August 2006 Archives

Anatomically Correct


Do you know the story of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe? Well, Klamath, California hosts a huge sculpture in their honor. And doesn't this artist have vision? Not only is Paul blessed with a rugged carpet of chest hair.

That ain't no dark brown t-shirt under his flannel.

But Babe has his own show of virility.

Babe, I like you but I don't LIKE like you.

Let's get us a little close up here.

Doctor, this is the worst case of indigo spheres I've seen.
Get this patient to the ICU, STAT."

Today's sense of humor brought to you be the Local Council of 10 Year Olds and the Slap Happy Road Trippers Council of America.

A quick recap of the road trip


I'm home in Portland with both a feeling of elation to be back with my sweet Leo and Little Miss Panda, but also a sadness that the trek is over and Julia has gone back home. I have so much to tell you about, but I’ll try to keep from making this post too long. It was an amazing trip; one I'll look back on as being among the most memorable, but I'm exhausted. Like all of the past few weeks, we've packed as much into as little time as our little psyches could handle and it'll be days before the effects wear off.

The trip started with an easy jaunt to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles. We stayed at a place owned by a friend of Julia's. This allowed us the opportunity to stop by Village Spinning and Weaving in Solvang, CA.

While there, we availed ourselves our their various wheels, including Ashfords, Majacrafts, Louets and a Windwheel. When I left the shop, I thought I was happy with the Ashford Kiwi. That's definitely not what I expected, but it was a lovely little thing, easy to use, and it felt fine.

As we embarked on the next leg of our trip, we decided that we'd see if we could try a Schacht Matchless at Carolina Homespun in San Francisco. We figured that with the $600 price difference, the Matchless would have to be pretty darn wonderful to sway us.

I. Love. This. Wheel.


After spending hours at Carolina Homespun, spinning until we had to concede to the road trip agenda (and our rapidly waning blood sugar), we made our way to lunch and then back on the road. It was noon, and we were going to drive to the Sequoia National Forest, a mere 38 miles from San Francisco.

Five hours later, several wrong turns, some swearing at the atlas and not a Sequoia in sight, we were in stop and go traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. In case the impact of that isn't entirely clear, that's a 5 hour detour to get us back to where we started, without actually seeing what we had hoped to see.

The sun was setting and the question became: Do we drive as far as we can at night, missing a good deal of the redwoods but still trying to get to Crater Lake the next day? Or do we drive a more reasonable distance, enjoy all the of the redwoods and skip Crater Lake?

We decided to drive as far as we could without overshooting the redwoods. There is no anxiety quite like that feeling that you've made a horribly bad decision. As we wound through the dark roads at night, hour upon hour passing, we calculated our optimal stopping point. Finally, having passed up most obvious points of civilization, we found ourselves in a quaint little area...where every light in town was turned off. The towns were silent and the motels could have as easily been abandoned, for all the life we could detect. Beam me up Scottie! I see no life here.

As the crew (all two of us) grew ever more punchy and concerned, we wound down one sleepy town's main street after another, until we found our oasis. Motel Ravenwood was open. As unlikely as it was, the owner just happened to be awake, awaiting another guest and he just happened to have an open room. We could have cried with happiness. Instead, we snatched the keys, paid our rate and made a bee line for the warmth of our beds.

The next day we awoke refreshed and ready to complete the last day of our journey. The redwoods are everything we hoped they'd be. Following the 101 up the coast, we stopped for a walk on the brisk sandy beach.

Doesn't Julia's sweatshirt look like it belongs on this beach?

From there, we followed the directions the motel owner gave us and found a quiet little trail off a well groomed dirt road.

My little spindle even joined us on the walk.

As we left the redwoods and headed to Crater Lake, I had a little twinge of excitement when I realized I had finally hit my new home state. If you are wondering, it's beautiful and Crater Lake is no exception.

We stopped at each little vista point and the little spindle joined in the oohing and ahhing. The atmospheric haze made the lake look dreamy and almost unreal. The spindle particularly enjoyed seeing the chipmunks. None of them broke into song.

Even the firemen were a delight to look at.

All said, it was an amazing trip. I’m still recovering, but I’m so glad I had the chance to do it. Portland is wonderful, and being back with my sweeties, is as grand as I hoped.

I should have more pictures up soon, and I feel pretty sure that Julia will have some stories to regale you with as well.

It has been a whirlwind week at Chez MOW. We've fit more of just about everything into these 7 days than I usually fit into a month. I love it. It's a fiber fueled binge and the neighbors are ready to call the authorities.

I won't say "the highlight of the week" because I think it's all been fun in a myriad of ways, but one of the best photographically documented events has been our trip to the Santa Monica Fiber Festival. Now, many of we yarnly types think of "fiber" as being roving and fleece and perhaps some handspun, and, boy oh boy, the best of that was available. But this fiber festival featured fabrics, beads, buttons, and antique goodness all around. Sure, there were some kittens and koy* but for every bit of questionably kitsch, there’s a great deal more of wallet emptying temptation.

The organizers (no fools were they) knew what they were doing and placed some baby alpacas at the entrance.

I'm not particularly gaga over livestock but these guys are pretty darn cute. Julia and I then went in for a quick first pass and some lunch.

A little side story, because I know she won't tell you herself. As we were eating our french rolled oats, we chatted away at the small area set aside for such goings on. As we prattled on about what we wanted to see, what we planned to buy and which wheels we hoped to spin on, from behind me, came the sweetest "excuse me." A woman was trying to get Julia's attention. "Excuse me." She said, one more time "Are you a model?" As Julia decided if she could hug the woman while simultaneous spitting her food out and laughing, the woman persisted. "Don't you model knitwear?" Now, of course, I think Julia is plenty lovely enough to model, but one can't help but admire a complement like that. Further discussion revealed that the woman had seen Julia's various knitwear designs online, and presumed her role as "model" was paid and as opposed to practical.

After our highly nutritious lunch, we began our official trek through the festival. I knew my little shawl would be there, and we found it in no time. Despite knowing full well it’d be on display, I couldn’t help but be pleased beyond reason to see her there.

She stood among some of the most breath taking pieces. The photos submitted to Spindlicity just didn't do them justice.

After that, it was two circuits of the vendors and then a long break to spin, gab and spin some more. If this were a night on the town, at this point in the story, Julia and I would be crawling into Denny's at 4AM, makeup streaming down our faces, nylons ripped and at least one high heel broken. We were just about ready to pass out, but we couldn't bring ourselves to stop. We kept running into people we knew and things to see. We knew we were doomed when we finally found Miss Andrea walking around with her sister. So pulling out one of my purchases, a decadent 2 ounces of Merino and Silk roving, I decided to start spinning.

See Marnie.
See Marnie spin.
Spin, Marnie, spin!

And let me tell you, I didn't stop until yesterday morning. This stuff spun like it didn't even need me there. The results? 72 yards of 2 ply yarn on my brand new niddy noddy. Did I mention I bought a niddy noddy? No? Well I did and I’m smitten.

The yarn is about a DK to a light worsted weight and spun on my 1.9 ounce Golding Celtic Ring. And if the color and fiber composition weren't yummy enough, how's this for a little balance?

That is right off the niddy noddy. This yarn hasn't seen water yet. I'm so very proud.

As you can see, it's fairly loosly spun which I find easier to keep balanced. It was hard not to keep this yarn as singles because they looked so beautiful, but I knew I'd be unlikely to knit with singles, and I want to make sure I actually use this handspun

Oh and while I was at the festival, I may have also tried myself a wheel. And it just so happens that I love it and that it maches my new niddy noddy. I was thinking I might get myself the entry level model for Christmas, but more and more I'm thinking that what I want to do is save up for the super fabby model instead. As Julia says, in an entirely believable and reasonable sounding manner "If you get the good one, you won't need to upgrade later, then you'll only need one wheel ever."

You heard it here first, folks.That's my plan; one wheel, monogomous relationship for life. No really, I mean it.

*This will make more sense if Julia posts some of her aquisitions.

The audio of the blogher session I was in, and several others, have been posted. You can listen as long as you promise not to ever ever ever make me listen with you.

The MP3 file is here.

I want off


When I was a kid, I used to go to Canobie Lake Park every year with my parents because the company they worked for rented out the park for a day, once a year. I remember seeing all the roller coasters, even the one in the little kids' area and thinking "yah, I want to go on that." But as soon as the ride got going, I'd realize that this was definitely NOT what I wanted to be doing and in fact, if I didn't get off STAT, I was going to need to scream my fool head off. Luckily, I was a fast learner and quickly came to the conclusion that I was happier on more tame rides and getting "antique" photos taken with my friends. Odd, but I always loved the Turkish Twist which was like a tilt-a-whirl without the tilt and down in a pit where the floor dropped out from under you. So it’s kind of like being in a salad spinner.

Anyway, moving has been much like riding that roller coaster for the first time. I think, "Yah, no problem, I'm ready for this. While I'm at it, maybe I'll bring peace to the middle east too." Then suddenly I realize that everything is happening and I can’t turn back; Leo and Panda take off, the apartment is full of things I need to sell, and work is hitting a busy point. I see that apex of that long first hill ahead of me and start to think, hmmm, am I actually ready for this?

And what a ride it's been. Moving out of the old place on Tuesday was such a relief. I really do love LA, I've been very happy here, but I've been on a strict regiment of "no fun, all cleaning and selling old furniture" for the past week. I have a new disdain for flakey people who say they are coming to get your furniture and never show up. I also have scorn for people who try to haggle me on items I'm already trying to sell for much less than even Goodwill would charge. I'm not bitter, nah, not at all.

But I'm now a guest of a certain winter minded friend of mine, and life is good again.

I've made a small amount of progress on the Silky Wool cardigan. You can now see the full effect of the princess seams. She’ll look better after a little blocking.

The front and back are almost done and then I start playing around with sleeves. I do the bulk of my designing in Adobe Illustrator.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that using Illustrator is quick or easy, but I find it to be a great tool for the way I like to design for myself. In this case, the first thing I do is build a grid to scale. Then I create a pattern swatch that exactly matches a single pattern repeat for the stitch pattern. Since I generally create my document to be an exact 1 to 1 scale of the final pattern, I can use the actual inch markers on the built in document rulers, to draw the shape I want.

A little hint if you want to try this yourself, if you want a smaller scale, try working in centimeters instead of inches or picas instead of centimeters. For instance, if I draw my design pretending that each centimeter is an inch, I can basically scale the whole piece down by half, but I still have a ruler to go by when making modifications.

Just like working on regular graph paper, once my general shape is defined, I need to go in and redraw the shapes so they are made up only of whole stitches. Once the initial design is built, I fill it with my original pattern swatch and if all goes well, it will perfectly align with my gauge grid.

From there, I can reshape the piece at will and see how it will look. Then, I just print it out and work directly from the chart while I knit.

Since I have both a stitch-by-stitch, row-by-row representation of the piece and the stitch pattern, I can forego the row counter altogether. I just tick off the last row I worked and if I'm unsure if I remembered to mark off the last row, I can double check by looking at what row of the stitch pattern I just knit and comparing it to the chart.

I’d be curious to hear how other designers out there like to do their designing. Do many of you use Excel? Pencil, paper and calculator? Design programs? (I have one, but generally don’t use it for much more than calculating the armsceye and sleeve caps of multi-sized patterns.) Do you have another technique all together? Do tell.

Starting a reader gallery


It's long overdue, I know. I am working on starting a reader gallery. If you have ever knit one of my patterns and have pictures and would be OK with my posting said pictures and linking to your site (if you have one) please press that little CONTACT button up top and send me a note with all the details. You'll make my life 100 times easier if you also put the words "reader gallery" in the subject line.

Why I plan to try to do this mid-move to Portland is anyone's guess, but I'm chalking it up to a mild case of insanity. It's genetic, I think.

Speaking of moving, there will be many many things that I will miss about Los Angles, once I’m gone. I've had a wonderful 5 years here and I think I'll look back on them as some of my most fond memories. However, there is one thing I will not miss, driving in LA.

Yesterday morning's commute fresh off the Crap Cam (trademark Dave Barry) 6000

My clock is actually 12 minutes fast, so it's 5:48 AM and I'm driving to work on the 405 (known in all other states as I-405, hold the article). And on the radio, I've got my favorite local NPR station. Normally, I breeze into work at this hour.

Instead, this is what my commute looked like:

You aren't about to pass out, those spots you see before your eyes are break lights and they go on forever.

I'm looking forward to a few months of commuting from my bedroom to my computer room in my jammies. Boy oh boy!

Roughing it at home


I probably don't mind moving as much as some people do. In general, I have a slight pack rat mentality, but when it comes time to pack boxes, I'm a drill sergeant. While there are exceptions, my general rule is that if I haven't seen it, thought about it, touched, or used it in at least a year, it's probably something I don't need in my life. This is rather refreshing to me, though it does mean that I end up needing to re-buy things I may have tossed by accident. Leo is also a bit of a pack rat, but his philosophy is "Throw it in a box or trash bag and we'll sort it out at the new place."

We diverge greatly on this topic. I say, “Why move something I don't want or need?” But his take is "Let's make SURE we don't need it. Better safe than sorry." This makes for rather comical packing sessions. Picture Marnie approaching a pile of items that need to be sorting for either packing or Goodwill. Marnie begins heaping EVERYTHING in the Goodwill pile. Old family heirloom: Goodwill. Free CD from bar visited a year ago: Goodwill. Wine glasses so delicate that we never use them because we keep breaking them: Goodwill. If it has been tucked away in a dark cabinet for a year or more, it gets little more than a passing glance before heading into the pile. And then Leo turns around to say something to me. His eyes grow large as they land upon some cherished whatnot in the pile, then another. I already know what's coming and I yell, "TAKE NO PRISONERS!" But then he gets those puppy dog eyes as he snatches something dear from the pile. I relent.

Though, on the other end of the spectrum, when it comes to books, I'm like a mother with too many children. I know I can't possible house and care for them all but every one of them is dear to my heart. Leo took to packing the books himself and threatened to toss them all, their numbers were so great. "Don't you dare!" I exclaimed. All of a sudden, this drill sergeant went soft.

We have agreed, though, to get rid of most of our old furniture, some dating back to well before Leo and I met. This is mostly because we couldn't really justify the cost of moving it and after going from several places in Boston to Burbank and then to Playa Del Rey, it was all starting to get a bit tired. So between periods of scrubbing down the house to get it ready for moving out, I've been trying to sell this stuff on Craigslist.

This all keeps me fairly busy, but between all that, I do have some time to fill. With no TV or radio, I've been getting a lot of reading done, listened to a few audio books, and of course, I've been knitting and spinning.

The Silky Wool top is cranking along at a good pace. Isn't the stitch definition great? I’m probably another inch or so past what you see here. I’m experimenting with the construction of this piece a little which will become more apparent once I finish this main body piece.

I've been trying to spin some Yak from the Bellwether sampler. This is definitely not going as well as the Pygora, but I'm getting the hang of it.

And for a little bit of exercise, while I'm stuck at the house waiting for the next prospective buyer, I've been using this baby.

It's an Indo Board, and one of the few examples of something Leo is ready to give up and I want to keep. I don't do any sort of board sport but I find it terribly fun to risk my neck playing with this. As a responsible blogger, I need to go on record as saying that you are, indeed, risking injury using this and while I find it fun, I recommend that if you do try one, you do so at your own risk.
We have wall to wall carpeting which makes this less perilous to use. A grassy lawn would offer even more security. I’ll play around with it for a few minutes here and there just to get my blood moving and the next day my tush and abs will be just a little achy (in a good way.)

It’s a bit stressful being away from Panda and Leo, it’d be a lot more fun to do all this stuff together, but we’ve been making the best of the situation and time is flying by with all there is left to do.

Oh and the best news of all, it looks like I may be able to keep my current job and work remotely from Portland until the end of the year. Talk about taking a load off my mind.

Like classic knitting burlesque


I could throw out the now ubiquitous term "knitting porn" but I wouldn't want to sully these amazing images that way. This is definitely high class burlesque.

My friend Bill did some consulting for a company in an old mill building in NH. Inside, they had this knitting machine.

It's a Vanguard Supreme, and I can't stop looking at it. Versions of it are still made today and it appears to be used for knitting things in the round.

If you are as smitten as I am, take a look at the rest of the peep show after the jump.

I loves me some silky wool


I've actually been working on this piece, in dribs and drabs, for a while now. It's not that I'm not enjoying the process, I really love the yarn and the idea I have, I hope, will be great. It'll have princess seams and waist shaping, all things that I think look lovely. I’ve just had so much else going on that it hasn't been a project I could really give the proper focus to, so I knit a row here and there and put it down for a little while.

One thing you'll find about me and my knitting is that I knit almost everything with a provisional cast on, and this project is no exception. I feel like it gives me a lot more options. I can always cast it off normally, if it turns out I don't need those stitches.

Now that most of my worldly goods are in Portland, I'm sans ball winder (until the gracious Ms Julia takes me in on the 15th) so I'm reduced to winding my own center pull balls.

I use an empty prescription pill bottle. If you want to try this at home, look for one that is fairly tall. Circumference doesn’t make a huge difference. Tuck one end of the yarn in the container. Close the container to secure the end then wind as though using a Nostepinne. When you are done, open the bottle and slide off your center pull ball. It's not as convenient as a ball winder, but it works in a pinch.

In move news, Leo and Panda are doing very well in our new home in Oregon. He's already emptied the whole truck by himself.

And Panda has taken to the place like a fish to water. She hung out by our giant tree:

And watches our neighbors from a choice vantage point.

It appears that our lawn could do with some tending, but we'll get to that when we can. For now, I'm just happy to know that everyone is home safe and sound. Pity party is still in overtime but it's winding down a bit.



My Nods to Jaywalker are done and here be the pattern notes.

Pattern: Nod to Jaywalker
Designer: Me with inspiration from Grumperina's Jaywalker
Yarn: 48 grams of Lang Jawoll Jacquard 159. However, I needed a little bit of a second 50g skein in order to complete the socks because I lost some amount of yardage matching the stripes of the two socks.
Needles: US #2 set of 5 DPNs

About: The sock is a standard toe up design with both a short row toe and a short row heel. The chevron is made of sets of paired increases and decreases which, to my eye, give a slightly softer look than the more defined chevron used in Jaywalker. This is in no way better or worse, just different, you know?

The socks are technically a touch too small for me, circumference wise. I worked off my stockinette gauge instead of the gauge of the chevron, but I don't mind it. It doesn't bind at all, it just stretches a bit between the chevrons.

I used a tubular bind off at the top and did so with complete disregard to where the row technically began and ended so I'd have a very deliberate looking last stripe. I think this helps prevent the slight irregularity of self patterning sock yarn.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, instead of waiting until I got to the end of a round to start the bind off, I knit a complete round of my last color (purple) regardless of where that purple color started in the round. When every stitch in the round was purple for a single round, I began the bind off from there. I think this is a nice way to finish these self striping socks. The sock on the left is at that point where I'm about to begin the tubular cast off. I'm mid round, but it doesn't matter because it's where I have a single complete purple round of stitches.

I did something similar with my Peppy Long Stockings only with those, I knit until I completely ran out of the red shade and then did the tubular bind off with the yellow. The effect was not so good. It gives just dots of yellow across the top instead of a nice clean stripe. It just doesn't look as purposeful.

Sorry for the crappy photo. It got dark when I was thinking you might want to actually see a picture of what I meant.

One might ask, "Marnie, why not just bind off at the end of your color stripe of choice, so that the stripe is the same width as it appears throughout the sock?" That would be a splendiferous idea, indeed, but it does pose a challenge. It would mean plotting the exact point where you'd have enough yarn to perform a tubular bind off without going into the next color. It could be done, but would probably require some frogging which is not so fun with tubular bind offs. In the end, the stripe would probably still be off by just a smidge, so why not make it look like you bound it off that way on purpose?

Of course, all these points are moot if you forego the tubular bind off for a more traditional bind off. In that case, frogging is much easier and it may make sense to try to plot the bind off to use up almost the complete last stripe. Just note, you still need to leave a tail to weave in and it should be a tail that matches the area around it.

So the socks are done and I’m working on my silky wool project until I begin some work on a certain someone’s book. More on the the former soon. For the latter, you’ll just have to wait.



I wanted my next post to be about my new socks, but forget that, I'm gonna have myself a pity party and you are all invited. Get your hats and your noise makers, suck the helium out of the balloons and talk like Mickey Mouse, because I have a bad case of the “poor mes” right now.

At 11PM last night I kissed my puppy and Leo goodbye and they drove off into the starlit night for Oregon. And perhaps I cried maybe a bit because a month away from the two of them sound heart wrenchingly lonely. And maybe I worry that they'll be abducted by aliens and I'll never see them again because while I don't actually believe in alien abductions I do believe in horrible unexpected things happening to people I love, so I'm sad. But Leo has been sending me pictures from his phone of the little girl enjoying her trek to lands unknown (at least to us)

The move has been no small feat for us, and the ordeal doesn't end any time soon. To start with, since we are both trying to be frugal and we are moving on different dates, Leo will be unpacking the truck by himself. On the plus side, we've decided to sell most of our larger furniture, but on the downside, we're still keeping both motorcycles, our queen sized mattress and box spring, our 32" TV, and a few other choice back breakers.

As a side note, Leo drew quite a crowd driving the motorcycles up the ramp of a moving truck. I’m pretty sure everyone was waiting for him to fall off the side or crash into the boxes already sitting in back.

Speaking of moving trucks, I'm not going to name any names, but we are not happy with our moving truck experience. The company in question (whose name may rhyme with "poo-ball") has set us off our schedule by a whole day. Originally, we were scheduled to pick up our truck on Monday morning at 9AM. We were supposed to find out which LA office we were to pick up our truck, no later than 5PM on Sunday night. At around 6PM we were informed that they didn't know when or where we'd be able to pick up the truck the next day, that they hadn't even scheduled us a truck yet and that they'd call us on Monday and let us know. We made our reservation over two weeks prior and since one of us still has a job to go to, we were looking at a long couple of days.

So after several hours of listening to hold music and being told by countless customer service reps that the branch office would be notified of the urgency of our need for a truck, we were finally told we could pick up a truck in an office that ended up taking about 45 minutes to get to. Good times.

We worked for two solid days with only the barest minimum of sleep, but we finally got most of what we hoped to pack, into the truck. Now, I need to get all the remaining flotsam and jetsam out of the house (to Goodwill with what we they'll take and to the trash with the rest) then try to sell the furniture on Craig's list.

On the upside, it'll be a lonely and grueling two weeks to get the house in order, but after that, I'm staying with a friend who has graciously offered to drive the scenic route to Oregon with me the weekend of the 26th. We'll be taking a long slow journey up the cost, camping as needed to refresh ourselves and stopping for every scenic view we deem worthy. Since I'm easily amused there may be a lot of stops along the way.

I want to thank you all for attending my pity party. Please feel free to take home any leftovers that you’d like. I definitely won’t eat them all myself. I’ll grab your jackets from the extra room and see you out the front door.

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