Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Driving the big rigs & using the small needles

As reported in the Wall St. Journal two days ago, many long-haul truckers are picking up needles and yarn (or thread) while between jobs hauling freight.

This is seriously cool.  Soon, truck-stops everywhere will carry skeins of koigu along with their pine tree air fresheners. 

But more to the point, this may usher in a whole new scene at your average truck-stop strip club. 

When I was growing up, the nearest such establishment to my home town was the Cafe Risque, which was (and, I believe, still is) a kind of surrealistic amalgam of a strip club and a Dennys.  A place where a lingere-clad waitress will bring you an exorbitantly priced plate of bacon and eggs while a down-on-her-luck coed gyrates naked atop your table. 

Or so I've been told.  I of course never ventured onto the premises, not even to confirm or disprove the rumors of a certain high-school girlfriend who may have been employed there and who, if reports are true, may have undertaken to dye her hair. . . all of it . . . a vibrant shade of red.  No, I never set foot in the place.  I promise.  Really.

If you've ever driven along I-75 in north or central Florida, you will have seen the signs for the Cafe.  They promise to bare all.  They also promise that they have clean showers for truckers.  

But soon, naked women and clean showers may be insufficient. 

How are they going to lure in these trucker-knitters?  Maybe free use of a swift to wind their yarn?  Perhaps some dedicated space for blocking a project?  They're going to need to get creative.

But on the plus side, maybe the truckers can make a few items for the dancers.  Like maybe hats or mittens.  It was always cold in there, what with the air conditioning blowing full blast.  Or so I've been told.  And you wouldn't want your dancer waitress to catch cold.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Adorable? Why yes I am.

I left work just a few minutes early yesterday, and found that I had some extra time before my ferry left for home, so I ducked into a coffee shop. It is a shop I don’t go to very often, but the owner has a love of old Italian scooters and the shop sits in the shadow of the Hammering Man – who isn’t hammering currently – so its kind of a fun spot.

I order a hot chocolate, and pull out my knitting. I’m working on a baby blanket to give to a friend and colleague who delivered a baby girl last Friday. Its my first exploration into the seemingly mystifying but actually somewhat monotonous world of entrelac knitting.

As I’m working away at the table, I notice the barista is peering over at me from behind the counter. She’s cute, in a multiple piercings and vaguely goth sort of way.

"Are you knitting?" she asks.

"Yes", I respond.

"What is it?" she asks.

"A baby blanket," I explain.

“Is it for your baby?” she asks.

“Nope. Its for a colleague who had a little girl last Friday,” I answer.

"Wow. You're adorable!" she exclaims.

Let me repeat that last bit, for it bears repeating. A lovely young woman (becoming lovelier in my memory) called me adorable. Now I’m about 6 feet 2 inches in height, and tip the scales at 220 lbs. I’ve never been called adorable in my life. But I have to say, I could get used to it. A gorgeous woman called me adorable.

Shortly afterward, I describe the event to Mrs. TSMK (or perhaps that should be Mrs. T"A"SMK). I explain how this amazing, voluptuous and sensual woman, a dead-ringer for a young Sophia Loren, who was obviously working as a barista between modeling jobs or perhaps in preparation for playing a barista in a major motion picture, thought I was adorable.

Mrs. T"A"SMK is unimpressed.

Oh well.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It felt like the right thing to do at the time.

As a lover of all things millinerial (ok, so that's not really a word, but it gets the point across), I often find myself admiring hats. Like kilts, single malts, motorcycles and straight razors, one really can't have too many hats.

At least that's my opinion. Not everyone in my house agrees with this philosophy. Which is why I keep a fair number of my hats in my office.

This love of owning and wearing hats means that I, of course, also like to make them. I'm still plotting my bamileke hat, but in the interim have made a number of other interesting hats to keep my head warm during the long dreary 9-month-long Seattle season of fawinpring. One such hat was my beloved peruvian hut hat, done in particularly garish colors of Lamb's Pride bulky wool.

The hat was knit and then felted. But just barely. And over time and exposure to the liquid sunshine so prevalent in this part of the world, it began to weep multicolored strands of yarn.

A good friend offered to use her new handy-dandy washing machine with its high-heat sanitize cycle to refelt the hat. We discussed the possibility that by subjecting the hat to the temperature of the wash, it might shrink just a bit. I handed off the hat, and went on my merry way.

And then she returned it to me, with more than a slight giggle.

The observant reader will note that something is different between these two photos. Like a miniature version of the debate between Ptolemaic and Copernican cosmology, the issue with the hat is one of perspective. There are two possible explanations: either my head has expanded tremendously in relation to the hat, or the hat is considerably smaller than when it was first felted.

I'm not sure which of these to events has occurred. But in the interim, I've found a new use for my Peruvian hut hat. It is now my Peruvian desk-mounted pistachio containment system or PD-MPCS for short.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Harder than Knitting

There are many things in life that are difficult.

But what is difficult for one person is perhaps easy for another, and vice-versa, a simple fact that I think was perhaps best expressed on Sesame Street many years ago.

For me, knitting has come fairly easily. I started less than two years ago, and in the interim I really haven't yet been stumped. Of course, I've had an amazing and very supportive group of knitters to lean upon for inspiration and advice, as well as an exceptional local yarn shop.

Since first announcing the Bitterroot shawl giveaway several weeks ago, I've received an amazing response. Amazing first because I seem to have touched a nerve - many others are apparently also troubled by the vast prairie-like expanse between Megan Fox's eyebrows and her hairline.

Amazing also because so many of the people who wrote in suggested that they were somehow intimidated to try a lace project. A few even said that they could "never" pull off so complicated a pattern.

This simply isn't true.

There is nothing particularly complicated about the Bitterroot. In fact it is a relatively simple and straightforward pattern. Like any pattern, you need to spend some time keeping track of where you are in it. And placing the beads can be a bit of a pain. But it certainly isn't difficult.

For me, choosing a winner of the giveaway has been much more difficult than actually knitting the shawl. First of all, there was the sheer number of entries. When I started this process I had no idea that I would get entries from so many people - let alone entries from people on other continents. The response was startling, and making a decision proved to be quite a challenge.

In the end, and with the assistance of a few close friends (none of whom had entered), I narrowed it down first to 25, then 10 and then 4 entries. At that point, I was on my own.

Finalist #1

From a mother and her three daughters, ages 7-12, I received the following entry:

We would like the shawl because we want to provide it a home where it will feel loved and appreciated. It is difficult to go through life knowing that you are unwanted, to be called 'ugly'. There are four females here who appreciate handknit items and would dote lovingly upon the poor little shawl. (We promise not to fight over it, much.) We are willing to open our hearts and home to the lovely piece of yarny goodness.

This initial submission was followed by a second message, promising to love the shawl and wear it to innumerable "dances, proms, weddings and balls for many years to come," along with the following haiku:

Three daughters and mom
lovely shawl from a stranger
longing for its warmth

This entry really spoke to me. By selecting Finalist #1, I'd have the chance to make four people happy. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, this entry should be the winner.

Finalist #2

From S.R., a knitter in Maryland, I received the following entry:

Sometimes hard to see
The beauty of what we make.
I'd kill for that shawl

Seriously, it is lovely. And yes, I'd wear it. I'd wear it like nobody's business! I am so tempted by shawl patterns but, at the same time, so intimidated.

This entry too captured my attention. I love haiku. People talk about how twitter is changing the world because we're now forced to communicate in 140 characters or less. But the haiku makes your average tweet look like War and Peace. Once you limit yourself to seventeen syllables, you're really forced to concentrate on your message. And with this entry the essential truth of the first two lines is irrefutable. Plus, the last line adds humor and humanity. This is one exceptional haiku. If the giveaway was judged solely on the basis of poetry, this would be very tough to beat - but then again so would a certain sonnet.

Finalist #3

From L.C., I received the following combination letter and poem:

There once was a straight male knitter
who would never be called a quitter
when he knit a wrap
that he thought was crap
his contest made me all a twitter

so I promised that I would take care
of the shawl that his wife wouldn't wear
we'd be cozy together
in all sorts of weather
while admirers notice and stare

Oh, how I wish I had your beautiful shawl at this very moment, sitting on my sofa, typing away with a big ol' fuzzy black blanket wrapped around my shoulders. I am cold. I tend to always be cold. However, my husband always tends to be hot. Guess who wins when the heat setting is chosen?

I want very much to win your shawl because I would love to be warm AND lovely, even when in my home. I would love to wrap it around my shoulders in the morning as I got everyone out the door for the day and wear it into the preschool when I drop off my son. I would love to wear it through the grocery store, as I wander into the dairy aisle and catch a chill from the open refrigerators. I would love to wear it out on the playground, where I sit with my "Mom Friends" while my son runs and climbs and plays with his friends. Imagine the envy from the other moms! I would have on a hand knit piece of art, and they would have on fleece vests from LL Bean! I would wear it home, to sit and knit in the playroom while my son built legos and waited for his brother to get home from school. I would wear it into my sons' swim practice where the humidity of the indoor pool makes me sweat inside my bulky sweaters - but not in a shawl draped elegantly across my back! I would love for my husband to come home and find me in my "so nerdy they are cool" reading glasses, sitting in the kitchen in my pretty shawl and not in one of my giant sweatshirts from college. "Hi honey! You look nice," he would say. And as soon as the babysitter arrived, we could jump in the car and head out to the movies - he in his jeans and button down shirt, and me in my jeans and "mom tee" and stunning shawl.

I love pink. What matches pink? Turquoise, brown and green!! The "neutral" shawl would match everything I own! The browns that match my hair and eyes, the lime green I buy so I don't always wear pink, the blues that remind me of my sister and her blue eyes (Maybe that's why I wear pink? 'Cause she got the pretty blue eyes?) The different shades of yarn in the shawl would keep it out and on my shoulders instead of hanging, lonely, in the back of my closet with the bright red scarf/wrap that matches nothing.

Oh, please, TSMK, pick me. I would give your shawl the happy, chilly home that it deserves!

This is a delightful poem. But more to the point, when I read the letter I find myself thinking it might have been written by Mrs. TSMK. She also hangs out at the park with her "Mom Friends". She too spends time sweating at the pool while our boys swim. And she has more than a passing familiarity with legos. Passing the shawl on to L.C. would be almost like giving it to Mrs. TSMK - except it would be a Mrs. TSMK who knits and likes this shawl.

Finalist #4

From Sandra, in Australia - the following entry:

Much easier to bear when
wrapped in lovely lace.

Precious cloud of lace,
come live with me Down Under.
Blue sky, red earth, home.

Wow. I'm not often speechless, but this one did the trick. And it stuck with me. Within hours after receiving the entry I found I'd committed it to memory. Many entries made mention of current difficulties or recent challenges. But this one was different. The way the author weaves the difficulty of her circumstances with the desire for the object and the beautiful imagery of her home. Just brilliant. Plus, given my recent stance on all things breast-related, this really struck a chord.

And so I was left with a final four. I announce the recipient below. But first, an important announcement.

I'm going to give more things away.

As it turns out, giving away something you make is intensely enjoyable. And so, being somewhat of a hedonist, I intend to do it again. And again. In fact, I've decided to give away something hand-made every two months or so. I'll do it through the blog. So far, I'm not sure what I'll give away. But I have a penchant for knitting lace, so more lace shawls are fairly likely. If you have a particular favorite pattern that you'd like to see the subject of a future giveaway, shoot me an email at and let me know. The format for the giveaways will likely vary from time to time, but I'll try to keep it interesting.

And now - the winner.

Thank you to all who submitted an entry.

Sandra in Australia, your entry haunts me - will you wear my shawl?


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shawl Giveaway - one week to go

With one week to go before the decision, I've recruited a few friends to help me make the decision. The first is a lover of lace. In fact, he particularly likes it when he rips it apart in his jaws.

The second, well he should remain nameless. But suffice it to say that he is a serial nudist who appreciates poetry, knows over fifteen words to describe the derriere and is lobbying strongly for the first word of the junior-most member of the TSMK clan to be some variant of "flatus."

The holy ghost in this trinity of threadwork adjudication is, of course, Mrs. TSMK. And that's all I should say about that.

The entries continue to trickle in, although I'm expecting a bit of a push toward the end of the week. Here are a couple of very nice entries received in the last few days.

From some kind of hybrid waterfowl/rabbit (who knew they could type?), this two-stanza limerick:

There once was a straight male knitter
whose root had turned all abitter
but this duck did drool
thinking it was so cool
and wondered, if it would fit'er?

So the duck emailed her request
at TSMK's behest
but haiku she din't
so please take this hint
wearing your shawl would be the best!

And from a reader currently patiently awaiting the expulsion of a parasite with a nine-month lease -

Food analogies
set off my pregnant cravings.
Scotch nay, but shawl yea

Keep those entries coming, and keep tuned for the week after the giveaway for an important public service announcement.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shawl Giveaway Update 2.1 - "The Rebuttal"

Things are getting exciting!

From A.F., in rebuttal of the amazing sonnet posted days ago, comes this vaguely menacing entry:

A sonnet this ain't,
and I'm no Gaelic expert.
Hand over the shawl.

There are several other gems worth sharing. Here are just a few.

From a self-described "cougar" - H.R.:

The Straight Male Knitter created a beautiful shawl.
Its a hand-made, one-of-a-kind piece you can't buy in a mall.

He said the colors of the yarn made him want to barf.
But if you ask me it is a very good looking scarf.

I would wear it this spring when there is a little cold in the air,
and I'm sure as I pass all the people will stare.

In the ending of this poem, I have one simple request:
please consider me when choosing the winner of the contest.

From N.M. in The Netherlands:

To faraway lands
free Bitterroot will travel.
Postage will be paid.

and from J.B., who apologizes that she doesn't remember the rules for haiku:

The Straight Male Knitter once made a shawl,
but with the results he was less than enthralled.
The colors so pretty,
to me its not shitty,
its the most beautiful shawl of them all.

Keep those entries coming. There are only 13 days left until the decision.