Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Will The Future Find

The photos in the post are of poor quality.  Given the circumstances under which they were snapped, you should not be surprised.  Through a display, via cell camera and poor editing skills.  But you'll forgive me.  I have a point to make.

"Woven textile.  Late 4th century AD
From a well in the fortlet at Huntcliff, Saltburn, Cleveland.

These two discoloured fragments are part of one of the largest surviving pieces of woollen cloth from Roman Britain.  When found it covered a surface area of at least 900 sq. cm.  The weave is an idosyncratic version of a 2-over-2 twill with weft chevron pattern."

Old stuff!  Wool that survived centuries and centuries.  This is, to me, quite humbling.  Simple cloth - hand work of the past - right there for me to see and wonder over.
(I've already apologized for photo quality.  But I am still sorry that you can't see what I saw)

This is one of the bits of cloth.  All these centuries later, hauled up from the bottom of a well, and still individual threads of wool can be studied.  

What will the future find when my works are uncovered?  Will that UFO from last year rise up from a landfill and be put on display in some museum that exists post-Maya doom?

On one level, the thought of my handwork surviving the ages and being admired (?) by the future is energizing.

One another level, I hope that some of the stuff stays buried under tons of non-decaying plastic and foam so that no one ever puts a microscope to the mistakes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A History Lesson

Decades ago, a unique man taught me that taking a break from daily routine is called vacation.  In its simplest form, vacation might mean skipping laundry in favor of a picnic.  In more complex forms, vacation has come to revolve around travel away from daily routine - often to far away locales and experiences not available near home.

Vacation this year was more of a mental need than desire to break the daily routine.  So it was that a familiar, yet far away local was chosen and off to London we went.  We being my Dave and the knitting.  I am pleased to report that no mishaps occurred and no security (on either side of the pond) questioned the bamboo needles nor the metal crochet hook.  What follows are musings along the way.

Whilst at the British Museum  this survivor of Athens' glory caught my attention.  Look closely (or try clicking to enlarge)  and you'll discover that this vessel is decorated with a a woman using a drop spindle.   Yes, a drop spindle.  Right there on an object used in daily life.  Oh, surely had I paused long enough to ponder such historical issues, it might have dawned upon me that fiber has always had to be "worked" into a form suitable for weaving or sewing or embellishing.  It just never occurred to this brain that the drop spindle is ancient!  

Very ancient.

Ancient as in at least  c. 490 BC.  

Absolutely wonderful!  I find it soothing that even the esteemed British Museum finds value in the depiction of making of thread via the drop spindle.  Think about it for a while - give your brain a vacation.

Surely the making of thread for weaving into cloth was, at the time this jug was thrown and decorated, a necessary whorl in the cog of civilization.  Imagine the constancy of the activity.  The vast amount of thread required to clothe the civilized world.   Daily life could possibly have revolved around producing lengths of string.  This was work.

Tools of the trade.  Preserved for all to see and ponder.

Drop spindles of history on display for all to see. 

Work.  Necessity of civilization.  The desire to toss off the skins of last week's dinner and cover the body in a manner that allowed freedom of movement for the work of civilization required work.  Lots of work and invention and thought and effort.

What once was (and not that very long ago) daily work and necessity is now, for so many of us, vacation from daily routine. I have friends who delight in their spindles and wheels.  Making string, is for them a relaxing and mental break from the work of daily life.  Vacation in it's simplest form.

I wonder what the Athenians did for vacation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Formula Needed

Many blog about it.  Many post comments about it.  Many stitch & b* about it.  Even articles are printed in magazines about it.  But, as far as I can tell, no one has come up with a formula for figuring out how much yarn to pack for travel.  What follows are my random thought on the issues impacting the formula, but alas - no formula is yet derived.

  1. Crochet or knit projects.  Crochet does require more yardage.  But crochet remains (for me) much easier to correct when travel related goofs appear three rows back.  So put a multiplication bit for crochet and subtract an emotional factor for less stress.
  2. Size of projects.  Obviously the smaller the project, the less yarn needed.  But completion time is short and then what?  This requires the formula to adjust for time and materials.
  3. Length of travel.  It is easy to over anticipate  the amount of yarn that can be consumed in forty-eight hours.  It is just as easy to under plan the amount of yarn that can be consumed in the same time period because of the next point....
  4. Time available for actual work.  Some travel is quite conducive to knitting or crocheting or even spinning.  Riding along in a car comes to mind.  So does waiting for delayed air travel.  Driving and knitting - - not a good idea.  Also the activities included on a trip must be figured in to the formula.  Hiking up a mountain in thin air - not so much time to use the sticks and string.  Chatting with family - lots of time!  It is all relative.  The formula has to adjust for available time and factor in fatigue from other activities.
  5. Travel destination.  Believe it or not, some destinations do not have stores for purchasing emergency yarn stash.  Shocking.  When traveling to fiber starved locales, it is imperative to pack extra yarn.  Don't question this, just do it and call it a wild card in the formula. 
  6. Time zone changes.  Body rhythms can be greatly disrupted when crossing time zones and even more so if that pesky date line is involved.  Add in extra working time due to disrupted sleep.  Huge yardage is needed in the middle of the night because the body thinks it is mid afternoon. 
  7. Boredom.  Plain boredom with the same old thing.  Pack enough for the power of three.  
Likely, you can think of other factors that impact the packing formula.   What we need is a yarn Einstein to figure this out and put a handy dandy calculator on Ravelry.    Any takers?  I'll be the first to volunteer as a beta tester!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Gift of Humor: all attempts at seriousness removed

The day of the Retirement Party finally arrived.  It was time to fete Linda with a party worthy of one who has brought joy to young, old, in-between and even those not yet born through her calm store Knit 'n Stitch.  The door locked on Saturday afternoon, but not before the big bash on Friday night.

What to give someone who has owned a yarn store?  Oh, sure, there is the gift certificate for using with her handy dandy electronic reader.  But, even that gets old and I just know that one day, Linda will be itching to get stitching again.

So I gifted her with a lovely kit for making a mini afghan.  Possibly, this is not a serious gift.  But it speaks directly to her love of crochet.  This is a rather fuzzy photo of the gift cover, complete with instructions.  Detailed instructions.

If you are not well versed in crochet perhaps the hook in a size "L" has no meaning - go look it up.  The pattern for the mini blocks from which to stitch together the afghan is from the most devious brain of another crochet friend - so, if you use the pattern please give credit to Sandy who loves purple.  I am not giving her any credit.  But you should credit her if you ever choose to make up a kit and use her pattern. 

And here is the inside of the kit box.  Just look at the lovely bits of yarn that are included in the kit!  Such variety....such texture...... such questionable taste.  Given that each block is only a few chains and two DCs, there might even be enough in each ball to complete one block.

I figure that anyone retiring from and closing down a yarn store might have extra yarn hanging around and space for adding to the kit has been most thoughtfully supplied.  Not much else is supplied - so the space is a little perk.  Sort of.  Maybe.  All depends on one's sense of humor.

Should you be thinking of creating a similar kit please note that, due to transporting and wanting some semblance of order upon the opening, each bit of yarn is taped down into a crinkly tissue.  Very festive!  Of course the tape will result in quite a bit of sticky messy when trying to crochet the squares.  But, Linda will have all those retirement hours to fill and so washing off sticky residue will help to fill that time - - - or something along those lines.

And now, Box #2 with the emergency repair supplies. 

Notice that Adult Supervision is Suggested.  Not Required; not strongly suggested.  Just suggested.  Linda can make up her own mind about needing help should an emergency occur during the crocheting of mini squares or the sewing up of all those odd bits of yarn.

Even though Linda has devoted decades to teaching "how to" and "how to fix", it seemed to my warped mind that even the adored retiree might be missing a few vital repair bits.

The inside of the emergency repair box has only two items.  A fully tangled and knotted wad of custom dyed bamboo.  It is a soft blue and is the remains of a scarf.  Surely it will come in handy for something and with all of those retirement hours to fill the tangles don't really matter.....I'm sure you get the point.

And then the most important part.  Dye Lot Corrector.  With all of the various types, colors, textures of yarn that will end up in this Mini Afghan it is safe to say that some color correcting will be necessary.

The label on the Dye Lot Corrector reads:  If dye lots don't quite match, just spill this on the finished afghan."  Please don't be jealous.  You too can own dye lot corrector by shopping in your local corner store.  It might be sold under another name such as this one here.

Creating this lovely (?) gift was a joy.  And, most importantly, Linda understood the wackiness of each attempt at humor.  My humble attempt was almost as funny as the gift my partner in crime bestowed upon our retiree.  What was better than a fancy Mini-Afghan Kit?  Two bits of bamboo stick and an emery board for filing perfect points!  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Loving The New System

This week, there was effort expended to tidy up the bits and bundles.  I figure that when those who share living space with moi start asking if there is any plain sewing thread and maybe a "regular" needle, then there is just a tad too much disorganization for maintaining the familial peace.

All of the magazines, loose patterns (and here the reference is to patterns that do not exist within a bound book or magazine and thus are best described as loose sheets of paper) and books were confined to the left of the sewing machine.  All loose patterns (see above explanation - nothing untoward is implied not intended) were sleeved in plastic and now live in a binder.  

Result?  One entire shelf organized and tidied up - a lot!

Onward.  Tidying up the area immediately adjacent to the sewing machine actually has no real impact on plain sewing thread nor does it result in easily accessible "regular" needles.  

Looking up one shelf and I was met with yet more shambles and only a bare smidgen of anything approaching organization.  

Some sock yarn was in a bin.  Some sock yarn was not in a bin.  
Some white/cream yarn was in the corner.  Some white/cream yarn was not in the corner.  
Bears for dressing and donating were meandering about with no thought to where they belonged.  

UFO's spilled forth.

I worked through this shelf above the sewing machine and now it has a new system that makes sense to me even if others remain perplexed.

On my way out of the area (that belongs to me, but others sharing this living space think that plain sewing thread and maybe even "regular" needles exist within the boundaries) I was met by a plain and boring bit of wall space.  Just the place, thought I, for a lovely cork board for hanging up inspiration.  So, a new system was quickly nailed up and all manner of necessary and inspiring bits were attached.

Two major eye level shelves and one bit of wall space all re-organized and new systems for maintaining a clutter free environment are set in place.

I am proud of my work.

One day, I hope to find the plain sewing thread and maybe a "regular" needle.   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hung Up On Organization

Several items of clothing, dear to my emotional well being, no longer fit.  These items no longer fit for a good reason.  It appears that I have lost a bit of weight and  these much loved items now hang  quite unfashionably limp upon my new body.  Because these things are still very usable and clean and missing no buttons or vital bits, it was time to do some prudent closet organization and donate extra clothing so that others can enjoy a few of my favorites.  The semi-annual culling of the closet was quite successful and three bags of stuff was donated to my favorite thrift store.  

In the cleaning and contemplating of what to keep and what to give away, I discovered a few items that I thought had gone missing months ago.  Turns out these were not missing - rather they were slipping off hangers and not showing up with a quick early morning perusal.  And why were they slipping off?  Because of slippy plastic hangers!  That's why.

To put a halt to the slippery issue, I have decided to make more of these.  These being crocheted cotton covered plastic hangers.  The pattern is beyond simple and consists of a single instruction:  single crochet around the hanger.  It goes really fast and a whole cluster can be made in the space of one good movie. 

The secret to a hard working hanger that will last through eternity is to keep pushing the stitches tight up against each other.  Typically, I'll work about two inches and then scrunch it nice and tight.  Pants folded over the bottom stay put.  Blouses grip along the shoulder line and don't flop around as much as on the plain plastic.  

There are all manner of other patterns and ideas for covered clothes hangers.  Some are fancy and some are plain.  Fret not about what is hanging in your closet because this concept works on the wire hangers also.

Next to my hanger is one that my mother made over thirty-five years ago!  Her's is two wire hangers held together with acrylic.  Believe me when I state that her hangers have taken a beating over the years, moved all over this vast country, survived growing children and still keep on working! 

Whether it is the wire or the acrylic, these babies are sturdy and will still be in use long after I've given up this yarn thing.  

Notice that Ida Mae did not crochet two wire hangers together.  Although a bit difficult to make out after the passing of the decades, she actually tied square knots with the yarn.  Surely this resulted from our macrame phase as she and I managed to tie our way through many a project.

Yep, I'm hung up on organization and especially loving clothes that stay hung up. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Surprise Within

No more bemoaning about 4X6 knitting to make miles of garter stitches for the log cabin.  No sir - not I.  For within the Boku colorway #4 was lurking a surprise of monumental happiness.  

This is what I thought color #4 would provide.  Nice dark green/teal/purple & in between transitions.   These are a few of my favorite things - well at least on the color wheel of yarn.  

So, there was I on the last sunset of the weekend not so merrily trying to get my garter stitch mojo to hang around for an hour and actually make progress on yet more of the garter goodness (?) that will one day be the Log Cabin.  All of a sudden, the expected did not happen!  Hidden within the wraps that is Boku was a surprise just waiting to jump out and charm me.

Look here where I pealed away layers.  Such charming chartreuse and golden hues!  I am enthralled.  And a bit in awe.  

Just a few hours prior to the sunny delight appearing, I was part of a conversation on "picking colors" of yarn that "go together and blend."  It was an extended conversation filled with discussing pure color, pink undertones, muted something and additional fretting about non-jarring color jumps.    Why?  Why do we who yarn a lot fret over exact shades and tints?  Why do we get all antsy over indigo vs. deep purple vs funny dark blue?  

Please understand that I can go down the color trail with the best of 'em.  I hate puce.  But give me a reddish brown and I can be halfway finished designing a cardigan with bobbles on the sleeves that look like falling acorns.   But why?  Why do you and I fret so and then develop a reaction nigh on to giddiness when a yarn designer tosses in the unexpected and provides a sunny surprise amongst the darker end of the spectrum?

It is quite hard to see in this photo - but just look and feel with me for a while.........

The surprise within is delightful.  Perhaps I shall challenge myself to go with the unexpected and shake up my color combination rather than suffering the minutia.    Will you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Forever Log Cabin

Section 6.  Finally section 6 of the Moderne Log Cabin is under way.  I admit that the desert heat has severely limited the minutes - much less hours - that I want to sit under a lap full of wool and produce even more intertwined wool loops.  Please don't misunderstand.  The schematic is wonderful.  The end result will be practical, filled with nontraditional color transitions and big enough to ward off winter evening chill for a person or two.  

That little line marked by the arrow is the beginning of the sixth section.  You'll note that this part of the eternal garter stitching is made of Plymouth Yarns Boku and it is color 4.  Not very exciting.  Color 4.  Section 6.  I thought of naming this post "4 X 6" but that just seemed way to outrageous for something so mundane as an unfinished blanket.

The particulars on Boku
Yarn Content: 95% Wool, 5% Silk
Yarn Gauge: 4 sts=1"/US 7 needle
Yarn Length: 99 yds/50g ball

This is the third color of Boku spread around ye basic olive & wheat shades.  
Right now, in the too hot to knit huge wool projects time of the year, I dream of a chill in the air, custom socks tucked into the edge of this blanket and a new project to cast on in the glow of a warm fire.  Given that I'm working wool in the desert heat of August, I'll probably be making a linen tank top by the glow of that fire.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy Retirement

The sweet smell of a happy retirement is in the air.  A wonderful person, Linda, has decided to retire from her life as a retail shop owner.  Linda is a soft soul with a kind helpful personality.  So, to celebrate her retirement, she offered all manner of friends, acquaintances and general folks just passing by a lovely gift  - 35% off merchandise.

After two email announcements and a good old fashioned post card, the first day of her retirement sale began today.  The two needles in the upper right corner of this photo should give a hint as to the type of store and what might be on sale. 

I was in the store just last Thursday to scope out what I might want to purchase and where it was located.  After all, 35% off retail does require some forethought and planning.  I had it all figured out.  Grab first, then sort, then put back anything I did not really want and then walk up to check out.

Imagine my utter shock when I arrived bright an early on this Monday morning to discover this:   

Over the weekend, Linda and some elves moved the merchandise!  That's right, the display of just a few days ago was gone and piles of patterns filled the space.  All of the glittery holiday festive yarns were no longer on the back wall out of the way, but moved up to front and center for anyone to purchase.  

It is a good thing that I had that game plan.  

Grab, sort, put back, then pay.

So, as soon as Linda turned on the lights and opened  the door I made a bee line to my first location for grabbing.

Around the fluffy white stuff and past the lace merino, avoid the display duck, ignore the baby patterns and go straight to the wall.  Yes, the wall of needles where, on Thursday, the Addi's hung out waiting for the retirement 35% reduction in price.  Score!  I was able to fill in a few holes in the needle collection and double up on the favorites. 

And then I grabbed a few other things, sorted it out and forgot to put anything back.  I did remember to pay.

I'll confess that when Linda's retirement was first made public, there was angst amongst her following.  What would we possibly do without the store?  Where would we go on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday just to sit with a lap full of yarn and friends who understand?  Yes, there was angst.

And then, wonder of wonders our worries were calmed with the grand announcement.  Nancy, who owns a yarn store just two blocks away, needs to move because her lease is up and the small space she currently occupies is no longer sufficient.  Nancy is moving into Linda's vacated space and our little yarn world will continue with just a few weeks of  hiatus.   Nancy is even adding a washer on site where she offers felting services.    Before deciding to retire, Linda's staff and Nancy had planned to co-sponsor a knitting retreat for September.  And this is not the first time that the two stores  joined resources to hold a retreat.  I just love the way that this whole yarn thing works.  Friendly competition between shop owners - - co-opetition at it's finest!

Happy retirement Linda!  And welcome to Nancy.