Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Celebrity Fashion Show

Here at the Panopticon, it's not just about knitting big things. We also knit small. And though we are not willing to go to the extreme of actually having a baby in order to knit baby things, when babies are in proximity we are only too pleased to knit for them.

Messieurs-dames, je vous présente an extremely short fashion show of modes des bébés in progress.

Lumière! Musique!

You know him best as the composer of La Bohème and Madama Butterfly. But just for today suave and sexy Giacomo "Three-Minute Aria" Puccini has hopped on the catwalk to show off an ensemble destined for a baby as yet unborn, but expected in January.

We think you'll agree, ladies and gentleman, that Giacomo is blessed with a hat face (not to mention a pair of cheekbones that Katharine Hepburn would have envied) and how better to set it off than with this snowy white, 100% acrylic cloche from Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Knitted Gifts. A simple rolled brim adds an extra layer of warmth around the ears. A fetching bow at the forehead, made from I-cord, adds a certain je ne sais pas la plume de ma tante.

And Jack Frost won't have a chance to nip at Giacomo's pretty shoulders–not when they're covered up and cozy inside a scarf created in a zig-zag rib from Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Only the finishing fringe is lacking to make this outfit complete.

Thank you, Giacomo.

And no fashion show on this blog would be complete without the Panopticon's answer to Heidi Klum. Ladies and gentlemen: give it up for Her Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, and one hell of a good time when you get a little brandy in her.

Victoria is sporting another chapeau from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, the baby bonnet.

On the principle that what's good plain is better fancy, our version of the simple bonnet will include a strip of lace at the collar. We selected the "Doris" edging from Sharon Miller's peerless Heirloom Knitting (eternal thanks to Jean for being the person who alerted us to this book), as being a pattern easily memorized, fun to knit, and perfectly sized for a modest edging.

Victoria's bonnet, like Giacomo's ensemble, is knitted from absolutely the finest 100% snow white acrylic because, frankly, we know if the mother-to-be (a non-knitter) receives anything she has to hand-wash, she'll just throw it away.

We are also still trying to get rid of this gigantic ball of white acrylic that has turned out three hats and two scarves, not to mention several dozen lengths of "waste yarn" and a several stitch swatches, but which refuses to get any smaller.

Okay, darlings, I have to go. Apparently Victoria just chucked her cell phone at one of the hairdressers.


Monday, November 28, 2005

A Knitting Question, Answered

Why yes, as a matter of fact it is possible to knit on a rain-soaked Chicago Elevated Railway platform while wearing gloves.

I'm knitting Susan's wrap, which will be her Christmas present. And that's all I'm knitting, until it's finished.

The wrap, which will keep her warm in a draughty Maine classroom, is an adaptation of the Ruana from Cheryl Oberle's wonderful Folk Shawls. I've passed through the scary "I will never finish this in time" stage and the equally scary "Sweet Land o' Goshen, this is ugly" stage. I now feel confident of an on-time delivery, and of her satisfaction with the finished product.

This is a far cry from the night before Thanksgiving, when I fell asleep working on it and had a dream that she unwrapped it on Christmas morning and threw up.

Here's a sneak preview (for which I secured advance permission from the recipient).

The wool is Jo Sharp DK. No, the itty-bitty pumpkin is not part of the garment.

A note, by the way, to anybody contemplating knitting the Ruana from Cheryl Oberle's wonderful Folk Shawls. If you make the full-sized article, you'll pretty much be knitting a large afghan on size 7 needles mostly with worsted-weight yarn. Entirely in garter stitch.

Pause, knitter, and consider.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stuff It!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Yes, even to those of you who aren't American. Here's to hoping that tomorrow everyone reading this will enjoy some time in the day with people they love, or doing something they love.

And if you've never experienced Thanksgiving Day, it is without doubt the most American of holidays. We celebrate it through equal parts sloth and overeating, with the following day devoted to shopping. This festival day expresses our national ethos in a way that the Fourth of July never will.

(I will be eating Cheerios and going out early to shoot photographs. I am a very odd sort of American.)

"On the other hand," thought Brenda,
"I bet I could store at least three balls of worsted in there."

Monday, November 21, 2005

At the Gay Rodeo, Part III: Competition

Steer Riding

Jove asked how I wound up getting interested in rodeo. The short form is that my father is from (and I was born in) a part of the country that is heavily tinged with hilbilly. We lived all over the United States, moving around with the Air Force, but country/western music came along with us wherever we went. Then came college and a long residence in Boston, during which time I was determined to purify myself of everything rustic and blue collar. It didn't work. After two years of living in Chicago, I started two-stepping at Charlie's bar. And then I made friends with my buddy John, a resident of Dallas, who lured me down to Fort Worth for my first gay rodeo.

Which is why I have now spent many hours of my life photographing gay men and lesbians putting underwear on goats. (Keep reading. You'll see.)

Shooting the competitive events in progress is the toughest part of a rodeo for me, and also the most exciting. Some of the challenge comes from shooting with a camera that has limits capturing fast action in low light. Although for fans and competitors it may seem that all is bright, my faithful little Canon can struggle to keep up.

Grand Entry: Trooping the Colors

Sometimes I like to use this situation to advantage, as in the picture above. The arena crew, standing still, is sharp. The flag rider, galloping past, is blurred. To me, the contrast makes for a more interesting shot than one in which everybody appears to be still.

I've learned to "pan" my camera along with (for example) moving horses and bulls in order to get the shots I need. This isn't foolproof (one can't always swing the camera at precisely the speed the horse is moving, while keeping it in the frame), but when I works the result is gratifyingly kinetic.

(Note: I notice with annoyance that both Blogger and Flickr [my two means of adding images] have a "helpful" image compression built in that squeezes the detail right out of these photos, which I've already compressed to my own satisfaction. Ah, well. It probably only makes difference to me. But I swear they're not so blurry as they appear.)

Barrel Racing

Barrel Racing

Barrel Racing

Flag Racing

Flag Racing

Flag Racing

Breakaway Roping

Breakaway Roping

Breakaway Roping

Team Roping

Steer Decorating

Bareback Bronc Riding

Loading a rider, Women's Bareback Bronc Riding

Very Short Ride, Bareback Bronc Riding

Prep for the Wild Drag Race

Wild Drag Race

Wild Drag Race

Wild Drag Race

Wild Drag Race

Goat Dressing

Goat Dressing

Goat Dressing

Loading the chute, steer riding

Steer Riding

Steer Riding

Bull Riding

If you'd like more information on what in tarnation is going on in these pictures, you can get the whole scoop from the International Gay Rodeo Association Web site.

Friday, November 18, 2005

At the Gay Rodeo, Part II: Cowboys, Cowgirls, and Crew

When I was at the rodeo there was a crew from the Travel Channel interviewing attendees for an upcoming series on gay travel destinations. I didn't realize at the time that the little queen interviewing me is a gay reality TV figure, from some show about a race or racing or something.

One of the questions he asked was whether "gays like rodeo because of the dress-up element." I said while it didn't hurt, it isn't the main point. A gay rodeo is not a circuit party. It's not about A-list gays posing in silly costumes. If it were, I wouldn't be there.

Not, mind you, that I am immune to the appeal of well-fitted jeans and cowboy boots. I just prefer them on the real thing, not a porn star or a gym rat.

I'd like to thank the crew of the rodeo for their patience and good nature. The area behind the chutes, to which I had access for the first time in making rodeo photographs, is crowded, busy and dangerous. I was very nervous about getting in their way, but they were equally concerned about helping me out.

Rodeo people are good people.