Friday, September 28, 2007

Knitting, We Got Knitting

Tomten Jacket, BackAlong with all the flying too high with some guy in the sky and eating roast pork with a fork like a dork I managed to slip in a great deal of work on Abigail's Tomten Jacket. The body and hood are complete, leaving only the arms and trim to finish.

The jacquard motifs (the demonstration is coming) have been fun to chart and work. Between the Japonaisérie kimono and this piece, which in places resembles a Persian carpet, I seem to be in the midst of an Orientalist phase. My Lebanese blood rising to the surface, no doubt.

Perhaps at Christmas I'll present Abigail with a Baby's First Hookah from the Beirut branch of FAO Schwarz.

1,000 Knitters Update

I'm pleased as punch to announce not one but two more 1,000 Knitters shoots. I simply can't get enough.

October 13: Yarn Con Chicago

I'm delighted to have been asked to participate in Yarn Con, a gathering in Pulaski Park for yarn and those who love it. There will be workshops, demonstrations, and of course a vendor's market. The vendor list is interesting; it seems that this will be a chance for a lot of smaller and/or local producers and retailers to get their stuff out there.

For more information about the event, you can visit the Yarn Con Web site.

October 26: My Sister's Knits, Chicago

And then I'll be spending a very cozy Friday evening on October 26 from 5–8 p.m. at My Sister's Knits on the South Side. I'm a north sider, so this will be a great adventure for me. (I consider Hyde Park to be downstate.)These aren't all the shoots in the works, just the two confirmed. I'm hoping take advantage of several offers to travel outside the borders of Illinois soon.


I just realized that I had switched off the function on Ravelry that tells me when somebody marks me as a friend. So if you did so and were met with apparent stony silence, that's why. It's not because I'm an uppity, mean snob. There are heaps of things I ignore because I'm an uppity, mean snob, but Ravelers aren't among them.

Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo

2007 Bingo ButtonI won't be at Rhinebeck, alas. But look who's been invited to be a spokesmodel for the second year in a row.

That darling Stitchy McYarnpants, who curates the Museum of Kitschy Stitches, has once again decided to host Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo. Complete, titillating details are here.

While I'm unspeakably bummed out that I won't be there, at least Dolores is getting legitimate work for a change. I asked her if there were any chance she might visit the shearing tent while she's out there and she said it depends on who's doing the shearing. Fine time for her to get fussy.

According to her profile, she's looking for:
  • large, firm hands;
  • medium-muscular to beefy builds;
  • an appreciation for the pleasures of the grape and grain;
  • a working knowledge of ancient Greek;
  • the manual finesse of a sculptor;
  • the stamina of a triathlete;
  • cute toes;
  • trust funds.
If you know of a shepherd with low morals who answers to this description I might get my #$%@^! roving at last.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What I Did On My Indiana Vacation

I'm back. Dolores has taken Harry and the sock yarn to Shedd Aquarium for the day (good thing they're superwash), so I have the computer to myself for a little while.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Me!

As noted in my last entry, mom and pop live in the midst of farm fields. What I forgot to mention was that they also live on on air field. Running behind the house is the grass runway for a small airport, which over the weekend hosted its annual fly-in and barbecue. This meant that on Saturday and Sunday, this sort of thing kept landing in the back yard.

War Birds at Glenndale

Pop has been a pilot for years but only recently acquired his own plane. Where most people have a tool shed, my parents now have a hangar.

I'm not much of a flyer but I couldn't resist a quick trip. It's easy to feel secure with my father at the controls.

Dad and the Plane

I sat in the back seat and took pictures.

Photog on Board

It was a good day to fly. Indiana looks tidy from the air. Tidy and flat.

Indiana from the Air

My buddy Tom,* who's something of an aviation nut, came in from Chicago to visit. Dad let him steer for a bit.

Tom at the Controls

We did not plummet to earth. Way to go, Tom!

LYS Heaven

Meanwhile, the return of fall weather put my mother in the mood to pick up her knitting again. She suggested we visit a local yarn shop or two. Based on your recommendations we searched out Stitches and Scones in Westfield.

We were there for about two hours. It wasn't nearly long enough.

I kept having the uncanny feeling that we weren't in a real yarn shop, we were in some Hollywood set designer's idea of what a yarn shop ought to be: warm wood floors, honey-colored sunlight streaming in through the windows, a commodious work table and a huge central fireplace with roving hung above and spinning wheels crowding the hearth.

Stitches and Scones

All around is the largest selection of yarns I've yet to see under one roof, with the exception mammoth Halcyon Yarns in Bath, Maine. The owner, Molli, has set out a range of the beautiful, the useful, and the fascinating in every price point from Plymouth and Cascade 220 to Tilli Tomas. And there's spinning stuff (wheels and roving), some weaving stuff, and a very broad book selection including (I noted with pleasure) titles from Schoolhouse Press and other, smaller publishers that don't always show up in local stores.

Mom and I were greeted cordially and I was immensely pleased that nobody assumed I was just there to hold her purse. Every member of the staff was courteous and enthusiastic. They even pulled out the Piecework trunk show (which had been packed for its next stop) so I could take a quick look at it. (And if it's coming to your town, it's definitely worth a look.)

Even though it was Monday, things were buzzing and the customers who were knitting at the work table were as friendly as the staff. Notices are everywhere about classes and groups hosted by the shop. The atmosphere is what you dream about in a yarn store. It's not just a place to shop, it's also a place to gather and learn. They're up for an award from and I'm not surprised.

Prices are absolutely fair (suggested retail) and the clearance section was a treasure hunt. I don't want to start a stampede but there was a pile of deeply discounted Italian-made yarn, the name of which rhymes with "Marabella." (After we left, it was a somewhat smaller pile.) The shop has a frequent shopper discount program in which a handsome knitting bag serves as your membership card.

If you're in the area or even just passing through, the place is worth a stop. I can't wait to go back.

Tomorrow, a knitting report and 1,000 Knitters news. Right now I have to ooze over to the gym to eradicate seven days of Hoosier cuisine.

*Tom is the kind of guy who, when on vacation in Alaska, hunts down the yarn store in Ketchikan and upon finding it closed takes a photograph of the display window so you'll know he tried. Then he hunts down another shop and brings you back a copy of Arctic Lace because he doesn't knit but knows you love lace knitting. What do we think of Tom, everybody? Hmm?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Field Observer

This is a report from the Panopticon Mobile Unit, on assignment in Indiana. I arrived safely after a mostly uneventful bus ride. I say "mostly" because at one point I set aside the Tomten Jacket and took a snooze, then woke up to find my ball of Cascade 220 had jumped off the seat and rolled to the front of the bus. And then to the back of the bus. And then to the front of the bus. And then to the back of the bus. Etcetera, until it was no longer a ball.

The lady across the aisle saw my startled look upon awakening and said, "You dropped your string."

Oh, thanks. Thanks very much.

In comments to the last post, reader Knit Wit took exception to my apparent comparison of the fine city of Indianapolis to a cornfield. I can well understand, and must clarify. Although I took the bus to Indy, it was not my ultimate destination. My parents live on the far outskirts of Kokomo, a city barely large enough to have skirts at all. This is the view from their front porch.

Mailbox and  Bean Field

The views to the rear, right and left are similar. When I said I'd be reporting from the fields, I wasn't being cute. I meant I'd be reporting from the fields. Mind you, the farmer went and rotated the crops on me so instead of corn fields they're bean fields. I swear there was corn there last year.

I've done a bit of knitting since I arrived but not much, as there's a great deal of work around the house to help with. In return, my father has promised before I leave to photograph the steps in working Garter Stitch Jacquard. His help is vital, since of course one can do many things while one is knitting but shooting photos of my own hands at work is beyond my present capabilities.

This is not to say there has been no time for fiber-related excitement. Au contraire. On the first night I was here, the neighbors dropped by as they often do of an evening in Mayberry, and said they'd be bringing by an "old piece of junk" from the garage for me to look at.

This is what showed up the next morning.

Wheel, Before

I almost passed out. On closer inspection, I was fairly stunned. The entire flyer mechanism, including an original bobbin, was intact. Dirty and beat up, but intact.

Flyer, Before

In fact, aside from the distaff and a few pegs the only thing missing was the footman. The wheel is out of true and has a clumsy repair to the rim, but the spokes and joins are still tight.

Several hours, much love and a bottle of lemon oil later, here's what they have.

Wheel, After

Since I took this picture, the owner has made up a beautiful new footman out of oak. I've attached it and the wheel runs perfectly. They'll be getting it back along with instructions for future preservation, and a warning that if it ever sees the inside of the garage again I will make a citizen's arrest and place the wheel in foster care.

Someday perhaps there will be courses in proper wheel parenting in the schools. Until then, we can but be vigilant and save those that chance to come our way.

Flyer and Drive, After

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

She's Baaaack and I'm Gone

One thing I'll say for Dolores–the grass never grows under her feet. She's been fairly mum about exactly what happened on the tour, although she did confide over an evening cosmo that once the balance sheet was totted up she'd turned a profit of $147.46, not counting tips.

I admitted that I was impressed she'd ended in the black, given the costs of touring with a large troupe and the specialized appeal of her somewhat esoteric act.

"It's all in how you spin it, cupcake," she said. "When you've been in the industry as long as I have, you learn it's not what you got in the box, it's how you wrap it up. I may not be your typical pre-packaged Hollywood bimbo but I know how to bring the boys to the yard."

"Plus it helped that in Peoria they paid us $100 to get out of town," said Harry.

Whereupon there began a heated discussion, and I withdrew to my bedchamber.

More Baby Knitting

In my ongoing quest to earn for Abigail the title of World's Most Knitted-For Niece, I've started an Elizabeth Zimmermann Tomten Jacket. It's in three of her books: Knitting Workshop, Knitting Without Tears, and The Opinionated Knitter.

This is another of Elizabeth's patterns that, like the Baby Surprise Jacket, has become a classic and for good reason. The design is so ingenious that simply by changing your gauge you can size the thing to fit everybody from infant to adult. Sewing up is minimal. The possibilities for modifying to suit your taste or needs are myriad. The finished product scores in the highest percentile of the adorability scale. What's not to love?

Abigail's Tomten will definitely have a hood. And to jazz it up, I'm also throwing in color patterns. Now, like much of Zimmermann's work the piece is done entirely in garter stitch, which is often striped but seldom in my experience worked with frequent color changes within a single row.

But I knew there must be a way. And sure enough, dear Montse Stanley in the Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook has it: Garter Stitch Jacquard.

I can't offer a detailed explanation this morning, as I'm off to visit my folks in Indiana in an hour or so. But here's a photograph to show you the stylized leaves around the lower edge of the jacket.

Tomten Jacquard

I enjoyed this so much, I'll work up a demonstration/description of how it's done over the next day or so.

But first, I have a date with a Megabus to Indianapolis. Over and out, friends, until I report from deep in the cornfields.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Queen with a Full House

I was jolted out of a sound sleep last night by the sound of the key in the front door. There are only two copies of that key around.

There was a groan as the door opened. Sounds of scampering and dragging, then a loud bang and a crash followed by a familiar voice letting forth a stream of groggy but pointed invective.

"Sorry, Dolores," said Harry. "One of the guys lost his grip on the microphone stand."

I considered getting out of bed to say welcome home.

"If that stand is broken," grunted Dolores, "I'm holding you responsible for the damages. And if this leaves a scar, I'm going hold you under water until you felt."

"I'll get you an ice pack," said Harry. "Hey Stan, go get some paper towels and try to get the blood out of the rug, okay?"

I decided to stay in bed.

This was the scene this morning.


Half of me wants to hear how the tour went. The other half wants to pack a suitcase and move out before they wake up.

Baby Knitting

I finished the collar on the Debbie Bliss baby kimono. I finagled with the needles a bit to tease out the points on the ends. I think it adds to the "They call me Shanghai Lily" appeal of the garment. All I have to do now is sew in the sleeves and I can start embroidering. Yum.

Kimono Collar Complete


I'm so impressed. They really are doing a splendid job of creating a Web space that meets the needs (and wants) of knitters. Even in beta form, it's easy to use and the bugs I've encountered have been minor. I got a warm welcome from the Dolores Devotees group and have spent some time loading in projects.

My favorite feature so far? The ability to see what others have done with particular patterns and yarns. Therein, for me, lies the potential for hours (hours, hell–days) of lost time. Some of the forums are interesting, too, but I can promise you this blog will still be the place I mouth off the most.

If you want to say hey, my user name is franklin. I considered calling myself StitchStallionChicago, but it seemed potentially misleading. I don't own a horse.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dignity and Repose

The Loopy Yarns anniversary party, at which I photographed a further forty or so knitters for the 1,000 Knitters Project, was a quiet affair. Vicki Sayre, the foundress of our feast, served cucumber sandwiches and tea to the delicate strains of a string quartet. Guests bent gracefully over their projects, nimble needles flashing in the candlelight, as they spoke in hushed tones of motherhood, duty, and patriotism. At intervals, members of the staff mounted the daïs to read aloud from volumes of Improving Verse or lead us in such old favorites as "Onward, Christian Soliders" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Or not.

While there was not, as I had predicted, a naked conga line around the block, this was the first public shoot at which not one but three models offered to remove their tops. (I declined.) At times it was all a bit much for a humble naïf from the Pennsylvania hill country, but I managed to escape with my virtue mostly intact. Thank goodness for my old-fashioned upbringing, is all I can say.

Here are six of the newest additions, chosen at random. It was a delight to meet you all–or see you again, as the case may be.

Six Panels

Before the evening wrapped up, Vicki (seated, center) and her acolytes graciously posed (fully clothed) for a group portrait.

Les demoiselles de Loopy

There's no pretending that in the yarn business, fair prices and a good selection are important–but the personal touch is what puts a place over the top. Vicki knows it, and it was evident from the joyful tenor of the evening that in running her shop she has also created a terrific sense of community among her customers. It came across in the photographs, and I'm grateful.

Happy Anniversary, Loopy Yarns, and many more.

Knitting Notes

I don't want Abigail running around naked during the cold months in Maine, so I felt compelled to make her the kimono from Fancy-Ass Knits for Spoiled Rotten Babies by Debbie Bliss. (I'm not certain that's the exact title, but it's close enough.) The various pieces are all blocked and are drying on the living room floor. Here's a scintillating view of the lower corner of the right-hand front.

Unfinished corner, blocked

If the yarn looks at all familiar, it's because both colors were also used ages ago in the Seneca Sweater. I think the mauve (Jo Sharp DK) will look fetching on her. The kimono itself is so simple that frankly it'd be a bore to knit if it weren't such a tiny thing. What will give it va-voom is the embroidery. Debbie calls for demure little daisies, but I'm thinking of something a touch more exotic with a whiff of 19th century Japonaiserie about it. Something she can throw on when there's not much to do but recline on the Turkish cushions in her nursery and smoke Gauloises in the silver cigarette holder Dolores sent for the christening.

I'm also working down the leg of the second of a pair of cabled socks and clicking along a piece of lace. However, all may stop dead for a little while because...

I got my Ravelry invitation this morning.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bits 'n' Bobs

I got photographs from Susan of Abigail in her Tulip Jacket. Already she combines the verve of Suzy Parker and the emotional versatility of Lisa Fonssagrives.

En Tulipe

Tour Swag

Those of you who haven't caught Dolores and Her Ball Band on the road can now pick up souvenirs (posters, bags, shirts and such) in the shop.

Loopy Yarns 1000 Knitters Shoot

Just a reminder that I'll be shooting for the project at Loopy Yarns during their anniversary party this Friday evening, September 7, from 5 pm to about 8:30 pm. If you'd like to participate, there's no need to sign up in advance, just be there and be ready to knit. If you haven't already done so, please check out the Information for Knitters page on the project blog.

I notice in the Loopy Yarns blog that they're having a 20% off sale on Mirasol Yarns from Peru on that day. Hmm.

A Question Answered

This is from way back. Reader Tami was curious about the children's books pictured along with the Tulip Jacket. They are:
  • Lullaby-Land by Eugene Field
  • Cinderella and Other Nursery Stories (in an edition by F. Warne & Co., circa 1900)
  • Merrie England by Grace Greenwood
  • A Little Garden Calendar, an utter horror perpetrated by Albert Bigelow Paine
  • The Children's Book of London by G.E. Mitton
I have to share the inscription written in a very tight, precise hand on the half-title page of the last:
To Elizabeth and Sidney - To recall a delightful Noël in London and the affection and best wishes of their friend and Rector. 1905. N.D. Moxon

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Glamorous Life

Dear Franklin,

Hi it's Harry. I am writing from somewhere on the road, I am not sure where exactly but I think we are still in Illinois. We are all okay except Stan who got stepped on when we were in Marengo and Dolores had a wardrobe malfunction and it got kind of wild and somebody called the police and we spent part of the night in jail, and Stan got into a rumble with this guy named Fang and then they had to put us in a special cell all by ourselves except for this ball of acrylic worsted that was in on a charge of public lewdness.

Dolores said not to worry that all the big celebrities are having criminal records now like Paris Hilton and it's just a normal part of show business like having your breasts done or sleeping with Julia Roberts.

So far the show is a hit I think but we changed a few numbers like the Tribute to the Moulin Rouge because Victorine said the can can is not so impressive when sock yarn is doing it because we don't have any legs to kick with. While we are driving between gigs Victorine is teaching us the kind of French they speak in Canada and at first it made my throat hurt but now it's fun because I am getting so good at it I can insult filthy Anglos and they don't even know it.

I am doing very well as a performer and Dolores lets me do a solo between the first and second act and collect tips, when we played Gurnee I made $4.32. I am saving up to buy a new Kenneth Cole ball band.

Well I guess that is all for now I hope we come home soon because the food is pretty bad please say hi to Mrs Teitelbaum for me and all the neighbors. All the guys say hi and we hope you are not so lonely without us there Dolores says why don't you put down the damn knitting and try hanging out at the corner of Broadway and Roscoe in your chaps.

Your buddy,

PS Here is our tour poster please save it I want to put it in my scrapbook when we get home. I am sorry it kind of smells like a beer but so do we all right now.

Tour Poster 2007