Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The People on the Other Side of the Screen

It's not finished yet–the "hometown" launch party for It Itches is coming up this weekend at Arcadia Knitting*–but October 2008 has already felt like a carnival ride that combines in equal measure the thrills of a roller coaster, water slide, merry-go-round, haunted house and one of those gigantic swings that makes you fear you might throw up all over the person next to you.

It's not just because the book is out, though. I'm happy about that, of course. But the real excitement in October has been meeting the People on the Other Side of the Screen.

That's how I think of you, the folks who read what I write. Usually I'm here and you're there, and you can see me but for the most part I can't see you. Some of you leave comments, so I know you're around, but I've never actually heard you laugh–until now.

Way Down South

I was still buzzed from YarnCon a week later, when I headed down to Yarn Expressions in Huntsville, Alabama for the final 1,000 Knitters Project shooting day.

At the shop I discovered that as usual, a Certain Someone had preceded me. Indeed, she had established her party headquarters on the premises, apparently with owner Meg's full knowledge and permission.

Fibertarians of Alabama

Helen (Knitter 0982), Vice President of Propaganda, was responsible for the striking campaign posters, in which Dolores looks uncannily like Josef Stalin. Helen presented me with a rather striking piece of winter knitwear, which you can see in her blog post about the weekend. I intend to get a lot of wear out of it, especially if I have the chance to travel to Minnesota.

This being the South, every sort of hospitality had been arranged. We had appropriately spooky, Octoberish spider web cupcakes prepared by Alexandra, whose mother Jill (aka Knitter 0988) is part of the Yarn Expressions crew.

Huntsville Cupcakes

The 45 spaces had all been claimed in advance–and what a collection of beautiful, warm people filled them. They came from Alabama, they came from elsewhere in the south (including a wagonload from Muscle Shoals). They even came, in the form of two adventurous sisters, all the way from New Mexico.

Huntsville Knitters

The scarf isn't finished yet. A few more knitters and a few more rows are still to come, but all the spaces have been allotted. Knitter 1000 should bind off in November, and then I'll finally have the courage to measure this thing. I haven't done that yet. All I can tell you is that after Huntsville, it takes up about a quarter of my big suitcase.

Interlude

In between Hunstville and the New York Sheep and Wool Festival I packed and shipped orders for the Guys with Yarn calendar. It is presently out of stock but new copies will be available in the Etsy shop later today or tomorrow morning.

Over Yonder

Then it was time to go to Rhinebeck for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival to officially launch It Itches, and to see old friends–including QueerJoe, who spearheaded the incredible act of generosity that made my first trip to Rhinebeck possible.

Since childhood, I had dreamed of this day. In my dreams I was taller, thinner and hadn't just stepped in sheep droppings. Aside from that, however, reality surpassed imagination.

I had the good fortune to travel to the festival with my dear friend Carol, her friend and co-author (on the fantastic Knit So Fine) Laura, and the handsome Jim, a knitter who should have a calendar of his own next year called Jim with Yarn.

Carol's detailed account of the weekend may be found on her blog. I don't remember any of what she wrote about, but then I was preoccupied with trying not to do or say anything too stupid with so many people watching.

Carol and my sister, Susan, took pictures of the signing, and I'm glad they did because when we got to the fairgrounds I realized I'd brought my camera, but left my batteries and memory cards at the hotel.

First in line was a family group: Ravelry folks DonnaHaddad, her daughter-in-law ErickaJo, and her son MackDaddyHaddad. (Imagine, a family that can go to Rhinebeck together without having to drag anybody by the scruff of the neck.)

First in Line

And look–I finally got to meet the lovely Knitnat, who founded the Dolores Devotees group in Ravelry.

Founder of the Devotees

Susan took a few pictures of me in the midst of the hubbub. I'm pleased with the way the Turn-a-Square hat looks paired with the Edo Scarf.

Upon request, I was happy to provide specific inscriptions.

Inscription

The line got so long at one point that I'm pretty sure people must have been expecting somebody else at the end of it.

Sincere Thanks

And guess who else was there?

Abby and the Sheep

My Exceptional Niece Abigail® arrived in grand estate, mother and grandmother in tow, to wish me well and meet the sheep. From the looks of this picture, the pleasure was mutual.

If she loves sheep...can yarn be far behind?

*Noon to 2 pm, with a reading at 1 p.m. Contact the shop if you'd like to reserve a copy.

PS. Note to reader SB, who gave me a beautiful card and gift–I would like to thank you properly, but it turns out I don't have any contact information for you. Please drop me an email, won't you? franklin at franklinhabit daht cahm.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blazing a Trail

For a candidate whose party funds are low, particularly on the morning after dollar beer/quarter lap dance night at the Lucky Horseshoe, Dolores has been covering an awful lot of ground on her campaign tour.

Ajax, Ontario, Canada

Ajax, Ontario, Canada

Canadians won't be voting for the next president of the United States, but Dolores took advantage of a Netsaver fare to spread international goodwill on behalf of the party. "I just adore Canadians," she said during a roadside address to a crowd of three at a busy crossing in Ajax. "You're industrious, you're polite, you appreciate good wool and you put beer on your breakfast cereal. What's not to love?"

Sacramento, California

Sacramento, CA

A loyal Fibertarian in the California capital snagged this shot of the candidate's motorcade as she prepared to tour the city and curry favor with the natives by tossing handfuls of Pall Mall cigarettes into the throng.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis

When Dolores paid a surprise call on a typical American family in the heart of the Heartland, their excitement was overwhelming.

Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong, China

Understanding full well that China's emerging power is a force to be reckoned with, Dolores visited the nerve center of the country's economy. "If I were an American," said a local official, "this is the candidate I would support. She is head and shoulders above the crowd."

Sioux City, Iowa

Sioux City, IA

Even her opponents admit that Dolores knows her way around the legal system. In Sioux City, she playfully ruled on several cases at the federal courthouse before the marshal managed to chew through the ropes and spoil the fun.

Cologne, Minnesota

Cologne, MN

During a visit to this charming corner of Minnesota, Dolores partied with her power base at Whistling Winds Farm.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, IL

During a whistle stop in her home city, Dolores garnered the endorsement of the powerful Future Knitters of America lobby.

Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, FL

Although securing of world peace is way up there on the candidate's to-do list, she was proud to pose with this symbol of American military preparedness. "I want our men and women in uniform to know I am right behind them," said she said. "And I'm willing to get on top of them, too, if that's what they'd prefer."

Mountain Park, Georgia

Mountain Park, GA

When it comes to supporting environmentalism, even Al Gore has nothing on Dolores. Here, she communes with nature in one of Georgia's garden spots. "I take great pride," she said, "in noting that I, myself, am at least 80% biodegradable. Top that, McCain."

Tallahassee, Florida

Tallahassee, FL

At Really Knit Stuff, Dolores revealed her vision of the Local Yarn Store as the new backbone of America's economy. "In the nation we will create," she wrote, "there will be yarn on every corner, and a skein in every dye pot."

Austin, Texas

Austin, TX

At Fibertarian Party stronghold The Knitting Nest, all stops were pulled out for a massive rally and all-night square dance. "Austin," said Dolores, "is the place I visit when I want to feel normal."

The University of Maine at Orono

Orono, ME

The first of Dolores's many stadium appearances took place on the verdant grounds of the University of Maine at Orono. "I have a dream," said the candidate, gazing down upon the sea of eager students. "I have a dream, and you are part of it. At least, those of you who are at least 18 years of age are part of it. Eighteen is legal in Maine, right? Or is it sixteen?"

Portland, Oregon

Portland, OR

In Portland, Dolores was abducted and briefly held captive in the back seat of a Volkswagen by a deranged fan before being rescued by police.

Casper, Wyoming

Casper, WY

"This place," said Dolores, "really gives Austin a run for its money."

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, PA

Another capacity crowd greeted the candidate at Heinz Field. Really. They all showed up at once, right after this picture was taken. Honest.

Pittsburgh, PA

Afterwards, one of the city's most eligible bachelors escorted Dolores to a scenic viewpoint and then she made the rest of us leave for half an hour.

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, OH

Who better to put the "swing" in swing state? On the first day of early voting for Ohio elections, Ms. Van Hoofen gets as close as legally possible to a public polling place. (We are happy to report that her fine for trespassing on public greenery was later overturned.)

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, AK

"She's right," said Dolores during a brief stop at the Alaska governor's mansion. "You really can see Russia from the front porch." The lady of the house was not at home, so our candidate left a gift for her on the steps. (It took four men with scrub brushes and bleach five hours to remove it.)

Gourock, Inverclyde; and Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland

"It has long been a commonplace," said Dolores, "that in Scotland, the men are strong and the sheep are nervous. I would like to think that during my visit those roles were reversed."

Scotland

Falmouth, Kentucky

Kentucky Sheep and Wool

During an impromptu appearance at the Kentucky Wool Festival, Dolores scared the hell out of a spinner in the vendor market. "You would think," she said, "that he'd be accustomed to chicks like me hanging around him."

Brunswick, Ohio

Brunswick, OH

Although she is primarily known as a musical genius and political visionary, Dolores ably stepped in to substitute teach Italian at this Ohio high school because she is a very cunning linguist.

Soquel, California

Soquel, CA

"What the hell is up with putting water on the bar?" said Dolores. "Freaking Californians."

Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar

It's a long way to the Persian Gulf, but no distance is too great for our girl to travel when there are loyal Fibertarians to be met. They had cake!

Eugene, Oregon

Eugene, OR

A deeply sunburnt Dolores (it's very sunny in Qatar) joined supporters Meg (center) and Oliver (right) for a photo opportunity at the annual Eugene Memory Walk for the Alzheimer's Association of Oregon. Addressing the crowd, Dolores said, "This is a cause dear to my heart. You can't truly appreciate what a precious thing memory is unless you've blacked out as many times as I have."

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, MO

In a stunning display of largesse, Dolores posed with Fibertarian organizer Laura Gayle (left) and openly hostile Canadian blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot. Pearl-McPhee, who (we repeat) is Canadian, famously questioned our beloved candidate's qualifications an episode of the popular Y Knit podcast. The two have since kissed and made up, although Pearl-McPhee (the Canadian) denies the kissing part.

And the Bleat Goes On...

The tour doesn't end until November 1, so if you'd like to host Dolores and be considered for the grand prize for best photo, check out this entry for details.

See You at Rhinebeck? Or Elsewhere?

The official launch of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons is this weekend at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival! I'll be signing copies on Saturday from noon until at least 2 p.m. at the Carolina Homespun (yum!) booth (not in the author tent).

Some folks have been asking about a tour and/or book signings, and here's what I can tell you.
  • As appearances are confirmed, they're added to the list here.

  • I'll happily go anywhere I'm asked, if the proper arrangements can be made. Don't see your town on the list yet, but would like to? Recommend me to your guild or your favorite LYS. All they have to do is write to me at franklin at franklinhabit daht cahm and I'll happily send along my list of my offerings (talks, readings, classes, etc) and travel requirements.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dullsville Welcomes You

The Wedding Ring Shawl is taunting me. I haven't touched it since realizing my latest mistake–I skipped an entire row in the chart–at the end of September.

I'm still knitting, but all my projects right now add up to one long snore, at least in the telling. There's a little sweater here. And a hat. And a striped scarf I'm making from what looks like Noro Kureyon

Striped Scarf

but is actually a budget-priced imitator I got at Threadbear–Kaleidoscope from Elegant Yarns. It doesn't have the ineffable shimmer of Kureyon, but it's pure wool and it cost eight bucks for 174 yards. I can deal with a lower shimmer rating for eight bucks.

I know what's going on. I've switched temporarily from knitting as thrill to knitting as anesthetic. I already have a full bucket of thrills, thank you. These include:
  • The thrill of having a new book on the shelves. (Or at least, according to my latest intelligence, on the way to the shelves–look for it early next week.)

  • The thrill of traveling to far-away places to meet wonderful knitters who want me to sign the book.
Such thrills run hand-in-hand with even more thrills, including:
  • The thrill of hurtling through space to the next signing praying my airplane will not suddenly plummet to earth.

  • The thrill of knowing that in the course of any given signing I will fail to recognize at least half the wonderful knitters I've seen before. (Among my friends I am notorious for this. I forget the names and faces of my own kin if it's been more than six months since our last meeting. "Why yes, we've been introduced. I'm your mother.")

  • The thrill of trying to make a living in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by drawing funny pictures of sheep.
So I am knitting things that just go back and forth, or round and round. A slow fox trot, instead of a gay (shut up) tarantella.

But it's just for the moment. I'm looking at you, Wedding Ring Shawl.

Man Flesh for Sale

Calendar Preview

No, not mine. But the Guys with Yarn calendar is here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

With a Banjo on My Knee


While I was packing the 1,000 Knitters gear last night, in preparation for today's flight to Yarn Expressions in Huntsville, I was trying to remember the last time I set foot in Alabama. I think it must have been in the 1970s, as my family drove across country from our old post in Arizona to a new assignment in central Ohio.

I know we stayed for several days with good friends in Atkins, Arkansas. I remember Arkansas well as the first place I encountered a live chicken (eek) and the first place I swam in a mud-bottomed lake (eek) instead of a concrete swimming pool. I also remember crossing into Kentucky and being profoundly disappointed that the grass did not turn blue.

I have also sailed twice down the Danube River and can tell you that it's not blue, either. Neither is Hawaii, come to think of it, except for the wet bits. Makes me wonder what other Big Geographic Color Promises are setting me up for a fall. The Yellow River? The Emerald Isle? The White Cliffs of Dover?

Where the hell was I going with this?

Oh, yeah. Alabama.

I find that I don't remember Alabama, and I think we must have driven through it while I was sleeping in the back seat. Or we may have skipped it entirely and that this will, in fact, be my first visit.

In any case, I can't wait. When you're from up North (in my case, just barely–I was born about 15 minutes north of West Virginia), the South may puzzle or bemuse, but it never disappoints.

There's been a fun development in the schedule, by the way. All the spots for the 1,000 Knitters shoot tomorrow (Saturday) have been filled, but Interweave has engaged in heroic measures to get a small shipment of It Itches to Huntsville for a book signing on Saturday afternoon. The timing is inexact and will depend upon to some extent on how long the shoot takes, but around 3 p.m. is a good bet. My recommendation is that to call ahead on the day for a more exact forecast. Do drop in if you can.

And now I have to go because it's nearly time for head for the airport and I still don't know which knitting to take. I realize that actual knitting has been absent from the blog this week, and I hate that. I intend lots of it for next week, as well as the first reports from Dolores on her Campaign Tour. You won't believe where she's been. (Always true, but now even more so.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Weekend o' Thrills

It's not as though I didn't warn him.

On Friday evening I was still not quite finished with everything that needed to be ready for YarnCon on Saturday morning. Not my fault, honestly. Just you try putting together display booth with a crazed presidential candidate throwing a fit on the living room rug because her campaign manager not only failed to secure her a slot in the televised debates, but also ignored direct orders to open the campaign ads with the candidate's own harmonica rendition of "America, The Beautiful."

Anyhow, Tom said that in order to save me transit time he'd be happy to provide a ride to Loopy and hang out while I mingled, then drive me home again. Tom is not a knitter, but he learned the rudiments of the language by watching over my shoulder as I wrote the little book. He knows which end of the needle is the business end. He felt confident in his ability to survive an hour in a yarn shop unscathed.

We got down to Printer's Row about ten minutes before the scheduled start of the party and the place was already seething like a tank of touchy barracudas. Struggling through the knot of frenzied shoppers near the cash desk, I shouted to Tom to keep his head low–books and yarn were flying all over the place.

The crowd would have blown the doors right off the old Loopy but fit tolerably well inside the new, larger location. Among the wonders is a wall of Cascade that could induce palpitations in the sensitive, which indeed seems to be happening in this picture.

New Loopy

At the center of the uproar, serenely ensconced in the book nook like a primal Knitting Goddess, was Ann Shayne–the Dixon half of Mason-Dixon Knitting, signing the team's gorgeous Knitting Outside the Lines.

Ann at Loopy

Notice that Ann, who is otherwise an absolutely lovely person, used this photo opportunity to compare the relative statures of her book and mine. I would take umbrage, except everyone knows that Size Doesn't Matter.

Tom and I got separated for a while, but I eventually found him near the door of the sock yarn room. He looked slightly disoriented and was nursing a bite on one hand, suffered by accidentally reaching too close to somebody's basket of Lorna's Laces. The doctor's predicts a full recovery, through the nervous tic may be with us for several weeks.

The next morning was YarnCon 2008, greatly expanded from the first edition in 2007. This year, the vendors spilled out of the central hall of the Pulaski Fieldhouse

Yarn Con Main Hall

and into a second room, the gymnasium.

I got a plummy spot just inside the door of the gym, which makes YarnCon '08 the first time I've ever enjoyed myself on a basketball court. No, wait. The second. But I won't tell you about the first time because my mother might be reading this.

Our centerpiece was Polly, a creation of the Windy City Knitting Guild who made her d├ębut a couple years ago at the Winter Delights Stitching Salon. Polly's voluminous skirt keeps growing as knitters continue to work on it.

Yarn Con Polly

I lost count of the number of folks who stopped by to say hello and check out the display of original panels from It Itches. Dozens? Hundreds? What I will never forget is that you laughed, and after drawing the pictures in solitude it was a relief to find they could make you laugh out loud.

My own selection of souvenir photos is paltry, but there's a great photo pool here for you to swim in.

Shop Notes
  • Somebody must have started something behind the scenes, because over the weekend I got about a dozen e-mails entreating the re-issue of the tree ornaments from 2005-2007. As once correspondent succinctly put it, "It's not my fault I didn't buy the 2005 ornament in 2005, because in 2005 nobody knew who the hell you were." I can't argue with that. So for a limited time (through December) and just this once, I've put the old ornaments back up in the Cafe Press shop (see the main page) for those who want to fill in gaps.

    Ornaments

  • The stock of gift enclosure cards in the Etsy shop will be replenished as soon as the new printing arrives. I thought I'd my initial order would be sufficient for two months. Oops.

  • Guys with Yarn is on its way up from the printers and should be available in about two days, so keep your shirts on...although they didn't.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Surprise Package

I got a package in the mail from Interweave–via FedEx Overnight, no less.

One

Inside, something wrapped in starry starry paper.

Two

Inside the paper, my dream come true.

Three

This little book is sitting on my drawing table because of you, dear readers. If you hadn't begun showing up and leaving encouraging comments, I'd still be tossing all my idle scribbles into the trash and wondering what life would have been like had I gone to art school.

From the damp foundations beneath the creepy sub-basement of my brimming heart, I thank you.