so i had an explicit deadline.
this post was supposed to go out by 11:59 pm yesterday.
what can i say, i fell asleep.
i was tired.

just think of it as added suspense to see who won the cashmere.

and now,
why don’t we keep the suspense going a little longer?
let me tell you about how my summer of socks and lace is going.

my very first fan, juliet, left me this comment:
Thank you for the great lace debate! So tell us about the socks.

fair enough juliet;
this is the summer of socks and lace.
so here’s my first sock of the summer:

i used stephanie pearl-mcphee’s sock recipe: a good, plain sock from knitting rules, (quelle suprise) and i won’t tell you what the yarn is since there’s some controversy surrounding the person who makes it. but i will say, it’s very nice yarn that i got from my good friend lisa’s epic destash.

i’m also making this sweater;
a sweater that no one can deny is lace:

it a february lady sweater
yarn is peru by blue moon fiber arts
in the “cloudy with a chance” colorway.

i am on my way to victory bitches!

and now the moment of truth.
the winner of the cashmere.

there were some really great entrants.
for instance yvonne wrote:
o m g. […]. that pashmina? 170 yards of delicious. i’m imagining it as knit pasties. not for me, of course.

you were so close to winning!
if only they’d been for you.

then there was linda who wrote:
I would crochet a dishcloth with it. But I would’t use it to wash dishes, I would use it to dust. OR a can coolie. I would knit this though. Then I would needle felt some sort of witty beer drinkers phrase on it. I still have some time to think of the witty beer drinkers phrase. Hey! Who ever thinks of the wittiest beer drinkers phrase can win a way cool Pashmina can coolie with a witty beer drinkers phrase on it!!!!

i nearly peed when i read this!
i was all set to send her the skein.
but i know linda.
and she’s just crazy enough to do it.
i couldn’t risk it.

so we come to the winning comment,
and this win might cause some controversy:
Totally off topic, but in case you’re not reading all of the comments on the Harlot blog, here’s mine: Steven, I’m going with whatever answer gets me that skein of cashmere. (Otherwise I’d have to go with C leaning towards A) But I really, really want that yarn, so if you like I will write a Treatise on Lace Options if need it and send it to your Store Ruler. Yup, I’m on your side.

here are the reason’s this comment shouldn’t win:
1 – it wasn’t posted on the correct blog entry.
2 – it’s actually a comment on the yarn harlot’s blog.
3 – there is no pattern idea, the one requirement for all entrants.
4 – and she already left a comment on the correct blog post with a pattern that didn’t really cut it for me.

the reason she gets the skein?
in order to win, ms. sally at rivendale farms took her one vote in the great lace debate of 2010, and voted for me

against her conscience.

this bitch wants some cashmere.
bad.

so sally,
the skein is yours.
after the week i’ve had,
i say screw any semblance of the rules.
(i told ya this giveaway wasn’t going to be fair)

and i’m here to recruit you.

(ten points to whoever recognizes that reference)

so by now, many of you have seen the “poll” on stephanie’s blog.

i have to say i am blown away by the shear volume of replies.
i never thought my late night appeal for help would cause all this,
nor did i realize how testy some knitters can get.
but i suppose if you poke the wasp nest,
you’re gonna get stung some.

so just to add another dimension to things,
here’s the prologue to the story:

i am a worker bee at natural stitches,
and it’s got to be the best job in the world.

this means that for our summer of socks and lace,
i compete against the rest of the staff, as opposed to the customers,
we get to knit at work,
which gives us an unfair advantage over people who can’t.

i personally entered the “double threat” category
meaning i’ll have to knit both socks and lace.

so obviously, i was keeping my eye out for patterns to knit in addition to the february lady, shetland tea shawl, stora dimun, and plain sock i’ve already started. (we knit as many items as we can)

when i came upon the whisper cables pull over

totally scammed the photo from veronik's flickr. all rights are hers.


i immediately said to myself, “that’ll do!”
and took the pattern into work to select yarn etc.

when i showed my coworker the pattern,
she looked at me like i was an idiot and said,
“you can’t do that. it’s not lace.”
(identities are being concealed to prevent possible teary phone calls)

the problem lies merely in the fact that we have two different viewpoints on how to judge what constitutes lace. i took in the whole image and said, “that’s lace.” she looked at the pattern and determined the necessary techniques that currently define lace in the knitting world are absent from the pattern.

i think that’s kinda dumb and exclusionary.
but i suppose definitions are meant to be.

she comes from the old school, steeped in tradition and love for st. elizabeth zimmerman. i’m from the new generation of knitters who’ve learned the craft online or in the new lys’s instead of from their grandmothers or mothers. hell, i learned to knit on aluminum boye needles and fun fur in the wee hours of the morning at meijer from a crazy knitter lady.

you can’t get much further from tradition than that.

the debate then spread to the rest of the staff:
what counts?
what doesn’t?
what about scribble lace?
what about things with yo’s but no corresponding decreases?
(like the simple yet effective)
if one technically follows the ez rules,
wouldn’t one have to count yo k2tog button holes?
what about hairpin lace?
which brought us to crochet and . . .

don’t even get me started on the crochet contestants.
i’m just gonna take their word on it;
if they tell me their project is lace,
i’ll believe them.
(honor system hookers!)

basically,
even though i see the deliberate instruction in the pattern to knit on a larger needle in comparison to the yarn in order to create regular patterned openwork, openwork stretched and held in place by the regular patterning of the cables, as a way of creating lace . . .

no one else did.

what did i do when everyone was against me?
(please note the comical melodrama, not sincere despair)

i appealed to a higher power.
the highest power to which one as lowly as i could appeal:
the knitting celebrity.

in this case, stephanie pearl-mcphee.

i filled her in on the basics and she suggested we put it to a vote.
i said what the hell!
what have i to lose?

and now you’re all caught up, selecting your a, b, c, or d
casting your vote to let the world know what you think about lace.

if i’m honest,
and i tend to be,
i knew going in that i wasn’t going to “win” the argument.
my only hope was that a few voters would see things the way i did,
so i wouldn’t feel like some crazy face knitter.

so last night,
i decided to start reading through the comments
me and my little friend pouilly-fuissé:

(please note my great grandmother’s crocheted lace doily. irony?)

the harlot said i needed a beer for this,
i was out.

let’s look at some of my favorites from that initial peekaboo:

anna wrote:
A. He can’t be serious… Since when is cable knitting with fine gauge yarn and big needles lace?

i am serious and maybe since now?

gretchen wrote:
Put me in the A camp. When Steven finishes a real lace shawl, let’s see what he thinks of his theory then!! Sorry, buddy. A

i have actually. and i gave it away. it now lives in london. my theory still feels pretty good.

sally wrote:
Steven, I’m going with whatever answer gets me that skein of cashmere. (Otherwise I’d have to go with C leaning towards A) But I really, really want that yarn, so if you like I will write a Treatise on Lace Options if needed and send it to your Store Ruler. Yup, I’m on your side.

that’s an awesome answer, a true harlot at heart.
(and a good way to win some cashmere)

willowcaroline wrote:
Well, I see it differently. When I looked at the pic of the sweater, I saw “lace” between the cables.. no matter how it got there. So B or D, which seems to be the minority opinion. I am not saying this is Shetland lace.. but that openwork look sure looks lacey to me.

yay! i am not alone.

rodger wrote:
I vote B.
And not just because Steven is cute.

um . . . what’s your number rodger?

there were some not so nice ones,
throwing around things like
“be a man”
“get over yourself”
“put on your big boy pants”
“man up”

how did my manhood get caught up in this?
when did cabling become easier than lace?
when did people start taking knitting so seriously?

ultimately, i’m going to bed with a smile on my face.
because little ol’ me,
born in detroit, and raised in the sticks of michigan
caused an international debate.

the great lace debate of 2010.

and queer as my perspective might be
(no wise cracks megan)
i found out some people saw things my way,
and that the definition of lace is debatable.

besides,
whether or not this sweater is eligible for the contest,
i’m still gonna kick their butts.

i recently received this question from pattylatty:

Steven,

I’ve written to you before about your three Malabrigo blankets and finally bought a bag of Mal and have started one of the blankets. But recently I’ve been hearing about how much Mal worsted pills. So I thought I’d write to you and see if you have had any problems with that.

And why haven’t I seen you on the Malabrigo Junkies group? It’s a fun place to talk with people who are as crazy about Mal as we are.

Happy knitting.

Pat

well pat, there’s a few things i have to say on the subject of malabrigo.
if you make it into a sweater, it will pill.
but so will any other natural fiber.
the friction of body movements it just gonna do that.
malabrigo just pills more easily because it is a single ply.

now in terms of my blankets,



i can only speak for the zig zag.
(the other two of were gifts)

veronica and i used it pretty heavily this winter,
and while it hasn’t pilled,
it has a little halo going.
a nice soft halo.

you can’t see the spaces between the fabric anymore,
and the yarn has relaxed nicely.

i say go for it.

hell, you’ve already bought the yarn.

but if you’re really worried about it,
and can return the yarn you have,
get malabrigo twist.
just as soft but plied for durability.

if you can’t,
just add a pattern repeat,
and knit on a smaller needle (us 7/4.5mm)

hope to see the finished product!

or at least for the next few weeks they are.

in preparation for the knot hysteria silk retreat,
i need to get my spinning skills up to snuff.
spindling has come pretty naturally to me,
and i’m moving past the “park and draft stage.”

however,
i’ll need to be fairly comfortable with a wheel to do all the spinning required for judith macKenzie mccuin’s silk class. (random: any other people with knowledge of irish names find it funny that she has both an “mac” name and “mc” name? just me? ok.)

so today i had my first wheel lesson with carol mcfadden.
before we got down to business,
carol gave me an amazing gifty:

you are reading that label on the ziploc correctly;
a little tuft of pure mongolian cashmere!

she remembered that months ago i said i liked cashmere, (though i ask you, who doesn’t?) and decided to give me some to spin on my spindle.

this is the kind of woman we’re dealing with people;
razor whit and heart of gold.

then we got down to it.

let me just say,
wheel spinning did not come as naturally as the spindle did.
getting my right foot involved seemed to cross some wires in the brain.
but carol assures me that i did very well for my first time,
and i came away with this skein:

as a knitter, i would never purchase this yarn.
i’m not that into thick and thin.
but i have to say
i’m pretty proud of the ugly bastard.
and since i already know i can spin fairly consistent singles on a spindle,

i’m confident that it’s only a matter of time until i can do so on a wheel.

here’s to not looking like a fool in july!

edit: also, i wrote my first article for the shop’s newsletter.
you should check it out!

a week in three acts.

May 23, 2010

i’m exhausted.
i worked a full week at the shop,
and helped a friend organize her stash.

you’d think with all that yarny goodness,
i’d have some really great blog material.
let me tell you, it’s been a struggle.

so, instead of one cohesive post,
i give three short ones,
and an epilogue.

act one: hotpants lives
as you may recall,
i became semi-infamous for the gams i knitted for this past maryland sheep and wool festival.

(they were pretty cool)

well this past week, our favorite yarn rep informed me that clara parkes had mentioned my shorts on the knitter’s review:

“I saw men in kilts, lambs in halters, women in giant floppy hats, and countless kids being led around in high-tech strollers. I spotted colorful tattoos and brightly colored knitted shorts, grilled lamb burgers and deep-fried corn dogs, kids playing catch on the grass, and nervous sheep being groomed to perfection. It was a weekend to end all weekends.”

i immediately sent an email informing her that it was in fact me in those hotpants, realizing that she might be too busy to respond herself. imagine my surprise when i received this:

“Hi Steven,

The gorgeous orange shorts? That was you? I LOVED THEM!! I was at the Spirit Trail booth when you came by, and I really wanted to ask you for a picture but I feared you’d take it the wrong way. I loved that you paired them with a turquoise shirt. And you looked so much more comfortable than everybody else combined. So I say bravo, and once again I tip my hat to you. Please oh please, keep the inspiration coming.

Take care,

Clara
Knitter’s Review”

the legend of the hotpants lives on.

act two: the international

what’s that?

what’s that i see?

that would be shara,
winner of the bitches get stitches girasole giveaway.

she graciously showed it around london

(if memory serves me this lion lives in trafalgar square)

this was certainly worth every penny of the international shipping to see my knitting on another continent.

i wonder where she’ll take it next.

finale: do not go gentle
in regards to my recent post about my grandma,
i just want to say thank you to all the people who were so supportive in their comments both on the blog and in person.

my dear friend nancy left a particularly beautiful comment,
braving her nemesis the internet to do so:

“3am in the ‘Burgh, reading about musk ox in the arctic tundra, memories of ice and the sound of birds flying guiding a migrating people, memories of your grandma knitting themselves into your heart, the sound of my Swedish mor mor’s voice, the sweater she knit me in junior high…We are connected by these threads; we wrap ourselves in their love. It is always the right thing to do, and you have the heart to tell it. You are a writer!”

thanks nancy.

as an update,
my grandma is out of the hospital
and back in the rehab center of the nursing home.
her appetite has returned, and they hope to get her up and walking again.

if i’m very lucky, she’ll be here to see me turn 26.

epilogue: i am, in fact, a crazy face

if you’ve made it this far, you have the opportunity to get a reward.
in the spirit of de-stashing, i’m announcing the second bitches get stitches giveaway!

the prize:

50g/170yds of pure, french, cashmere deliciousness.

the reason:
it’s been in my stash for a while,
and i still don’t know what the heck to make with it.

the rules:
leave a comment telling me what you will do with the skein,
and whichever idea i love best, wins.
(a rav link might help you)

the winner will be announced in may 30, 2010

fairness factor:
zero.
the last giveaway was completely fair.
this time, it’s completely arbitrary.

hey it’s my blog.

do you want cashmere or not?

since my last post,
a couple happy things happened.
the first: i aced my semester.
(go me)

the second: i got this picture in my e-mail:

a little bit ago, melissa brought her baby by the shop
and i got to meet the professor
(that’s what i call him)

i held the little bugger for while and asked,
“did you put knitting needles in his hands?”

“no”

so i got the honor of being the one who put needles in the professor’s hands, ensuring he will one day be a good knitter.
they were signature needles.
he’ll be a very good knitter.

which makes me think two random things;
the first: i know that putting knitting needles in a baby’s hands is supposedly an irish superstition, but i can’t think how i know that. everyone else in the shop did too, but the internet holds no further info.
can anyone help me find a reference?

the second: i use the phrase, “he’s a good knitter” as a code for “he’s hot.” so if putting needles in the professor’s hands is supposed to make him a good knitter . . .

i’m not sure what i’ve done exactly.

though i suppose either way,
i’ve done right by him.

it’s been a day

May 14, 2010

this post was supposed to go out yesterday.
but my family lives in the land of dial up.
things take time here.

it’s been day.

or two really.

i wasn’t sure if this was the proper place to write about it,
or if it’s even appropriate to share this kind of thing with the world.
but life isn’t just amusing anecdotes and knitterly antics.

my grandma is ill.
her body and mind have mostly given up the fight, and my mom is her last line of defense. she went into the hospital two weeks ago and it became clear that, while she may get well enough to the leave the hospital, she’d never be able to go home again. my mom found a great nursing home (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. she assured me that is passed my requirement that it didn’t smell like death) where people seem to care and can handle residents with dementia. only a couple of days after she was settled into her new home, a fever spiked, and i got an early morning wake up call from home.

switched shifts.

cap and gown unclaimed.

diploma in the mail.

5 highways and i’m back in the great lakes state.

there were many hugs exchanged back at the homestead, reunited with parents and pup under midnight clouds. but a good night sleep in my childhood bed did little to prepare me to see my grandma this morning.

i came with the sole intention of supporting my mom; i wasn’t thinking about how i’d react. i definitely ate my tears to make it through the day.

the change from the last time i saw her is stark.
it’s hard to see in this frail, confused woman the grandma who played “farm stand” and “kick the sponge” with me when i was a toe-headed boy.

she may have forgotten,

but i haven’t.

and i’ll gladly remind her of what day it is, what time it is, where she put her purse, and any other question whose answer she’ll forget the moment i give it.

it’s the least i owe the woman.

while all this is going on, i get some crazy awesome news:
i got into the yarn harlot/knot hysteria’s silk retreat

(stolen from the harlot's blog)


i received the email confirmation yesterday,
and a call from stephanie pearl-mcphee today to go over the details.
(i promptly saved the number in my cell and did a gleeful jig)

i absolutely cannot afford to go to this retreat.
(and will unashamedly accept any donations you’re willing to give)
but why have I worked for ten years to build an excellent credit score if i can’t throw caution to the wind and melt my visa card every once in a while?

i don’t think it’s healthy having this level of emotional stimulation coming from two very different places.

or fair for that matter.

all I can do is form a plan of attack;
a strategy for coping so to speak.
so far, the list includes an obscene amount of diet coke, thai food, spindling, and casting on with impunity.

i cast on this sock:

and this february lady sweater without a second thought.

i’ve got a long weekend in front of me.
i’ll see you in pittsburgh on monday.

lessons learned

May 10, 2010

the great thing about working at a knitting store?
you learn something new everyday.

for instance,
one day, when everyone was singing praises at the alter of elizabeth zimmerman, i impudently remarked,
“she’s not that big a deal.”

a yarn over immediately jumped off my needle.
lesson learned.

recently,
while working on this beauty,

i thought to myself,
“gee, i’m doing really well! i’ll wait to put in a lifeline.”

a number of stitches popped off the needles and fell down several rows.

“shit!”

apparently, arrogant thinking is a sin in the eyes of the knitting gods.

now, it looks like this:

i’ve dropped down.
i’ll attempt to re-knit the rows.
i’ve done it before, though never with knitted lace.
i’ll burn some incense and maybe do a little chant prior to the attempt.

lesson learned.

recovery

May 7, 2010

i’m in a state of recovery.
from my trip to maryland,
and my (second) masters program.

that’s right bitches, i’m graduating.
again.

symptoms?
fatigue, aphasia, loss of time, peeling scalp,
and my room smells like sheep.

course of action?
milk shakes, knitting, find my watch, head and shoulders,
and stay out of my room.

i’m actually doing quite well, and enjoying finding all the pictures of me and my gams floating around the internet.

you can find them on:
linda’s facebook,
kim’s flickr,
anna’s blog,
karen’s photostream,
and elsewhere. i know more people stopped me and asked for my photo than i’ve been able to track down. even with yvonne creating a ravelry thread about them.

but my favorite by far was taken by cristi:

because she kinneared me, and i love her for it.

in knitting news . . .
let’s keep in mind that i’m a relatively new knitter (less than two years),
but there is evidence mounting that my i’m maturing.
for instance, i now have a small stash.
and i have a project that is coming up on its one year anniversary:

my shetland tea shawl.

i find the signs disturbing.
so i’ve decided to fight these manifestations of conventional knitterdom,
and knit the shit out of this before it turns 1.

first step in attaining my goal?
casting on 449 stitches for the stora dimun knit along

(note my yarn ramekin and the perfect alpaca silk soufflé)

what can i say?
i’m a sheep.

well folks, i’m home and well.

and tired.

and a little crispy.

the weather in maryland was exceptionally sunny and hot.
the result? my fair skin is a bit brown in some places,
pink in many others.

as with many of my big life events, i’m finding it difficult to accurately describe the weekend. (i need to start carrying a dictaphone with me or something)

plus i have two final papers to finish this week so i kinda need to conserve some of my writing mojo. but as always, i’ll do my best.
here goes:

it’s the middle of the night and i can’t sleep.
i’m totally stoked for tomorrow and my mind won’t shut up.
so of course, i edited my “i’m with hotpants” blog post, and did a mini photo shoot.

after which i questioned my sanity, put late night vegas poker on the tv, spread out in my king sized bed, and hugged all six of my downy pillows.

sleep came soon after.

later that same morning . . .

we started out early and beat the traffic.

i left my friends at the fold/socks that rock line, making a bee line for. . .

the fleeces!

now, i’m not a spinner.
but as this was my first fiber festival,
i had this romantic notion that i would own the grand champion fleece.
so i waited in my own line, and put in a stupidly aggressive bid.

i also had what i feel is a pretty realistic fear that i actually wouldn’t win, so i purchased “ike’s” fleece, a border leicester/lincoln/corriedale mix ram from shepherd’s hey farm in comus, maryland.
it’s beautiful and would easily make my black sweater dreams come true.

i then braved the heat, saw some baby sheeps,

and proceeded to buy some lovelies.
not too many though.
i had to be sure i could pay for my fleece if i won.

by noon we were all pooped.

(note the custom “i’m with hotpants” tees made by annette)

unfortunately, i had to wait around ’till 3 to see if i won the silent auction.
so i wandered around some more,

saw some more sheepy things,
drank my weight in lemonade and root beer floats,
and headed to the “big barn” at 2:40 ish.

when i arrived, the gossip amongst the volunteers was that a mysterious man was lurking. last year, he swooped in a bought all the winning fleeces at the last minute.

i was obviously concerned.

when he moseyed into view, the ladies quietly pointed him out.
his wife clearly wanted my fleece,
what with it being an uncoated black merino that won best in show.

the volunteers galvanized their power behind me,
handing me a pen to write in a last minute bid if i needed,
and heckled the couple, warning them of my ire should they try to outbid me.

i gave the interlopers my absolute best evil eye.
those who have met it’s gaze can testify to it’s sauron-like power.
(the few that have survived that is)

with two minutes two go,
it was reported to me that the wife said,
“if he wants to pay that much for it, he can have it.”
my stupidly aggressive bid did the trick, and i walked away with my grand champion fleece. by christmas, expect to see me in gorgeous black sweater of my own making.

i then headed back to the hotel to crash, and sooth sunburned scalp.
after a beautiful thai dinner,
and my first lesson in spindle spinning,
i proceeded to the maryland sheep and wool after party which was conveniently held in my hotel.

when i found out that the epic pakistani wedding also being held in our hotel bumped the after party outside into the parking lot, i should have taken it as a sign that things wouldn’t end well.

here’s the good of it:
there were crazy good prizes,
and i was with my friends.


(anna apparently got some good gossip)

but there were some serious issues:
there were not enough chairs,
or enough light to knit or drool over peoples hand knits.
so we were left to wait,

and wait,

and wait,

and wait some more for the raffle.

and guido, bless him, had pretty much no skills as an emcee
beyond mad geeky enthusiasm
which may have worked against him really.

and of course they did the raffle in two parts meaning,
(god help me)
we had to wait another hour to see if we’d paid for more than and evening of sitting in the dark with our friends with only the hope of a coconut shrimp and fruit skewer to warm out spirits.

of course i didn’t win.
but two of my friends did.
i took my bitter, pouting, sunburn to bed.

the next day,
after a leisurely breakfast in bed,
we made our way back at a more respectable hour to make sure we hadn’t overlooked anything we had to have.

somehow,
i resisted the cashmere,
but left with a gorgeous golding spindle

i don’t spin.

with that crazy purchase, i knew i needed to head home.

and here i am, back in pittsburgh with a pretty impressive haul.

(excuse the unnatural light please in this photo)

did i mention i got some sun?

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