Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Details, Details

I'm going slightly wiggy trying to make sure everything comes together, but still I'm delighted beyond words at the response to the Chicagoland Dulaan Knit-In Potluck on November 4.

If you're coming, please take a minute or two to read through this entry.

If you're not coming, I'm so sorry. Regular knitting content resumes next week. There's lots of it.

No matter where you are, if you want to sign up for Ryan's Dulaan Brigade (folks who are promising to knit at least five items) today's the last day so get on over there and sign up.

What time should I arrive? How long will the event last?
The doors will open at noon.

Should you arrive before noon, the set-up crew will ignore your feeble cries for help and watch with glee as the squirrels mug you to get at your casserole.

We need to shut down promptly at 6 p.m., which should give us lots of time to knit and talk and talk and knit and eat and knit and talk and eat and knit. The format is open house: arrive when you can, leave when you wish.

We’ll be drawing for prizes throughout the day.

I have sufficient volunteers for morning set-up and transport (thanks to all who offered), and would like to just wing it and see who’s around at 6 p.m. to help with clean-up.
How do I get there?
The venue is Northwestern Unversity's John Evans Alumni Center, 1800 Sheridan Road, Evanston. The entrance is on Clark Street, which Chicagoans should note is not the same as Clark Street in Chicago.

There are detailed directions here.

There’s quite a bit of free parking on the adjacent streets and in the parking lot–just please do not park in reserved or numbered spaces.

I know of at least one knitter, Karen B. (a prize donor, no less), who is in need of a ride to the event. Karen's a hoot and you'll enjoy meeting her. If you’re in a position to offer a lift to her or to other knitters, or would like a ride yourself, please feel free to use the comments for this entry to arrange it amongst yourselves.
What should I bring?
  1. Your Dulaan knitting, in whatever state it may be.
  2. Your contribution, if any, to the food and drinks. This is not required for admission. Those who can contribute, please do. Those who cannot, you are welcome nonetheless.
  3. A name tag, if you want to wear one. It's not required. I'm not wearing one. I'm going to assume if you read this blog and are coming, you know what I look like and won't confuse me with all the other short, bald men in the crowd.
Can I bring my cat?
Only if it's an ingredient in your casserole.
Are children welcome?
Depends on the child. Children who are knitting for Dulaan 2007 are, of course, welcome. Children who are small enough to spend the day happily cooing in a baby carrier are also welcome. Troublesome children will be sent into the kitchen, where Dolores will teach them to roll their own cigarettes, and read aloud to them from The Joy of Gay Sex.
Will you be collecting money for Dulaan?
No, because Dolores wanted to set up a Kissing Booth for that purpose and I decided it's best that all donations go directly to the people in charge. If you want to contribute monetarily to Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.) there’s information on how to do so here.
Will you be collecting finished items to send to Dulaan?
No. All knitters will be responsible for sending their own finished work to F.I.R.E. by July 1, 2007. You can find specifics on how and where to ship via Ryan’s blog.
What should I wear?
Not this. Or this.
Can I still request an invitation?
Yes, through Friday morning. Write to d_vanhoofen at franklinhabit daht com.
When I get the e-mail with the link to the Evite invitation does that mean I’m on the attendee list?
No. Please respond (including regrets) via the invitation page. If you’ll be bringing guests, please note how many using the guest feature, not the comment box. Having a reasonably accurate head-count is important to the people who run the building–who also happen to be my bosses. So I thank you for your cooperation.
What if on Saturday morning my friend Ermengarde hears I'm going and she totally wants to go but she lives in a cave and so didn't hear about this in advance and so she's not on the list but she's afraid if she doesn't get to go she'll stop breathing and die? Should I bring her or not?
Come on over. Honestly, a few knitters more or less is not going to be an issue. One exception: Morgan Fairchild. Dolores and Morgan Fairchild don't get along, so no matter how she may beg, do not under any circumstances bring her with you. We don't need a repeat of what happened at the notorious Celebrity Tupperware Party of 1979.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What I Learned at the Wedding

  1. The Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is pretty to watch. I especially like the crowns, and the bit where they all go round and round and round the little table like this:


  2. My tarantella remains as sprightly as ever.

  3. A gentleman who can jitterbug is always in demand. (My Aunt Fran can really swing it, by the way.)


  4. My Great Aunt Vera hasn't aged since 1950. The older I get, the more unfair this seems. I'm not even going to show you her picture because it's simply infuriating.

  5. I will never grow tired of watching my parents on the dance floor.


  6. Despite the big influx of new Greek relations, I'm still the only homo in the group. Or at least the only one who goes to weddings. Or at least the only one who isn't "discreet" (read "married and closeted").

  7. My relatives are loud and raucous. They smoke too much. They drink too much. They eat too much. They bicker and nag and yell and scream and hold grudges. They tell extremely bad jokes. They watch NASCAR–on purpose. And they love me. And I love them. In this lifetime, I've had the incredible good fortune to be born into a group of people who haven't always understood me, but they've never stopped loving me. So many people are born, live, and die without this.

    I don't know why it has taken me so long to realize and appreciate it.

    All her life my beloved Aunt Eva used to say that no matter what, "you do for la famiglia." But she never specified what you "do." Now I think I understand: you do whatever you can, because that's simply how it is with people you love. Even when they frequently drive you batshit.

    Sugared almonds, symbolic of the bittersweet nature of life–a traditional Sicilian wedding favor.
Joey and Paulette, I wish you a life together in which the sweet overwhelms the bitter. Thank you for inviting me to be there at the beginning.

Salute cent'anni! À la famiglia!

My mother (left) and her sisters Jay (mother of the groom, center) and Fran.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Motor City Mailgram

Hi, kids.

Writing from Detroit. Yes, Detroit. Forgot to mention I'm out of town briefly for a family wedding. One of my cousins on the Dago side is marrying a Greek. This should be some party.

I'll check in again when it's all over, and report on what the bride wore and the final body count and so on.

People are in a bad mood around here. Something about losing a baseball game.

They should knit more.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Party Time Approacheth

Sheep Gift #1If you received an invitation to the November 4 Dulaan Knit-In and haven't yet made your RSVP, this a gentle reminder to please do so. It's also not too late to request an invitation.

Those who have responded in the affirmative will be hearing from me soon about particular logistics and such. We're keeping it simple. The main thing will be to come, knit, have a good time and raise awareness for the project.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our many benefactors in advance. They've been so generous, and I type this in the shadow of a pile of goodies so large and lovely that you're lucky I haven't pocketed the lot and run away.

The lists include what's confirmed as of today.* And they're in no particular order, because honestly there's just a little too much going on in the world right now to get alphabetical.

Prize Donors

Ryan, High Priestess of the Dulaan Project
Assorted adorable Dulaan logo goodies

Sophie’s Toes Sock Yarn
Two skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn

Marlisa Mizerak
Two sets handmade stitch markers

Young at Heart Design Services
Cabled sock pattern–with enough yarn to make two pairs

Natalia Uribe Wilson of the Evil Eye Emporium
Silver necklace

Chris Gerstner of Scotts Mountain Crafts
Two hand-hammered shawl pins

One set hand-made stitch markers
One skein hand-dyed sock yarn in colorway “Mustard Poo”
One skein hand-dyed laceweight yarn

Janel of Chameleon Colorworks
1 lb of hand-dyed luster yarn (70/30 kid mohair/silk, approximately 1,050 yards)

Sheep Gift #2Carol of Black Bunny Fibers
2 skeins hand-dyed sock yarn
1 skein hand-dyed worsted yarn

Darinka D’Alessio
1 copy of Rowan magazine (#40)

The Knit Foundry
8” Ultimate Storage Container with 4-compartment divider
6” Ultimate Storage Container with 6-compartment divider
Purple Highlighter Tape
Medium Zippered-Mesh bag

Leslie Schroeder
10 assorted balls of yarn from Elann’s “Sock It To Me” collection

Doug Brannon (Outer Banks, NC)
1 pair handcrafted hardwood knitting needles

Jackie G.
3 skeins Opal sock yarn
1 copy Stahman's Shawls and Scarves: Lace Faroese-Shaped Shawls from the Neck Down

The Knitting Goddess
2 75g skeins of hand-dyed 4-ply cashmere

Karen B.
10 balls (25g each) Jaeger Cashmina (fuchsia)

Interweave Knits/Shannon Okey
1 copy Spin to Knit which the author absolutely promises to sign for the winner if only she can make it here on time

Michael Zudonyi of Connie Pagano Hair Salon (Deerfield, IL)
Consultation, cut, and blow-dry

Andrew Brown and Michael Zudonyi
2 designer scented candles by Rigaud

And I will be putting a few of my own sketches into the prize mix as well.

Advance Donations of Wool for Use In Dulaan Projects

Penny in LA
Kathy from Cherry Valley, IL

Food and Beverage Donations

Northwestern University Gay and Lesbian Alumni (NUGALA)
3 trays of assorted gourmet cookies and brownies
Selection of canned and bottled beverages

Special Thanks

Bonne-Marie Burns of ChicKnits
Buzz Turner
Mom and Dad
Flagstaff International Relief Effort (F.I.R.E.)
for providing us with a copy of their documentary about Mongolia

Dolores Van Hoofen's Personal Appearance
Underwritten by

Andrew Brown and Kurt MacKenzie of MacKenzie Brown Design (Chicago, IL)

Yarn ThanksI hope you'll consider giving our generous corporate donors the benefit of your custom, or at very least your thanks.

*If you've offered to donate and you're not here, I apologize profusely. I've done my honest best to locate and record all offers via email and in comments, but I fear I may have missed one or two. If you're so inclined, a gentle reminder to d_vanhoofen at franklinhabit daht cahm is perfectly appropriate and very welcome.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Knitting Amnesia

I was rummaging around in my bag this morning while waiting for the train and found this.


It's quite a bit of sock–from the top of the leg to just past the gusset. It has dear little cables in it, separated by something akin to moss stitch. Not bad work on the whole.

And yet I have no memory whatever of knitting it.

Possible explanations:
  1. Elves live in my gym bag and are knitting socks to pass the time.
  2. I was abducted by aliens. During my "lost hours" aboard the spacecraft I needed something to keep me occupied in between invasive, quasi-erotic medical experiments.
  3. It's actually a cleverly-disguised transmitter planted by the FBI, which hopes to collect enough material to finally bring Dolores to justice.
Reasons the above cannot be true:
  1. Nothing sentient could survive for fifteen minutes sealed up in a bag with my gym shoes.
  2. I don't live anywhere near Roswell, New Mexico; and none of my orifices show signs of interference.
  3. Even the FBI has given up on trying to reform Dolores.
So I figure it must be mine. I must have worked on it here and there, in between moments of on-the-job overtime horror, as a sedative or an anesthetic. That would help to explain how I made it through Homecoming without leaving the usual trail of broken bodies in my wake.

The pattern is once again the work of that sweetie-pie Charlene Schurch, and it's turning out to be just as much fun as this one. I wonder who it was that first said, "Charlene, honey, why don't you write a book about socks?" Whoever it was, we owe the person a debt of gratitude and a plate of cookies.

Back On the Air

After an inexplicably long hiatus (my fault, not Brenda Dayne's) I'm once again to be heard in an upcoming episode of Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters. Listen for me around Hallowe'en.

Advance warning: I'm reading a poem. That's all I'm saying. I can't believe I'm even saying that, because honestly I've always felt one of the most chilling sentences in the English language is "I have just written some poetry, and would like to share it with you."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Homecoming Weekend Tally


On the whole, a better-than-average year. In all fairness, I have to mention that about 98% of the alumni I dealt with were polite and pleasant.

Photographs taken: 1,237

Free lunches: 2

Free dinners: 1

Forced laughs after stupid jokes by speakers: 683

Times caught in rain sans umbrella: 3

Streakers: 4 (too bad it was so cold out, if you catch my meaning)

Stephen Colbert spottings: 2

Brushes with frostbite: 4

Ibuprofen consumed: 18

Narrow escapes from trustee who gives me stomach pains: 5

Indecent proposals from alumni: 1*

Committee ladies who narrowly escaped a bite on the ankle: 2

Board members who narrowly escaped same: 1

Football games lost: 1

Delicious moments of football-related schadenfreude**: 1

Estimated days before fake smile frozen on face will relax: 3

*Or two, if you take into consideration that it was from a couple. A straight couple.

**Just Google it, okay?

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Warm Embrace of My Peers

For those of you who are slow to comprehend the obvious, I'm gay.

Truth in Packaging

I don't write about it much, because frankly after 23 years (I started coming out at age 12) the novelty has worn off. I even forgot about National Coming Out Day until a straight lady reminded me of it.

So imagine my suprise at being listed among the "Readers' Favorite Blogs" in The Advocate, a gay and lesbian news magazine that's the community's equivalent of Newsweek. I'm not kidding. Here's a link.

This probably the closest I'll ever get to acceptance by the A-list gay community, so I want to make the most of it. David, who also made the list, says it doesn't entitle us to throw attitude at exclusive nightclubs. But maybe I can use it to wrangle a discount on the red underpants I saw in the window of Manifold that say DISCO BITCH across the butt.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's Raining Yarn

After yesterday's whine and cheese platter, I'm pleased as punch to offer a more upbeat report on the persistence of goodwill and camaraderie among knitters.

As of two minutes ago we have 47 folks confirmed as attending the Chicagoland Dulaan Knit-In and a further 36 who have yet to RSVP. It's okay, we got a lotta chairs and couches. There's still room for more if you haven't yet asked for an invitation.

And such a quality group this is going to be. If you're the type who likes to stalk knitting celebs, here's two for you: Bonne Marie Burns, aka ChicKnits and Shannon Okey, aka Knitgrrl. (Shannon doesn't live in Chicago, but she's appearing at Arcadia Knitting earlier in the day. Talk about lucky timing for us.)

The range of door prizes is lengthy and impressive. A full list will be posted next week for your drooling pleasure.

In addition, the post office has dropped off a donation from blogless reader Penny. Penny now lives in Los Angeles, where wool clothing is not so much in demand as it is in Mongolia. She has therefore–are you sitting down?–sent us her wool stash to be distributed at the Knit-In for use in Dulaan projects. And we're not talking crap wool, either. This is good stuff.

Here's a shot of some of what arrived in large, heavy packing box. I have included a dairy cow for purposes of scale.

Cow and Yarn

Penny, may bucketfuls of silk, linen, or whatever it is you Southern California chicks knit with rain gently upon your sweet head.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Two Pictures of Me at Work


The Polaroid above was taken of me about this time last year, during a University event. It communicates eloquently my feelings about working at a large Midwestern university during that sentimental, beer-soaked week known as Homecoming.

We didn't have Homecoming at Harvard, so it wasn't part of my college experience. We had one football game that anybody cared about, against Yale. The hoopla lasted for a couple of hours, one afternoon in the fall. And then we went back to, you know, studying.

I liked it that way.

But part of adjusting to my job has been trying to learn the culture of the institution that pays my salary, and I've tried. Sweet Georgia Brown, how I've tried. Yet nobody has been able to communicate to me what exactly Homecoming is for; nor why it excuses behavior that, were it indulged in by people of color in a poor neighborhood, would be considered rioting.

This weekend is going to be a test of what effect, if any, zazen will have had on me so far. Am I learning to observe the world like an old man bemusedly watching children at play in the park? Will I react to ignorance with compassion?

When, for example,* an alumna who has been told my name four times calls me "Chico" because everyone with swarthy skin and a nametag is to her a Generic Mexican Servant, will I calmly correct her (again) and silently pity her narrowmindedness? Will I empathize with whatever secret sorrow leads her to treat fellow humans thus? Or will I haul off and smack her until her entitled jowls reverberate?

I'll let you know on Monday. Unless I'm in jail awaiting trial for beating a society matron to death with a Canon zoom lens.

On the Other Hand

This is what I look like when I'm doing work in which I am allowed to exercise my skills to the best of my ability, and with dignity. (The polar opposite, in other words, of what my day job has become.)

Before the Wedding

It's a test shot, snapped just before my first-ever wedding job. I was assisting a friend who's been in the field for ages. I was honored that he asked me to work with him.

I've photographed a lot of events, but a wedding is a special and many-headed beast. Say the word "bride" in just the right way and seasoned pros who have covered wars and revolutions will wet their pants. Shooting a battlefield has its challenges, I'm sure, but at least at the end of the day nobody will care if the general looks fat in every frame.

After eight intense hours, I had nearly 1,000 shots about 300 were keepers. Three or four are good enough to go into my portfolio. A very respectable haul, and the boss was pleased. I'd share a few with you, but I'm not sure the bride has even seen them yet.

Now I've done it, and done it well, and it's one less thing to fear, and that feels good. I'm going to try to remember the feeling when an alumnus shoves his kid's half-eaten corn dog into my hands, and orders me to throw it away and fetch the boy another Coke from the bar.**

*A true and representative example, sad to say.
** Also true.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The First Patriarch of Zen Is a Noodge


Daruma says, "Franklin, kindly finish that Big Nameless Project so you can give me my other eye."

Daruma says, "Did you finish recording your Hallowe'en piece for Cast On yet?"

Daruma says, "Why don't I see that second cabled sock around here anywhere?"

Daruma says, "If I had arms and legs I could ski down that pile of dirty laundry."

Daruma says, "Weren't you supposed to remind folks about RSVP'ing to the Dulaan Knit-In as soon as possible?"

Daruma says, "So, how's the new sketch for the shop coming along?"

Daruma says, "Your photography Web site has been sitting there untouched for so long I think mice have nested in the Javascript."

Daruma says, "If you're going to design a Christmas ornament this year, now would be a good time."

Daruma says, "I was checking out your list of deadlines for freelance clients and wow, are you ever in trouble."

Daruma says, "Hey! What are you doing with that rolling pin? Help! Help!"

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Dispatch from Knit-In Headquarters

"Dolores," I said. "Dolores, I need to talk to you right now."

She was sitting on the living room floor, cutting out Nina Simone and Ethel Waters paper dolls with Harry the Ball of Sock Yarn.

"Is this something to do with the Knit-In?"


"Well then hang on, I need to change clothes."


"Just a sec," she said, disappearing into the bedroom.

A few minutes later, she returned.


"Are you sure you're ready now?"


"Okay, then. Can you explain to me why someone calling himself 'Genghis' has left me a message confirming a booking for 'The Mongol Horde' on November 4?"

"Oh," said Dolores. "Yes. Well, see, I was at Currently Unfashionable Ethnicities Night at the Lucky Horseshoe,* and after Genghis was done performing we got to chatting about about his group and how perfect they would be for a party to benefit Mongolia."

"Strippers. Mongolian strippers."

She coughed. "I believe they prefer the term 'body revelation artist'."

"Dolores," I said, "We're trying to clothe Mongolia, not get it naked."

"Did you leave your sense of irony out in the rain again?"

"We cannot have strippers at the Knit-In."

"What if they came in wearing half-made sweaters and we just sort of...frogged them."


"Hey," said Harry, "Does this mean I can tell the guys to stop knitting the thongs?"

"No," sniffed Dolores. "There's always my birthday party."

Other Knit-In Details: Kids, Animals, and Tobacco

There have been some questions put to me about what's ok and what's not at the Knit-In. Although those who inquired have been answered privately, I thought it might be a good idea to post the information here as well.

The John Evans Alumni Center is a non-smoking facility. Use of tobacco products is prohibited in the building.

A lady wrote to me to ask whether it would be okay to bring children to the Knit-In. Here's my answer: you must be honest with yourself and use your best judgment.

The house where we will meet is a grown-up space, owned by my employer. I am responsible for it while the event is going on. It's over 100 years old, furnished with antiques and oriental carpets. There are no child-proofed rooms and we can't provide childcare services, either formal or informal.

If your child is comfortable in such an atmosphere and won't continuously disturb the other knitters, your child is welcome. If your child is, shall we say, high-spirited, this may not be the most congenial setting for him or her. You know (or should know) your own child well enough to make the decision for yourself. My chief concern as host must be the comfort of all guests, whatever their ages.

Another lady wrote to tell me her cat would really like to come with her. On this issue, I must state firmly that only service animals are permitted in university buildings. No exceptions. (Dolores counts as a service animal. Just ask Genghis.)

Now. Enough with the freaking rules and regulations and prohibitions. Very soon I will be posting about what will be happening at the Knit-In and my dears, it's going to be lovely. We're up to nearly sixty people on the list. Don't forget to ask for an invite if you haven't already.

*For those of you just tuning in, the "Shoe" is a venerable Boystown night spot to which Dolores repairs to watch dancing when there's nothing going on at the Joffrey Ballet.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Finishing the Hat

Until just recently there was serious gap in my fiber education. Cables. I knew what they were in theory, since somebody had the good sense to explain to me early on that a cable is nothing but a particular set of stitches worked out of order on a particular row. Yet I hadn't put them into a project.

This was in part a reaction to the unfortunate tendency of so many knitwear designers to heap cabling into patterns for men. I suppose it's meant to look butch. Alas, cables in profusion make a sweater very bulky, very heavy, very hot, and very busy. No, thank you.

But after taking Beth Brown-Reinsel's class at Stitches Midwest, and studying that nice Mrs. Thompson's book with all the handsome stitch patterns in it, and seeing what balanced, appealing pieces some knitters have made for themselves, I got curious. Not curious enough to cast on a whole sweater, but curious.

So I made this.

Cabled Hat

I was going to call it the "Cable Curiosity Hat," but that sounds twee, so I've settled on the "Fear of Cabling Hat." It's an oblique tribute to my parents, who taught me to tackle anything I didn't understand by jumping in and just doing it until it became (you should pardon the expression) old hat. This is a small object, but there are 16 cables in it and collectively they twist 96 times. A fellow would have to be an unredeemed idiot to do something 96 times and still be not quite sure of it.

The pattern, if you even want to call it that, is puerile. Experienced knitters will know what I did just by looking at the picture. For the rest of us, here's a rough sketch.

1. Go get your copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. If you don't have a copy yet, buy one. It's standard equipment. In fact, if you simply keep knitting long enough it's possible that a copy will materialize on your shelf.

2. Locate the ribbed cable chart in the January chapter. You'll have to hunt carefully, as it's all of seven stitches tall and five stitches wide. Five stitches plus two purl stitches (to separate the cables from each other) is seven stitches. That's your basic motif.

3. I think I'm supposed to tell you to swatch but here's the unvarnished truth: nobody swatches for hats. Not after their first one, anyhow. If you're knitting a standard adult hat with worsted or DK weight yarn on needles that aren't freakishly huge or small, you need somewhere in the area of 100 stitches for a snug fit. Cables pull in a lot, so cast on an extra set of stitches or two.

4. This cable itself is a form of ribbing, so don't rib the brim. Just start the pattern. Instant gratification.

5. Knit and knit and knit. And knit. Cable cable cable cable cable. To figure out on the fly how much you ought to knit before you start the head shaping, go get Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules! and read the hat chapter.

6. For the head shaping, I wasn't exactly sure what to do so I decided to figure out a rule and apply it ruthlessly and see what happened. That's all a stitch pattern is anyway, right? So I decided to start the decreases in the purl separations between the cables, and to decrease using P2tog instead of K2tog because I'd never seen it done before. I settled on eight decrease points, since most hats I've encountered use 6-8 decreases and 8 fit perfectly into my stitch count.

And so my final decrease rule became:

First decrease round: knit one seven-stitch pattern complete, knit cable stitches of second pattern, P2tog.
Subsequent decrease rounds: knit to within one stitch of established decrease point, P2tog.

By one of those coincidences that abound in knitting, the hat ended exactly as the final knit stitches were eaten by the purl decreases, and this is what I got.

Cabled Hat, Top

Quite serviceable. And when worn, it has been pronounced "sexy" by a gentleman whose opinions in these matters I trust.

So there you are. Not by any means an original pattern, but it taught me what I wanted to learn and it yielded a hat that fits.

Now I have to go tackle the housework, as it presently looks as though I suffer from a Fear of Doing Dishes, Fear of Making the Bed, and Fear of Sorting Through All the Crap on the Kitchen Table.

But First...

A quick shout out to the 40+ folks who are now on the invite list for the Chicagoland Dulaan Knit-In. Yes, you can still ask for an invite (which doesn't mean you're promising to come, it just means you're interested). Great Sainted Mary Thomas, I was hoping I might get 10 responses. And now we even have people coming in from out of state. Knitters, need I say it, are amazing.

And another shout to the nearly two dozen folks who have offered some really terrific prizes. It's going to be better than Christmas the sacred or secular gift-identified festival of your choice. I'll get to contacting all the donors either today or tomorrow, as my schedule allows. Or maybe I'll make Dolores do it, once she gets home.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fleece to Face with Shannon Okey

special to The Panopticon by Dolores Van Hoofen

S. OkeyKnitter, spinner and author Shannon Okey, also known to the blog world as knitgrrl, is presently on the road shilling her new book Spin to Knit (Interweave Press).

Spin to Knit is a cheerful, lavishly illustrated guide to spinning your own knitting yarns.

Newcomers will appreciate the comprehensive, step-by-step text, which covers everything from fiber selection to the idiosyncratic behavior of handspun knits. Established spinners will find inspiration in fresh project suggestions and interviews with fiber lovers across the country.

I caught up with Shannon in between stops on her multi-city tour. Which was not easy, because when she first saw me she tried to run away. I love it when they put up a fight.

DVH: Shannon honey, that chair's very uncomfortable. Why don't you come sit over here on the sofa by me?

Shannon: Um...okay. I thought Franklin was supposed to interview me.

DVH: He had to go to a prayer meeting. You want a drink, cupcake?

Shannon: It's a little early in the day, isn't it? Oh, alright. If you insist.

DVH: Groovy. So, "Knit Grrl," is that some kind of Esperanto or did you just make a typo and stick with it?

Shannon: Before there were a million knitting and craft books to choose from, when the craft section of the bookstore was a wasteland of baby quilt books and dusty copies of the Woodstock Craftsman's Manual, and Bust and Venus were a blink in their editors’ eyes, there were Riot Grrl and Simple Machines. Their supporters promoted the DIY ethic before it was fashionable. Simple Machines distributed tens of thousands of copies of their self-publishing how-to book for musicians. Riot Grrl influenced thousands of women my age to go out and be the change we wanted to see in the world–make our own books, records, art shows, you name it.

Gosh, Dolores. How much tequila did you put in there? I’m having 1992 flashbacks.

Anyway, it was a deliberate homage to Riot Grrl. I wanted to encourage new knitters to learn, spread the knowledge and make their own creations rather than dress just like everyone else.

DVH: And now you're all over the damn place. I checked out the new Knitty, and there you are. I opened Spin Off today, and there you are. I'm afraid to open the frigging medicine cabinet because you might fall out. What's it like to suddenly be America's Sweetheart of Spinning?

Shannon: Is that anything like the Courtney Love album America’s Sweetheart? I hope so. I’d rather be America's Sweetheart of Spinning than "the Donald Trump of knitting with better hair."

DVH: Do you have groupies? Stalkers? Hangers-on waiting by the stage door?

Shannon: Not yet. But if they show up with fiber they won't be waiting by the stage door for long. Amy Singer and I almost stalked Tracey Ullman this weekend, but we lost our nerve. Once Tracey called Amy "the Bono of knitting," it was girl crush city.

DVH: Girl crush? Really? Say, can I freshen up that drink for you?

Shannon: Thanks, but I'm fine...Did you drink that whole thing already?

DVH: I was feeling dehydrated. So, your first spinning project involved "a saucy ram named Eddie." If he's the same Eddie I know, you're a very lucky lady. Did you get to know him a little before you picked him out of the flock, or was it just an anonymous quickie?

Shannon: Well, I petted him for a good long time.

DVH: Ahem. Are you sure I can't top off that cosmo?

Shannon: No. Really.

DVH: Suit yourself. You have a lot of great information in Spin to Knit about fiber selection for beginners. How do you feel about...let's say...Romney?

Shannon: Romney’s what I learned on. Raw fleece, none of this preprocessed stuff.

DVH: Raw and natural. Woof. My kinda gal. What do you think of my fleece? Would you spin this?

Shannon: Um...well...

DVH: Go ahead. Have a feel.

Shannon: It's very nice, Dolores. What do you use for conditioner?

DVH: That wasn't much of a feel. Have another go. Maybe a little higher.

Shannon: I think I'd like that second drink now.

DVH: So, we're friends. Let's get personal. Panties. Are you a cotton print or silk-and-lace sort of girl?

Shannon: Who said I’m wearing–Cotton. Yeah. That’s it. Cotton. Can we talk some more about the book?

DVH: The what?

Shannon: The book. Spin to Knit. That I just wrote.

DVH: Oh, yeah. Sure. What made you decide to write it?

Shannon: Interweave asked. And when Interweave asks… short of concrete-booting someone into a river, I’m there. Linda Ligon had the original concept, Betsy Armstrong (the former books editor) asked me for an outline and it was in her hands 45 minutes later. I was excited about it from the start.

DVH: I bet you're cute when you're excited. Did you learn anything new while you were working on it?

Shannon: Definitely. I traveled around the country–over 6,000 miles by plane, train, bus and car over the course of a month–and met up with the featured spinners in their own studios and working environments. I learned something new from everyone… Laura and Sarah dye with lichens, Symeon’s husband built her an electric spinner from an old sewing machine. You name it–there was a learning opportunity around every corner.

I don’t pretend to be the greatest spinner on earth, or the most technical spinner. But I love fiber, and I’m enthusiastic. You can learn something new from almost anyone if you pay attention.

DVH: Do you think anyone can learn to spin?

Shannon: Oh, yes.

DVH: Even Britney Spears?

Shannon: That depends. Is Sean Preston on her lap?

DVH: Celebrity gossip time! Tell me something really juicy about the people at Interweave.

Shannon: If it ever came down to it, certain authors would mud wrestle to have Ann Budd as their editor, myself included. Tricia Waddell has the hottest shoe collection on earth. They call Anne Merrow (the editor for my felting book) and Ann Budd “the A-Team,” since they share an office.

DVH: Is Amy Singer as hot in person as she is in her picture?

Shannon: Scorching. You have no idea.

DVH: Oooh. Another drink, pretty lady?

Shannon: Is Franklin coming home soon?

DVH: Franklin who? Oh damn, the silly little bottle's empty. Let's spin it and see who it points to.

Wow, time's up! Gottagobye!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hot Date

Chicagoland Knitters: Mark your calendars.

We're going to have us a Dulaan Project Knit-In Potluck on November 4, 2006 from noon to 6 pm.

The location: the quite lovely John Evans Alumni Center at Northwestern University, 1800 Sheridan Road, Evanston. We have the entire ground floor, comprising the Edwardian-era library, sun porch, breakfast room, conservatory, and dining room. It's terribly grand, yet cosy.

The Alumni Association is graciously donating use of the space for the day. There's ample free parking all around.
What Will We Be Doing?
We'll be knitting (or crocheting, if that's your pleasure) our nimble fingers off on behalf of the Dulaan Project. There will also be prizes, incessant chatter, and noshing.

What, No Sex?
No. We just had the carpets cleaned. And shame on you.

Do I Need to Sign Up?
Yes, please. One of the requirements is that we must have some idea of who's coming, so e-mail invitations will go out via eVite. To be added to the invitation list, do this:
  1. Send an email to dolores at franklinhabit daht cahm.
  2. Use the subject line "Dulaan".
  3. Make sure the body of the message includes your name and email address as you'd like them to appear on your invitation.
  4. Watch your e-mail for an invitation. Sometimes evite messages can get flagged as spam, so be vigilant.
If you know someone who wishes to come but does not use e-mail, you may sign them up as your "and guest" when your invitation arrives. Also, asking for an invite doesn't mean you're saying you'll definitely attend. It just gives you the option.

[Late addition: I realized it's possible to set up the invitation so that those attending can invite other people to attend. Feel free to do so–no need to go only through me. Just don't spam people in my name, okay?]

The list of e-mail addresses will only be used for this event, then securely discarded. I'm not building a mailing list or getting anything out of this event aside from the pleasure of your company. The point is to encourage participation in the Dulaan.

Nota bene: Pretty please with Rowan Kidsilk Haze on top do not ask to be put on the list via any other e-mail address or the comments.
What Should I Bring?
First and foremost: your Dulaan knitting, whatever it may be.

Also: this is going to be a potluck. (Ooh. Suddenly I feel all lesbian.)

I've got the venue secured in my name, and will be putting some of my own time and resources into the provision of food and drink. However, I can't do it all alone, so I'll be in need of a few lieutenants to help with set up and clean up.

You'll be able to sign up to bring something or help in a specific way via the invitation page.

If you're in a position to offer a prize or some sort of catering/provisioning, please so note in your e-mail and I or Dolores will be in touch. We can't offer much, beyond credit on the site and at the event, but we'd be grateful.
Are You Sure There Won't Be Sex?
Knock it off, Dolores.