Friday, September 29, 2006

Q & A Period

It's the end of one hell of a week and I'm feeling too tired to turn cartwheels for your amusement, so I know what let's do. Let's dig into the giant, mouldering heap of Unanswered Reader Questions and see if we can't answer a few.

Oh, I know. I'm excited too. Just please take your shoes off if you must jump and down on the sofa. Thank you.

Question: I asked you a question in your comments two months ago and you never answered me. Are you a snob, or a moron, or what?

Answer: I forget to answer questions because I'm a moron. I refuse to listen to Kelly Clarkson because I'm a snob.

Question: WTF is holding up your Baby Surprise Jacket in that photo?*

Answer: If you guessed "rolling pin," you're correct! I was so delighted to find yet another use for it, beyond making piecrust and threatening Dolores.

Question: Is Dolores Jewish, or does she just have a penchant for Yiddish slang?

Answer: Dolores was raised agnostic and claims to be a Taoist. However, like me she finds the allure of the Yiddish tongue irresistible.

Question: What does fahrklempt mean?

Answer: My goodness, how funny that you would ask. It's Yiddish, meaning (roughly) all choked up with emotion.

Question: Wait a minute. What is a former-Catholic-now-Buddhist doing using Yiddish words in his blog?

Answer: Trying to attract a hot Jewish man. So sue me.

Question: What sort of yarn is Jo Sharp DK Aran?

Answer: That should be just plain "Jo Sharp DK." Host du bie mir an avleh. I keep forgetting to go in and fix it. It's a nice double-knitting weight wool. It worked well for the Ruana because it didn't weigh too much; the trade off was the amount of time involved in knitting it to size. I'd advise anybody knitting the Ruana according to Cheryl Oberle's pattern to swatch, swatch, swatch with the yarns of your choice before you begin–you'll want to check out in advance what sort of fabric your yarn choices will yield.

Question: Howzabout you put Dolores on some baby stuff in your online shop?

Answer: Bist meshugeh? Oy, I've been losing sleep over this one. Dolores? The shikker with the cigarettes and the gigolos du jour? On baby stuff? I'm not certain whether to be flattered for Dolores or afraid for your child, but okay. I finally figured out a way to do it that won't make me feel responsible for the collapse of morals in the next generation. Watch for it soon.

Question: Any word on a Dulaan Knit In for Chicago?

Answer: Yes. Tentatively hold the first Saturday of November, during the day, at a venue in Evanston, Illinois. More (and firmer) details this coming week. We'll knit, we'll fress, it'll be a simcha.

Question: Can you recommend sources for learning to knit lace?

Answer: Yes. For a concise and informative overview of lace tips, check out Marilyn's handout. For a full-blown online primer, visit Eunny. There lots more out there on the Internet–these are just two favorites that spring to mind. Please note that both Marilyn and Eunny are really good about answering reader questions. Ahf mir gezogt!

Question: Boxers or briefs?

Answer: On me or you, yungermantshik?

*On rereading, this reminds me of my favorite anecdote about Mary Garden, an opera singer who in the early years of the 20th century had the sort of fame we now reserve for giant creative talents like Lindsay Lohan. Garden was a hottie, to put it mildly. At a party Chauncey Depew took a look at her plunging neckline and asked, "Tell me, Miss Garden, what's holding up that dress?" To which she replied, "Your age and my discretion."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


As I think I've mentioned a couple times before, I work in a weird space. Instead of a purpose-built office building, my department does its thing in what used to be a family mansion, complete with an anaemic Stockbroker Tudor turret running up one side.

My corner of the mansion is up in the attic, under the dormers. This office was carved out of what had been a single, large room running the full depth of the house from north to south. I suspected it to be, and have since learned that it was, a dormitory for the female household staff.

What I'd not been able to figure out until recently is why my part of the room is elevated. The desk, file cabinet, and everything else perch on a deep platform about eight inches higher than the rest of the space. As 19th century domestic life is one of my fascinations, I spent a lot of odd moments mulling this over. I confirmed that there was no structural reason for the platform– no beams or ductwork concealed beneath.

I wondered if, for some hierarchical reason, one of the maids was given a bed higher than the others. But that seemed absurd, and I'd never heard of any such arrangement. Especially in the United States, parlormaids were parlormaids. The butler and housekeeper for this family had their own bedrooms on this floor (hers with a window onto the stairs, so she could monitor comings and goings).

And then all became clear when I was rummaging through the archives and found a program from an event that took place here decades ago. At that time, I learned, the building housed the religious center. And the large room in the attic was the chapel.

Every day I come into work and sit on the altar.

Now the question I mull over in odd moments is whether this makes me a God or a Sacrfice. Given the working conditions around here, I suspect the latter.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Mail of Two Kitties

Let's pretend for a minute (you're not busy, are you?) that Barbara Walters has decided to include me in her next interview special. (Shut up. It could happen.)

We've both been through makeup and whatnot and are sitting on my ugly fake-chintz sofa. Both of us are lit just so. One last sound check. Roll camera.

Barbara leads with one of her signature powerful questions:
"So, Fwanklin. You've been knitting a gweat deal these past two years. Do you want to tell us about that? Has it...changed you at all?"
Why, yes it has, Barbara, and thank you for asking.

In the dark, strange days before I knew what the hell k2tog meant, I hated cats. Wouldn't draw them, wouldn't pet them, certainly didn't want to own one. This had always been so. As a child, watching "Tom and Jerry," I was firmly on the side of the mouse. Faster, Jerry, faster! Kill! Kill!

As an adult, I felt that if I wished to live with something aloof and bad-tempered that shed all over the house and only noticed me when I was feeding it, I could have stayed with Mr. Ex.

I was careful, of course, not to say this to many knitters. Knitters, on the whole, enjoy the company of cats, some to the point of idolatry. Perhaps it's the common bond of Yarn Fascination. I like the pretty string, you like the pretty string. Let's be friends forever.

But I confess the allure still escaped me. I didn't want some stupid feral animal snarling my worsted and chewing the ends of my needles. Hell no.

Then knitting led to blogging, and blogging led to reading things like this and this.

And then, dammit, I was gone.

Unfortunately, the terms of my lease and Dolores's "cat issues" mean there will be no pitter patter of little feet (aside from mine) around the apartment. So if I want Cat Time I'll have to settle for mooching off Cats Elsewhere.

Two cats who are Very Much Elsewhere just got these in the mail from me.*

Cat Toys

They're from the "Catwarming Set" in Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. To finish two was the work of an evening (albeit divided into little bits over the course of a week or so) and it was fun. Just mind you look up the errata online before setting off.

Aren't they precious? Can't you just see the little bitty kitties batting them about on the floor? Pushing them around with their dear little paws? Curling up with them in their little mouths? So cute! Eeep! Who's a good kitty? Who's a good kitty? Get the little mousie, kitty! Goooooood kitty! Eeeep!

Bleargh. What the hell is happening to me?

Frigging cats.

*I must draw your attention to the copies of Fabula de Petro Cuniculo and Fabula de Jemima Anate-Aquatica, generously loaned to me by reader Jackie. They're going home shortly, Jackie, and I thank you so much.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Scena Domestica

One hates to make premature judgements, and so I've waited until now to give you an update on the state of household since Dolores returned from her run with the biker gang.

We've already had a tussle over the ban on cigarettes. She attempted to cover the scent of half a pack of Virginia Slims by burning a whole box of my Japanese temple incense. I came home to find the apartment smelling like a klatsch of chain-smoking Buddhist nuns. Words were exchanged.

All missing and damaged books have been replaced, although the new edition of Kiss of the Whip (revised and expanded) already seems to have been nibbled on. I may have to invest in a small, locking case for certain types of literature.

Most surprising: her capable and even enthusiastic wrangling of the sock yarn colony. The fifty unruly skeins and balls seem to have brought out her long-dormant motherly instincts. The rabble has become quite docile, following her in two straight lines for daily jaunts to Lincoln Park and on field trips to the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum.

Field Trip

At night, she corrals them neatly before retiring to her cushion with a copy–certainly not mine–of How to Talk to Yarn So Yarn Will Listen and Listen So Yarn Will Talk.

And imagine my surprise when I returned home to find the following note taped to my desk:

The boys and I would be so pleased if you would join us in the living room at eight o'clock for a little surprise. Jacket and tie requested.

Suitably attired, I sat down on the sofa promptly at eight and Dolores entered, followed as usual by her crocodile of sock yarns. They arranged themselves neatly in two rows on the rose in the middle of the carpet, and then Dolores cleared her throat and blew an A on her harmonica.

"Laaaaaaaaaaaa," sang the balls of sock yarn.

There followed a short concert of traditional American favorites, including "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie," "Home on the Range," and "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight." In four part harmony. With choreography.

Ball Band

I applauded vigorously and was rewarded with "Where the Streets Have No Name" (D. Van Hoofen, harmonica soloist) as an encore.

It was all so touching I was dabbing at tears as the company took its final bow and the yarn rolled into the kitchen for light refreshments.

"Nu?" said Dolores. "Did you enjoy?"

"I'm overwhelmed," I said. "I thought I was harboring Belle Watling and here you turn out to be Maria Von Trapp."

"What a nice, and incredibly gay, thing to say."

"Well, I mean every sweet, homosexual word of it."

"That's swell, cupcake. Can I have fifty-three dollars?"


"It's dollar beer night at the Lucky Horsehoe. I told the boys you'd underwrite the cast party. And I'll need a couple extra singles to put into Julio's thong."

See, the thing about lasting change is, it's gradual.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Do You Dulaan?

I do.

I'm usually not much for charity knitting. In general, I feel that the poor can use my pocket money more than my stockinette. But I find that The Dulaan Project is an exception. It's a way to turn some of the joy I get from the process of knitting into happiness for others. That works for me. In case it might work for you, too, here's a bit of information.

The Dulaan Project, in case you're a new knitter or have been living in a cave for three years, is the brainchild of two beautiful people: Ryan of Mossy Cottage Knits and Konchog of Dreaming of Danzan Ravjaa.

The goal, in brief, is to send a dizzying number of warm, handmade garments and blankets to those who need them (especially children) in Mongolia, a place so cold that in February the wealthy inhabitants visit Chicago to lie out on the beach. Okay, I made that up. But it's cold there. Wicked cold. And a lot of people (especially children) face the winters with far less clothing than they ought.

For a much more complete, coherent description, visit Ryan's blog.

In addition to knitting my little bit, I'm also considering putting together a Dulaan Knit Night for Dulaan knitters in Chicagoland who'd like to congregate, most likely some time in early November. I have a beautiful venue at my disposal, and will post further details as they develop. If you'd perhaps be interested in attending, please speak up in the comments.

Dulaan Item Number One: Baby Surprise Jacket

Aside from selecting and attaching buttons, my first Baby Surprise Jacket is finished, and it's going to Mongolia.

This pattern, which I got from Elizabeth Zimmermann's The Opinionated Knitter, is legendary and it deserves to be. You knit the entire jacket in one, flat piece with weird shaping every so often. Before you know it, you have a symmetrical garter-stitch amoeba. You then fold this amoeba up just so, sew two short seams, and this is what you get:

Baby Surprise Jacket

I am so impressed with the creative genius behind this design that after I finished it I put EZ's picture on my altar and dedicated the merit of my morning chanting (such as it is) to her memory.

I used a heavier yarn (worsted weight) than the pattern suggests, in order to create jacket that would fit a slightly older baby. Or a baby that eats too many Big Macs, or likes to smuggle a flask of Jack Daniels in its diapers.

I loved everything about this project except the yarn, which is Lamb's Pride Worsted. The fabric is nice to touch, and it drapes well, but every time got up from a knitting session I was covered in mohair fluff. I looked like I'd been cuddling a nervous orange cat in my lap. Yecchh. Never again.

With different yarn, the Baby Surprise Jacket is going to become a mainstay whenever I want something fun but simple to knit up as a baby gift. In fact, if my female friends would please consider getting pregnant, I'd be much obliged. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Zen for Sale

The Book Impulse runs strong in my family. When we develop a new interest, there is always a corresponding rush to the bookshop. This is why a year ago I had one knitting book, and now have about forty. And why eight months ago I had one book on Buddhism, and now have half a shelf.

(Yes yes yes, I know you can't get Zen out of a book. But the covers are so pretty.)

I'd never thought about Buddhist magazines, though, until two days ago when I picked up something called Shambhala Sun because of the amusing cover illustration of George Washington sitting in full lotus. Ha, ha.

The articles were worth a read, aside from one Buddhist mother's endless description of how her son's "innocent, wondering" questions keep her on her Zen mettle. That one just set my teeth on edge. Lady, if you're reading this:

  1. I recommend you learn to make liberal use of the phrase "Because Mommy said so, that's why."

  2. This was transparently an excuse to write about how your child is the latest incarnation of Master Hakuin. Bully for you. Check in with us again after he robs his first liquor store.
I was also a smidgen startled when the fellow who interviewed the Dalai Lama said he was so compelled to be "pure" for their meeting that he refrained from "pleasuring" himself. I'm not sure I needed to know that. On the other hand, it's amusing to wonder if anybody's ever felt such a compulsion before interviewing Julia Roberts.

After I'd gone through all the articles I started noticing the ads. If I buy another copy of Shambhala Sun, I admit with a blush that it will be for the ads. Because they are delicious.

Some are what you'd expect. This meditation center, that cushion supply company. But then there are banners for companies that will furnish you with digital "Zen clocks" or invest your money according to the principles of the dharma. (The ad for the latter featured a statue of Buddha buried up to his pendulous earlobes in gold coins.)

And there are real estate advertisements. Properties, most of them in Santa Fe or Colorado, beginning in the half-millions. Not so different from such listings in uppity mainstream rags; except that instead of noting access to spectacular golfing, or electrified perimeter fences to zap unwanted Mexicans, they tout the proximity of stupas or retreat centers. Sotheby's, known worldwide as an avatar of the simple life, even takes care to note that it practices "mindful" real estate.

I love that. I can just imagine a pair of clench-jawed WASP Zennies looking down on the Asian-style adobe next door and thinking, "Sure, they have two Bentleys, but we can see the stupa from our his-and-hers teak jacuzzis from Dharmabubble."

Amazing how much non-attachment you can get for a couple million, no?

This lovely warm smugness filled up my stomach and a fully-complete blog entry sprang into my mind like Athena from the head of Zeus. Silly Americans buying enlightenment. Thinking that a triangular digital clock and an expensive platform bed will bring them closer to satori. An AmEx Gold card is not the key to enlightenment. What fools. Ha ha ha. Snark snark snark. Everybody knows retail consumption doesn't make you more of a Buddhist.

And then that frigging little voice in my head spoke up.

You bought the magazine, didn't you?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sweets to the Sweet

I was wandering around Whole Foods with a valued colleague when I was brought up short by the sight of a product previously unknown to me.

Oh, my.

And to think, I've always enjoyed it so much plain. I'd never have thought to make it fancy.

(By the way, if you don't understand why this is an odd name, please don't ask me to explain it. Ask Google. Or go ask Dolores. She was probably in the consumer focus group.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Go to Your Happy Place

I should not be blogging today, as there's work to do. But when I logged in to check e-mails yesterday's rant about missing Rhinebeck popped up and I hate the idea of it sitting there until Monday. I don't like whiny blogs and I don't want this to become one.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, missing a fiber festival ranks low on the list of tragedies that can befall a person. I know I haven't exactly been deprived of knitting events lately. My anger came more out of the manner in which my vacation was revoked, and that's symptomatic of much larger issues with my employer. But I don't write about work in here, so that's all I'm going to say.

Here's something nicer to think about. This was taken in a village on the island of Crete called Kritsa. It's not large, but the main business street is packed with small shops selling beautiful handmade needlework. This is one of the reasons why.

There. That's better.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Man Plans, Management Laughs

It looks like Stitchy's excellent Rhinbeck Blogger Bingo game is moving ahead splendidly, but alas it will do so without me. I will not be attending Rhinebeck as I had hoped. The overpriced finishing school university for which I work has determined that it is absolutely vital that I be around that weekend so that I can hand pom-poms to snotty alumni and hold up a sign that says "CAMPUS TOURS START HERE."

Which is so in keeping with the job description of an electronic marketing specialist.

Have fun, folks. Take lots of pictures and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

There'll Be Some Changes Made

I, the undersigned, agree that:
  • I will not smoke in the apartment even if I think I can get away with it.

  • I will not host “overnight guests” in the apartment without prior permission. (Note: a person who arrives at 7 pm, is ridden like a show pony and then thrown out before sunrise is still considered an “overnight guest.”)

  • When Franklin hosts “overnight guests” I will not attempt to videotape, photograph, or otherwise record the proceedings.

  • I will leave Mrs. Teitelbaum’s cat alone.

  • I will seek professional help to address my “cat issues.”

  • I will not use Franklin’s e-mail accounts to send prank love notes to Rick Mondragon.

  • I will not use Franklin’s telephone, computer, and/or credit card to order naughty lingerie, sheep-oriented pornography, bulk alcohol, or any other unauthorized purchases.

  • I will not use Franklin’s first editions to press insects for my collection.

  • I will not use Franklin’s dpns to clean my teeth after meals.

  • I will replace the following books which have been damaged by chewing, cigarette burns, and/or alcohol spills: Odes of Horace, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris, The Kiss of the Whip.

  • I will stop referring to the Buddha as “Fatboy.”

  • In exchange for my continued room and board, I will perform the following services to the best of my ability and without excessive bitching:

    • care and feeding of the sock yarn colony;
    • organization and cataloguing of fiber stash and knitting supplies;
    • mail sorting; and
    • assistance in answering fiber-related questions from blog readers.
I understand that if I cease to uphold this agreement, my fuzzy ass is going straight back to that farm in Vermont and I will not be flying first class.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Knitting Neuroses on Parade

When blogging was brand new to me and I was trying out everything including memes,* I took a bunch of those online quizzes that were being passed around like smallpox and discovered that I am:
  • St. Vincent de Paul;
  • the color orange;
  • Paris, France; and
  • a pelican.
There was also at least one quiz about what kind of Knitter you are. I didn't bother taking that one. I already know what kind of knitter I am. I am a Weirdo Knitter.

To those who have known me long, this will come as no surprise. I was an odd baby, a quizzical child, a peculiar teenager, and a strange young adult. Now, with dotage fast approaching, I share my apartment with a cigarette-smoking sheep and fifty balls of talking, homosexual sock yarn. Le Tricoteur Bizarre, c'est moi.

I offer the following two Unfinished Objects in support of my diagnosis.

Exhibit A: A Nearly-Finished Baby Surprise Jacket

Once again, I'm knitting for a baby with no baby in sight. Inexplicable. Especially as on the continuum of Inborn Parental Urge I lie somewhere between a bag of Fritos and the witch in Hansel and Gretel.

Exhibit B: A Single Poetry Mitten Cuff

I was so excited that I almost hyperventilated when a nice lady at Knitting Camp turned me onto a Piecework Magazine pattern for mittens with poetry worked into them. Oh yes please, I squealed, and ran right out to Arcadia Knitting and bought this perfectly luscious yarn in three colors, and the proper needles, and then I sat down and knit the first cuff all at once and then I stopped short.

Because the poem in the pattern, while appropriately wintery, is just not me. It doesn't speak to my experience of winter and mittens and snow. I simply can go no further until I've picked out verses that do, and fit them into the chart.

So for four weeks I've been staring at the cuff and rummaging through my library in search of Just the Right Poem.

I've considered the Shakespeare lyric "Blow, blow thou winter wind," but then I've thought it might be too pessimistic and does one really wish to look down at one's mittens and feel depressed?

I thought about Ezra Pound's 'Winter is icummen in" but worried that the repeated "Goddamm" might render the mittens unwearable at, for example, elegant holiday parties and job interviews. And again, there's the pessimism issue.

I tossed around some lovely winter haiku, but then I realized I hate haiku.

I've woken up at 3 a.m. seized with sudden inspiration, and jumped out of bed, and spent an hour paging through a stack of anthologies before realizing the poem I'd been thinking of doesn't actually exist.

And you may threat, cajole, or place a gun to my head, but I cannot continue with these mittens until the matter is settled. At this point, I expect I might finish them by July. Of 2009.

Since You Asked

Marie in Florida wanted to know what's on the little card on my altar. It changes from time to time–I write down lines from sutras, or koans, or what-have-you that seems appropriate for the time. Right now, I've got the Four Bodhisattvic Vows, which we say at the Zen Center after each period of zazen and which I recite every day:
All beings without number
I vow to liberate.
Endless blind passions
I vow to uproot.
Dharma gates beyond measure
I vow to penetrate.
The Great Way of Buddha
I vow to attain.
Rather a tall order, yes, but you gotta have a dream.

(I wonder how those would look worked into a pair of mittens?)

*No, I don't anymore, and no, you shouldn't send me one. Thanks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Receive a Delegation

When scurrilous rumors begin to circulate there's so little one can do about it, but I must try to set the record straight. Some persons have suggested that when confronted at Stitches Midwest with great piles of sock yarn in soft fibers and masculine colors, I lost my head and reduced my debit card to a puddle of molten plastic.

Not so.

This, dear readers, is the real reason I now have about fifty balls of assorted sock yarn in my apartment, and since you're reading it here you know it must be true.

It was about eight o'clock at night. I had just curled up on the sofa with a cup of Earl Grey and Framley Parsonage when there was a soft knock at the door.

"My goodness gracious," I thought. "Whoever can it be at this hour?" I threw on my dressing gown so as not to appear immodest and checked my hair in the mirror. When I opened the door, at first I saw nobody.

Then I heard rustling and looked down to find a fuzzy stampede of dozens of balls of sock yarn hustling past my bunny slippers and into the living room.

"Mon dieu!" I said, slipping into French as one often does in such moments. "What in heaven's name is going on?"

The sock yarn gathered in the middle of the rug. We stood, confronting one another, for several seconds before a ball of Regia Silk rolled forward and spoke.


"We represent the Manly Yarn Brotherhood Against Loose-Lipped Slurs," said the Regia. "And we have come from all across the United States and Canada to protest your representation of sock yarns as a bunch of spineless pastels. Do not try to resist our demands. You can't lick us."

"You tell 'em, Harry," shouted a skein of Lang Jawoll at the back.

I need hardly say that I was nonplussed.

"What is it that you want from me?" I said.

"A retraction," said the Regia. "Admit in public that you were wrong."

"And pizza," shouted the Lang Jawoll. "We want a pizza."

"With sausage and green pepper," said a ball of Knit Picks.

"Green peppers give me gas," said the Lang Jawoll.

"So take a pill, Mr. Delicate," said the Knit Picks.

"Kiss my ball band," said the Lang.

"Simmer down," said the Regia, "You're getting off-topic."

But it was too late. The Knit Picks and the Lang Jawoll had already got into a tangle, and then several other balls jumped into the fray.

The Regia tried in vain to restore order. Sock yarn was flying all over the place. I retreated to the bedroom to wait out what was perhaps the quietest riot in history. About an hour later a battered skein of Opal merino rolled in and apologized. "It was rough trip," he said. "The guys were pretty wound up."

I told the delegates they were welcome to spend the night and recuperate, and there began my real problem. I can't get them to leave. They've nested in odd corners and small nooks and will not be moved. What's more, against all odds they seem to be multiplying.

I asked the Regia how reproduction is possible in an all-male population.

"Like you wouldn't know," he said, helping himself to another slice of pizza.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Letter

Letter from NH

This was also in the envelope.


If you want to join the merry dance, this is where to find out more.

Attention, Stitchy McYarnpants: if she comes home with an even larger ego, I'm sending her straight back to you.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kiss Me, Charlene

As a dyed-in-the-wool homo, it's not often I get the urge to smooch a girl. But tonight I finished the Kitchener stitch on the second toe of the second sock, thereby joining the Ancient and Honorable Company of Sock Knitters. If Charlene Schurch were within lip distance I'd be all over her like a Lee Ann on a bag of alpaca.

My first pair of socks. Is there any pair quite like the first pair? They're not going to cause a fuss at the county fair, but they fit and I like them.

First Socks, Completed

Yarn: Regia Blahblahblahblah (I lost the ball band). It's part wool and part polyamory or something like that.

Needles: US size 1 dpns

Pattern: Garter Rib from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. Charlene, I love you! Albeit in my own queer way! You're fabulous! I'm going to dress as you for Halloween!

Ted gave me Charlene's book, so I guess I oughta kiss him, too. Pucker up, kid.

Another Mean Kitty

I've redrawn the cat and the ball of yarn and put it in the shop on lots of stuff, along with a caption I feel is both true and appropriate.

Some Days

It's pure coincidence that the latest two designs both feature evil cats. Do not send letters calling me a cat hater. Send those to Rita Rudner, who once said she considered them to be "a waste of fur."

Heh heh. Rita, I'll kiss you too, if you want.

Oh hell, kisses for everybody.

Monday, September 04, 2006

When is a doily not a doily?

When it has religious aspirations and becomes an altar cloth.

Here, friends, is my little home altar.


It's an Indonesian chest I found in a shop in the neighborhood. I liked it because a) the brass bits to the right and left of the lock escutcheon resemble Dharma wheels and b) it was reduced for quick sale.

On it, left to right, are a bowl gong and striker, the Buddha, a figure of Kannon (the embodiment of compassion), an incense burner and (in the back, peeking around the burner) a Daruma doll dedicated to the completion of a certain task which for now shall remain unspoken.

The whole of this is tucked into a niche I created by shifting one of my bookcases to another part of the living room. On the wall, I hang Japanese scrolls that change about every month or so.

When I'd finally hunted down the bowl gong and checked off all the items on my wish list, I decided I needed one more thing. Something of my own, something I'd made. I considered casting a figure of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Clear Thinking, but it turns out the terms of my lease prohibit iron smelting. So I decided to knit an altar cloth.

I could build a fort in the middle of the living room with all the stitch dictionaries on my shelves, but ultimately the pattern I chose was from that nice Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls. In my stash there was most of the skein of Dale Baby Ull that made Istvan's paws, and when I swatched it using the motif Cheryl cooked up for the Kimono Shawl I knew I had a winner.

This was a fun knit. The pattern is very simple, and after one full repeat I worked from memory. The fabric flowed off the needles.

Altar Cloth in Progress

(In the background, please to admire the lovely stitch marker, one of a pair made and given to me by the one and only Rabbitch.)

The cloth conveniently reached its full extent as the skein ran out, and I was left with the usual shriveled fungus that is unblocked lace.

Altar Cloth, Unblocked

After stretching it until it screamed for mercy, I have an altar cloth that is almost what I wanted.

The stitch pattern and yarn, I like.

Altar Cloth, Stitch Detail

If you want to try lace but it scares you, give the Kimono Shawl a try. This motif is only about eight stitches by fifteen rows or so. In return for rather easy work you get a striking fabric with interest not only from the yarn overs, but also from the texture lent by the lines of the increases and decreases. Lotta bang for your buck.

Altar Cloth, Blocked

What makes me grit my teeth in a most un-Zenlike fashion is those frigging wavy edges. I'm not an experienced blocker and I couldn't figure out how to pin out a good rectangle. I'll have another go after I've done some research.

Or maybe I'll just tell people I wanted it to look like that.

Sleeping in the Zendo

While we're on the subject of Zen practice, Ted asked (twice) what happens if somebody falls asleep during a round of meditation in the zendo.

I'm still new at this, so I can only tell you what I've experienced.

The first is: nothing. We actually had somebody nod off during a Sunday sitting a couple of weeks ago and start to snore gently. This went on for a minute or so and then the fellow woke himself up. One of the clever things about the standard zazen postures is that they are inherently stable: you can drift off and not topple over immediately.

Or, it may be (I've also seen this) that the monitor, who faces the room and keeps things on course, will go over and give the sleeper a gentle shake.

That's it. Nothing too dramatic. There's an old saw about Zen practioners being smacked with a stick when they doze off. Not true. There's a stick, yes–it's called the kyosaku–but (contrary to popular belief) it's not used in a punitive fashion.

I prefer to save that kind of thing for other occasions, thank you very much.