Saturday, July 30, 2011

Talk to Me Intellecutal Baby

This post doesn't have much in it about knitting.

I love talking intellectual. I love academic life, the exchange of ideas, the passion with which people engage with their chosen subjects. I know that my path in life will lead me back to the halls of universities eventually. I'll detour around a bit and then get another degree which has nothing to do with the first two that I earned. You know, for the fun of it.

When The Center in Long Beach started their QSpeak series I thought, "What the hell, it's free. I'll go." And then, of course, I loved it because listening to academics talk about queer issues is like drinking too much espresso too fast, I get all jittery and excited.

I saw Judith Halberstam speak today. Yes, the person who wrote the most awesome Feminine Masculinity. She spoke of many interesting ideas and notions, but the one that I want to consider here is the idea of the personal economies that lie outside the capitalistic world. While Halberstam only mentioned the idea in reference to one of her talking points, the idea stuck clearly with me because it is an idea I engage with often.

I'd better explain myself. Personal economies is about sharing, it is all the stuff that we trade without thinking about it. I have more lemons from my tree than I can use and you have more eggs from your chickens than you can eat, so we share with one another. This kind of economy is totally outside of capitalism and totally inside the kind of activity that builds common community.

In my life, I seem to have been the recipient of number of things that other people had no use for anymore, but were still working perfectly fine. Among these things include a practically new cell phone, my car, my cat, and lots of clothing. The main reason I think these things have come to me is because I am willing and glad to accept them.

People are suspicious and anxious when you share with them. Just this past week a co-worker of mine was talking about buying sheet protectors and inquired where I had purchased mine. I replied that I had more sheet protectors than I would likely ever use and I would be happy to just give her some. Her response was very hesitant, as if I would be going far out of my way to share. And really, I am the same in these situations. I am hesitant to accept and understand her socially mired reaction.

In reality, all that someone is offering, is to share. I have too much of this, here, you can have some. We learn how to share toys as children and I believe we so totally grow out of the notion that by the time we are adults we no longer understand how to be on the giving or receiving end of sharing.

And that is precisely what the engine of capitalism desires. It wants me to hoard my sheet protectors and for my co-worker to buy more. Which is totally ridiculous in a society crumbling beneath debt.

I am an advocate for personal economies of sharing. Sharing is about giving without a motive and without the desire for anything in return. I am an advocate for both sides. Do a little sharing and do a little taking when others offer to share with you. See what happens. Think about the act that you engage in as it is the only way for personal economies of sharing to change the way the capitalism behaves. It might not work, but it would at least lead to a different place than the consideration of our government to, yet again, raise the debt ceiling.

What can you give?

Saturday, July 23, 2011


These are all yarns I am not using but I could have chosen to use for my current project.

That's an overstatement really because I am knitting a sock from one of the balls and the two sumptuous orange balls are completely the wrong weight. Oh and the lime green wouldn't work either. But the six balls of other sock yarn could have been chosen. They were all in my stash before they were selected to add to the decor of my living room in a vintage bottle crate.

And I am really very glad that they were all wrong for the project I was planning and that I had to go to the yarn store (woe is me) and buy new yarn (double woe).

I went to Alamitos Bay Yarn Company with two problems. One was a pair of Addi Turbo Needles with the varnish coming off despite only having knit one shawl on them. I understand tarnishing, but they were turning my hand green which is unacceptable.

My second problem was the second yarn for a Chadwick, a pattern by the excellent up and coming designer Stephen West. The previous week I had bought the first color at the same store, a navy blue jeans kettle dyed alpaca/cotton confection from Manos named Serena. I thought I had a grey in my stash that would match, but it was the wrong weight. So there I was, in the store, trying to find the perfect grey.

I do not ask questions at yarn stores. This is partly because I don't like asking questions to strangers (who does?) and partly because I rarely feel welcome at them. I just browse, pick, pay, and leave.

This time, however, the store had a sample knitted in a yarn I liked but no balls of that color out, so I had to talk to someone and see if they had any. I am very glad that I talked to someone and I am very glad they didn't have any of that first yarn I was looking at. At 100% silk it was the wrong weight and much to shiny, really, for the person I am making the shawl for.

I don't actually remember if she asked if I was looking for something in particular or if I told her what I was looking for, but I managed to ask if they had a grey yarn in a weight to match my soft jeans colored Serena. The woman walked over to one of the deep corners of the store, pulled out a plastic container I would never have found, reached in, and plucked out a small ball of the perfect grey. At 65% cashmere and 35% silk the Trendsetter Bollicina was perfect. Mostly because I only needed one ball so I could afford it.

Lesson learned Universe, ask questions of your yarn shop staff. They know they're yarn.

I am nearly finished with the shawl. I absolutely love work on it. The contrast between the two yarns feels so delightful on my hands. I don't like working with cotton, but it does not bother my hands so much blended with the alpaca. The shawl is knit using intarsia technique (brilliant pattern) and in the same row I then switch to the Bollicina and I feel like I am knitting with a cloud or with butter, a butter cloud.

The other yarns in my stash are lovely, and one day I will use them. But this foray into quality materials has demonstrated to me how much the materials make the experience of knitting, and they have helped me to become obsessed with my knitting all over again. 

I would show you a picture of it's loveliness now, but it is a gift whose recipient may or may not stumble upon this before the gift giving happens. Pictures next time for sure.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I write to you while listening to a performance of Vexations, a piece by the avante-garde French composer Eric Satie. Known for his music jokes and disdain for the "established" musical ways of doing things, scholars are unsure if Vexations was ever actually meant to be performed. The piece was not published during his lifetime, but was found by the American composer John Cage among Satie's papers.

Set outside tonal harmony, the theme is based largely on repeating various tritones. The music consists of a theme, variation 1, and variation 2 which are to be repeated 840 times; a feat which generally takes over 12 hours to perform. The piece never having been published and the fact that it takes so long to perform has led some to wonder if Satie wrote the piece as a joke.

No instrumentation is given and, given the length, it is common for performers to switch off. There is a slight pause at the end of the theme and the end of each variation, which makes the switch possible.  I have heard a flute choir, string quartet, and a vibe arrangement today.

I performed my half hour slot with another clarinetist and a guitar. Performing the piece was trance like, a kind of outer body experience, and the half hour slot flew by. Looking back now, it might have been nice to have a longer time period to perform.

Over time the melody starts to become oddly familiar. I can hear if a performer makes a wrong note even though the theme is so difficult to listen to on its own.  It is an entirely different musical experience from what I normally perform or listen to.

Of course, I brought my knitting. It seemed like the perfect activity to do while listening to the repetitive nature of the piece. After I finish this post I will pick up my sock knitting. I'm using the vintage dark blue yarn that I wrote about a few posts ago to make a river inspired pattern. Oh, I finished a pair of socks! It's my first finished pair in quite some time. Don't they look like mermaid scales? Lurvly.

They are Pomatomus by Cookie A. She is a genius, in case you didn't know that already.

These were the first pair that I knit on my new size 2 Lantern Moon sock needles. I'm really enjoying working with those needles. They feel like butter. Sometimes I worry they are going to melt while I'm using them.

Knitting to music is one of my favorite things. I particularly enjoy listening to the soundtrack to Lost in Translation for some reason. Luckily for me my homework often consists of listening to music, so I can knit while doing homework!

If you have the opportunity to hear a performance of Vexations you should go! It's so different, and performances don't happen too often. If you go, make sure to smile a little, knowing that Satie probably meant for at least part of it to be silly.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cookies and Pansies

My cookies it has been a long time since I've updated! Can you tell I started another semester at school? I also got a new job as a tutor for a local community college in their Math and Read/Writing Tutoring Centers.

This is my last semester of my Bachelor's degree. It has been a long journey, but I am very excited to be so near done with the degree. I will be getting my credential after this semester, so I won't be quite done with school.

A few days ago one of my classmates told me they think I'll be a great music teacher. I think I will be too, but it is nice to hear that someone else thinks so too.

In knitting news, none of my yarn and needles were cooperating last month. I really want to make Road to Golden, a pullover sweater with a stranded colorwork pattern. I swatched for a couple of days, knit and reknit, but none of the combinations I came up with would work. Then I tried to make a Musica fingerless glove, but the two yarns which were the same brand were different sizes and looked icky. I told my needles and wool that they were being very bad, got out some cotton and a crochet hook and crocheted some coasters.

These are to replace the cardboard pieces Terri and I 
had been using as coasters. These are much better.

I also finished sewing on the snaps to my Cable for Jeans sweater. Someone else had used snaps instead of buttons, and I thought it was a nifty idea. It took a while to get the hang of it, but eventually I got it. I used the Knitmore Girls button tutorial videos to sew on the grosgrain ribbon. The videos are a bit wobbly and lengthy, but they are great learning tools. I am going to use their method for sewing on buttons from now on. The best part about having the snaps sewed on is that I can actually wear it. Even though I live in Southern California, I am a pansy and the mornings seem very cold for me and the sweater keeps me perfectly warm.

I have some socks in the works, two are patterns of Cookie A. I'm sure I'll be letting you know how that goes!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buttons, Leaflets, Yarn, and Men Selling Crafting Supplies

My mom, stepdad, and I occasionally like to go to the Long Beach Outdoor Antique Market that happens every third Sunday of the month.  It is kind of like a swap meet, except there are a lot more things that are genuinely old. Yesterday it was just my mom and I out in the sunny day looking for our version of a great find.

One booth had a selection of old dilapidated tools in every size and shape imaginable. Another had a collection of various salt shakers ranging from the 40's to the 60's. One of my mom's favorite sellers is a booth where anything on the table to $5. Walking down the center aisle we come to a booth that sells nothing but prints from books, back when most things were illustrated. The farther back into the sale you go the newer things get until by the end some of the booths look straight out of the swap meet.

Many of the booths are a hodgepodge of things and of course there are those people trying to trick and deceive. One sign said "Fat quarters. Civil War. $8." We took a feel of the fabric and knew instantly they were modern fabrics. The sign doesn't say they actually are from the Civil War, but the implication is there. Tricky aren't they?

My mom loves dolls. She loves buying them, selling them, but most of all, repairing them. She is usually hunting for doll related things and I hunt for knitting related items. On this day we found a large sink sized basin full of buttons. "Fill a box for $3. Two boxes for $5." Score! A set of new buttons alone is usually at or more than $3, and many of these buttons were fun vintage styles. We spent quite some time having fun riffling through their bin picking out buttons. I picked out some sets I might be able to use for sweaters and my mom picked out the teeny tiny ones to use for dolls.

My collection. I love the navy blue/white ones. 
They would look so cute on a little sailor sweater!

Of course what I'm usually looking for is vintage yarn or needles. I've gotten lucky a couple of times at thrift stores, and on a previous visit to the Outdoor Antique Market I found a few balls of Knit Picks. Yesterday I spotted a small bin on the ground with knitting needles poking out. The bin contained a decent stack of vintage pattern books, mostly for crochet doilies, some vintage circular knitting needles, and a few balls of vintage 100% virgin wool sock yarn.

Using a technique I learned from watching too many episodes of American Pickers I picked out a set of the circular knitting needles, the navy blue sock yarn, and a couple of the leaflets. This is called bundling, and means that you get things for cheaper than they would otherwise have been. The seller gave me the lot for $3. I was all ready to practice bargaining and then he gave me such a low price!

I chose a leaflet from the early 60's called Bernat Raglans and a Doilies booklet from 1956. When I showed my mom the Raglans leaflet she said, "Don't tell me, um, 62?" She was one year off, 1961. One of the raglans is made of mohair and she told me about how she and her friends all had to have one of those sweaters when she was in middle school. These kinds of things are great for inspiration and I have a feeling my little collection of vintage leaflets will keep growing.

Raglan sweater 1961.

Doily from 1956. Gotta love the drawing!

I am very excited about the yarn. A lot of vintage yarn is acrylic, because it was the cool new thing when they started making it. Finding vintage yarn that is 100% wool is a real treasure. Not only that, the yarn is soft and the two balls means there will be enough for a pair of socks.

These kinds of days, where the sun is brilliant and the sky turns a richer blue, the days I get to spend with my mom, these are the days to remember.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Traveler's Way - Part 1 - Destination: New Zealand

I am a traveler. A person who enjoys experiencing new places, seeing new views, eating different food.

I do not enjoy, however, being a tourist. I find that the majority of tourist destinations are boring and overpriced. When I was at the Louvre in Paris I decided to spend my hour looking at all the other wonderful items they have there rather than spend that hour waiting in line to look at the Mona Lisa for ten seconds.

The problem with tourist destinations and the reason I am libel to pass them by is that they often have nothing to do with a sense of place. What I am most interested in at a destination is the experience of that place.

The highlight of my traveling experience was the year I studied abroad in New Zealand. It is partially due to the fact that I spent so much time there that I really was able to experience the place. That, and the week I spent on the llama farm.

In this short series of blog posts on traveling I will give you some advice should you find tourism as overpriced and boring as I do.

First, go to New Zealand. Out of the major cities, many of the places are very down to earth and easy to access as long as you can manage to drive on the other side of the road.

For example, my geography class on Rivers and Slopes took a field trip and hiked to the place where they filmed part of the Lord of the Rings. There was no one else there but our class and we were able to see where they filmed the scene where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are heading into the cursed mountain where the dead reside. Remember that part? Geek alert!

Second, sign up for WWOOF and stay on a farm for a week. New Zealand is a largely agricultural economy. Much of their recent history is agricultural in nature and much of their culture is wrapped in sheep and cows. To give you an idea, last time I checked there were 4 million people in New Zealand and 40 million sheep. That's 10 sheep for every 1 person.

It fits then that to really experience New Zealand, staying on a working farm would give you the best taste of what the country is all about. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and is an organization that connects travelers and organic farms together. In exchange for lodging and food from the farm host the traveler agrees to give the farm 4-6 hours of work each day.

"WWOOF New Zealand is part of a world wide community that promotes awareness of ecological farming practices by providing volunteers with the opportunity to live and learn on organic properties. WWOOF is an enjoyable, educational and safe way to explore and get to know the people in the country."

There is a fee to sign up as a traveler and after you have done that you can look at postings by farms looking for help. There are all kinds of farms and all kinds of people. This would be a great way to finally learn about composting or organic farming practices if you have always been curious.

I was fortunate enough to sign up and stay on a llama and alpaca farm. The second day I was there the host, Elise, and I went to a nearby elementary school's farm day. The children each had an animal, either a calf or a lamb that they were to have trained. It was very cute to see the different personalities of the children and how they interacted with their animals.

Elise was asked to bring some of her llamas to the fair day, mostly because it's cool to have llamas around. I was in charge of Cesar all day. It was one of the highlights of my trip because I love animals, Cesar was a sweetie, and I got to talk to New Zealanders all day about llamas.

It was a very kiwi experience, my week on that farm, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering traveling to New Zealand.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Knitting Needle Boogie Monster! Rarr!

You better watch out, or the knitting needle boogie monster is going to get you!


These are one of Terri's Christmas presents. They weren't finished when Christmas came galumphing up the corner so I wrapped them up with the needles still attached. In the picture above I had Terri try the glove on to make sure they fit and Terri thought it was funny so she had me take pictures. If you didn't know what's going on I concede that the picture may result in fright.

Terri's hands are always cold in the winter. Store bought gloves don't work well because her hands are small and they seem to only sell pairs made out of acrylic in Southern California. Because her hands are cold she sticks them on my neck to get warm. Brr! To save my neck I decided to make her some gloves.

The pattern is called Knotty Gloves and is by Julia Mueller. Terri is not one for the princess look, and many of the glove patterns I found were of the "I'm a pretty, pretty princess" variety. I was very happy to find this pattern, which could easily be dressed up in pink for the princess look or dressed down in a dark green for a less frilly look.

Of course the pattern only comes in women's size large. I did some minor calculations and fudging to make a smaller version. The cable pattern isn't exactly centered anymore, but I decided that it wouldn't really matter. No one flying by on a fast horse is going to notice.

Knitting the fingers reminds me of some of the amigurumi crafting I have done before with the small parts. I also figured out that when I use double pointed needles I waste a lot of time when I end one needle and move to the next one because I usually drop the working yarn and have to pick it back up again. Watching myself knit and trying to change habits is difficult but worthwhile when I'm knitting such small tubes and am constantly switching needles.

Does Terri really deserve a pair of hand knit gloves? Well, she made me a swift for Christmas.

So yes, yes she does.