Monday, December 26, 2011

Being Delusional Helps

I did it. I knit seven Christmas presents and one birthday present in six and a half weeks, and I did not go crazy. (Or crazier, if you prefer.) Five of the eight came in pairs, and any sock or mitten knitter will tell you that one half of a pair counts as a finished item, so I could claim thirteen finished items. But I won't because a little bit of glory is enough, and I got all the glory I needed last night when my stepmom looked at my sister's Snuggle-Licious Snow Day Socks and said, "You made those? You've come a long way in a year." Then my brother-in-law generously offered to set me up in my very own Ebay sweatshop in which, if I understand correctly, I would do all the knitting and he would take all the profits. When I write my own knitting book, I'm going to ask him to write the blurb for the back cover because you just can't buy that kind of praise.

From left to right:
  • Brother-in-law's Cowboys scarf (Yes, it's still on the needles in this picture, which was taken Christmas Eve; I cast off Christmas Day afternoon in time to give it to him that night.)
  • Sister's Snuggle-Licious Snow Day Socks (That's my name for them. The Paton's pattern just calls them "Fair Isle Socks." Boooooooring.)
  • Cousin Lily's Christmas stocking (Mom made a coordinating stocking for Lily's sister Georgia.)
  • Mom's Snuggle-Licious Snow Day Socks
  • Miles the Boxer's Christmas stocking (I forgot to put the hanger on, but luckily noticed when I was wrapping it and took yarn and needles to Christmas dinner. I added the hanger while everyone else was opening presents. Whoops.)

At the top of the picture:
  • Stepmom's red and gray slippers
  • Dad's light brown and dark brown slippers
These slippers are what made the impressive knitted gift item total possible. They're in bulky and from cast-on to seaming and blocking, including 20 minutes of soak time, each slipper takes three hours. I did one slipper per evening every night between Tuesday and Friday of last week and only stayed up past midnight once. They are completely simple yet completely awesome slippers.

And last but not least, Mom's birthday socks:

Of which I am not a little proud.

But next year? No knitted presents. This time I'm serious.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why I WILL Take My Pets to Pet Haven Vet Clinic

Last week I wrote here about a terrible experience I had at Pet Haven, a local pet supply and grooming shop. A lot of people have commented since then, mostly with their own horror stories, but a couple of people have come to the defense of the veterinarian side, saying they are separate businesses not owned by the same people. My immediate response to that was that, given that they share a name, a building, and a communicating hallway, some type of relationship is implied. But, as I stated in the original post, I have always been very happy with the care my pets have received on the vet side and I was sorry to think that I wouldn't be able to go there anymore, so I wanted to know more.

So this afternoon I stopped in and talked with the vet clinic office manager. She assures me that the only relationship between the two businesses is that the vet side rents the clinic space from the owners of the grooming side. The grooming side has no say in the day-to-day operations on the clinic side and animals are never moved between the two facilities unless, for example, the owner specifically requests that an animal receive vaccinations on the same day the animal is groomed. In other words, when my cat goes in for surgery, all the shaving and whatnot is done on the clinic side. There is no need for me to worry that any of my animals will ever be taken next door without my knowledge or consent. And the grooming side does not profit from the clinic side other than through rent payments.

I'm still not completely comfortable with this. The vets do recommend to patients (including me) that they should run next door to pick up this or that item, and being willing to share a name and building space implies approval of the behavior going on in the grooming side. If I were the clinic owner, I would find another space, pronto, or at least brick up the communicating door and change the name.

But at this point I don't think that objection is serious enough to warrant taking my animals to a new vet clinic, at least during the remainder of my elderly cats' lifetimes. The kindness and excellent care I've invariably experienced on the clinic side makes it worth it to me to maintain that relationship, even though I'm disgusted by the next-door neighbor and will miss no opportunity to let clinic staff know I think they should move.

In the interest of full disclosure, the office manager, with whom I've been friendly for a while, did hand me a stack of coupons for Edgar's food, but not until after we'd been talking for a few minutes, and I had already said I would probably continue to use the clinic. I promise I wasn't bribed. : )

Finally, I would like to respond to one commenter who suggested that I should not have published my previous post and should instead have simply left the store and silently resolved never to shop there again because criticism in this format (or on Facebook, where the blog post was reproduced by a friend of mine) can harm the reputation of innocent people. I want that commenter and others to understand that I did not lightly decide to publish that post. Had I seen an adult treating a child in the manner that I saw Ms. Thompson treating that dog, I certainly would not have written a blog post about it. I would've just called the police! But at the time I doubted whether the police would've responded to a call of animal abuse in that context, so I believed my only option was to let my neighbors know what I had seen to try to prevent other animals from being hurt in the future. I did write the original post in anger, but I then spent several hours revising it to make sure it was scrupulously accurate, and I also asked the advice of two people I trust and respect before posting. I would also like to point out that my full name is attached to this blog. I take all responsibility for the content here. As with any content on the Internet, you, the reader, must evaluate its validity for yourself.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why I Will No Longer Shop at Pet Haven (Updated)

UPDATE, 12/16/11: Please see Why I WILL Take My Pets to Pet Haven Vet Clinic.

UPDATE, 12/13/11: I have learned that there may be no financial connection between Pet Haven grooming and Pet Haven Veterinary Clinic. I will be investigating this, and will write another post if warranted. As stated in the original post, I've always been very pleased with the treatment my pets have received at the veterinary clinic, and I would be thrilled to continue using their services. However, a shared name, building, and even a communicating hallway implies some sort of relationship, and I need to understand exactly what that relationship is. I will be visiting the vet clinic either this Friday or early next week, and will update here or write a new blog post as warranted.

Original Post:

On Saturday, December 10, 2011, I stopped in at Pet Haven, a pet supply store in northwest Wichita. Although I've shopped for supplies and used their veterinary service for years and been pleased with the compassion their veterinarians show my pets, I've always known I would never take any animal of mine there for grooming. Diana Thompson, the owner who does most of the grooming, is just a little too rough with the dogs on her table. She tends to jerk them around by the leads around their necks, and I've seen her leave a dog on the table while she wanders off to have a snack. Ms. Thompson's grooming staff is none too gentle, either. I regret that in the past I've blown off the behavior I've seen. The location was just too convenient for running in to grab a sack of food or a cat toy. But after Saturday, I'm finished with Pet Haven entirely.

When I went in on Saturday morning, Ms. Thompson had a dog on the grooming table who wasn't cooperating to her satisfaction. The dog was trying to turn away and crouch low to the table to avoid her. She repeatedly used the lead around the dog's neck to yank the dog around to face her and then into a standing position, all while yelling over and over, "Stop it!" and "Stand up!" Ms. Thompson appeared to think that if she could just yell loud enough, the dog would miraculously understand the English language and be able to respond exactly as she wanted. She doesn't seem to be aware that it's particularly easy to injure a dog's neck, let alone that dogs are sentient creatures who think and feel. This dog was clearly feeling terror and pain.

Since Ms. Thompson has her grooming tables set up out in the open and was behaving in this manner in front of me and other customers, she apparently thinks that this is a normal, acceptable way to treat an animal. However, I consider her actions abusive and entirely unacceptable--and, frankly, nauseating--so I put my purchase on the counter and left. I wish I could've done something for the dog she had on the table. I won't shop there again, and I'm searching for a new veterinarian. I'll make the drive out to All Paws Pet Center for food and supplies and Brewster already gets his grooming at Rags to Ribbons in Valley Center.

This is not a personal vendetta against Ms. Thompson. I've never interacted with her other than to make purchases in her shop, and those encounters have always been amiable. (At least until Saturday, when I put my intended purchase on the counter and said in a remarkably calm voice, "I can buy this someplace else." As I walked away, she or another staff member hissed--yes, hissed--at my back.) I'm not condemning the products she sells, which I've always found to be of acceptable quality, or the veterinary care provided next door, which I've always found to be compassionate and competent.

But Pet Haven is hardly a "haven" for Ms. Thompson's grooming clients, and I will not use any of their services anymore.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dog In Need of Space

I really love the article "My Dog Is Friendly! A Public Service Announcement" and thought about printing it out to take on walks to give to overly friendly people. But it's a little long, so I wrote my own little PSA, which fits on one page and has the advantage of being personalized for Brewster's situation and Wichita city codes.

Dear Neighbor,
My dog is a Dog In Need of Space (DINOS). Please do not approach or allow your children or your dog to approach my dog. It does not matter that you are "good with dogs" or that your dog doesn't bite. My dog is aggressive when he believes he is being attacked, and it isn't safe for you or your dog to approach without my approval. My dog is a good dog. He was rescued as a stray and his behavior makes it clear that he was dumped or ran away from an abusive home where he was hit often and never socialized to strange people or dogs. I have gone through formal obedience training with him, and continue to work with him, but no amount of training will ever make him comfortable around strangers of any species. Yet when he is properly introduced and has time to get to know a new person or dog, he is the friendliest, sweetest, most loving dog you'd ever want to meet.

Even though my dog is aggressive when he feels threatened, I do have the right to walk him in public as long as he is on leash and under my control. However, no dog owner has the right to allow a dog to run off leash outside of a fenced area. It is a violation of Wichita law (City Code 6.04.040a) to allow any animal other than a cat to roam free, even if it's in your own front yard. Furthermore, if a loose dog charges my dog and my dog bites, the loose dog's owner will probably be considered to be at fault under City Code 6.04.045b.2.ii because the loose dog will be considered to have provoked my dog. This applies even if the loose dog is "friendly" and "just wants to play."

That said, I will always do anything I can to prevent my dog hurting another. I am an animal lover (otherwise I wouldn't have adopted a special-needs dog!) and I don't want your dog or my dog to get hurt. I do my best to keep my dog out of dangerous situations and away from strange dogs and people while still giving him the daily exercise and enjoyment he deserves. Please help me keep your family and my dog safe by following the law and keeping your pets under control, and by teaching your children when and when not to approach a dog. Keep in mind that my dog is certainly not the only DINOS in the neighborhood. You should never approach or allow your children or your pet to approach any dog without the owner's express permission--and even then you should carefully assess the dog's body language for yourself before approaching. 

For more information on DINOS dogs, please visit


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Delusional Knitting Season

A mere sampling of the Christmas yarn.
As recently as two weeks ago, I was swearing up and down that I would not be doing any Christmas knitting this year because, in case I haven't mentioned it recently, I HAVE THREE JOBS and do not have time for deadline knitting. So imagine my surprise when I made my Christmas list and realized that it contains seven knitting projects. In fact, all it contains is knitting projects. Because my family won't know I love them unless I swath them in vast fields of stockinette. Apparently.

The thing is, I have looked at a calendar. I realize that to make this work I have to accomplish one project a week for the next seven weeks, which might be asking a little bit much of a person who spent three months this summer making a pair of plain stockinette socks.

And speaking of socks (and I don't want to get into specifics here because, let's be honest, 93% of the people reading this are actually on the Christmas list), five of the eight projects--yes, eight, I just thought of one more--anyway, five of the eight projects are socks or sock-related. Those come in pairs. If you don't understand why that's relevant, you aren't allowed to talk to me until at least February 2012.

So. I've looked at the calendar. I've looked at the list. I understand the relationship of the calendar to the list. But I still think everything will be just fine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Silver Linings

My car window broke last Thursday, Edgar the Cat had to go in for some bloodwork on Friday, and this morning, after two days sitting in the garage, my car battery was dead. So I sat at the mechanic's for the entire morning, and I decided to spend part of the time making a mental list of silver linings. Some are kind of more like pewter, but I'll take what I can get. 

1. Edgar's very expensive bloodwork results came back. For a 15-year-old cat, he's remarkably healthy. Apparently appropriate litter habits just become irrelevant to cats of a certain age. So . . . yay?

2. I spent so much time at the mechanic's that I got an entire stack of papers graded and about 1/3 of a foot knitted. Believe me when I tell you that I needed the knitting time. Yay!

3. I got to listen to an unintentionally entertaining fellow customer explain how he has come up with a mathematical theory that will break any and all codes, like "the Internet code." Something to do with prime numbers. Luckily he was talking to another customer, so I didn't have to even pretend to try to understand. 

4. Since the same car window had the same problem and was repaired just two years ago, the mechanic wrote off the labor and only charged me for the crappy part, which he claims has been improved since then. So after window repair, new battery, and an oil change just for the hell of it, I got out of there for only $380 instead of $550. I still need a new valve cover or some such shit that will cost another $120, but that doesn't have to be repaired immediately. Yay?

5. I've worked out a really fabulous justification for how my crappiest of all crappy Monday mornings warrants an afternoon nap before I have to teach tonight. Yay!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why, Thank You!

I think it's beautiful, too. Thank you so much for noticing!

Maybe someday Twist will offer a class in how to be a humble knitter. But I won't take it because

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Yeah. I've got this.

So . . . what's next?  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Grammy Knitting

My grandmother, RoJean Erwin Holem, passed away in 2004, but if she were around today, there would be a few things she'd want you to know: Among other things, she was a registered nurse at Susan B. Allan Memorial Hospital who proudly wore her uniform until the day she retired--none of these "scrubs," thankyouverymuch. She was a member of the Susannah French Putney chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (whether that's much to be proud of we can cover another time). She drew all her own greeting cards. She enjoyed writing and won several Jessie Perry Stratford awards from the Butler County Historical Society for her stories about El Dorado's history. And her granddaughter called her "Grammy," not "graaaanmaaa" (pronounced in a derisive, gravely whine that really can't be reproduced in print). 

She was also a talented knitter. I'd love to tell you that my own knitting habit was inspired by her, but it wasn't. I remember watching Grammy knit when I was a kid and thinking, "How boring." Sometime around age 8 or 9, I demanded that I be taught to knit, and Grammy and my mom managed together to teach me the knit stitch, but after producing a 3-inch blob of blue yarn and confirming that knitting was, indeed, boring, I went back to my books and didn't pick up needles again until I was 28 or so. And the knitting I do now bears little resemblance to her knitting, at least as I remember it. The only garment she ever knitted for me was a purple sweater vest done in what I now know is garter stitch. I wore it one time, for my fourth-grade class picture, and it was retired, never to be seen again. She certainly didn't churn out brightly colored socks the way I do, much less carry them around in her purse to be worked whenever she had to wait more than three minutes. (She should have. Patience wasn't her strong suit. Knitting would've helped.)

So when I'm knitting, I'm not really thinking about Grammy. But that's about to change, because I am about to dive into "Grammy Knitting" in a big, big way. The occasional wretched sweater vest aside, most of Grammy's projects were Christmas stockings. Every baby born in our family and in the families of close friends, dating from my mother's cousin Dwight in 1944 and Mom herself in 1948, received a handknit Christmas stocking personalized with the baby's name and birth date. She also made them for new spouses and for Lord's Acre fundraising sales at the Methodist Church. The last stocking went to Dwight's grandson, Braden, in 1993; after that her arthritis was too painful to knit anymore. I tried to get Mom to estimate the number of stockings Grammy made during all those years; Mom refuses to make the attempt. Personally, I think it's a safe bet that she easily made more than 100.

Notice that Mom's stocking is longer than mine. After making Dwight's and Mom's stockings, she started making them shorter so that it wouldn't take so much to fill.
These stockings were such a fact of life in our family that I remember being appalled when I realized that not everyone had a handknit Christmas stocking. Lots of people's stockings didn't even have their names on them. Some of them were--gasp--store bought! To this day I feel an instinctive twinge of pity when I go to a friend's home and see bland, anonymous Christmas stockings, and I feel terrible that none of our new family members since 1993 have received their own stockings.

Well, family, we're gonna fix that. I've been wanting to learn colorwork for a while, and Twist Yarn Shop has a colorwork class starting this weekend that uses Christmas stockings as the sample project. The pattern even uses some of the same designs Grammy used, like the girl and boy characters on my stocking and Mom's. Christmas stockings will shortly be pouring off my needles.

I just ask one favor: I've got a lot of catching up to do, and I don't knit nearly as fast as Grammy did. Please procreate slowly.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dogs and Yarn

When I started writing this blog, I assumed I would have insightful things to say about politics and religion. But I've been going through old entries, and it turns out I only talk about dogs and yarn. Yarn and dogs. yarndogsyarncatsdogsyarndogs.

"Why?" I ask myself. "Don't I have anything relevant to contribute to the contentious issues of the day?"

"No," I answer myself. "Contentiousness is overrated."

Politics are frustrating. I keep working and volunteering for the causes and changes I believe in, but I can't afford the emotional energy it would take to argue about it every day. I find that the harder I work, the less interested I am in talking about it.

I love a good theological discussion, but those are better left to face-to-face conversations, right? I don't give a good gd whether you believe the same thing I believe as long as you leave me alone to believe it. I do, however, care deeply about convincing you to treat your pets well and that the superior drape of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool is well worth the extra expense.

So. Dogs. Yarn. The occasional cat, and possibly a sunflower or two.

Whether you read me because you're interested in dogs and/or yarn, or because you're my friend and you're interested in what's going on in my little world, or because you're a student of psychiatry and you're using me as a class project (see aforementioned example of my tendency to talk to myself), it is what it is and this is what it is. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Me. Not Weird.

I've been celebrating fall mainly because I get to wear my handknit socks again. I even publicly congratulated my pink Monkeys for being the first out of the drawer in fall 2011. 

Way to go, Monkeys!
I have to admit I was feeling a little weird about this, until I hopped on over to Knitting to Stay Sane. Most of the post is about steeking, which is intentionally cutting up something you have just knit. Intentionally. But at the very end she gets all excited about wearing socks. Just like me. So, me. Not weird. In that particular way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brewster Gets a Haircut

Brewster has lived here for a year and a half, and he's never gone to a groomer. Finding a groomer I would trust with a stuffed dog, let alone the Little Dude, is HARD. Some of them insist that you leave the dog all day so they can groom it whenever they get around to it. One refused to let me see the back room where they do the grooming. The groomer/pet supply shop near here would be convenient, but every time I go in there, the groomer has a half-shaved dog on the table and she's across the room reading junk mail and eating Cheetos. So . . . no.

But Little Dude looked like this:

I call this the Crotchety Old Man Look
So we spent the morning near Valley Center at Rags to Ribbons, the groomer associated with Wag'en Tail Ranch, where Brewster and I did obedience training. (Turns out neither of us is very obedient.) The nice ladies let me stand in their shop for 20 minutes last week and ask them annoying, stupid questions ("Would you ever put a dog on the table and then wander off to have a snack?") until I felt like they were good enough and kind enough and smart enough to be trusted with the Dude, who can be a bit of a handful, to put it mildly.

Now he looks like this:

"I'm too sexy for this dumb bandana."*
I'm kind of sad that his mohawk is gone and he smells weird (like, vaguely clean or something), but other than that, I'm pretty happy. And the report from the groomer was that Brewster did not try to mutilate any of his crate mates, and they didn't ban us from the shop, so we're calling that a win.

*Alternative picture captions:
"Lady, put down the g.d. camera and get this flippin thing OFFA ME."
"Do not bother me while I stare sexily into the distance like that dude in the Abercrombie & Fitch ad."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This purse will get done one of these days, but it's not looking like this week. It isn't because the Noro is too hard to work with or because the cables are too complicated. Those are the obstacles I expected to run into that turned out to be no problem at all.

I also picked up some muslin for the lining and chose two buttons, one of which will be a lovely closure as soon as I pick the one I like the best. (That in itself might take a while.)

The problem is that the strap is made of braided i-cord. And, dudes, knitting i-cord is boring.

I-cord: Easy. Fast. Mind-Numbingly Dull.

I'm off to look through The Joy of Sox and go diving in the sock yarn bin. Maybe if I get really frustrated over some complicated socks, knitting plain i-cord will suddenly seem really appealing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ta . . .

Almost done. The bulk of the knitting is finished. I still need to do the handles (I think I'm going to do two short ones instead of a long crossbody) and a button loop, and then find some fabric to sew a lining. Everything I have in the house is in pastels with little flowers on it. (One wonders how I of all people came to own a bunch of pastel fabric with little flowers. I can only speculate that it was cheap.) She's having a soothing soak now, but here she is before her bath:

My verdict on my first experience of Noro: Meh. It has its uses, a purse being a great one because it makes such a nice, stiff fabric. But it certainly won't become a go-to yarn for me, particularly not in the spring and summer when I'm having my lovely skin allergy on my hands that no doctor can be bothered to identify. Trying to knit Noro with flaky, dry skin is never fun and sometimes painful. Noro knitters may like it rough, but, folks, I am not that masochistic. I'm looking forward to getting back to dependable Cascade 220. If I want color changes, I'll get busy and learn Fair Isle. 

As for the cables, I guess they have their place. I think I'll always be a lace knitter, but I've done enough cabled projects lately that I think I can call myself competent. Frankly, I'm amazed I was able to complete the body of this purse in about two weeks. I have to grudgingly admit that it was the rough stickiness of the Noro that made that possible. I've never had such an easy time cabling without a needle, and that was thanks to the Noro's tendency to stick to itself. And the cables do look impressive, don't they?

I hope the "Da!" portion of this little saga will conclude in another week or two!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Brevity is the Soul of . . .

. . . things that are brief.

Two full pattern repeats of the main body complete:

Two more to go. I'm thinking the knitting might be done next weekend. Then all that will be left will be the part where I cajole, flatter, and badger my mother into helping me sew a lining. That should only take about a month.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And Some Moderate Cussing Ensued

My first provisional cast on did not go smoothly. When I picked up the stitches in the first row and pulled out the crochet, I found that I had 20 stitches instead of 24. That's a pretty neat trick, given that I had 24 stitches for all 143 rows of the top band. I don't know where the 4 lost stitches in the very first row went, or how I managed to knit the correct number of stitches from a base of incorrect stitches, but through some careful finagling and fudging and fussing (and some other F-words, at least one of which has four letters), I was able to create 4 stitches in what I hope will be inconspicuous spots and get the two ends grafted together. 

Behold, the horizontal band:

In a stretchier, lighter yarn, this would make a lovely headband pattern.

I spent this evening picking up 144 stitches along the bottom of the band and have knit 2-1/2 rounds. At this rate, I expect to be finished sometime in September.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I don't think of myself as a superstitious person.

That said, I never fail to throw spilled salt over my left shoulder (it occurs to me I don't actually know why--must Google that*) or knock on wood when talking about something I don't want to happen (if all that's available is laminate, I knock my own skull on the grounds that it's more authentic), and it's no coincidence that my street address is an even number (my own personal idiosyncrasy). So understand that it is taking all my courage to publish these words:

KNOCKKNOCKKNOCKThe cabled Noro purse is going well.KNOCKKNOCKKNOCK

I realize that the knitting deities now have no choice but to smite me. I accept my fate. 

That's not to say that there's been no trouble at all. For one thing, I have discovered one of the reasons Noro haters hate with such passion. I mentioned that this yarn is spun loosely. In some places, it isn't spun at all. 

The empty needle is pointing to a spot where the yarn is not so much yarn as unspun batting. When I run into these spots, I have to resist the urge to yank on it to make the gauge match the rest of the yarn. The problem with that is that yanking creates very tight stitches, and knitting too tightly makes it very difficult to cable. I'm learning that, whereas most yarns go out of their way to please you, the Noro insists on being itself. The knitter has to adjust to the Noro, not the other way around. I can respect that, as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

I also had a minor setback yesterday when I had to rip back one full pattern repeat because of a miscrossed cable, but careful "proofreading" of the cables has caught most errors early and kept ripping to a minimum. (Who would've thought that editorial skills would come in handy in knitting?)

As of this evening, I have knit the top, horizontal portion of the purse to here: 

I have four more pattern repeats to go. The empty needle is at the halfway point, at about 9.5 inches. I'm planning to try to block it to at least 10 inches wide. I am a ridiculously slow cabler, but the cables on this portion are going much quicker than I anticipated, and I hope I might finish it tomorrow. 

But then the hard part starts. The cable chart for the main body of the purse is so wide it has to be printed in landscape view and contains instructions to repeat the center section four times. Didja catch that? It's too wide to print on letter-sized paper, so it can't be fully charted. And since the purse has a front and a back (doh!), it actually repeats eight times, not four.

This will be prime smiting opportunity for those pesky deities. But, like Odysseus battling the cyclops, I will persevere! Or stab myself in the eye with a dpn. Whichever.

*Apparently, I'm throwing salt in the devil's face.  Another site says that good spirits live on your right side and bad spirits live on the left. Good spirits cause you to spill the salt to warn you about the bad spirits. The origin of knocking on wood is less clear; it may be associated with good tree or wood spirits or with the Christian cross.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Diving . . .

I bought the Noro Kureyon. (That's not unlike drinking the Kool-Aid.)

There are a lot of logical reasons for this, but it boils down to wanting to watch the pretty color changes. There is no other yarn that achieves quite the same effect. So far I'm siding with the anti-Noro contingent, particularly for cables. I think the technical description would be to say that it is spun loosely. I think "mushy" is a good description. When I try to cable without a needle, the stitches of course are a bit tight; two stitches will blend together, making it difficult to see where one ends and the next begins, which makes it all too easy to k2tog without meaning to--or worse, split a stitch and k1.5tog.

But given that I've only knit two pattern repeats so far . . .

. . . it's hardly fair to issue my final judgment just yet. I expect when some of the color changes start appearing, I will be willing to forgive a lot of mushiness. And the good thing about Noro is that its fuzzy stickiness makes it pretty easy to cable without a needle without worrying about dropping stitches. In fact, I really don't think you could drop a stitch. You pretty much have to yank those suckers out of there. 

After the Twist excursion, I went to Becci's and had her change this:

to this:

Apparently I stole Jay Leno's chin.

I think I've lost at least 2 pounds.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Diving into the Shallow End Head-First

Wednesday, June 15, 2011:
Three different people message me to let me know that Groupon is running a coupon for Twist Yarn Shop. I've never used Groupon, but I adore Twist, so I hesitate approximately 1.4 seconds before happily setting up an account and purchasing a $7 coupon that is theoretically going to get me $15 worth of yarn. I say "theoretically" because I revel in resisting innovation as long as possible, and I still don't really believe that this is actually possible. I don't have any particular project in mind, but I know it will be spent well before the October expiration date. Theoretically. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011:
I go to Stitch and Bitch for the first time in at least 3 weeks. I forget the Groupon, which is a good thing because if I'd had it with me, I probably would've bought that lace weight Malabrigo and promptly cast on for a lace shawl that would've been beautiful, but which neither I nor anyone I know would be interested in actually wearing. Instead I leave with nothing but a pair of completed gloves for the Momma Lady.

Ends woven in and everything, Baby. D.O.N.E. Done. (That overly gleeful tone is because these gloves took 3 months instead of 2 weeks to knit. I do not recommend casting on for winter wear in April. There's no motivation.)

While at Stitch and Bitch, I wander around the shop and notice a shop sample of this bag knit in Noro (click "collection" to make pictures appear--the internets sure are magically, ain't it?). Now I have never used Noro. I know some people love it and some people hate it, but even the people who love it and will defend it to the death will curse it in the very same breath. So I have stayed away from the Noro. I also tend to stay away from cables. I'm not a fan of cables. I decided not to complete an afghan square because it has fewer cables than this purse.

But, folks, that was an afghan square for a sampler afghan that's going to get admired and then folded up and put in the closet because it isn't really a practical, usable afghan. This is an adorable purse. It's the right size for me. It has a charming combination of clean, elegant design and hippy-dippy yarny happiness. I am hooked.

Friday, June 17, 2011:
The toilet gets fixed. This has nothing to do with Noro or cables or knitting in general, but it's a major event in my life and deserves a mention. I no longer have to turn on the water to fill the tank before I can flush. No more practicing the "if it's yellow" philosophy of flushing. Whee!

I also find the pattern for the purse. I download it and announce on Facebook that I am going to knit this purse. Now it must be done to save face--which I guess is the point of Facebook, photos of drunk idiots notwithstanding. I get busy learning to knit a provisional cast on, a technique I've been avoiding to this point.

 You could call my crochet skills "adequate" if you were feeling extremely charitable, but since the crochet is the "provisional" part of the provisional cast on, it'll get ripped out and not matter anyway. Now I'm sorely tempted to toss the purse aside and start in on some of those toe-up sock patterns I've been avoiding.

But honestly, you've all looked at enough sock pictures for a while, haven't you? I bet my loyal audience of approximately three people (Hi, Mom!) would much prefer to watch me struggle through a project with more cables than Cox. I promise to make foolish mistakes and tell you all about them in horrifying detail at least once a week.

The Groupon and I will be at Twist promptly at 10am to hunt down some yarn that isn't Noro. I can't wait. I bet you're all excited, too. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Field Trip: The Sequel!

In the normal course of events, I make it up to Hutch every couple of years or so, whenever I start feeling like it's been too long since I went to the fair. Going up twice in one month is unprecedented. This time I went up with the Barricks for Dad's birthday to see Tornado Alley at the Cosmosphere. The movie is entertaining and educational (and is narrated by Bill Paxton, which gave it that touch of Twister authenticity). Furthermore, with my newfound tornado expertise, I'm convinced that what we had in Lawrence in March 2006 was an actual small tornado. Microburst, my ass.

But for me, the highlights of the day were not movie-related. First there was this excellent sock picture:
Socks in Space!
If you're not a sock knitter, this doesn't make sense and you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that this is a pretty cool picture. Those of you who are actually acquainted with this particular sock will notice that significant progress was made in the car on the way up. Now that we're home again, Sockie is ready for her toe.

Moving on. . . .

The second highlight was seeing the two pieces of the Berlin Wall displayed at the Cosmosphere. I remember hearing that we were getting some pieces, but had forgotten about it. The Wall coming down was probably the first politically important event of my lifetime with obvious historical significance that I was old enough to remember and at least partially understand. So rounding a corner and running smack into pieces of the wall was literally breathtaking. 

 Although the display kinda sorta makes sense in the context of the Cold War space race, it does seem odd to display them at the Cosmosphere in a weirdly dark corner. I would think there might be more appropriate venues. I suppose, though, that they are at the Cosmosphere specifically because they're the property of the Smithsonian.

I thought my fiber-loving, needleworking friends would be interested in the following tidbit:

I haven't been able to find any other information on the "little old ladies" (extensive 2-minute Google searches just aren't what they used to be), but I'd be willing to bet that these women were probably a variety of ages and of more or less regular size. 

And then there was supper at Bogey's, a very good, very cheap burger place next to the Fairgrounds that my sister knew about from her time working at the Hutch hospital when she was in nursing school.

American Bliss
See the "DP" on the cup? That stands for "Dr. Pepper." That right there, my friends, is a Dr. Pepper shake. It seems unbelievable that I had to wait 34 years to taste a Dr. Pepper shake. The technology that could create this marvel is at least as impressive to me as the technology that sent men to the moon.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Field Trip!

Sometimes it's hard to remember why I love Kansas. What with all the hateful political nonsense, it's easy to forget that a lot of people in this state are kind folks who are all about helping each other. Foremost among that group are . . .

 Mennonites selling things!

Mom and I went up to Hutchinson this morning for the Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale, where they auction off everything from garden shovels to antique pump organs.

I was going to watch the quilt auction and get some pictures, but the very first quilt that sold after we got into that building went for $4,000. I tend to be a fidgety type of person, so I got out of there before I accidentally scratched my nose and bought a quilt that cost more than my car.

They have smaller items for sale, too. I scored a bag of buttons and some old linens to add to my collection. Antique linen comes in handy at the strangest times, and everybody knows that a well-stocked button bin is essential to any crafty household. This $2 bag of buttons doubles the size of the collection that it's taken me about 10 years to accumulate. 

The Ukrainian Easter Egg exhibit was also worth a look.

This gentleman is 12 years old. He told me that he's been coming to the MCC sale and watching the egg painting since he was 3 years old. Last year he decided to get in on the action, and now he makes eggs as beautiful as any I've seen.

I had already been on the button and linen buying spree, so there wasn't much cash left in my wallet, but I did have enough for a simple egg.

I like it.

And of course there was food. First, I picked up some "New Year's Cookies"--basically large doughnut holes with raisins. These are supposed to be for book group on Tuesday. I hope they make it that long.  I've already started bargaining with myself about how I could eat my share now and just not have any on Tuesday. But I expect that if I get started, no one will have any on Tuesday.

We also picked up a midmorning snack--Russian pancakes (or crepes, if you prefer, I suppose).


For lunch we were going to have the dinner they provided, but Mom wasn't in the mood for German food so we went with a different ethnicity at The Anchor Inn. 

Except for lunch at The Anchor Inn, the money we spent this morning goes to causes like this:

Need I tell you how much I adore spending money and feeling virtuous all at the same time? And I suppose our lunch bill will probably help pay the waitress's electric bill or something, so that's pretty virtuous, too. Between the shopping, the food, and the peaceful drive through dark green wheat fields, I'm feeling pretty good about Kansas again.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Theology of Socks

I've been thinking about it, and I'm pretty sure I've had a pair of socks on the needles almost all the time since July of last year. I've done other things, too (wee little snow people spring to mind, for example), but socks have been the mainstay of the knitting repertoire. Even when the "main" knitting is something else, I've had a sock going in the background. In fact, I've become a bit evangelistic about them, trying to convince others that they need to learn to knit socks, too. (There really is no experience so magical as turning a heel. You should try it.) You might say I've gotten Sock Religion, and I'm feeling pretty confident about my decision to join the Church of Sock.  

Or I was. These goddamned socks have made me doubt everything. The problem is that I can't figure out whether they're representatives of God sent to test me, or representatives of Satan sent to make me lose faith in socks and their designers.

Here they are:

I wanted natural light, so she obligingly stuck her feet in the window. : )
Cute, aren't they? They're modeled by my mom, the intended recipient. She chose the yarn, but I chose the pattern. The first tenet of Sock Theology is:

1. We choose our own damnation.

Why did I choose this pattern? I wanted to make something "complicated." That is, I wanted to make something that looked complicated, but that I would breeze through, something that would garner admiring sighs even from my fellow knitters and blatant awe from nonknitters. Something that would allow me to lower my eyelids demurely and say in a modest voice, "Oh, it was nothing" in that tone that means I know perfectly well that I am the supreme knitting goddess of all the world, but that I am too well bred to say so.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, I chose this pattern because of hubris.

I started this pattern last July, but didn't get very far because I didn't like the yarn-pattern combination and switched to another design. But I did find an error before I quit, and on this go-round I knew I would need to use the chart instead of the written instructions. So I should've been prepared for errors in other parts of the pattern as well. The second tenet of Sock Theology is:

2. Much like scripture, knitting patterns may be inspired, but they are ultimately a human production and are full of mistakes. In evaluating a pattern's validity and accuracy, confer with experts and use your own best judgment.

I should've checked for pattern corrections before I even started knitting. I should've read the notes written by the 49 other knitters on Ravelry who have knit this pattern before me. Instead, I forged ahead alone, convinced that I knew what I was doing, that I didn't need input from anyone else on MY socks.

So when I got to the instruction that informed me that I was supposed to have 33 stitches over two needles, but I only had 32, I assumed it was my fault. I tinked back and rekint. And still had 32. So I recounted the stitches on my needles. Yup, still 32. I counted the stitches in the pattern. 32. But then in the very next line it insisted that there should be 33, and the next step in the pattern did require 33 stitches.

Still, incredibly, I assumed the fault must be mine. Feeling like a bit of a failure, I increased a stitch in what I hoped would be an inconspicuous spot and muddled on. Much like trying to live according to a literal interpretation of 2,000+-year-old book, I found myself feeling vaguely guilty for something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I just wasn't a good enough knitter, and I was starting to feel a crinkle between my eyebrows every time I thought about it.

And I thought about it a lot. I was thinking about these socks one Sunday during church. (Sorry, Amy.) I believe it was while we were singing the Doxology ("Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise God, all creatures here below . . .") that the thought? inspiration? voice of God? came to me:

"You'd better check Ravelry for errata."

So when I got home, I did. And found more than a page of corrections. Of course, they wouldn't be so long if they weren't so rambling and preceded by statements like "I would've reknit this sooner, but I'm working on my book" (god help her tech editor, assuming she bothered to hire one, and no, I do not want THAT book for Christmas) and "This is probably all my fault." Let me help you with any doubts you may harbor, Ms. Designer: It. Is. All. Your. Fault.

And the ultimate insult: "LOL!"

Kiddos, I am not LOLing.


That was about 2-1/2 weeks ago. I muddled through the corrections and worked out just what the hell the designer was trying to accomplish. The second sock moved along at a leisurely pace and has the distinction of being the victim of my first-ever episode of Second-Sock Syndrome. Luckily it only got put down three times, once for about a week while I knit the January square of a square-a-month afghan, and twice for 24-hour projects because I needed a break. At one point I dropped a stitch in the gusset decrease without noticing and had to rip back 6 rounds, so I got frustrated with myself all over again.

But they're done. They're in warm, washable wool, and I happen to know that they're on Mom's feet as I type this. They caused me aggravation like nothing since college algebra, but she seems to like them, so I suppose they were worth it.

If they hadn't been a gift for someone else, I probably would've carefully woven in the ends, blocked them neatly, and then burnt them in a small bonfire in the backyard as a sacrifice to appease the knitting gods.

Sock Theology tenets 3, 4, and 5:

3. Don't expect perfection from others that you can't achieve yourself, and don't model your knitting on someone else's vision of perfection. 
4. No one is forcing you to knit. If you aren't enjoying it, you should stop. 
(4a. Recipients of gifts like this shouldn't feel guilty about enjoying something we knitters complain about so bitterly. Like many religious people, many knitters have a bit of a masochistic streak. If we didn't enjoy torturing ourselves just a little, we'd be watching Netflix instead of trying to figure out where the hell the extra stitch came from.)
5. Knitting is supposed to be relaxing, so pull your head out of your ass, have a giggle at yourself for taking it all so seriously, and move the hell on. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My house was built in 1951. It has three small bedrooms, one of which is slightly larger than the other two, a ridiculously tiny kitchen, and one bathroom. The previous owner (I am only the second) managed with his wife to raise three children in this house. That's five people in this little tiny house, this house that I bought because in 2008 it was the perfect size for me alone. Four other people in this house with me? Hell, no.

Every once in a while I marvel at this all over again when, for example, I have to cook a family dinner or bake a cake from scratch. I avoid cooking whenever possible simply because the kitchen is so cramped that any small amount of joy I might get out of it (which isn't much; it's not my favorite hobby) is sucked right out of me when I have to stop in the middle and wash dishes to make room to keep working. But Melba, the mother of the family who grew up here, almost certainly cooked multiple meals in that itty bitty kitchen every day of her life.

Today the state of my overflowing bedroom closet got the best of me and I started pulling things out to go to Goodwill. The master bedroom closet, the largest closet in the house, is 5 feet wide with a 2-foot door. It holds about two thirds of my clothes and has to be purged on a regular basis just to be able to see what's in there. But when this house was built it was intended to hold the complete wardrobes of two people.

So do I feel lucky to have so many clothes? Unlucky to have such "tiny" closets? Or gluttonous for having more clothes than any one human being could possibly need? All three, I guess.

Despite the tiny closets, I adore my diminutive house. When space gets cramped and it's time to purge again, I get a vivid reminder of the difference between what I need and what I want, an inkling of what it's like to live a full life with less stuff, and the inspiration to get rid of the stuff that's nothing but clutter.

And I've got major remodeling plans for the kitchen.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Chat with Edgar

"Lady, scratch my chin."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"Umph. Blurg."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"I'm sleeping. Shut up."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"I have a lot of work to do today. I need to get all my sleep so I can do it without passing out in the middle."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"I can't even reach your chin. Get your butt out of my face."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"How about if I just put my hand on your neck."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"I'll wiggle my fingers on your neck. All better? Now shut up."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"I scratched your neck. Close enough."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
 "It's a miracle I could even find your neck. You need to lay off the kibble."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
"That's not even a real meow. It's some kind of half-assed squeaky whine-grunt."
"Lady, scratch my chin."
Scratch, scratch, scratch.
"Lady, scratch my chin."

This has been "A Chat with Edgar: Lady, Scratch My Chin." Join us tomorrow for a scintillating chat with Kudra entitled, "Lady, Scratch My Butt."