers of alpaca. It was the second serious stranded knitting project I ever did (the first being another gift for that same Christmas, which I am keeping under wraps, so to speak, because I may make another one for the upcoming holidays). The color pattern is a random geometric motif that I created by fooling around with diamonds.

Having learned to knit English style and switched over to Continental about ten years ago, I do stranded knitting holding one yarn in each hand. I know some knitters can do very fast colorwork holding two or more yarns in one hand and simply flicking out the one needed for each stitch, but I am not one of them. And despite my best intentions I have yet to learn Alwen's two-finger method.

Speaking of stranded knitting, can someone please settle something for me? As I understand it, technically all Fair Isle knitting is stranded but not all stranded knitting is Fair Isle. What are the specific characteristics of Fair Isle? I know one of them is not more than two colors in any row, which is certainly true of Bob's hat, but I think there's more to it. This may be a bit like asking the difference between knitted lace and lace knitting — ask two knitters and you'll get three opinions — but I'm going for it anyway. Despite having plenty of opinions of my own (not that you would have noticed as I am so shy and retiring), I can always use a few more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Circle Game

Lately I have taken it into my head to design a circular shawl. Since I've never actually knit a circular shawl before, I've been studying other people's to get a general idea of 1) how much to increase and 2) how to incorporate increases into the design (I have a fairly good general idea of what I want the design to be). So I've looked at A Gathering of Lace and the Modern Lace Knitting books, as well as the designs of Lace Grandmaster MMario (Ravelry link: if you're on Ravelry, you have to see this man's work).

#1 has led me to spend some time pondering the math of circles. Consider a circle with a radius of 1 (1 what doesn't matter: cm, inch, smoot, whatever you like — except if you're knitting a circle with a 1-smoot radius, I can only say, rather you than me). If I knit round and round on that circle, what will the radius be when the circle's circumference has doubled? Well, the circumference, as we know, is 2πr, so, 2 and π being constants, the circumference will double when the radius does. The area of the circle, however, is πr2, so the original circle has an area of π, and it will have an area of 2π when the radius is the square root of 2, or about 1.4. So I had best make sure to have plenty of yarn.

Another way of looking at it is to consider a regular hexagon, which is closely related to a circle. (If you draw a circle with a compass, then pick up the point of the compass, put it on a point on the circle, and draw an arc intersecting with the circle, then put the point of the compass on the intersection and draw another arc, and so on around the circle, and then connect all those intersections with straight lines, you will have a regular hexagon.)

If you double the radius of a regular hexagon* (I'm not sure if hexagons technically have radii, but you know what I mean), the circumference will also double, but the area will triple. Tripling the radius will multiply the area by five, quadrupling it will multiply the area by seven, and so on. Grant and I, mostly Grant, at one point proved that these ratios hold true for circles as well, but I don't remember exactly how; it has to do with the fact that the difference between the squares of positive integers n and n+1 is 2n+1. (Grant also proved that just for the fun of it, and I might be able to again if I thought about it. But back to knitting.)

Update: Before any of you engineering types get to pointing this out, (n+1)2, or (n+1)(n+1), is (using the FOIL mnemonic I learned in school, for first, outer, inner, last — see, Mr. Gibbons? at least one thing actually stuck) n2+n+n+1, or n2+2n+1. QED.

In any event, the question is how to increase the stitches in a reasonable way so as to have twice as many whenever you double the radius. A pi shawl does this straightforwardly by doubling the stitches whenever the radius doubles, but I'm after something a bit more subtle. I've seen round pieces with anywhere from five to 14 sections; I think I want 12, so my first task will be to do a round swatch with just the necessary increases, not worrying about a lace pattern for the moment. Stay tuned...
* As best I can figure, I can't draw a real regular hexagon with the available resolution and graphics program. But the picture shows the ratios, which is all I really need.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Ten Things I'm Thankful for This Year

Only ten? All right, but I'll have to lump a lot of stuff together.
  1. Everything on Maslow's bottom rung: food, clothing, a warm place to sleep.
  2. Freedom from pain. I wrote about this some time ago and haven't mentioned it in a while, because, really, what is there to say? But for just about a year now I've been (mostly) pain-free, after 20 years of constant pain. I can't really describe what it's like. It's hard not to take the simple things for granted, but this is what I'm most vividly aware of, glad of, and thankful for this year. Probably next year too.
  3. Family.
  4. Friends.
  5. Time, money, and space to create, and yarn to create with.
  6. Living among trees.
  7. Still having a job, and still having a husband who still has a job. (So far.) (Fingers crossed.)
  8. Living with people and cats who make me laugh.
  9. Barack Obama's election. I don't plan to blog about politics much for a while (ouch! that AMEN was really loud), but I do truly believe that he is the best man for the job, and that there's still reason for optimism. I hope I'm not offending my conservative friends (see #4: I'm thankful for you too, for reading and disagreeing and keeping me honest).
  10. You. Whether I've met you face to face or just through the blog, whether you comment or just lurk, thank you for reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

R is for Roving

Even before I started spinning, at every fiber festival I went to I was bewitched by the rainbow fluff all around me. I maintain that, for a knitter, resistance is futile: you will be aspinnilated. If you're a sensualist at heart — and I have yet to meet a knitter who is not — sooner or later you will end up with this

in your house, and you will tell your husband "I need it for spinning," and no one will ever let on that it's the other way around.

For someone like me, going to a fiber festival, roving in search of roving, if you will, is something like a confirmed alcoholic's excursion to a wine-tasting: "I'll have one of those, and another one of those, and, oh, just a nip of that, please."

And, of course, vendors have become some of my favorite pushers people.

Really, I think fiber vendors are the nicest folks you'll meet anywhere. It must be all the wool fumes they breathe.

The ultimate sensual experience for a spinner is of course the bunny crack, softness on the paw, roving roving, as it were.

Sheep or llama or even alpaca fiber has to be prepared before it's ready to spin, but you can, if you choose, spin angora directly from the bunny, who will sit there quite happily, looking rather like a movie star under the ministrations of a fine hairdresser.

Whatever the animal, I prefer to wait until it's been fleeced, so to speak, in a good way, of course, and dyed, whether by me or by one of those lovely vendors. Ah, to see and feel a roseate cloud or a blue mist sliding through my fingers.

If you will excuse me, I think I'll go spin now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Since Miro is based on 2x2 rib — it is a 2x2 rib, in fact, with an occasional cable thrown in — I thought I'd write out the pattern for another 2x2 rib cable, or more properly twist-stitch honeycomb, that I use all the time for squares. I'm going to call this one Sunday Brunch because it's a kind of waffle stitch. It's very deep and dense and also reversible, which makes it nice for cozy blankets. It would make a nice warm scarf too (or hat or mittens, but the reversibility is less important there).

Cast on a multiple of 3 sts (plus 2 edge sts if you want them; I recommend them for squares but don't include them in the pattern instructions). I know a 2x2 rib is a multiple of 4 sts; bear with me.

Setup row: *P1, k into front and back of next st, p1. (This increase row is necessary because the twisted sts pull the fabric in so much. There are corresponding decreases on binding off.)
Row 1: *LT: Twist k st to the left in front of p st by purling into the back of the second (p) st on the left needle, leaving it on the needle, then knitting into the first (k) st, then slipping both sts from the needle together, RT: twist second (k) st on the left needle to the right in front of the first (p) st by knitting the k st, leaving it on the needle, then purling the p st and slipping both sts from the needle together.
Work rows 2-4 even (k the k sts and p the p sts).
Row 5: *RT, LT.
Work rows 6-8 even.
Repeat rows 1-8 for pattern.
Bind off after a row 5 for symmetry, knitting each pair of k sts together to keep the end from flaring.

And there you have it. I'll chart it if anyone's interested.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Sky

Is it just me, or is this another plant bent on hegemony? I took this picture last week (not today: it's been raining for three days straight, perfect stay-in-and-knit weather but horrible for photography), together with the milkweed and bittersweet pictures, alongside the mall next to my workplace. The milkweed is barely holding its own as the bittersweet waves its vines threateningly all around; the grass looks like no match for the bittersweet either, but in the four years I've worked there it's increased its territory. The evillest invader will win.

(Just in case you thought I wasn't making good use of bad weather, I'd like to point out that Miro is now over a foot long, and I'm working on another project as well.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eye Candy Friday

Nasty, evil stuff, bittersweet. But awfully pretty.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Meander is finished, but won't get a photo shoot until 1) Miss B and I are home at the same time 2) in daylight 3) when it's not raining. With the weather forecast for the next few days, this could take some time. Meanwhile, I've started Meander's close relative, Miro.

Have you seen Stephanie's Noro striped scarf? She started the thing yesterday, and it's already about four feet long. How did she do that? Well, by knitting, of course, but I mean how many hours of knitting exactly does that represent? I started Miro yesterday, I've put a couple of hours in, and it's...

maybe about six inches? Of course it has more stitches, and cables and whatnot, but all the same. Let us face it, I am slow. Still, there it is, all six inches of it, and I like it at least as much as Meander. It's the same pattern except that it's a 2x2 rib instead of a 1x1.

Yarn: whatever you like. I'm using Elann Sock It To Me 4 Ply. I'm budgeting 600 yards or so, three skeins.
Needles: quite a few sizes bigger than you would normally use with the yarn. I'm using size 8.

Cast on 64 sts (or any multiple of 8 sts).
Rows 1-3: *p2, k2.
Row 4: *Sl 4 sts to cable needle and hold in back, p2, k2, p2, k2 from cable needle.
Rows 5-11: *p2, k2.
Row 12: p2, k2, *sl 4 sts to cable needle and hold in front, p2, k2, p2, k2 from cable needle, last 4 sts p2, k2.
Rows 13-19: *p2, k2.
Repeat rows 4-19 for pattern.

(Why Miro? Because it goes so nicely with Meander.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Domestic Scene

(The lights come up on a smallish bedroom in a suburban house. LUCIA lifts TAZ out of bed. He is wearing nothing but a bodysuit and socks, as far as we can see. She removes a pillow and a waterproof pad from the bed.)
LUCIA: At least you didn't... crud. (She stares morosely at the large wet spot on the sheet that she has revealed by removing the pad. Resignedly, she removes the other pillow and a bolster and begins peeling off the sheet and mattress pad.)
TAZ (scooting out into the hall): Hee hee.
LUCIA: Just where do you think you're going? (She pulls TAZ back into the room.)
(Offstage, a door slams.)
LUCIA: Honey, is that you?
GRANT (offstage): Yes.
LUCIA: Thank God.
GRANT: I'll be leaving now.
LUCIA: Get in here!
(GRANT appears in the hallway.)
TAZ: Hee hee hee.
GRANT: What a happy boy.
LUCIA: Of course he's happy: I'm having to change the entire boy.
GRANT: And the entire bed, I see.
LUCIA: True. (hands him clean mattress pad) Would you do the honors?
(GRANT remakes the bed, puts TAZ back into it, and changes his clothes. The lights dim as LUCIA exits, carrying a laundry basket.)

Do you see why I love this man?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fender-Bender on the Information Superhighway

This afternoon I got a call from a woman who said she was making a courtesy call to let me know our account with our cable and Internet service provider was past due, and would I like to pay by credit card? Which I proceeded to do. She thanked me and gave me a payment reference number, which I wrote down, although I did not write down the exact amount paid.

It took about half an hour for me to realize that I shouldn't have done that (if you didn't already know I was slow, now you know). I called the provider, whom I will give the pseudonym Dave, since I wouldn't want to confuse you by picking the name of someone I know. During the next hour various employees of Dave told me the amount of the payment that Grant had made to Dave online yesterday, and that 1) Dave would never call or email me about a bill 2) Dave might call with a reminder of a past-due balance, but it would be an automated call and no one would ask me for any personal information 3) Dave did contract with a third-party company that sometimes made calls and might collect payments on past-due balances. One of these employees suggested that I call the phone company and see if I could get the number of the caller, so that I could call them back and verify that they were legit (or not, as the case might be). Fat chance: if the phone company gave out that info, no one would ever buy caller id, which I'm now seriously considering. (Maybe I should have said I was the CIA?)

Finally I called the credit-card company. "What can I help you with today?" the rep asked me.
"Either Dave is extremely disorganized or someone just stole my credit-card number," I replied. She was quite helpful: she told me that the charge had been made by Dave in the same amount that Grant had paid yesterday, down to the penny. So my guess is that the call was indeed legit, if unnecessary.

Things I have learned from this experience:
  • If someone we do business with calls and asks us to make a credit-card payment, we should call them back first.
  • For a company that deals in the instantaneous transmission of information, Dave is remarkably slow at sharing information with his own contractors.
  • A little customer-service training wouldn't hurt either.
I'm going to call Dave again in the morning and see if they have a record of the second payment. I wonder what they'll tell me this time.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Sunday, November 09, 2008


The Pine Street Inn Knit-a-thon today was a huge success; I believe we had assembled over 30 blankets by the end of the afternoon from the vast numbers of squares contributed by a horde of knitters and crocheters. (I did finish my 20 squares, although I'll admit that I completed the last one at the event. If anyone saw a woman frantically knitting away on the Red Line today, that was me.)

The most fun was working as a team to assemble a blanket. When I arrived I found an empty space at a table already occupied by Dave, Betsy, and a couple of other people; they had already picked out 35 squares to put together, and Dave had come up with a brilliant layout. (Not Dave, Dave. Dave learned to knit expressly for the Knit-a-thon, and he is awesome, as are Dave and Dave.)

As soon as I finished my final square I started seaming. I quickly learned that I need a refresher on mattress stitch, because mine was not invisible as it is supposed to be — although in my defense invisibility is hard to pull off when you're sewing a bright yellow square with green yarn. We all persevered, however, and our best proved good enough.

We seamed squares to squares and, eventually, rows to rows.

Finally the blanket was done. It looked as if it had been planned from the beginning.

Other blankets were more eclectic, being assembled from random assortments of squares of similar color and fiber content. (See the beige square in the second row? It's one of mine. There was something about seeing it there in the midst of all those beautiful squares made by people I didn't even know. It was... a feeling of being a small part of something bigger and better. Cliché but true.)

Not a bad afternoon's work.

I will shortly identify the winner of the contest to guess the number of squares I would make; one lucky donor to my fundraising page will also win a prize. (I believe the page will remain up at least until the end of the month.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Eighteen Down, Two to Go

Friday, November 07, 2008


Persevering on my Pine Street Inn squares, by early afternoon today I had produced quite a nice little pile of them.

I'd varied the colors and patterns, using whatever random balls of yarn I had lying around and taking care that all of the patterns were reversible. I'd even invented a reversible baby cable on the spot for one square. So I was, on the whole, quite pleased with myself, or would have been had I not known full well that my number was up.

The number ten, to be exact. I had ten squares, and I had promised 20 for the Knit-a-thon, and even I was not such an optimist as to think I could bang out ten more squares in approximately 36 hours, factoring in the need for occasional sleep and frivolous activities such as eating and basic hygiene. Even if I confined myself to bulky wool and sternly repressed any inclinations to creativity with stitch patterns, it wasn't gonna happen.

There was only one thing to do: invoke the Dark Arts.

Yes, crochet. I know a nice, easy textured stitch that has the added benefit of being diagonal, so that you can simply work a triangle until two sides are the right length, then decrease until you have a square. There is no question that crochet is faster than knitting: I can whip up one of these puppies in about half an hour. Such is my renewed confidence that you may have noted that after two crocheted squares I began another knitted one, but I fear I will have to revert to crochet for the rest.

One interesting fact has come out of this endeavor: you know how some anti-crochet knitters maintain that crochet is not only cheating but wasteful because it uses three times as much yarn as knitting? Observe the two beige squares, made from two balls of the same yarn. One is crochet, one knit, and each used essentially the same amount. So there.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So, Where Were We?

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. You've restored my faith that people of good will can indeed work together. I wish the best of all possible luck to President-elect Obama: he's going to need it. I may have more to say about this later, but for now, let's give politics a well-deserved rest.

I'm currently knitting a Pine Street Inn square from a bright-orange ball of Rowan Cork that was in the $1 bin at the Classic Elite outlet last time I was there. I adore this yarn, even in bright orange. It's chain-plied, 90/10 merino/nylon, dense yet springy, and very soft. I am doing my best to resist the temptation to go online and order all the Cork I can find in my favorite colors. Maybe after the knit-a-thon. (Honey, are you reading this? I'm just kidding. I think.)

Have I mentioned my fundraising page? Oh... I guess I have, once or twice. In case you somehow missed it, I do have such a page, on which I'm trying to raise at least $500 for Pine Street Inn. Every knitter who makes a $10 (or more) donation will be put in a drawing for a little something, possibly involving Cork yarn. Definitely involving at least some kind of yarn, and let me assure you that there are all kinds of excellent yarn in my stash. I know this because I keep going through it for suitable square yarn. So, c'mon, donate if you haven't already. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Can We All Get Along?

This post was supposed to be about Pine Street Inn squares, on which I am still way behind, but working on it. I may have to start crocheting soon. In the meantime, though, something is really bothering me.

Last night as the election results were coming in and it became more and more clear that Obama would win, I made the mistake of looking at a couple of the McCain boards on Ravelry. I'll admit that there was an element of schadenfreude in this, but I didn't intend to do more than take a quick look and then go away.

I saw Obama voters referred to as "stupid people," "socialists," "asshat libtards" who "blame Bush for everything," and so on. Free riders who want to sit on our butts sponging off others' hard work. One person feared the impending "celebratory riots" (of which, let me point out, there have been none).

Now, I know that disappointed people need to vent, and I know that none of this was directed at me or at anyone personally. But, I need to ask you, especially if you disagree with me politically: do you really think I am stupid or evil? I am a real American just like you, and I love my country too. Can we not have legitimate and respectful disagreements on how to uphold American values and make this country better for all of us? I need to believe that we can. I really think that it's important to listen to people who differ with us, because differences of opinion keep us honest. If I'm trying out a pattern and you see big problems with it, I'd rather you point them out than let me end up hours of work later with a useless mess.

The following statement appears at the top of one of these groups:
Warning for the opposition - Your candidate will be made fun of in this group, and you will read things on this forum that may upset you, so my suggestion is that you take a deep breath and think about how much you might resemble this quote… “I am incapable of letting those I disagree with express their views in public; I am uncomfortable with free expression and at heart a fascist, as I do not believe opposing viewpoints should be heard.”

I believe opposing viewpoints should and must be heard. I'll freely admit to being upset, though. Our problems are big enough that we'll need all the disagreement we can get to have any hope of solving them. By disagreement I mean debating the pros and cons of (for example) progressive taxation. It doesn't seem to me that calling each other names is at all useful. (ETA2: I need to clarify this too. I will defend to the death your right to call me whatever names you like. I will, however, persist in my opinion that it doesn't get us anywhere.)

ETA: I should emphasize here that this goes for our side as well. I don't personally know that many conservatives, but I do know a few, and I'm trying to listen respectfully to their views and ideas with sock firmly in mouth. (Not a handknit sock, I hasten to add. That would be wrong.) And, guilty pleasure though it would be, I don't plan to join the Palin-bashing festival now going on in parts of the leftosphere: the long campaign is over, we've savored the moment, now let's roll up our sleeves and deal with the mess we won.

Am I overreacting here? Am I way off base? Can we all get along?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Barack Obama will be our next President.

Judging by how fast the networks called it, we didn't need to go to NH at all. And I am infinitely glad we did. History is being made right now, and Grant and I are a tiny, footsore part of it.

Watching the Returns

MSNBC and Fox call Ohio for Obama. MSNBC doesn't call Florida, but hints that it's looking good for Obama. They have Obama at 200 EVs so far, and the west hasn't come in yet. This could be less nerve-racking than I thought.

And We're Off

No time for deep thoughts this morning. Even shallow ones might be pushing it. With luck I'll be very busy today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election-Eve Musings

Tomorrow is the big day. I'll be leaving early to work in Concord, NH; Grant may come with me if we can set up child care, as both kids have the day off. (What's up with that? Hey, parents, want to canvass or volunteer at the polls on Election Day? Fuggedaboutit.) Herewith a few random thoughts as the moment of truth approaches.
  • It will not surprise you to learn that I plan to vote the straight Democratic ticket here in MA. I'll be voting no on Question 1 (repeal the state income tax), yes on Questions 2 and 3 (decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and ban dog racing, respectively). The only one I'm wavering on at all is Question 3: the argument on the no side seems mainly to be that the allegations of dog mistreatment are sensationalized and the ban would put a lot of people out of work. It seems pretty clear that in at least some cases the dogs are mistreated, and while I don't wish unemployment on anyone, that argument by itself doesn't seem to me valid: I wouldn't vote to legalize murder for hire on the ground that it would provide lucrative work for skilled assassins.
  • California's Prop 8 was trailing in the polls last I looked. That's good news in my book. Religious questions aside (I'm not going there right now), the arguments in favor seem to boil down to 1) but we've never done that before 2) yuck. Let me assure you that not only has the sky over Massachusetts remained firmly in place since 2004, but Grant and I seem to be holding together too. Of course you never know: if he starts bringing home catalogs of men's swimwear I may have to rethink this.
  • I broke the news to Fluffy that she's unlikely to win tomorrow. She's taken it in stride, as far as we can tell. Her failure to purchase a $150,000 wardrobe, or indeed any wardrobe at all, may have done her in.
  • Yesterday I heard a promo on one of my favorite oldies stations for Christmas music, with the strong implication that they don't plan to wait much longer to switch over to an all-Santa-all-the-time format. Can we pass a law against playing Christmas music on the radio before, say, December 15? Now there's an initiative I could get behind.
  • Michele "Joe McCarthy is my hero" Bachmann seems to be hanging on in MN-06. It's a shame, because, apart from the fact that the woman is a flaming wacko, I feel that the chance to be represented in Congress by a man named Elwyn Tinklenberg is not to be sneezed at.

Happy election, everyone! Don't forget to vote.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Squares, All the Time

It looks like from now until the Pine Street Inn Knit-a-Thon next Sunday I'll have my work cut out for me, square-wise. Five (well, four and two-thirds) squares down, 15 to go. This is a good thing, as it will prevent me from obsessively surfing polling sites. (I'm going up to Concord, NH for the day on Tuesday; anyone need a ride? Better yet, anyone want to drive so I can knit?)

I also have a ways to go to meet my fundraising goal. Several people have generously chipped in, but I've gotten nothing so far from knitters. I don't mean to nag, but your honor is at stake here, people.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday Sky

Only three more days. I'm working for Obama tomorrow and Tuesday, but I gotta tell ya: I'm ready for this election to be over. That way, apart from holiday and charity knitting, of course, I can get some rest.