Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Extreme Knitting--and Lots of It!

Well, after a relatively dry spell, the Extreme Knitting entries are beginning to roll in again. Two of the entries (from Folkcat and Celia) are aging like fine wine. Jenna's is brand new. And I have it on good authority that another will be winging its way to me soon. What fun!

Folkcat has taken the Extreme Knitting Challenge to an entirely different level. She writes:

Since I wrote to you with the "11 Bridges in 140 Minutes", I have changed a lot about my blogs. Five of them, including Folkcat's Fiber Crafts where the "Bridges" photos were published, have officially been retired and folded into a single new blog. You might want to check it out - the theme is all your fault, really! I've taken to calling what I'm doing with the Extreme Knitting "Knitting Around", and so the title of the new blog is I Knit Around. ... [Y]our Extreme Knitting challenge is at least having an influence on my life! I want to thank you for having issued that challenge, and for getting me to see my knitting - and its place in my life - in a whole different way.

Here is one photo from the "11 Bridges in 140 Minutes" adventure. This is the Old Intervale Bridge, built in about 1916:

Here are the links for the entire adventure. Give them read; I found them to be quite interesting. And it's wonderful to see all the different types of bridges.

Bridges Part I
Bridges Part II
Bridges Part III
Bridges Part IV

The next entry is from Celia. She participated in the San Francisco Fringe Festival in a movement theater show called Shiftings. Here she is, knitting on stage:

You can read more about her experience here.

And for our final Extreme Knitting entry today, I present Jenna:

She's knitting in the Shenadoah Mountains in the George Washington National Forest on the Buzzards Rock Trail. On the way back, they snapped this photo:

Motorcycle knitting! That's a first for the Extreme Knitting Challenge. Jenna did say that the motorcycle knitting shots were a bit treacherous to take. I can only imagine. I feel like I'm in a very precarious position whenever I'm sitting on a moving motorcyle, which (thankfully) isn't very often.

Thanks to everyone for all the good Extreme Knitting entries! I'm sorry it took me so long to get them posted.

Parting Shot

I couldn't resist. This is Kim's new puppy, as of yet unnamed. Isn't she sweet?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sensory Overload

Oh. My. God.

What else can I say about the expo at Stitches East? And how cool is it that Stitches East is going to be at the Baltimore Convention Center next year, November 2-5? I think Baltimore is a much better city for Stitches than Atlantic City. Lots of good restaurants, lots of activities in the Inner Harbor, and it doesn't have the aura of...well...sleaziness (my apologies to the fine residents of Atlantic City).

I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:35 for the drive to Towson to meet the gambling bus. I arrived in plenty of time, given that rush hour traffic wasn't as hideous as I thought it was going to be. My friend Gina arrived and one of the gambling buses arrived. As we were getting ready to board (the driver didn't have our reservation listed), another bus arrived. This one had the rest of our group on it. We boarded, I tried to get a picture of everyone but the camera decided to not cooperate, so there are no pictures of our intrepid knitters.

The gambling bus is an excellent deal. It costs $25, but they give you a voucher for $20 for gambling (redeemable for actual cash) and a $10 food voucher. The $5 "profit" pays for your entrance into the expo, if you have the $2 discount card.

Most of us had some knitting with us. I took Mom's sock and made good progress, although I had to knit and unknit the heel about three times because I just can't knit and talk or listen at the same time.

The photo doesn't do justice to the stitch pattern or the color.

Gina brought a sock and a sweater, Nancy brought her very cool lime green bag, and Emily brought a scarf. I don't know what Stephanie brought, and Margo, poor thing, didn't bring any knitting.

After an uneventful trip (except for passing a hellatious car fire on the interstate), we arrived at Trump Plaza and went to redeem our vouchers. The casino reeked of smoke and there were some rather interesting-looking people playing the slots. I found the whole casino atmosphere to be rather depressing. The people didn't look happy; most had glazed expressions on their faces. The noise, the mirrors, and flashing lights were enough to drive me crazy, had we not beat a fast retreat to head over to the convention center.

My main goal for the expo (besides not spending a ton of money) was to find the Yarn Harlot, which was accomplished in short order. The Yarn Barn of Kansas was conventiently placed at the front of the expo hall and I nearly tripped over Stephanie before realizing I was in the right spot. She graciously signed both bookbookbooks, although she may have thought it strange that I was kneeling in front of her. No, I wasn't doing homage (although the thought had crossed my mind). I just felt like I was towering over her while she was sitting. I'm barely 5'2". I typically don't tower over people; I'm usually the toweree. But there you have it. I also felt like a blithering idiot or at least a blithering groupie. She was witty and funny and I was...well...dull.

Gina and I visited most of the booths there. There was lots of yarn. There was lots of buttons. There was lots of beads. There was lots of books. Did I mention there was lots of yarn? Now, you must remember that I'm a relatively new knitter. I've never been to Stitches and I've never been to Maryland Sheep and Wool (shame on me!). So to have this much yarn in one place was overwhelming to say the least. I touched, I admired, I fondled. I especially the fondled the cashmere. Poor Yarn Harlot. Her second book signing of the day was right smack next to the largest amount of pure cashmere I've ever seen. She wisely turned her back on it, muttering something about it being a slippery slope and a mortgage payment.

Despite my vow that I wasn't going to buy anything (what planet did I think I was living on?), I bought a couple of items. There was a cute little pattern for making tiny baby booties and hats out of scrap sock yarn that would be perfect for the niece or nephew who will be arriving this winter (late winter, I might add). I bought two hat kits to make up for two of my nieces (tres expensive, but the kits included the needles). But my favorite purchase was a sock kit with silk/merino yarn in it (oh happy feet!), and 8 ounces of a gorgeous light brown baby alpaca fleece to spin. See?

I forced let Yarn Harlot touch the alpaca. It is like touching a puff of warm, soft, silky air. I hope my spinning can do it justice.

The others in our happy band of knitters did a little bit of buying, too. Gina had the most stash enhancement, with yarn for socks, a sweater kit of Colinette yarns, skeins and skeins of yarn for a scarf made out of the most stunning mix of novelty yarns, couple of books, and two balls of qivuit. Nancy and Stephanie both scored with a kit for a cashmere something for only $60. They also each bought a very nice poncho kit from Philosopher's Wool.

I'll have Extreme Knitting content tomorrow. I promise. Now I have to go wash the kitchen floor. The cat is beginning to stick to it. I'd rather be knitting, though. I'm still on a yarn high!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Cherry Crumb Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream

Yes, it's another boring post, sans pictures. Will there ever be any pictures of knitting again? Will I ever post the two most recent entries for Extreme Knitting? The answer is yes. Right now I'm finding it hard to find the energy to go through the machinations of taking pictures, loading them to the laptop, then uploading them to Blogger. Some would call it lazy.

I completed all of the required Red Cross disaster services training and now am available to be deployed to the Katrina disaster area, or to where Rita is going to hit. It's entirely possible they may keep me here to do family service work. Loudoun County has several hundred evacuees from the New Orleans area. In any case, I've decided that deployment or no, I'll become a Disaster Action Team member. The DAT deals with local disasters like floods, fires, and gas leaks. I've always felt guilty for not becoming a volunteer with the fire department, but it really wouldn't be a good fit. Work with the DAT will help allay some of that guilt.

I'm off to Stitches East in Atlantic City tomorrow. Up at 5 a.m, drive to Townson to meet Gina and Nancy and hop on a gambling bus, spend all day fondling yarn, and hopefully meeting the Yarn Harlot, then back to Towson by 8:30 then drive home. Yawn! I'm getting sleepy just thinking about it.

The sock is still progressing and will continue to progress tomorrow on the bus ride up and back. I got Mom's foot length so will be able to gauge when to start working the heel short rows. I also cast on for the baby blanket and managed to work ten rows in...well, we won't say how long it took. Let's just say it's going to take me a very, very long time to finish it.

So what's with the cherry crumb pie and vanilla ice cream? Well, I seem to continue to lose weight even after hitting my goal weight. I'm now six pounds lighter than my goal weight. Without even trying. This is scary, especially since it took so long to lose those last five pounds. I have several theories:

  • I'm not drinking enough water and it's all water weight

  • I enjoy not working and I'm not indulging in stress eating

  • I've eaten dinner around 5:00 the last three nights and my body is metabolising dinner much better than eating and going right to bed

  • I have a terminal disease whose main symptom is effortless weight loss (just kidding! I feel wonderful)

  • The small slice of cherry crumb pie and meager scoop of Edy's Vanilla Bean ice cream every evening is doing the trick

  • So, what do you think?

    Hopefully I'll see some of you at Stitches tomorrow! Ciao!

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Oh Dear...

    Bad news. Today's the day that Tom took the Westy to be inspected. It's not pretty, not pretty at all. First, the power windows don't work. Nor do the backup lights and a parking light or turn signal. The headlight harness is loose and the shop can't figure out why. A transmission bracket is rubbing on an axle. The shop isn't a VW speciality shop, so they can't find parts for an '87. It's going to be expensive. Well, I don't know that, but mostly when you take your car in to be fixed, it's easily $200 for one small thing. We have several small things and some large things. I don't have a job. I'm trying really, really hard to not participate in stash enhancement and not to buy knitting books.

    It's not working well. When I found out that the Yarn Harlot was going to be at Stitches next week on exactly the same day I was going to be there...well, I just had to order her new bookbookbook. And since I only had to spend $15 more to get free supersaver shipping, I just had to get Sensational Knitted Socks. And while I think I can exercise extreme self-control and not buy anything at Stitches on Friday, I'm a little worried I might get caught up in the heat of the moment and come home with bags of cashmere yarn and silk boucle.

    And speaking of socks, I really, really, really love working with Cascade Fixation. The knitting is easy and smooth and peaceful, just like knitting should be. The Toe-up sock pattern that I'm working from knits up relatively quickly and has a short row heel and toe. I'm working it in a solid color and the stitch pattern shows up better than with a multi-colored yarn. In short, I love these socks!

    Extreme Knitting
    I do have some Extreme Knitting entries waiting to be posted. I will try to post those tomorrow. Yes, I know. I'm a bad blogger. But right now, I need to go fix something to eat so I can get to the Red Cross Family Services training. The class runs from 6:00 to 10:00, which is a bit inconvenient, given that we normally eat around 7:00. However, it's for a good cause.

    Shiver Me Timbers!
    It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey! Arrr, I hope ye've been astonishin' ye're mates and striking fear in the hearts of ye're enemies by talkin' like a pirate. Arrr...

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    New Arrival

    It's been an eventful weekend chez Knitting Libran. I was up at 4:30am Friday morning to take Tom to the airport to catch a flight to Atlanta to pick up this:

    It's a 1987 VW Westfalia camper van. Tom has been searching for one ever since he sold his to his nephew at Christmas. He finally found one on eBay that looked like it was in decent shape and was a reasonable price. As it turned out, he was the high bidder. So down to Atlanta he flew to complete the purchase and drive it back. He arrived home around 1am Saturday morning. Fortunately, the van runs well. It seems to have more power than his other van. Unfortunately, it's not in as good a shape as he thought, although he doesn't think the seller misrepresented the condition of the van. It belonged to a smoker and the interior is yellow with nicotene. Blech.

    So, we donned rubber gloves, filled buckets with a TSP solution, and armed with that and Goof-Off, we proceeded to clean every surface of the van. I washed all the curtains (some are missing) and then laundered the mattress upholstery. Tom lined the drawers and shelves with cork. It's looking much better now. But there's still work to do. We need to get the stove, sink, and refrigerator working. Tom would like to put larger wheels in. The carpet in the cockpit needs replacing and so might the upholstery on the seats (they have holes from cigarette burns). We'd like to find a faux Oriental rug for the back. Ultimate renovations include putting a new Subaru engine in (165hp instead of 90hp) and replacing the interior door panels with wood paneling. The front electric windows don't work and need to be fixed.

    But the coolest thing about the van is there is a lot of storage space (or so it seems right now). I envsion a cedar-lined storage area that can be used to store a small travelling stash for extended road trips. I asked Tom if he would do that and he almost said yes. How cool would that be?

    Well, I got my very first tag, from msubulldog. So, here goes...

    Ten years ago: I was living in Paris, France, working as a technical support representative for a software company, doing telephone technical support in French (and I wasn't fluent). I was also in the throes of making preparations to return to the States in October so I could focus on wedding plans.

    Five years ago: We (read Tom) began renovating our 1906 house in earnest, which meant removing all the paint from the exterior, repainting, fixing the windows, and removing the asphalt shingles from the attic dormers and replacing them with wood siding. I was support staff, and did the front porch. I was also working for a startup and was building a testing and technical writing team. There was sporadic knitting.

    One year ago: I was working for a different startup and was approaching major burnout. I was also knitting a lot more and I think that helped me keep my sanity.

    Five snacks: Hmmm...dark chocolate, potato chips, dark chocolate, french fries, dark chocolate (I really don't snack much)

    Five songs I know all the words to: That's a hard one. I mostly listen to instrumental music. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme; Anachie Gordon; Ballad of Mary Magdalene; All in Green Went My Love Riding; My Father

    Five things I would do with $100 million: Buy a farm and raise sheep and alpacas; put my nieces and nephews through college; do good works; travel (assuming I can find someone to take care of the sheep and alpacas); help my brothers and parents however I can

    Five places to run away to: France, Rocky Mountains (US and Canada), New Mexico, Pacific Northwest, Abacos

    Five things I would never wear: anything polyester, makeup (well, almost never), 60s- and 70s-style clothing, high heels, a bikini

    Five favorite TV shows: I don't watch TV often, but when I do watch I watch Good Eats with Alton Brown, Nature, Frontline, Iron Chef America, BBQ with Bobby Flay

    Five biggest joys: My family, Tom, my cat, my friends, my knitting

    Five favorite toys: knitting tools, spinning tools, cooking tools, laptop, books

    Five people to pass this on to: Cerridwen, Mia, Margene...hmmm, I have to come up with two others.

    Knitting Progress
    The kitten blanket swatching is going slowly (which doesn't bode well the knitting the entire blanket). I'm at the point where I'm knitting the kittens, but they don't look like much at this point. I've started another pair of toe-up socks (for Mom this time) using Cascade Fixation. I love knitting with that yarn, maybe because the cotton feels so soft. I haven't knit on Fern Leaf at all. I'm screwing up my courage to correct my errors yet again. And no spinning progress either. The free wool forlornly sits next to my wheel.

    Extreme Knitting
    Okay, the picture finally loaded. Here is Folkcat, knitting on stage at her local theatre, the Wilton Town Hall Theatre:

    The theatre looks a bit empty, but there are people there. And I doubt highly that many people have gone on stage solely intending to knit. Follow the link above to read more about the theatre and Folkcat's knitting.

    I was very dismayed to see this article on the front page of the Washington Post this morning. The Pentagon is drafting a revised doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, which includes using nuclear arms to preempt an attack by another country or by terrorist group (who would be using weapons of mass destruction). It also provides the option to use nuclear weapons to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. What gives us the right to use weapons of mass destruction on another country who has the same weapons that we have (regardless of their "enemy" status). That seems to be damned arrogant and hypocritical to me. Didn't we learn anything after dropping the bomb on Japan in WWII? And if it's okay for us to do it, doesn't it follow that our enemies, fearing a preemptive strike us, would consider okay to make their own preemptive strike?


    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    We had a little excitement chez Knitting Libran last night. I was engrossed in the pithy sidebar content over at Kerstin's when I noticed something fluttering overhead. "Moth" I thought, casually glancing up from the computer. Yikes, that's no moth! That's a bat!

    I yelled for Tom and there we were, crouched on the floor, ducking as this beautiful brown bat was swooping around the kitchen (I hope it was eating some bugs). Tom tried guiding it out the door with a broom, but that didn't work. After what seemed like an eternity (during which the cat came in and was very interested in the bat), the bat found the exit and flew out. I have no idea how it got in. But they are perfectly silent little fliers. One of our favorite things to do in the spring and summer is to sit on the deck in the evening and wait for the bats to come out and then watch them as they flit about the yard. We had bats living behind the shutters on the upper level of our house and I could see them fly under there in the early morning to roost during the day. They are very fascinating creatures.

    I heard from the Red Cross and will go through a volunteer orientation next Tuesday. I told them I wanted to be deployed but need to go through the shelter operations class before that happens. All of the current classes are full and they need to schedule more. It will be an interesting and, I hope, rewarding experience.

    /Begin rant/ I am so frustrated with the Administration right now and their seeming insincerity. I mean, I'm very sorry that Trent Lott lost his beautiful old mansion. But he has the means to rebuild. Most of the people down there lost everything and don't have the means to rebuild (they couldn't even afford to leave). I'd rather see W. offer to help rebuild their houses and sit on their front porches instead of Lott's. That would show more compassion than simply telling the citizens of this nation to provide a tidal wave of compassion for the survivors of Katrina. That man, and his cronies, need to walk the walk. /End rant/

    The socks are done. See?

    I'm rather pleased with the way they turned out, even though they are about an inch too short for his foot. I got the stripes to match up, except for bind-off on the toe. The Trekking XXL felt stiff to work with, but washed up very well; the socks are actually quite soft and fluffy now. It was a little chilly this morning and Tom wore the socks all morning. That made me feel good. The next socks are going to be made using Fortissima Colori (Socka Color) in what Tom calls Tibetan colors.

    I've started swatching the baby blanket. I'm using Cascade Sierra on size 10 needles, but am unsure about the resulting fabric. I think it feels good, but it looks too...well...holey. Loose. Maybe I'll swatch on a size 9 and see what that looks like. I knit the nephew's scarf (also with Cascade Sierra) on size 7 needles and the stitch gauge is about the same. Go figure.

    Job Update
    I'm still unemployed and the more I think on it, the more I think I want to get out of the software business. I've come to the realization that technology doesn't excite me anymore. What does? Working with people. I get more excited about enabling people to do their jobs better or motivating them or coaching them than I do about writing and executing software test cases or writing technical documentation. I'm not happy with the trends that I'm seeing in the software industry. The thought of working mega-hours to get a product out the door in order to provide some amount of testing (but not nearly enough to know what the problems might be) and then turning around and doing it all again, well, makes my stomach turn. But what to do? So what can I do that capitalizes on my ability to work with people? Some of the areas that I've been turning over in my head (and need to research because it will involve additional education) is massage or physical therapy, nutrition, personal training, life coaching, or something dealing with fiber and people (yarn store, teaching?). Fortunately, I know people who either do each of these things or know people who know people who do them. It will be an interesting journey.

    Extreme Knitting
    The Extreme Knitting challenge is still going on, although folks have been awfully quiet lately. I was going to post another entry today but network problems prevented the photos from being uploaded. I'll try again with the next post.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005


    The recent events in the South have made me heartsick. Heartsick and angry. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror and despair and grief the hurricane victims are suffering. I'm angry because the federal government was so slow to respond. It's been a week and they are now reaching New Orleans. Surely the USA can do better than that! I'm angry that the people who couldn't evacuate were too poor or too infirm to do so and no one helped them.

    I'm scared about what this is going to do to the economy. How do we take care of a million newly homeless people when we can't or don't take care of the homeless we already have? The skyrocketing gas prices are going to effect all parts of the economy--anything that gets shipped is going to cost more, whether it's something bought through mail order or something as basic as food. How is that going to affect the poor? Where is the money going to come from to help rebuild? This country is already running a huge deficit because of the war in Iraq. And Katrina has just added to that deficit (and the national debt).

    Apparently a lot of funding was cut from FEMA in order to help protect the country from terrorists. The levee projects that New Orleans needed were never fully funded. I'm afraid that we might now be in a situation where our country could be more vulnerable to a major terrorist attack.

    Since I'm still unemployed (I didn't get the job in Rockville), I've contacted the local Red Cross chapter to see if they need volunteers. I might as well put my time to a very good use, if they'll have me. Tom has put his name on the volunteer list for Habitat for Humanity for when it's time to start rebuilding.

    Knitting News
    As predicted, I got some good knitting time in while visiting my parents. We were glued to CNN most of the time, watching the disaster unfold. I got more good knitting in yesterday and today while I was working at Y2Knit. That has got to be my all-time favorite LYS. If you live in the Northern Virginia area or near Frederick or Hagerstown, take some time to visit Susan in Funkstown, Maryland. She has a very interesting selection of yarns and patterns, including a lot of handpainted yarns and yarns that are produced in the mid-Atlantic region. As an incentive to get all you locals out there, she's having a sale on September 17 from 9-5. I'll be there!

    So, the sock is almost finished. Everyone who sees it loves the yarn and the color. I'm beginning to like it a little more. Certainly the second sock has knitted up a little faster, more relaxed, and dare I say it, in a more zen-like manner than the first sock. The yarn over short rows are just happening, very fluid and relaxed. And the stitches are not leaping off the needles like lemmings leaping into the sea. I'll finish it tomorrow and will have pictures of the pair posted soon.

    Fern Leaf, on the other hand, is still giving me fits presenting a challenge. However, I'm not going to get worked up over it. I'm going to set it aside and pick it up a little later and analyze what went wrong.

    I found a baby blanket pattern and will start swatching so I understand the pattern, which will hopefully make the knitting up go a little faster. And I've got a couple more pairs of socks to make, as well as a hat and mittens for The Nephew, and all of the other Christmas knitting that I decided to do.

    And I got a gift of wool! Sometimes Brown Sheep tosses in a bag of unspun wool as packing material and Susan gave it to me. So I've got about 12 ounces of wool to play with. I'll use it to work on my spinning technique. Woo hooo!