Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All Good Things

In my line of work I am occasionally heard to opine that "past performance may not be indicative of future results."  But in one particular context, past performance will almost certainly prove accurate:

The TSMK-family Christmas tree will come down this week. 

Once the presents are unwrapped, the tree serves only as a mechanism to help perfect your needle-sweeping technique.  And from that point on it is dead tree walking.

I'm sad to see Christmas pass, but at the same time pleased as it means that my Christmas knitting is officially complete.  And even though I have one project left on the needles, I'm feeling good about my productivity.  The total isn't too bad.  For this year, I made:
  • Three hats;
  • One small blanket;
  • Five scarves;
  • One sweater; and
  • One (and one quarter*) pairs of socks.
*I'm at the heel of the first sock of the second pair.

All told, 11.25 gifts knitted in time for Christmas. 

In the days ahead, I'll be posting some photos and brief descriptions of most of the items.  In the meantime - here is a pic of the pile of a few of them before we mailed them out.


Monday, December 27, 2010

My Wish

We are just getting acquainted, you and I. And I fear that you know me far better than I know you. Perhaps you disagree.

Even so, there are a few words I would say. Wishes for you that I might share. It is presumptive, I know. But since it is the holiday season, perhaps you’ll indulge me.

May you know that you are cherished.

May you learn to see the beauty in the world that surrounds you.

May you find joy in stillness.

May your eyes remain open to wonder.

May you always remember the warmth of a loving embrace.

May you elude the clutches of cynicism.

May you find awareness within yourself.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Early Gift

This week, I received something of an early Christmas present. And I have to say, I think it is pretty cool.

You see, a few months ago, the good folks at Yarn Forward magazine contacted me, and asked whether I would object to their mentioning this blog in their monthly “Websites we Love” feature. I was quite flattered, and gave my permission.

But, truth be told, I always assumed that they would come to their senses, and realize that to include this journal in their magazine, they would probably need to start running a new segment. Something like “Websites we Tolerate” or perhaps “Websites we wish we hadn’t accidentally stumbled across while running a Google search for Billy Gibbons’ Hat.” In any event, I never really thought they would run the spot.

Still, hope springs eternal. And this week while leafing through their January edition, that hope paid off. For there, plain as day, in the bottom right hand corner of page eighteen, was a very familiar sight.

I have mixed feelings about all this. First, it is incredibly flattering to get this kind of recognition. Second, Groucho Marx is claimed to have said “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.” I understand that sentiment – and on that basis I am beginning to question the judgment of the Yarn Forward editorial staff.

But, nevertheless, Thank you, Yarn Forward, for giving me this very nice Christmas gift.

And thank you also for making famous the object shown in the screen shot. It was a Christmas gift to my assistant and good friend, YR. The pattern is from one of my favorite books: Knitted Lace of Estonia. Her scarf is done in hand-painted alpaca, with beads in place of the dreaded nupps called for by the pattern. It came out nicely, and I’m pleased to say she wore it to the office yesterday. It looked lovely on her and I hope it brings her lots of pleasure.

And, since I've been playing with the "Hipstamatic" app on my phone - here is a Hipstamatic photo of YR's scarf the morning I gave it to her.

And a completely gratuitous self portrait of the author in his native habitat and costume.

That's just about it before Christmas.  I've completed all the items I'm likely to complete before Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, that means I only finished one of the two pairs of socks for Mrs. TSMK.  But I'll finish the second pair shortly after the holidays.

Also on the needles at the moment is a hat - this time for me.  I recently ran across a fellow in town who needed some help.  When I told him I didn't have any cash on me, he asked about my hat.  The guy was standing without a hat in the standard Seattle drizzle, and I just didn't feel good about turning him down.  So if you see a guy wearing my his Tam-beret around town - give the guy a quarter or two.  I think he could probably use the help.  And stay tuned for a pic of my new hat - which should be ready shortly after the holidays as well.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My two front teeth?

It isn’t easy being a tastemaker.

In fact, there is quite a bit of pressure involved. What if you make a mistake? What if, in a fit of je ne sais crap you commit a horrible lapse in judgment. The next thing you know, people all over the world might find themselves sporting plaid lederhosen.

And so, I take very seriously my responsibilities as a man whose every move may radically influence men’s interests, fashion and yarn selection.

With that said, I’ve had more than a few people ask me: “TSMK, what would a man like yourself, a man who has everything and wants for nothing, like to receive for Christmas?”

Well, I’ll tell you. But if you follow these suggestions and purchase similar gifts for the man (or men) in your life, well I simply can’t be held responsible.

First, I confess that lately I’ve continued to long for a pair of pants like those worn by the Norwegian curling team at the past winter Olympics. Such pants are available at Loudmouth Golf. In fact, you can even get a matching blazer. Think of the possibilities.

Second, moustache wax. Yeah. I know. I said it. But ever since the New York Gubernatorial debate, I’ve been thinking way too much about the possibilities of truly exceptional facial hair. That, and the fact that the rent is too damn high.

Third, I’ve been mulling over the idea of a computer program to help design knitted items. I know such programs exist, but I’ve never tried one out. It would be very cool to be able to propose a pattern and see a computer-generated model of how it might look when knit.

Fourth, a sitar. There’s been a fair amount of Indian music running through my headphones lately. It is obviously putting bad ideas into my head.

Last, a bloodhound puppy. I saw one a few weeks ago, and haven’t been able to get the image of those ears and that wrinkled face out of my head.

So there you have it. What to get for the man who has everything. But, a word to the wise. Don’t get any individual man all of these items. You wouldn’t really want to see a guy in an harlequin suit with a handlebar mustache, wearing an intricately knitted sweater while playing the sitar and accompanied by the howls of a bloodhound. Would you?


Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Socks

If you’re like me, you enjoy Mr. Bean.

And if you’re like Mr. Bean, you’d enjoy a pair of Christmas socks.

Mrs. TSMK, like me, enjoys Mr. Bean. And so, since I’m not certain I could keep her Christmas present a secret, I’ve let her in on the gig. I’m going to make her some socks. In fact, she helped me pick out the yarn.

This past weekend, we went to my favorite LYS and she picked out a couple of skeins. I’ve started the first pair, and will post pictures shortly.

In the meantime, I finished another holiday gift. This one is for a secret Santa event. I know the identity of the recipient, but the number of participants is large enough that I’m comfortable posting a slightly less obscured photo than might otherwise be the case.

The pattern is Migration Lace Scarf, by Fearless Fibers out of Oregon. I knit it from Curious Creek Meru – on size 6 needles – with 45 repeats of the main motif.

All told, it blocked out to 8 inches by 72 inches. I’m pleased with it, and hope its new owner will be as well.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The weather outside is frightful

Snow has arrived at the TSMK household, and it has brought with it multiple revelations. Meteorological epiphanies, if you will.

First, let it be said that when if you need something to warm the cranium, your best bet is probably to find a folk festival. While you’re there, look for a woman with an odd accent. Something vaguely Russian, but not quite. When you meet her, ask her for a hat. She’ll smile at you and offer you a selection of felt hats made in the style of her people. She’ll say they’re warm. Trust her. She knows what she’s talking about. Your cranium (and ears) will thank you.

Second, let it also be known that if you’re looking for transportation in the snow and ice, you might do well to consider something rear-engined and German. For, although a TSMK-approved uber-fast Japanese FWD hatchback is fun, it has a propensity for sending you sideways at intersections. Lillian, on the other hand, is a teutonic sherpa. She will get you to your destination. You will arrive at a leisurely pace, but you will arrive. Best bring the funny-sounding lady’s hat along, though – heating isn’t Lillian’s strong suit.

Third, Christmas is almost upon us. In fact, it is thirty days away. And I still have quite a bit to do. In particular, I still need to pick out what I’m going to make for Mrs. TSMK. I have a few ideas, and have even been playing at a couple of patterns. But I need to get serious. And that means I’m either going to need to spend some significant time away from her or find a way to properly disguise what it is that I’m working on so that she doesn’t know what it is or who it might be for. This last bit wouldn’t be easy. She’s much smarter than I am, and I have no confidence that I could perpetuate such a charade for three days, let alone thirty. If anyone has any suggestions for effective gift-obfuscation – I’d be most appreciative.


Thursday, November 11, 2010


I am pleased to be able to post this. As many you know, I was recently abducted by a herd of aquatic mammals. It was horrible. I may never eat green leafy vegetables again.

But no matter, for I have paid the ransom. And in fact understand that at least one of the packages has been delivered to its new owner – who tells me that she may tackle the Aeolian shawl with the included skein of laceweight. If she does, I’m hoping she’ll share a picture. I’ve wanted to make an Aeolian for some time as I think it is a stunning pattern – but the sheer size of the project has always made me pick something else. That and the fact that it calls for a truly unpleasantly large number of beads.

While in captivity, I was pleased also to be able to finish a couple of additional Christmas presents. Including this one. I am posting a relatively blurry and intentionally too close-up picture in an effort to obfuscate the true nature of the object (the recipient reads this journal). But you get the idea: cables galore.

But the most significant aspect of my captivity is one which was wholly unrelated to the fiber arts.

For while my captors held me for ransom, they refused to allow me to shave my chin. Indeed, it is now relatively shaggy. But that isn’t the most troubling part.

This torment went on for well nigh a month. Now some of you may say – wait TSMK – the ransom note was delivered less than a month ago. How could you be held captive for that long? The answer is simple. There was a rift in the space-time continuum. And like when Peter, Susan, Lucy and the whiny one walked through the wardrobe and into Narnia they spent years in that magical world only to return to their own and find out that no time had passed, when I was abducted and taken to Cowlantis, time accelerated for me while remaining constant in this realm. Indeed, I now have a full month of growth on my chin.

When I paid the ransom and returned to this world, I naturally expected my family to notice my disheveled appearance. But if they did, they did not mention it. Indeed, Mrs. TSMK in particular seemed not to notice. Not a word was spoken. Not a single word.

Until, that is, last weekend.

I have become accustomed to this growth, and whereas I originally viewed it as a sign of my tormentors, I eventually grew to like it. Call it facial-hair-Stockholm-syndrome. And so I have decided to take care of it. It now gets washed and conditioned just as the hair on the top of my head. And yes, it gets brushed.

And that’s when she mentioned it. For she walked in while I was brushing my chin.

And what did she say?

“Oh that’s so cute! You have to brush the beard!”

Perhaps I’ll shave it off.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Watery Ransom

[Editor’s Note: The following was received as a fax at TSMK World Headquarters. In compliance with certain demands, we are reprinting it here in its entirety.]

So-called “people” of the yarn,

You came to this website to read the incoherent ramblings of the man who calls himself TSMK. But you will not read those ramblings today. No!

For we have taken over.

Let me introduce myself. My name is unpronounceable with your primitive tongue. And your barely evolved ears are unable to hear the mellifluous tones of my native speech.

But I will accommodate your not-insubstantial imperfections. You may call me Lula May. I am the mouthpiece for the MFL.

Yes. You heard me right; the MFL or Manatee Liberation Front.

I see now as you recoil in horror that you understand the fullness of your predicament.

For too long have my kind suffered at your hands. For too long have we borne the scars of your propellers. And for too long have you refused to offer us delicious cabbages.

But that changes today. For today we have taken TSMK ransom. And we will hold him until our demands are met.

Why have we chosen TSMK? I will tell you the tale, but be warned. For henceforth every time you look in the mirror you will feel shame for sharing his shape.

It all started one afternoon in the waters of his native Florida. I was peacefully swimming along, minding my own business, when I encountered him. He was floundering. You all flounder. His pale skin, prune-like from the water, was reflecting the bright sun of the day.

I approached him cautiously. Against my better judgment, I allowed him to rub my back and my belly. And he did it well. His fingers tickled as they scraped the algae off of my hide.

To show my appreciation for his clumsy efforts, I placed a flipper on either side of his torso and rolled – taking him with me – and dove toward deeper water. And that is when things went horribly wrong.

He spurned my gratitude. His snorkel filled with water. He struggled to break free of my loving embrace – and bolted for the surface.

And then I heard his words. Ugly words like “drown” and “panic.” And although I try to blot it from my memory, I can still hear him describe my skin as “rubbery”.

He is not a nice man, this TSMK. And that is why he was chosen.

My ego must be avenged. And our demands must be met.

For our first demand, we insist that our bretheren be given the tools to take back their dominance over this waterlogged earth. We have made supplication before. Specifically, consider the following message that was sent to TSMK:

I am Seacow, a cow from the sea. Long ago, we cows were all one species, building civilizations while men were grunting around and hitting us with sticks, which we did not approve of because they are pointy and sharp. On our space ships, we would laugh at man. Oh how cute they were, as they grunted and made pointy sticks, thinking they would make us into delicious meat and wear our hides. But we were smart, and realized that men did not like water that much, and so we plotted and created Cowlantis. It would be an island far away from humanity, so we may be at peace.

We lived a long time away from the humans that hunted us, grazing in peace and making spirals out of wheat, as an offering to our god, Caow and Mootoo. Humans proved smart however, and created warships, with ugly heads to mock us as they came upon our island, Cowlantis. We had grown fat and lazy, so when your kind attacked, we were doomed. We had created shields for sticks, but you developed weapons like Sharp Steel Sticks and fire! The fire was horrible! As your kind drove us to your ships, several of us dove into the water. Over time, we evolved into Seacows, known by your kind as Manatee, and plotted and remembered the sharp sticks.

Us cows of the sea have developed into being very cute and cuddly, and apparently as a cow of the sea, you think we are special and choose not to eat us or use our hides as clothing. We survive, but we remember the pointy sticks. And now, we knit, so we can gain mastery over these sharp sticks, so that one day, we may be the masters of the sharp sticks and take back our rightful place!

And this is why I'm writing you human, because I need more material to understand and manipulate these sticks. Perhaps, by the year 2012, I may have gathered enough mastery to rise up and show your kind what we can do with pointy sticks! Pointy sticks and fire! Mooomoooomooomoo!!!!

Thank you for reading,

cow of the sea
who knits

Did TSMK respond to Seacow’s plea? No. Once again he spurned our attempts at affection. But the MLF says enough! The evil TSMK-industrial complex will respond. For if they want their precious TSMK to ever again contribute to the blogosphere they will send some of the Destash-a-palooza bounty to Seacow. So that she may indeed hone her skills with the pointy sticks and join the MLF.

But our wounds run deep and our anger is not easily assuaged. One simple offering by TSMK to Seacow will not suffice.

For TSMK has offended us with his false and idolatrous cosmology. There is no Echnida! Rand Paul was right – there is only Aqua Buddha. And though Aqua Buddha appears in many forms he would never be so crass as to appear in the form of a spiny anteater with a four-headed phallus. That would simply be wrong.

When Aqua Buddha appears on land, he naturally appears in a form which abhors water. And though he typically eschews photographs – we do have an artist’s rendering of Aqua Buddha in his terrestrial form.

In recognition of the magnificence of Terra Buddha, we demand that TSMK’s handlers provide an equal share of the Destash-a-palooza bounty to S. Fuller: the artist who prepared this rendering. For it is magnificent.

And lo, though we will be pleased when TSMK complies with these demands, we must insist upon one final act of penance for his crimes against huManatee. For there exists among the alleged readers of this inane journal a reader of spectacular delicacy. I speak of course of L. Swanson, who recently used her exceptional eye for detail to capture the beauty that is nature in a photo she named: Fornicating Grasshoppers on Yellow Dahlia.

While only the enlightened can hear the sound of one hand clapping, only those perfectly in tune with nature can hear the cries of Orthoptera in the throes of passion. In recognition of her oneness with Aqua/Terra Buddha, we demand that this journal immediately send Ms. Swanson a care package of yarn.

Assuming our demands are met, we will release TSMK from our fingernailed-flippered grasp. But let it here be known that if you refuse us, or if TSMK slights us in the least – we will lodge his pale and bloated form beneath a rock or submerged log, there forever to grow algae and to serve as a warning to those who would deny us our rightful place in the world.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Destash-a-palooza - Tomorrow's the Day!

I plan to pick the winners of the Destash-a-palooza tomorrow, and spent some time today picking out some of the yarn that will be given away.  I'll probably add to the piles, but the base packages are shown below.

In this one, you’re looking at two skeins of Rowan Damask (the blue), about 250-300 yards of some left over Malabrigo lace weight (the purple), a skein of Berocco comfort (the pink), a skein of miscellaneous laceweight (the black) and a skein of Rowan Scottish Tweed (the green).

In this one, you’re again looking at two skeins of Rowan Damask in blue, a skein of Blossom (the black with flecks), two skeins of Deborah Norville (variegated sock yarn), one skein of Lamb’s Pride bulky (the turqouise) and one skein (of over 1,000 yards) of light turqouise laceweight. I can’t remember for certain the brand of that last skein, but the band is tucked inside and I’m pretty sure a lot of it is written in Italian.

Get those entries in!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Another one down!

Finished another item last night.  Which is good, because Christmas will be here before we know it.

This one is done in the hand-painted baby Alpaca that I got during my recent jaunt to a fiber festival.  Plus beads.  Lots and lots of beads.

Now, what should I do with the roughly 300 yards or so of alpaca that I have left over from the project?  Hmm.  What to do.

Maybe I'll have to include it in the the Destash-a-Palooza.

I've gotten some fantastic entrants so far, and from all over the world.  Some have sent photos.  Some have sent poems.  One person sent a remarkable short story.  This will be a very challenging decision.  But thankfully I get to pick two entries this time.

Keep the entries coming.  I will hold it open until October 31


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You can't take it with you

As regular readers and my dogs know, I've been staying up quite a bit lately to work on Christmas knitting.

What those same readers probably do not know is that I've been a virtual widower for much of that time. For you see, Mrs. TSMK has an addiction. And that addiction involves moody vampires. Whether they are from the swamps of Louisiana or the rainforests of Washington, she finds them fascinating. Actually, fascinating isn't the right word. Sexy is more likely the right word.

I've tried to explain to her that since vampires don't have any blood, her hyper-sexy male vampire characters would be unable to achieve an erection even if they had all the Viagra in the world - and therefore vampires would seem to be essentially asexual. But rationality apparently doesn't apply.

So, with Mrs. TSMK glued to either the television or her Kindle, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garage. But don’t cry for me quite yet, Argentina. For the garage is more man-cave than simple garage. In fact, I like it rather a lot. It has nearly everything a guy might need. A television and stereo. Comfy chairs. A treadmill. And several large bins of yarn. Truly a magical place. The only thing missing is a never-ending pizza buffet.

And since Mrs. TSMK is in the other room, I don’t have to worry about her seeing what I’m watching on television and coming to the screaming realization that she married something of a nerd.

[Hopefully she won’t read this and discover the truth – everyone please promise not to tell her.]

Left to my own devices, I find that my remote control naturally steers me toward programs concerning history, astronomy, UFOlogy, the paranormal and the like. Give me a set of circular needles, some laceweight yarn, a television show about the Roswell incident, and I’m a happy guy.

But a few nights ago, my love of these programs came to a screeching halt. For I learned a very unpleasant truth: The World Will End on the Winter Solstice in 2012.

You see, apparently this date for the end of the world has been foretold by countless seers throughout history. And their premonitions are corroborated by the ancient Mayan calendar and the I Ching. And not only that, but the winter solstice in 2012 will be a date of significance in astronomical terms as well – a galactic alignment occurring only once every twenty-five thousand years or so.

Now, being a natural skeptic, I of course sought out my own oracle: the all-knowing echidna who sits at the center of the universe. I hoped that he could shed some light on these theories. But on this occasion, I’m afraid he was of little help. For you see, the Echidna travels constantly through time and space, and although he was in the man cave with me, his physical presence was actually manifesting itself several months into the future.

A few weeks ago the entire TSMK clan acquired some 200 lbs or so of apples and pears, with the intention of pressing the fruit and making cider. Well, since he knows and sees all, the Echidna had apparently traveled forward in time and was, quite frankly, drunk off his butt on the cider that we’ve yet to press and allow to ferment. In his inebriated state all said in response to my inquiries was “We should’ve gotten a live chicken.”

Honestly, his guidance to me is often cryptic. But this was particularly unhelpful. I don’t honestly know whether he heard my question correctly, or simply thought I was trying to hit a curve ball.

Readers, our impending doom is big news. The kind of news that causes one to reevaluate one’s priorities. The kind of news that could lead a person to significant discoveries about himself. And I have made such a discovery.

I have too much yarn. So much, in fact, that I will never be able to use all of it before our impending destruction.

And this is where you can help. For I have decided to de-stash somewhat. Over the next few weeks I plan to go through my bins of yarn, pull out items that I’m unlikely to use, and give them away. And that’s why I’m announcing the First Annual TSMK De-Stash-A-Palooza. 

I’m going to pull out the yarn, and plan to give it away in two batches. I can’t say exactly what will be in each batch yet. But trust me on this one – you’re going to like it.

As with prior events, I’m going to judge entries on the basis of creativity. So sharpen those pencils and start writing poems. Or clean your lens and start shooting photos. And send them to me at Enter as many times as you like – but know that I will pick two separate winners: one for each batch of yarn.

Good luck, and may the Echidna be with you.


Explanatory Post-Script:  Many are asking whether the entry must be a poem.  It need not.  Entries can consist of anything that may be emailed.  Many others are asking whether there are any mandatory themes for entries (e.g., knitting or crafts).  No such themes are required.  Again, the winning entries will be selected solely on the basis of creativity and imagination.  Essentially - the two things that win will be the two things that I enjoy reading/hearing/viewing/whatevering the most.

Monday, October 11, 2010

75 Days

With 75 days left until Christmas, I seem to be hitting a bit of a snag with my knitting.  It seems like he's trying to tell me something.  Is it possible that I haven't been paying him enough attention?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

79 Days

And so far, I'm still on pace.

Here is a close-up of the most recent finished item - done in Noro Silk Garden.

As of this morning, I'm 15% of the way through the next item - which I hope to finish by this time next week.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Say No to Crack

Citizens of the Internet,

I write to you this morning to convey a very important message.

Last night, the all knowing Echidna who sits at the center of the Universe visited me in a dream.  As is his custom, he spoke to me in a foreign language.  Last night, for reasons I cannot explain, that language was Portuguese.  And though I do not speak Portuguese, I was able understand his meaning clearly.  Such is his magnificence.

He spoke but three words.  And those he did speak were enigmatic.  He said:

"Watch your ass."

Clearly, this was a sign of ominous things in my future.

And so this morning, while enjoying my daily ritual of Greek yogurt and an americano.  I was startled to come across this disturbing headline.

Man Denies Crack in Buttocks is His

I'm afraid, friends, that it has indeed come to this.  According to the man in the story, someone, somehow, placed crack in his crack without his knowledge

This can only be the work of terrorists.

We must arm ourselves against this coming scourge.  And after much consideration, I have devised a plan.

Gentlemen - I have but two words for you: Crack Spackle.  Yes, the time has come when we must all apply spackle to our posteriors.  These are indeed drastic measures, but this will surely thwart any attempted terrorist acts against us.  And, the less evolved and more hirsute among us will, I suspect, find that the periodic removal and reapplication of the spackle has a beneficial exfoliating effect and functions as a depilatory agent.

Ladies - I recognize that your delicacy and issues of personal hygiene may lead you to believe that crack spackle is not the choice for you.  And because I am always looking out for your best interest, I have devised an alternative solution: yoga pants.  For when a lady is wearing yoga pants, it is highly unlikely that someone could hide something between the skin of her buttocks without her knowledge.  In fact, there are some forward-thinking individuals who have dedicated an entire website to the study of this issue.  Of course, it would still be theoretically possible for some nefarious individual bent on world domination to hide something between the fully clothed buttocks of a lady wearing yoga pants.  But once again, I've got you covered.  In the interests of national security, I hereby volunteer my services to observe any lady walking in front of me while wearing yoga pants.  I will not stare.  I will not ogle.  I will simply glance in a manner sufficient to ensure that if something has been hidden - it will not go unobserved.

Two points are worth noting.  First, several of you may have heard a poem attributed to Ogden Nash and titled: Women in Pants.

You look so fine in greeting
Have you seen yourself retreating?

But if it is true that Mr. Nash wrote this poem - then it seems equally true that he never witnessed the bounteous vision that is the shapely female form in yoga pants. 

And second, many of you may feel that your own physique does not lend itself to compliance with this very important issue of national security.  To those of you who share this view, I offer the following important thought from the the prominent thinker Farrokh Bulsara.

"Fat Bottomed Girls, you make the rocking world go round."

Never have truer words been spoken.

And so, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us now go forward unafraid, spackled or clad in stretchy fabric.

I've got your back.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Staying on Pace

Three presents completed - attention now turns to the fourth.  And for this one, I've had to make a little chart. 

I think I'm going to do this with some of that handpainted baby alpaca I found last weekend.  After all, I shouldn't just let it linger in the stash, right?


Monday, October 4, 2010

Ooh, that smell...

Last week, Mrs. TSMK and I set about trying to find something unusual to do over the weekend. And so we began to look at local happenings.

Without question, the most intriguing local event was happening in the town of Everett – which is north of Seattle. For this weekend was the annual Everett Sausage Fest.

We haven’t been to this festival before, and Mrs. TSMK was intrigued. I was less excited about the opportunity. You see, I have something of a one-penis rule. And the fact that we have three sons and two male dogs would already seem to be something of a violation of that rule. No, indeed - unless and until I got additional information about precisely what kinds of activities might take place at the Sausage Fest I wasn’t prepared to attend.

Lacking that essential information, and given that our oldest boy has never met a tube meat he didn’t hate, we decided to pass on the occasion.

So, instead of heading east toward what I hoped would simply be bratwurst, we headed west. Specifically, this weekend we found ourselves in the small town of Sequim – which is located on the uppermost part of the Olympic peninsula.

Sequim has the unique feature of being in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains, meaning that it is often a bright sunny spot in the middle of our typical mist and gloom.  Also, I'm told it is the lavender capital of North America.

This sunshine and feels good on your face. But it comes at a price – and that price is confusion. For if you wander into Sequim unprepared you may find yourself wondering if you’ve stepped into a time machine. “Sequim” is an English adaptation of a Klallam word.  I’m not sure of the exact translation – but believe it is something like: “Land of the Early Bird Special.” According to the 2000 census, the median age of residents is just under 60. And I’m here to tell you that it hasn’t gotten any younger in the last 10 years.

Now seeing as Mrs. TSMK and I grew up in Florida – we actually found Sequim’s demographics rather comforting. But the look on the face of our poor waitress at lunch suggested that not everyone shares that view. She was approximately 20 years old – and clearly the youngest person in the restaurant (apart from our three boys). And we were the youngest patrons by at least 30 years. As she moved from table to table in the restaurant, attempting to drown out the piped in elevator music versions of 1950s and 1960s pop music, the poor girl seemed like she was about to crack under the strain. She looked, in short, like someone who was praying for death.

But I digress.

We went to Sequim not to feel young. But rather to attend my first fiber arts festival. It was small, but very cool. I met a number of amazing knitters. And I walked away with some great additions to the stash – about 750 yards of some wonderful hand-painted laceweight alpaca and about 600 yards of locally produced wool from a Sequim sheep.

I did, however, pass on one particular offering.  I know that there are many who enjoy spinning chiengora.  And I too may give it a shot at some point.  But I draw the line at buying a bag of dog.

Now, to figure out what to do with the alpaca.  I may need to use some of that for a Christmas present...


Friday, October 1, 2010

Jeanie Goes Home

The votes are in, the entries have been compiled, and a winner has been chosen. The Jeanie’s new owner has been identified.

But before I get to that – a few brief comments keyed to the 10 statements in The Award.

1. I learned to drive in an old orange Volvo with bad second gear synchros. – FALSE. Less than an hour after posting The Award, I was publicly outed (by a family member no less) that this was false. And so it is not a great surprise that the majority of people who entered the giveaway (65% in fact) correctly picked #1 as one of the three lies. In fact, the Volvo was white.

2. My favorite flavor of ice cream is Rocky Road. – FALSE. In fact, my favorite flavor of ice cream is Peanut Butter & Chocolate. Rocky Road is my fall-back flavor, for when the deliciousness that is Peanut Butter & Chocolate is unavailable. Kudos to you if you figured this one out (and 56% of you did). It was mentioned very briefly on Have Knitting Will Travel.

3. My children have all enjoyed lullabies that are based on songs about men in prison. – TRUE. Only 21% of you thought this might be false. Meaning that 71% of you must loiter outside my house in the evenings while I sing Folsom Prison Blues or some similar song to an infant. In fairness, many of these songs actually work quite well as lullabies – though I will have second thoughts if years from now one of my boys shoots a man in Reno – just to watch him die.

4. I can recite Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat from memory. – TRUE. In my opinion, this was a bit of a softball. And as only 4% of you thought this might be false – you seem to agree.

5. My favorite bourbon is Maker’s Mark. – FALSE. 26% of you correctly identified this as false. In fact, my favorite bourbon is Pappy Van Winkle – which I’ve been told is unfortunately no longer being made. There was one subtle clue to the answer in Jeanie’s Waiting – a photo of the finished shawl sitting on an end table next to a bottle of bourbon. The bottle is not a bottle of Maker’s Mark.

6. I have a fondness for the smell of sleeping dogs’ feet. – TRUE. For reasons I cannot explain, I’ve been lucky enough to have a series of dogs with very pleasant smelling feet. When these dogs have been sleeping, their feet seem to consistently smell like corn chips. This is weird, I know. But only 30% of you thought this might be false – so I must assume that the other 70% of you also like the smell of sleeping dogs’ feet.

7. Among other things, my iPod contains 12 different versions of a single song. – TRUE. Almost 22% of you thought this was false. The rest of you have obviously recognized my penchant for blues music and are familiar with the genre. For there really haven’t been many good blues songs written in the last few decades. The vast majority were written ages ago and have been rerecorded and reinterpreted over and over again. One of those is “Trouble in Mind” and I do indeed have twelve versions on my iPod.

8. I once performed an exorcism. – TRUE. Years ago, on the impetus of a friend’s upcoming wedding, I obtained ordination over the internet so that I might officiate at the ceremony. Unfortunately, the wedding never happened. But the ordination was a done deal. I am, in fact, the Right Reverend TSMK. And my ordination came with a book of various ceremonies that might come in handy with my new credentials. So when electronic children’s toys in our home started randomly activating at all hours of the night (to Mrs. TSMK’s great consternation) – I took it upon myself to fix the problem. Using my book I cast out the foul demons infesting, among other things, the Thomas the Tank Engine ride on toy. It worked. The toys have been quiet ever since. Only 22% of you thought this might be false. Clearly, the Echidna has imparted its wisdom on all who read this blog.

9.  I have a pair of shoes named “Larry.” – TRUE. They’re my favorite summer footwear – a pair of relatively ratty Birkenstocks that I’ve owned for the better part of two decades. Only 4% of you thought this was false. Clearly, the other 96% of you are prepared to believe I am somewhat odd.

10. I have always secretly wanted to be President of the United States. – TRUE. 48% of you thought this must be false. But it isn’t false. I’ve always wanted to be President. I don’t think I’d do a particularly good job. I don’t even think it would be all that much fun. But I do think that it would be very interesting and extremely challenging. Also, it would be a lot of fun to get to ride around in Air Force One.

Four of you correctly identified the three false statements: Stephanie from Bainbridge Island; Jen from Gig Harbor; Annette from Arlington; and Jim from Garden Valley. The tie-breaker must decide.

Stephanie wants the aliens to explain a great miracle of religion and confirm whether Jesus was fathered by a mortal man.

Jen wants the aliens to take her along for the ride – and wants to know whether she can bring her knitting.

Annette wants to offer the aliens hospitality – and have them explain the purpose behind bovine abductions.

Jim is curious about their craft – and wants to know whether the alien spaceship runs on unleaded.

All are good questions…. but only one can win. 

Candidly, this was a very challenging decision.  So I embarked upon a lengthy period of meditation to try to divine the winner.  And as the mists that cloud my mind began to recede - and I began to see deeper into the void - a clear and powerful image was revealed.

Annette in Arlington - it is my sincerest hope that when the aliens do land they come to you first.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today's the Day

Today is the last day for entries in the Jeanie giveaway. 

Now, I know that a lot of people are constantly asking themselves important, probing questions.  Questions like: "Why am I still hungry?"  or "What really happened to the lost city of Atlantis?".

Well I can't help you answer those questions. 

But I can help you answer an even more important question: "What would I look like if I were wearing the Jeanie?"

Well the simple answer is that you would look like this.  Or at least you would if you happened to be Flava-flav. 

So go ahead, get those entries in.  Who knows, you might find yourself cold-lampin' with Flava . . . and a stole.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Importance of Pacing

By my calculation, there are 88 days between today and Christmas. 

Also by my calculations, I have approximately 88 things I'd like to make people this year.

So - given that I have not yet figured out how to consistently manipulate the space-time continuum, I'm need to pare down my own expectations.  That means that I've decided to focus on one hand-made item for each person on a relatively short list of family and friends.  As in prior years, however, I make no claims that I'll be able to stick to that approach for some people on the list.

The good news is that I've already finished one item.  The bad news is that I can't post terribly revealing photos of any Christmas items I might finish here before the holiday itself, because all the people for whom I'm going to knit this year are aware of the blog.  But I can post extremely close-up photos of objects in various states of completion.  And, as long as I don't say who the item is for (or even what the item is), I feel like the secret is maintained.

With that in mind, here is the item currently on the needles.  Made from Misti Alpaca Baby Suri Silk, it is extremely soft and is proving to be quite nice to knit.  This one should be done within a few days, at which point I'll move on. 

Must stay on pace.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some New Functionality

As part of the previously mentioned housekeeping, I've announcing the addition of a new box on the right side of the blog.  Specifically, I'm providing links to my other two blogs. 

One is a newly started compendium of things I like, things I dislike and things I'm not quite sure what to make of.  To the extent that I may in the future review any knitting-related item, I'll be posting the review on that page.  The site is called TSMK's Likes & Dislikes, and you'll find it here

The second is a slightly longer-lived blog, where I post most of the poems that bubble up to the surface of my day.  You'll find that one here.  I make no allusions to being particularly good at writing poetry, but do enjoy the process and hope that you may enjoy reading it on occasion.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brave New World and Jeanie Update

Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time on the treadmill.  More than I'd like, actually.  But the doctor said I could stand to lose a few pounds and so I'm going to lose them. 

I don't really enjoy the treadmill, but I find that there is something about it that helps me think.  Helps to clear the head.  I get up there, start making my way up the endless incline, and all of sudden ideas start to flow. 

Some of them seem quite promising.  Others fall flat immediately when my heartrate slows.  Most are somewhere in between.  I'm not sure where tonight's idea falls on that spectrum.

Tonight, I found myself thinking about Christmas.  Now as any James Joyce fan will tell you, the stream of one's thoughts is sometimes difficult to follow.  In fact, I've been stuck on the same page of Ulysses for several years.  But I'm a bit better at observing the eddies in my own stream of consciousness than trying to read  an account of someone else's thoughts - and the thoughts about Christmas led me to think about potential presents for my sons.  And for my oldest boy, I started thinking about games.  Last year, the game that seemed to be in every mail-order toy catalog we received was Mattel's Mindflex

I haven't played Mindflex, but understand the basic premise: you wear a headset that picks up your brainwaves through some kind of home-version EEG contraption and, by manipulating your brain waves in some fashion you're able to control a fan that moves a ball.  Cool.  Kind of spooky but cool.

This year, I'm planning to knit quite a few presents.  And as I dropped off the treadmill for a few quick push-ups before getting back on my moving sidewalk, I found myself wondering whether we'll eventually have Mindflex-like controls for knitting.  I've read that scientists have been able to get monkeys to control robotic arms using similar brain wave technology.  In 20 years, will I be able to concentrate my thoughts and set in motion a pair of robotic knitting needles?  And if that technology is available, would I want to use it?  Would I miss the tactile aspects of knitting?  Would it make my knitting any faster?  Would it make my knitting any more even?  Was this all some sort of Daniel Dennett-esque treadmill-induced thought experiment for the crafty?  (And speaking of that, what is it like, exactly, to be a bat?  And why am I thinking about philosophy of mind when I'm stuck on this damn treadmill?)  But back to the knitting - if faster and more even is what I'm after, couldn't I just bite the bullet and buy a knitting machine?  I consider myself a bit of a luddite, and unlikely to adopt this kind of new technology if it were to become available - but Mrs. TSMK is hopelessly in love with her Kindle and I was exercising on a moving belt rather than simply taking a walk around the block, so who knows.

As for the Jeanie giveaway - things are going well.  I've received quite a few entries.  Most of the entries are correctly identifying at least one of the three lies.  Quite a few have picked two of them.  Only one, so far, has correctly identified all three lies.  But there are nine days left in the giveaway so we may end up in the tiebreak after all.  Please keep those entries coming, and stay tuned for the announcement of the winner.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeanie's waiting

For her new owner.  With 11 days to go in the giveaway, she's blocked and ready to travel. 

At seventy inches long and 20 inches wide fully blocked, she isn't small.  She's just under three skeins of Knit One Crochet Two Ty-Dy sock yarn - a nice 80/20 blend of merino wool and nylon.  The color is "Blueberry Fields".

*Note - neither the bottle of Basil Hayden nor the ukulele will accompany the stole.  Those will be staying a bit closer to home.

Get those entries in - there's still plenty of time.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

To everything there is a season

On arriving home one night this week, I noticed that I could see my breath as I walked up our front steps. And just like that, I realized it was over. The summer that never really arrived is now throwing in the towel. It is officially fall several days before it is officially fall.

And so, I need to begin thinking about Christmas knitting.

But first, I need to say goodbye to some summer projects around the house. First among those is our vegetable garden. With the stunted summer, we really didn’t get much in the way of a harvest. The beans were sparse. The cucumbers never really took off.

The dog ate most of the strawberries before we were able to pick them. However, our potatoes were very impressive this year. And I feel that success is directly attributable to my P.E.N.I.S.

Perhaps I should explain.

Last year we also planted potatoes. The harvest was decent, but we planted them in a raised bed that was ultimately too shallow to be ideal. So this year, I got an idea. At the start of the season, I constructed the frame of a 4 foot by 8 foot bed out of scrap lumber. I then enclosed three sides with sheets of plywood, so that it was 4 feet deep around those three sides. Along the bottom of the front, I fastened an 8 foot long piece of 1x12, and I then filled in the interior with dirt.  My Potato-Enhancing Nature Improvement System (P.E.N.I.S.) was born.

It is a thing of beauty.  After the potatoes began to grow, we fastened another 1x12 to the front and filled again with dirt, increasing the depth of my P.E.N.I.S. by the additional 12 inches. It has space for an additional two 1x12 boards on the front, and an additional 24 inches of dirt. But if you were to see it, I think you’d agree that my P.E.N.I.S. in its current state, with a volume of 128 cubic feet, is quite impressive.

My P.E.N.I.S. was, and still is a sight to behold. It sits majestically in our back yard. And it has proved to be very fruitful. In short, my P.E.N.I.S. has become the envy of the neighborhood.

[NOTE: it should be acknowledged that Mrs. TSMK has suggested that my P.E.N.I.S. may be is an eyesore – a point I vigorously dispute]

And now, as we move into fall, it is time for me to say goodbye to my P.E.N.I.S.  I will miss spending time with it on the weekends. But I know it will be there for me again next spring.

As I’ll be spending less time with my P.E.N.I.S. for the months ahead, I’ll have more time for knitting. That is excellent, as I have an extensive list of projects I want to complete. The Jeanie will be blocked this weekend – and mailed off to its new owner in the first week of October.  There is still plenty of time to enter - however - please do.

That means my needles will be dedicated to Christmas knitting. Many potential recipients read this forum, so I won’t go into great detail as to projects at this time. But the projects on my list include some of the following (though there are some red herrings thrown into the list below to keep people off the track).
  • One or more sweaters
  • One or more pairs of socks
  • A hat in the shape of a giant squid attacking your head
  • Gloves/mittens
  • One or more berets
  • A knitted diorama of the Battle of Waterloo
  • A scarf
  • Kilt hose
  • A mother/baby monster stuffed toy

I guess I’d better get started.


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Day Everything Changed

When I was around 11, I lived for a brief time in a very small farming community in eastern Washington. Our nearest neighbors were an elderly couple who lived about a half-mile away. At the time, my brother and sister were both under the age of three, so we didn’t have a lot of interaction at that point.

It was a landscape of wheat fields and abandoned barns. Deserted farmhouses offered the potential for exploration, but the price of admission was spooky ambiance and a consistent fear of falling into a hidden abandoned well.

And then there was the darkness.

When we moved there, I was not afraid of the dark. Or rather, I wasn’t afraid of what I thought was the dark. But, as it turns out, I really hadn’t experienced dark until that year. Not true dark. The kind of dark you get from being 50 miles away from the nearest city of any size. The kind of dark you get when you can see a band of the milky way crossing the sky.

And it was that year that I saw him.

I had always thought perhaps he was there. There was always this feeling that something could hear my thoughts. Something knew. But then one night, it all became crystal clear. I remember my mom asked me to take out the trash. On the way back from this most mundane of errands, I looked up and saw him. To borrow a phrase, he was simply hovering there, in much the way that a brick wouldn’t. I saw his pointed snout and his beady eyes and I knew immediately.

He was watching me. He had singled me out. In an instant he communicated to me across time and space all that I needed to know. For you see, he has always been with us.

I began to research, and eventually stumbled across a few historical documents demonstrating his presence. For example, historians have long wondered about references in the written record to a mysterious presence at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. But take a look at the painting of this event, and I think you’ll agree that the truth is inescapable. He is there.

Even today, he makes appearances from time to time in the most unusual of places.

From that day forward, he has been with me at all times. Not always visible. In fact, he is only rarely visible to me now and again. But he is here.

And, thanks to Amy in Iowa, I can now carry a representation of him around with me at all times. I must say, he is a bit too lifelike as he seems to have too great a thirst for single-malt scotch.

But it isn’t all bad, for he’s helping me finish the Jeanie.

As for the giveaway, I’ve only received a handful of entries to date – none of which have correctly identified all three falsehoods. There are about two and a half weeks remaining to the deadline for entries. Plenty of time to consult The Echidna.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Award

A strange thing happened to me recently.

Well, actually the fact that something strange happened isn’t all that unusual. Strange things happen to me all the time. Like this one time when I was out on an airboat with my future father-in-law in the middle of a lake in north Florida at night, and our guide cut the power to the boat and turned off all the lights and started telling us about the UFOs he’d seen land in the lake. That was pretty strange.

Maybe I should start over.

Recently, I had something new happen. A time lord of the blogosphere slowed her TARDIS down long enough to toss me an award. Well, “award” may be overstating it. Its really more of a chain letter of sorts – from one blogger to another – offering up some encouragement and asking for you to post 7 random things about yourself and then pass the award along to another blogger.

Well I say stop the insanity. I will not pass this along to another blogger. I will break the chain and ride out the karmic tsunami that will undoubtedly ensue. This ends here.

That said, I’ve never been one to shy away from talking about myself. So I naturally loved the first part of the lovely award. And I offer you below 7 “facts” about myself. But, the clever among you will note that I actually list 10 items below. There’s the rub. Seven of these items are true. Three of them are false. All of them are tricky. In fact, some are so tricky that I doubt even Mrs. TSMK would guess correctly.

And with that in mind – I hereby announce the next giveaway event!  Yes, you guessed it - you tell me which of the items below are true and which are false, and you may win a prize. What prize, you ask? My next finished object. Regular readers of this blog will have seen it, but not in its fully finished and blocked magnificence. In fact, even I haven't yet seen it in its fully finished and blocked magnificence.  But I will within a week or two.  And once I do there will be pictures posted. 

It is a Jeanie – a reversible-cable dropped stitch stole. And like any reversible-cable dropped stitch stole should be, mine is done in some frighteningly garish colors. It is truly obnoxious. And it has been a blast making it.  Even while camping.

Ah, but you say there may be multiple correct entries? Well, I’ve thought of that. There’s a tie-breaker below which will serve to handle that contingency.

Ten Things About TSMK:

  1. I learned to drive in an old orange Volvo with bad second gear synchros.
  2. My favorite flavor of ice cream is rocky road.
  3. My children have all enjoyed lullabies that are based on songs about men in prison.
  4. I can recite Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat from memory.
  5. My favorite bourbon is Maker’s Mark.
  6. I have a fondness for the smell of sleeping dogs’ feet.
  7. Among other things, my iPod contains 12 different versions of a single song.
  8. I once performed an exorcism.
  9. I have a pair of shoes named “Larry”.
  10. I have always secretly wanted to be President of the United States.
Tie-Breaker: Fill in the blank below. Should there be multiple correct entries based on the true/false portion above, I will use my sole discretion (guided, as always by the wisdom of The Echidna) to choose a winner.

“If I were abducted by aliens from another planet, and they proved to be all-knowledgeable about the Earth and everything on it since the dawn of human civilization, and I could ask them one question, I would ask __________________.”

Good luck – and may The Echidna be with you. All entries must be received through the TSMKBLOG “at” email address (also shown to your right) on or before September 30, 2010.